Israeli settlers, soldiers reportedly assault Palestinian shepherds in Jordan Valley

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Three Israeli settlers and two Israeli soldiers reportedly attacked three Palestinian shepherds who were grazing their herds Friday morning, near an illegal Israeli settler outpost in the northern Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported on Saturday.

The Hebrew version of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that the Palestinian shepherds were attacked near a newly created illegal settler outpost around the Umm Zuka Nature Reserve.
The women-led Israeli rights group Machsomwatch released a report earlier this month detailing a new settler outpost near the reserve, at least 40 dunams (10 acres) of which they said has been built on privately-owned Palestinian land.
Haaretz quoted the shepherds as saying that two Israeli settlers approached them and asked them to leave the area before a third settler came out of the illegal outpost who was escorted  by two Israeli soldiers. According to the shepherds, the soldiers and settlers cuffed them, and proceeded to inspect their bags and seize their mobile phone. They were also beaten by the Israelis, the shepherds added.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the incident.
Earlier this month, the Israeli government passed the outpost “Regularization bill,” which paves the way for the retroactive legalization of settler outposts on occupied Palestinian territory considered illegal in Israeli law. However, the 196 official Israeli settlements scattered across Palestinian land are not considered illegal in Israeli law, despite being routinely condemned for being a clear violation of international law.
The law states that any settlements built in the occupied West Bank “in good faith” — without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians — could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners.
The law was adopted just a few days after Israeli authorities forcibly evacuated the illegal Amona outpost that was slated for demolition following an Israeli Supreme Court ruling after local Palestinians petitioned the courts that the land was private Palestinian land.
An initial version of the Regularization bill included a clause to retroactively legalize Amona, but was later dropped from the proposal. Critics have said that the bill was pushed through parliament in order to prevent another Israeli outpost on Palestinian land from meeting the same fate as Amona.
Meanwhile, PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi stated at the time of the bill’s passing that the law gave “clear license to the settlers to embark on a land grab in the occupied West Bank with impunity.”
“Such a law signals the final annexation of the West Bank,” she said. “This also proves beyond doubt that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist, racist coalition government are deliberately breaking the law and destroying the very foundations of the two-state solution and the chances for peace and stability.”
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 221 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2015, and 107 in 2016.
The majority of settler attacks committed against Palestinians are met with impunity, with Israelis rarely facing consequences for such attacks.
(Source / 11.02.2017)

IOF arrests Palestinian girl in al-Khali

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The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested a Palestinian girl on Saturday at the entrance of the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil city on charges of possessing a knife.

The PIC reporter said that Israeli soldiers arrested a girl, whose identity was not disclosed, while she was passing through a military checkpoint set up at the entrance of the Ibrahimi Mosque.

The IOF repeatedly fabricates charges against Palestinians and accuse them of stabbing attempts against Israeli soldiers ever since the Jerusalem Intifada erupted in October 2015.

(Source / 11.02.2017)

Women Preachers, a First for Egypt

Children play in the yard of al-Azhar mosque while their families pray inside the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan in Cairo July 1, 2014. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

Children play in the yard of al-Azhar mosque while their families pray inside the mosque during the holy month of Ramadan in Cairo July 1, 2014

Cairo- Sheikh Jaber Tayei, head of religious department in the Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau, said that the newly appointed women preachers will perform their tasks at the women oratories.

He added that two days per week will be allocated to giving lectures on women related topics.

Tayei told Asharq Al-Awsat that “144 preachers were appointed as a first step and there are more steps in the upcoming period to activate the women preaching work.”

Other sources from the Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau said that this will contribute to renewing religious speech and spreading the right notions.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed earlier his annoyance from the pace of reforming religious speech and called on the official religious authority to combat the mental roots of extremist groups.

Some observers said that appointing women preachers in the mosques in the current time falls under Sisi’s calls for renewing the religious speech, especially among females who are being exploited by extremist groups in the oratories in order to spread hatred in the community.

The Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau stated that the preachers will begin lecturing in prominent mosques in March to correct the misconceptions on the level of Islamic jurisprudence.

Observers see that extremist groups will try to prevent the women preachers from outreaching the Egyptian community, especially in the oratories.

There are approximately nine Islamic centers affiliated to the Egyptian Endowments Ministry General Bureau that teach women to become preachers.

In Dec. 2015, the government decided to shut down similar institutions that have not complied with Al-Azhar methodology.

“The government was keen to implement the decision but some associations manipulated it,” according to reliable sources.

(Source / 11.02.2017)

Official: Russia Using Iran Airspace for Syria Raids

Rescuers and civilians inspect a destroyed building in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales, on the outskirts of Idlib, following airstrikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes . AFP

Rescuers and civilians inspect a destroyed building in the Syrian village of Kfar Jales, on the outskirts of Idlib, following airstrikes by Syrian and Russian warplanes

Russian warplanes are using Iran’s airspace to carry out operations and airstrikes in Syria, a senior Iranian official said Saturday.

