‘We want our children back’: Mother of slain Palestinian fights for his body to be returned

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Azhar Abu Srour, sits in her home in front of a picture of her slain son Abd al-Hamid Srour

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — It was an ordinary April day for the Abu Srour family in the town of Beit Jala in the southern occupied West Bank.

The warm weather was slowly starting to steady as spring turned into summer, and the family’s second of five children, 19-year-old Abd al-Hamid, was buried in his school books as he prepared for the “tawjihi,” the final high school exams.
“It was a normal day, nothing out of the ordinary,” Azhar Abu Srour, the mother of the boy commonly known as Abed, told Ma’an. “He was studying as if he was really going to take his exams. We even spoke about meeting with one of his teachers the next day.”
Azhar described her 19-year-old son as “the salt of the home,” an Arabic saying meaning that without him, the home had no flavor; the one who was always laughing, joking, and playing pranks on his family and friends; the one who was loved and adored by everyone in Aida refugee camp, where the family had previously lived for decades.
Tears began to well up in her large green eyes, but her voice remained steady. “When he left, he said he was just going to bring ice cream for his little sister Sham. To this day, if you ask Sham where Abed is, she says he’s going to bring her ice cream.”
But when Abed left home that day on April 18, 2016, he carried out an explosive attack on a bus in Jerusalem, that left more than 20 people injured.
Abed himself was left limbless and so severely burned that when his father was taken to identify him, he could recognize almost nothing about his once tall, handsome, boisterous son.
While Sham still waits for her brother to come home with ice cream 10 months later, Azhar waits for what’s left of her son’s body to come home so she can bury him.
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Azhar Abu Srour shows a photo of slain son Abd al-Hamid playing with his youngest sister Sham
‘If I had known…’
Azhar has speculated as to what drove her son — a social boy constantly surrounded by friends, enamored with his three-year-old sister, and raised by a well-to-do family in a spacious home in Beit Jala unlike the family’s old residence in nearby Aida — to commit this act.
There is no doubt in her mind that it was the death of Abed’s 21-year-old cousin Srour Ahmad Abu Srour, who was shot in the chest and killed after getting caught in the middle of clashes on his way to class just three months prior, that had the biggest impact on her son.
Since a wave of violence erupted in October 2015, hundreds of other young Palestinians have also been shot and killed by Israeli forces, and Abed watched gruesome videos and photos documenting the apparent extrajudicial executions which were widely shared amid the unrest.
“No matter how much I love my country and how much I believe in the resistance, as a mother, If I had known where he was going that day, I would never have let him go,” Azhar said, shaking her head as she held her youngest daughter Sham, whose pale cheeks flushed red in the January cold as she fell asleep.
“There is nothing too precious for our home country…but Abed, he was too precious to me,” Azhar repeated. “It would be impossible for me to let him go.”
Turning to Hamas
The Abu Srour family, according to one of Abed’s cousins, is one of the largest families in Aida refugee camp, and is as politically diverse as it is strong in number.
Ranging from the apolitical, like Abed’s father, to left-wing revolutionaries like his maternal grandfather, the Abu Srour family was open to letting their children choose their own political path.
Like many young people his age, Abed was inspired by the Hamas movement, particularly for its more consistent “resistance” efforts in comparison to other Palestinian political movements, according to his cousin, who asked to remain anonymous.
“More than anything, he was fascinated by Yahya Ayyash, always listening to his songs of resistance, reading about his operations,” said Abed’s cousin, a young man with left-leaning politics who also admitted to having being inspired in his youth by the infamous “engineer” and chief bombmaker of the Hamas military wing in the 1990s.
Abed, or “Aboud” as he was also called, didn’t necessarily align with the religious views of the Hamas party, nor was he indoctrinated into the movement from a young age by family members.
“It was his decision, a courageous and difficult one,” Azhar said of her son’s choice to work with Hamas and conduct the operation, which she guessed was inspired by Ayyash.
Abed’s remains are among a number of bodies of Palestinians who died while carrying out attacks on Israelis that the Israeli security cabinet has decided not to return to their families due to their affiliation to the Hamas movement.
The bodies would instead be buried in an “enemy” graveyard, in a move speculated to be used as a token in future prisoner exchange talks with Hamas, who claims to hold the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were pronounced dead by Israel during the 2014 war in Gaza.
‘We want our children back’
As Azhar spoke about her son, she received a call from the lawyer representing the families of the slain Palestinians whose bodies remain held, informing her that their latest and possibly final appeal to get the bodies back had been rejected.
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Azhar Abu Srour holds her daughter Sham as she talks to a lawyer on the phone, moments after learning that Israel would not be returning the body of her son Abd al-Hamid
Azhar brushed off the phone call as another meaningless threat. She smiled as she let out a faint laugh. “They (Israeli authorities) have said this so many times. They can say it as many times as they want, it does not mean we will just give up.”
When asked how she could be so assured in her conviction to bring her son’s body home, Azhar pointed to international law, despite her awareness that the government keeping her son’s body from her had repeatedly violated such legislation.
“It is stated by international law, that the dead have the right to be buried in accordance with the traditions of their family, society, and religion, regardless of the circumstances of their death,” Azhar stressed, as her normally muted frustration became more apparent. “We are demanding something declared by international law, it’s not something that we invented or made up.”
Azhar’s unrelenting spirit has driven her to attend every meeting with the families of other slain Palestinians, to travel across the occupied West Bank for every demonstration, and to take the microphone at every protest, captivating the attention of every crowd she addresses.
“Even though they say they won’t give us back Aboud’s body, we will continue the struggle, even if I have to take a Palestinian flag and picture of my son and stand alone in front of the separation wall in Bethlehem telling the people and telling the soldiers that I want my son’s body back,” Azhar said. “The families of all the martyrs are united, we just want our children back.”
(Source / 20.20.2017)