“The fact that they (Russian bombers) use Iranian airspace continues because we have total strategic cooperation with Russia,” Admiral Ali Shamkhani told the Fars news agency.

Shamkhani is secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and Tehran’s coordinator of political, security and military actions with Russia.

“The use of Iranian airspace by Russian aircraft is made subject to a joint decision,” he told the IRNA news agency.

He said Russian planes had not recently needed to land in Iran for re-supply.

The agency said Shamkhani was commenting on media reports that Russia’s Tupolev-22M long-range bombers had used Iranian airspace and a base in the country on their missions in Syria.

Russian fighter bombers first used an Iranian military base in August 2016 to attack jihadist positions in Syria.

The Russian military said its fighters had completed their tasks, but left open the possibility of using the Hamadan base again if circumstances warranted.

Iran and Russia are closely cooperating in Syria and provide political, financial and military backing to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Tehran has sent military advisors and fighters to support the Syrian forces.

(Source / 11.02.2017)

Man beaten by crowd of Israelis for shouting warnings in Arabic during shooting

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BETHLEHEM (Maan) — A Palestinian citizen of Israel was violently attacked on Thursday after screaming in Arabic at the scene of a shooting in Petah Tikva in central Israel that left six Israelis injured.

According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, Maed Amar, 35, from Kafr Qasim was attacked by a crowd of Israelis after screaming “Watch out! Take cover,” in Arabic following the sounds of gunshots. He told Ynet that people started attacking him, shouting “there’s another terrorist here!”
A video was released documenting the incident. It shows Amar lying on the pavement injured while Israeli security surrounds him. According to Ynet, the passersby are shouting “Kill him,” to Israeli forces.
Ynet added that Amar had sustained injuries on his head and leg, and was evacuated to the Beilinson Hospital following the incident where doctors reported his condition as being light.
“It was very scary. They nearly killed me. All I wanted was to warn the people in the area, to keep them safe, but instead of thanking me, that gave me a beating. After my attack, police officers arrived on scene and pushed the assailants away,” Amar was quoted by Ynet as saying.
On Thursday, six were injured in a shooting attack at a market in the Israeli city of Petah Tikva. A 19-year-old Palestinian identified as Sadiq Nasser was detained at the scene for allegedly carrying out the attack.
Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement at the time that the young man was caught and disarmed by locals before being detained by Israeli police, at which time he was unharmed with the firearm still in his hand.
On Friday morning, Israeli forces stormed the Beita and Osarin villages in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus and detained three Palestinians for their alleged connection to the shooting.
Israeli soldiers questioned Nasser’s family members for hours at the time, locals said, adding that forces had detained Nasser’s father on Thursday shortly after the attack. It remained unclear if Nasser’s father was still in Israeli custody.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that forces also “confiscated” the Israeli-entry permits of Nasser’s family members.
(Source / 11.02.2017)

Syrian Interim Government and EU Experts Discuss Increased Support for Projects in Liberated Areas

Experts from the Syrian interim government and the European Union have held technical workshops to discuss stepping up support for service projects and revamping state institutions in the liberated areas.

Representatives of the Syrian interim government, the Syrian Coalition, the European Union, local councils, the Kurdish National Council, and civil society organizations as well as Syrian experts participated in the workshop which was held in the Turkish city of Gaziantep.

Head of the Syrian interim government Jawad Abu Hatab said that the government is working hard to revamp the Syrian institutions and restore the provision of services to the civilian population in the liberated areas.

Abu Hatab stressed the importance of supporting projects in the sectors of education, agriculture, justice, and security. He also pointed to the need to establish law courts adopting Syrian law.

The interim government continues to do its best to restore life to normality in the liberated areas despite losing a number of staff workers who have been killed in bombardment by the regime and allies in the liberated areas, Abu Hatab said.

The workshop included two sessions. The first was dedicated to assessing the interim government, its plans, as well as cooperation with its partners, most notably local councils and organizations. The session also considered ways to ratchet up support by the European Union for projects developed by the interim government.

The interim government presented its vision and goals and an overview of its structure, ministries, and directorates distributed across Syrian territory. It also gave an overview of the achievements it has made over the past seven months and the challenges facing it. The meeting also discussed the identification and distribution of the roles and responsibilities of the government and its partners.

Abu Hatab pointed out that the interim government is seeking to increase the number of staff members from the current number of 30,000 to 100,000 employees. The government is currently planning to focus on development projects by the implementation of projects with its partners, including local councils and civil society organizations. Abu Hatab referred to efforts by some groups to hinder the work of the interim government and to replace the state.

Secretary-General of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Ilah Fahd praised the role played by European Union in supporting the Syrian revolution and the Syrian people’s aspirations from the very beginning. He called for increased support for the interim government as it seeks to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people. Fahd stressed that the Coalition will continue with the political battle in parallel with the military and the media battles against the Assad regime.

Representative of the Kurdish National Council Muslim Muhammad called upon the European Union to find a serious approach for a political solution in Syria and to play and effective role in the reconstruction of Syria, including the Kurdish areas, to build a pluralistic, democratic and parliamentary system of government.

Representatives of the European Union reiterated the EU’s readiness to cooperate with the Syrian interim government. They stressed the importance of empowering the interim government and the preservation of state institutions.

The second session of the workshop included technical discussions of ways to increase support for the sectors of education, health, and agriculture as wells as local administration.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 11.02.2017)

What’s behind coordinated attacks by Hamas inmates in Israeli jails?

Pictures of Palestinian Hamas militants held in Israeli jails are seen through a fence during a rally marking Palestinian Prisoner Day in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, April 17, 2016

Even after the Israel Prison Service (IPS) transferred 30 Hamas prisoners from Nafha Prison to other facilities, as reported by Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV on Feb. 2, there is still a feeling of unrest in those facilities in which Hamas prisoners are incarcerated. The moving of prisoners from one facility to another was attempted in the past to deal with riots that broke out in security prisons and to break the centers of power that emerged among the Palestinian prisoners.

Over the years, this method proved itself and became a routine preventive measure. Whenever a cohesive and influential leadership surfaced and began to accumulate status and power within the prison walls, its members were moved to a new environment, where they were forced to re-establish their reputations among the more veteran prisoners.

Preceding the transfer of these 30 prisoners were two incidents in which prison guards were stabbed by Hamas prisoners. The first took place in the Ketziot facility. The second occurred in Nafha Prison, which was created in 1980 near the remote Israeli town of Mitzpe Ramon in the south, in an effort to isolate the prisoners’ leaders from the rest of the incarcerated population. Originally, the movement’s leaders were transferred there from other prisons across the country. Now Nafha holds the most egregious offenders, sentenced to lengthy prison terms, usually life.

According to the IPS, the fact that the two incidents occurred simultaneously on Feb. 1 is proof that they were influenced and coordinated by sources outside the prison walls. The stabbing of the guards led to the worsening of conditions for all Hamas prisoners, which in turn resulted in clashes with the prison authorities. Leaders of the Hamas prisoners were put in solitary confinement, while sanctions were imposed on the other prisoners. These included the cancellation of family visits, bans on purchases at the prison canteen and transfers to other prisons. All of this was intended to shake up the balance of power between the various prison wings.

The IPS believes that the tense atmosphere among Hamas prisoners, as expressed in the frequent clashes with the guards and attempted attacks within the prisons, is the direct result of an order from the leadership of the military wing of Hamas in Gaza. The Hamas military leaders want to instigate conflict between the prison administration and the incarcerated Hamas members.

Palestinian prisoners are kept in different wings, based on their organizational affiliation. Qadura Fares, the director general of the Palestinian Prisoner Club in Ramallah, told Al-Monitor that there are some 7,000 Palestinian security prisoners currently held by Israel, including 1,800 Hamas prisoners. He said that there is almost no direct contact between Hamas prisoners and prisoners from Fatah or other organizations, though they sometimes find ways to pass messages to each other. This occurs mainly when they feel a common threat to the conditions of their imprisonment.

Fares said that relationships between the various groups within the prison reflect the relationships between their groups outside the prison walls. In other words, tensions between Hamas and Fatah and the separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank are expressed in the quality of relations between the prisoners and the development of a local prison leadership.

Elections for the Hamas prison leadership were held in January. These are democratic elections, which take place in all Israeli security prisons. The person with the most votes is appointed “emir,” or leader of the prisoners’ wing of Hamas. Together with the political, military and diaspora wings they make up a movement with many heads.

The winner of the last elections was Muhammad Arman, who was a member of the cell that served as an intermediary between Hamas and the Silwan cell, which launched a series of major attacks during the second intifada (2000-2005). Arman received 36 life sentences for his role in the murder of 36 Israelis. Abbas al-Sayad, the planner of the attack on the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002, was elected deputy leader of the prisoners.

A source in the Palestinian Authority claims that these elections caused considerable tension among the prisoners. The two people elected to leadership positions are not only the most dangerous prisoners, they also advocate the harshest and most uncompromising attitude toward the IPS and the local prison leadership. The Palestinian source also confirmed that unrest among Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons was, in fact, ordered from above in order to foment turmoil throughout the prison and to motivate Israel to agree to a full-blown prisoner exchange, instead of the humanitarian prisoner exchange proposed by Israel and rejected by Hamas.