Tension flares as Israeli forces turn Issawiya into military barrack

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The Israeli military forces at predawn Monday rolled into al-Issawiya village in Occupied Jerusalem and turned it into a military barrack, local sources reported.

Over 200 Israeli soldiers and intelligence officers stormed al-Issawiya and intensified their presence on all access roads to the village.

The Israeli forces broke into Palestinian homes and rummaged into the buildings using sniffer dogs.

The Israeli soldiers further attacked the Palestinian anti-occupation youth with randomly-discharged spates of teargas canisters and sound bombs.

The Palestinian protesters responded to the assault by hurling stones at the Israeli soldiers.

(Source / 20.02.2017)

Abdah: Assad’s Survival Means Terror Continues in Syria

President of the Syrian Coalition Anas Abdah said that the tragedy in Syria will continue so long as Bashar al-Assad remains in power as he is “part of the problem rather than the solution.”

Speaking at a panel discussion held on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Sunday, Abdah said that the Assad regime “has created and is still creating an enabling environment for the spread and growth of terrorism.” He stressed that “there can be no talk about a successful and integrated strategy to fight terrorism as long as Bashar Al-Assad holds to power.”

“The Assad regime and its allies are committing war crimes on a daily basis in Syria,” Abdah noted. He went on to say that the Assad regime “depends on the support from Russia, Iran, and the foreign militias to survive.”

Abdah called on the new US administration to draw up a clear strategy in Syria, pointing out that the Free Syrian Army fought the Assad regime, the ISIS terrorist group, and the foreign militias more than any other party did in Syria.

“For Syrians, there is no difference between the slaughter by knives and the killing by barrel bombs,” Abdah stressed.

“We will go to Geneva in order to reach a political solution leading to a genuine political transition,” Abdah said. He stressed the need for a real political will “to push for serious negotiations and a genuine political transition that meets the demands and aspirations of the Syrian people.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 20.02.2017)

Israeli court sentences Palestinian boy with leukemia to 3 months in prison

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RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Israeli military court at Ofer prison sentenced 15-year-old Ahmad al-Khadour to 91 days in prison and a 3,000-shekel fine (approximately $810), after the boy was accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.

The sentencing came despite Ahmad’s family’s and rights groups’ extreme concern regarding the boy’s health due to his chronic illnesses — including leukemia and epilepsy — and frequent need for medication.
Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) lawyer Ahmad Safiya said in a statement on Monday that court’s judge gave al-Khadour a period of one year to pay the fine.
The judge also gave complete authority to Ofer prison director to release al-Khadour before the end of his sentence, “in accordance with the Israel Prison Service’s (IPS) procedures.”
Ahmad, who is from the town of Beituniya in the central occupied West Bank, has multiple illnesses and poor health. He has been suffering from leukemia for the past three years and also suffers from epilepsy, seizures, foot and hand injuries, intense dizziness, and muscle contractions in his fingers.
He was detained on Jan. 2 after he was accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers near the Ofer military checkpoint west of Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank.
According to the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, soldiers violently assaulted Ahmad and beat him with the butt of their rifles when they detained the child.
Prisoners rights group Addameer said last month that the group “strongly condemns the continued detention of the chronically ill child, who appears to present no security threat to the area, and who requires proper and consistent medical treatment.”
Last week, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs reported that Ahmad’s medical condition had seriously deteriorated while being held in Ofer prison.
Lawyer from the committee Luay Ukka stressed that IPS authorities had not been providing adequate care for the child.
Rights groups have widely condemned Israel for its medical negligence of Palestinians in its prisons, which Addameer has called a “deliberate policy of neglect.”
Right groups have also widely documented the abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli forces and the harsh interrogation practices used to force their confessions, which has long been the target of criticism by the international community.
A recent article published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz has confirmed the extent to which Shin Bet interrogators subject Palestinian suspects to torture.
Ofer detention center is one of the most common sites used by Israel for the interrogation of Palestinian children. Last October, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs reported that the “overwhelming majority” of Palestinian minors held in Israel’s Megiddo and Ofer prisons were tortured during their detention and interrogation.
Defense for Children International – Palestine has said their research showed that almost two-thirds of Palestinian children detained in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces had endured physical violence during their arrest.
Palestinian stone throwers face harsh penalties by Israeli authorities, with Israel passing a laws in 2015allowing for up to 20 years in prison if charged with throwing stones at vehicles and a minimum of three years for the act of throwing a stone at an Israeli — a legislation rights groups say was designed specifically to target Palestinians, as Israelis and settlers are rarely prosecuted under the same standards of the law.
A Palestinian youth was sentenced to 18 years in prison last month for allegedly throwing a rock at an Israeli vehicle — representing the harshest sentence ever handed down for stone throwing.
Palestinians have said that rock throwing is a natural reaction to frustrations caused by the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation, which has been characterized by everyday forms of violence, such as nightly military raids into Palestinian communities, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, and frequent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
Addameer has reported that 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons, including 300 minors, as of January.
(Source / 20.02.2017)

Saudi Shura Council Receives Proposal to Reduce Time between Adhan, Iqamah

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Shura Council members in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, January 6, 2015

Riyadh – A Shura Council member presented a draft to the consultative body and recommended reducing the time between the call to prayer (Adhan) and the actual holding of the prayer (Iqamah) in malls.

Deputy Chairman of the Security Committee in the Saudi Shura Council Ata Al-Subaiti, who submitted the proposal, told Asharq Al-Awsat that his proposal requires the Ministry for Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Dawa and Guidance to change the time period between Adhan and Iqamah in mosques and places of worship located in malls to only five minutes instead of the current time.

Subaiti said that reducing time between Adhan and Iqamah has several considerations, including the fact that in Shariah law there is no specific time between them, but the initiative to pray at the beginning of its time is better, according to a fatwa issued by late Sheikh Mohammed ibn al-Uthaymeen.

Ibn al-Uthaymeen stressed in his fatwa that the specified time between Adhan and Iqamah differs among countries according to people’s interests, allowing workers in the malls to pray on time and take into consideration the interests of investors and shoppers.

The Shura Council member added that in Makkah there is no long time interval between Adhan and Iqamah, noting that shops tend to close for more than an hour and a half every day, disabling citizens’ interests and affecting the developing country.

(Source / 20.02.2017)

Israeli police arrest Bkeirat, a mother and her daughter

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Israeli police forces Monday morning arrested three Jerusalemites including Sheikh Najeh Bkeirat and a mother and her daughter.

Head of Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners, Amjad Abu Asab, told Quds Press that Israeli policemen stopped two buses that were heading from Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Occupied Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and searched passengers.

The policemen then rounded up Sheikh Bkairat, Head of Manuscripts Department at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and Ekram al-Natsheh along with her daughter, Raghad, he added.

All of the passengers were forced to get out of both buses, Abu Asab said, adding that the policemen handed summonses to some of them in order to be questioned in Israeli investigation centers in Occupied Jerusalem, Abu Asab pointed out.

(Source / 20.02.2017)

Israeli forces temporarily hold Fatah official at checkpoint, detain her son

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JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained a Fatah Revolutionary Council member and her son on Sunday afternoon, eventually releasing the politician hours later.

Salwa Hdeib told Ma’an that she and her 23-year-old son Ahed Ahmad Qanam got into an argument with Israeli soldiers over the closure of the Hizma checkpoint in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon.
Hdeib added that they were then detained at the checkpoint from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. before being transferred to an Israeli police station in the illegal Atarot Industrial Area settlement, where they were interrogated.
The Fatah official was finally released after three hours of interrogation, while Qanam, her son, saw his detention extended.
Both Israeli army and police spokespeople told Ma’an that they did not have immediate information on the case.
Israeli forces have imposed a number of security measures at checkpoints and roads in the central West Bank in recent days, as arbitrary road closures have been denounced by rights groups as amounting to collective punishment.
Palestinian political figures, activists, and journalists are also regularly targeted by Israeli forces. According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians, including four Palestinian Legislative Council members, were held by Israel as of January.
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(Source / 20.02.2017)

HRW condemns Morocco’s obstruction of rights groups

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Morocco’s largest independent human rights organisation has had their activities obstructed and prohibited for two years by Moroccan authorities, a report by Human Rights Watch revealed today.