Fares claims that current tensions can be attributed to the punitive measure that the Israeli government has decided to take against Hamas prisoners, adding that these tensions could intensify and spread to the other prisons, too. He is referring to the Jan. 1 security Cabinet decision to subject Hamas prisoners to harsher conditions. This was intended to pressure the movement’s leadership to agree to a sensible deal that would result in the return of the bodies of soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed in the 2014 Gaza war, as well as two Israeli civilians who are currently being held captive by Hamas.

In practice, it seems as if worsening prison conditions failed to provide the impetus as hoped. Instead it resulted in unrest, while the leadership of the Hamas military wing dug its heels in and refused to budge on its demands.

An Israeli security source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the tense atmosphere in the prisons, the violent propaganda film posted recently by Hamas on social networks and the latest rocket fire in an attempt to heat up the sector are all proof that Hamas is facing a huge crisis and that it is trying to deflect local attention away from the movement’s leaders. The source said that Israel should act wisely and cautiously, “because it has long been proved that even if neither of the parties is interested in a large-scale escalation or armed conflict, it would take just one mistake for everything to spin out of control,” as happened in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

(Source / 11.02.2017)

PAC preparatory committee meets PA ambassador to Ankara

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A delegation of the preparatory committee of Palestinians Abroad Conference (PAC) visited the Embassy of Palestine in Turkey’s capital Ankara and met with ambassador Fayed Mustafa.

Deputy chairman of PAC preparatory committee Majed al-Zir along with committee member Mohammad Mshainesh handed the ambassador an official invitation to attend the popular conference to take place on February 25-26 in Istanbul.

The delegation acquainted the ambassador with latest conference preparations, objectives, and message. They stressed the need that Palestinians abroad should play a role in the Palestinian decision-making process. They also stressed that it would not replace any other existing Palestinian institution.

Both sides discussed Palestinian national issues and horizons of developing national work on the basis of adhering to Palestinian constants.

They also agreed on supporting joint national unity action for the interest of the Palestinian cause taking the experience of the Palestinians of Turkey Conference, which was held in September 2016, as an example.

(Source / 11.02.2017)

Israeli police detain Palestinian woman in Hebron for alleged knife possession

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement Sunday afternoon that Israeli forces detained a young Palestinian woman at a military checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque in the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron.
According to al-Samri, the woman approached Israeli police deployed at the checkpoint while she was brandishing knife. Israeli forces pulled out their weapons and detained the woman immediately, al-Samri said, adding that forces did not open fire or “use force,” while detaining the woman.
The suspect is from Hebron and was transferred to Israeli intelligence for interrogation, according to al-Samri.
Israeli forces have detained scores of Palestinians for allegedly being in possession of knives in recent months following a spate of alleged and actual small-scale knife attacks by Palestinians that surged in Fall 2015. Between Oct. 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016, at least 117 Palestinians were killed while committing or attempting to commit alleged or actual attacks.
While Israel alleges many of those were attempting to attack Israelis when they were shot, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in a number of cases.
Hebron in particular grew as the epicenter of upheaval, with a number of Palestinians, many of them women, having been shot at the same checkpoint near Ibrahimi mosque.
Mistreatment of Palestinians has been common since the city was divided in the 1990s after a US-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians inside the Ibrahimi Mosque.
The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control in a sector known as H2.
(Source / 11.02.2017)

Israeli forces deliver land confiscation notices in Ramallah-area village

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RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli forces delivered confiscation notices on Friday for 275 dunams (69 acres) of private Palestinian land on the outskirts of the village of Beituniya in the western part of the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that farmers from the villages of Beit Ur al-Tahta and Beit Ur al-Fuqa found notices in the fields where Israeli forces had seemingly scattered them around. The notices reportedly read that the lands would be confiscated for “urgent military purposes.”
The notices, according to Wafa, were found near an Israeli military checkpoint on Route 443 west of Ramallah.
A spokesperson from COGAT, the Israeli agency responsible for implementing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, was not immediately available for comment.
According to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), at least 60 percent of the village is under threat of confiscation and isolation owing to the construction of Israel’s separation wall. The land confiscated by Israeli authorities has been repurposed for the construction of illegal Israeli settlements, ARIJ said.
The lands isolated by the separation barrier have also been used for Israeli settlements and Israeli military outposts, as well as other Israeli-controlled spaces that prevent Palestinians from developing or living in the area.
ARIJ also noted that the separation barrier has been erected close to the urbanized areas of the village, in effect preventing any expansion in the area to accommodate Beituniya’s population.
“This move will create a new reality of increased urban population and population density given the lack of urban space for expansion and new construction,” ARIJ said.
(Source / 11.02.2017)