The harassment of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights (AMDH) has continued despite four administrative appeals in court ruling in favour of the organisation.

Founded in 1979, the AMDH is currently Morocco’s largest independent human rights advocacy organisation holding 96 local branches.

According to AMDH, authorities have blocked 125 of its meetings, conferences, and have prohibited directly and indirectly public and private events since July 2014.

In only seven of the 125 cases did authorities provide a written notice that their planned events were prohibited, the AMDH said. Amongst the meetings and events planned were to discuss topics like workers’ rights, women’s rights, and Morocco’s human rights situation.

“The widespread and consistent nature of the measures against the AMDH is a clear indication of a campaign ordered from above to weaken an outspoken and nationwide voice on human rights,” Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, said.

According to the group, authorities have also prevented them from registering 47 local branches by not filing the relevant documents which they are required to legally submit. The authorities must issue a receipt once the documents are filed but they have failed to do so which prevents the group  from essential operations like access to a bank account or making withdrawals, AMDH Director for International Relations, Abdelkhalek Benzekri, explained.

The organisation has sued the government over its refusal to issue receipts and in 2015, the Administrative Appeals Court ruled in AMDH’s favour over the government’s failure to provide receipts. The administrative court then ruled in 2016 that refusing to issue the receipts to AMDH violated the law.

Locked out

In cases where AMDH were planning to hold public events in certain venues they would find that the owners had been forced to cancel it following pressure from the government. In other instances, the group’s members arrived to find the doors padlocked with no warning that they were blocked.

As a result the group have been forced to relocate its meetings to its own offices or premises of friendly organisations, according to AMDH Administrative Director Youssef Raissouni.

According to Morocco’s 1958 Law on Public Assemblies, organisers of public meetings are expected to notify the authorities in advance. However, Article 3 of the law exempts organisations from notifying if those “associations and groups that are legally recognised whose purposes are specifically cultural, artistic, athletic, as well as the meetings of associations and entities providing first aid or charity.”

As a matter of policy, neither the AMDH’s central bureau in Rabat nor its local branches have notified the authorities in advance of their public or internal events because it has considered itself exempt from doing so under article 3, Benzekri told HRW.

However since the government’s regular blocking of its events, AMDH has been notifying authorities more regularly of its upcoming public and internal events.

“The Rabat Administrative Court has now issued several rulings in favour of the AMDH,” Whitson said. “The government should comply with the courts’ rulings, allowing the AMDH once again to organise meetings and events freely.”

AMDH is not the only one to have experienced harassment.  Imposed restrictions on other domestic and regional rights groups have also been a common occurrence with the Moroccan government.

According to Khadija Ryadi, President of the Coordination for Maghreb Human Rights Organisations (CMODH) authorities refused to let the CMODH file the required documents relating to its recent internal elections. Subsequently, the Rabat Administrative Court ordered the government to accept the filing of CMODH in October 2016 but little has been done to alleviate the pressure since.

Two Amnesty International researchers were also expelled from the country by the government in June 2015 and the group has had none of its research requests approved since. In September 2015, Human Rights Watch researchers were also banned from conducting research missions in Morocco and the Western Sahara.

(Source / 20.02.2017)

Israeli forces raze Palestinian home east of Occupied Jerusalem

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Israeli military bulldozers razed Monday morning a Palestinian home in a Bedouin compound to the east of Occupied Jerusalem.

Abu Raed, inhabitant of al-Tebneh Bedouin compound, revealed that crews of Israeli civil administration, escorted by Israeli forces as well as bulldozers, stormed Khan al-Ahmar area east of the holy city and started knocking down a caravan home.

Israeli forces razed the home that belongs to the family of Fatemah al-Tebneh of al-Jahalein tribe for lacking construction permit, he elaborated.

(Source / 20.02.2017)

Israel sentences Palestinian child to 3 months in prison

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The Israel Ofer Court sentenced Monday the Palestinian child Ahmed Khadour, 15, to three months imprisonment for an alleged stone-throwing attack, rights group revealed.

A fine of 3,000 shekels was also imposed on the child, the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) said.

The court gave his family a year as a deadline for paying the fine, according to the sources

Khadour was detained on January 2, 2017 despite being previously diagnosed with blood cancer, and currently suffers from partial seizures and right hand paralysis.

(Source / 20.02.2017)