Pakistan on Edge as Fresh Bombing Hits Lahore

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb attack in Lahore on February 23, 2017 (AFP Photo/Arif ALI)

Pakistani security officials examine the site of a bomb attack in Lahore on February 23, 2017

At least eight people were killed and 20 injured after a bomb ripped through Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore Thursday, officials said, the tenth attack in just under a fortnight pointing to a resurgence in violence.

The blast, the second to hit the provincial capital this month, crumpled cars and sent panic rippling through the city after the wave of attacks across Pakistan killed more than 130 people.

The building where the bomb went off was under construction in a market crowded with people, including children, said Imtiaz Ali, a 34-year-old barber.

“When I came out I first just saw smoke and dust… Bikes upturned. Cars destroyed. My own colleague’s car windows blown out. My clients’ cars blown out. I was close to fainting,” he told AFP.

Police and administration officials confirmed it was a bomb attack, as rescuers supplied the casualty toll. No group has immediately claimed responsibility.

Punjab police spokesman Nayab Haider told Reuters the explosion was caused by a “planted bomb” that was either time- or remotely detonated.

No one was allowed to leave or enter the area because the bomber was suspected to be at large, officials said.

Reports of a second explosion turned out to be a tire blowout that caused panic due to the tense atmosphere in the city, a government official said.

The panic underscored growing nervousness across the country as a series of assaults shook what had been a growing sense of security during a prolonged lull in violence.

They included a previous bomb blast in Lahore on February 13 which killed 15 people, and a devastating suicide attack at a shrine in Sindh province that left 90 devotees dead.

The attacks, most of which were claimed by ISIS or the Pakistani Taliban, have dented growing optimism over the country’s security after it appeared to be making strong gains in its decade-and-a-half long war on militancy.

The emergence of ISIS and a Taliban resurgence would be a major blow to Pakistan. Analysts have said the apparently coordinated nature of the attacks suggested militants were regrouping.

Islamabad launched a crackdown in the wake of the attacks, saying it has killed dozens of “terrorists” in recent days and carried out airstrikes on militant hideouts along the Afghan border.

On Wednesday the military announced a nationwide anti-terrorist operation.

“This operation will basically target sanctuaries… of militants in Punjab province and restrict their movements,” defense analyst and retired general Talat Masood told AFP.

(Source / 23.02.2017)

Israeli forces detain 22 Palestinians during predawn raids in West Bank, East Jerusalem

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained at least 22 Palestinians during predawn raids on Thursday carried out in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In the southern West Bank district of Hebron, Israeli forces detained four Palestinians in the village of Beit Ummar during detention raids, identified by local activist Muhammad Ayyad Awwad as Ihab Issa Mahmoud al-Allami, 19, Alaa Bassam Hamad al-Allami, 21, Muhammad Ibrahim Hammad al-Allami, 20, and Ahmad Muhammad Ahmad al-Allami, 21.
Awwad added that Israeli forces also confiscated 15 Palestinians’ permits allowing them to work in Israel when they raided several houses and stores in the village.
An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed four detentions in Beit Ummar.
Awwad also that 33 Palestinians have been detained from Beit Ummar since the beginning of 2017, including 17 minors.
In the central West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) said in a statement that Israeli forces detained six Palestinians from the village of Abud in the Ramallah and al-Bireh district, identified as Anas Ibrahim al-Barghouthi, Nour Rashad al-Barghouthi, Muhammad Taher al-Barghouthi, Saleh Muhammad al-Barghouthi, Tamer Khatib Dar Saleh, and Karim Izzat Jaber.
An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed four of the detentions in Abud.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces detained Muhammad Ali Dar Daoud in the village of Beit Duqqu in the West Bank’s Jerusalem district. An Israeli army spokesperson noted an additional detention in the Jerusalem district in the village of Abu Dis.
Khalid Maswadeh, Hashem Iskafi, and Mamun al-Natsheh were also detained in the al-Thawri area of the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, according to PPS.
In the northern West Bank, Israeli forces detained Adam Abu Jamileh and Musaab Abu Shanab from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus.
According to Israeli media, Israeli forces also raided the Balata refugee camp in Nablus city, when an Israeli soldier reportedly sustained moderate injuries after an explosive device was thrown at soldiers in the camp. He was taken to the Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva for treatment.
Further north, in Tulkarem, PPS reported that Israeli forces detained Ahmad Fawwaz Ahmad Odeh.
PPS also reported raids in the village of Qabatiya in the Jenin district where at least four Palestinians were detained, identified as Muhammad Faisal Turkman, Ahmad Yunis Abu al-Rub, Ihab Said al-Nijmeh, and Wael al-Sahu.
An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed four detentions in Qabatiya.
Israeli forces carry out detention raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis, with the UN recording an average of 95 weekly raids in the West Bank in 2016, and 100 weekly raids on average thus far in 2017.According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were detained in Israeli prisons as of January.
(Source / 23.02.2017)

UN officials visit Bedouin village slated for demolition, call situation ‘unacceptable’

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — UN officials visited the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem on Wednesday, which is under threat of forcible relocation by Israeli authorities who delivered demolition notices to every single house in the village on Sunday, and called the situation “unacceptable.”

Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and UN Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper and Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank Scott Anderson visited the small village located in Area C — the more than 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control and the site of frequent Israeli demolitions.
“Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank, struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move to a planned relocation site,” Piper said in a statement, adding that “this is unacceptable and it must stop.”
Over the past week, Israeli authorities delivered demolition notices to the village’s 40 homes and elementary school, including stop-work orders targeting various structures in the village. Locals told Ma’an at the time that Israeli forces imposed a military closure on the area before delivering the demolition warrants, as faculty and students of the school were prevented from accessing the building.
Despite the fact that the community, and the school in particular, has been threatened with demolition by the Israeli government for years, locals said the issuing of demolition warrants to every single house was an unprecedented blow.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported that Israeli authorities confirmed the widespread issuance of demolition orders was unprecedented in the area, and that the raid was “a declaration of intention in advance of an attempt to evacuate the entire village.”
The demolition notices were issued on the basis of the community lacking almost impossible to obtain Israeli building permits, which the UN has said results from the discriminatory zoning and planning regimes implemented in Area C.
According to the statement released by the UN, the enforcement of these orders in Khan al-Ahmar would “directly impact the homes and livelihoods of over 140 Palestinian refugees, more than half of them children.”
The statement also highlighted that the orders have also targeted the village’s primary school, built out of tires and mud. The school was built with the help of international donors, and according to the UN serves some 170 Bedouin children in the area.
“The developments in Khan al Ahmar are not unique,” Piper said. “Thousands of families live in fear of demolitions at any moment, and entire communities exist in chronic instability.”
“When schools are demolished, the right to education of Palestinian children is also threatened. This creates a coercive environment that forces certain Palestinian communities to move elsewhere, ” he noted.
He added that the international community should work together to support and protect vulnerable communities like the Bedouin, while “insisting that international law is respected.”
Khan al-Ahmar, like other Bedouin communities in the region, is under threat of relocation by Israel for being located in the contentious “E1 corridor” set up by the Israeli government to link annexed East Jerusalem with the mega settlement of Maale Adumim.
Israeli authorities plan to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in E1, which would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state — as envisaged by the two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — almost impossible.
Rights groups and Bedouin community members have sharply criticized Israel’s relocation plans for the Bedouin residing near the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, claiming that the removal would displace indigenous Palestinians for the sake of expanding Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank in violation of international law.
The statement reiterated the UN’s longstanding condemnation of the forcible transfer of Bedouin communities without their free, prior, and informed consent.
“The entire existence of this community, the homes, animal sheds and school that we visited today, is under threat. I am gravely concerned about Israel’s continued pressures to force these Bedouin from their homes, destroying their livelihoods and their distinct culture,”Anderson said in the statement, adding that “many of these Palestine refugee families have already had their homes demolished several times within the last couple of years.”
“I urge the Israeli authorities to halt all plans and practices that will directly or indirectly lead refugees to be displaced once again,” he said.
The village is one of 46 villages comprising of a population of 7,000 — 70 percent of whom are Palestinian refugees — in the central West Bank that are considered by the UN as being at risk of forcible transfer by Israeli authorities to alternative sites, in violation of international law, the statement highlighted.
The demolition raids this past week were the latest in a years-long legal battle waged by the Israeli government and residents of illegal Israeli settlements surrounding Khan al-Ahmar to demolish and relocate the school, which was built in 2009 with the assistance of Italian NGO Vento Di Terra using ecological methods.
In August last year, after reports emerged that the Israeli prime minister’s office ordered the school to be closed down, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the state of Israel provide a formal opinion on the school the following week.
Now, four months later, the status of case remained unclear. A spokesperson for the Israeli Justice Ministry did not immediately respond to Ma’an on a request for comment on the case.
On Wednesday, the European Union (EU) Missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah also released a statement condemning Israeli demolition policies in Area C of the West Bank, saying that since the start of 2017, 218 Palestinians had already been displaced due to Israeli-imposed demolitions, confiscations, and evictions in Area C. More than half of those displaced were children, the statement added.
The statement went on to highlight the record-high amount of Israeli-enforced demolitions of Palestinian structures in 2016, saying that “6,088 Palestinians were affected by 872 demolitions in Area C, among whom 1,663 were children.”
(Source / 23.02.2017)

IOA withdraws travel permits of Jenin businessmen

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The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) on Thursday withdrew commercial permits for travel to Israel from 110 Palestinian businessmen from Jenin province in the West Bank.

A citizen told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that he went in the morning to al-Jalama crossing in Jenin as usual where he saw an Israeli officer from the Israeli army’s civil administration taking away permits issued especially for commercial purposes from citizens on allegations they were not businessmen or merchants.

The citizen described the measure as part of the Israeli restrictions on the lives and livelihoods of the Palestinian families in the occupied West Bank.

In a related context, the Palestinian chamber of commerce in Jenin said the Israeli measure at the crossing today increased the number of businessmen whose commercial permits withdrawn recently by Israel to 220 citizens from the province.

(Source / 23.02.2017)

Hunger striker Al-Qeq hospitalised, wife says

Image of Palestinian hunger striker Mohamed Al-Qeq in hospital with his wife and children [file photo]

Palestinian hunger striker Mohamed Al-Qeq, who has been rearrested by Israel and placed under administrative detention, was admitted to hospital yesterday due to the severe deterioration of his health, his wife told Arab48.com.

Fayhaa Shalash said her husband, who had been on hunger strike for 17 days, “still persists [to continue the hunger strike] despite the difficulties facing his life.”

Read: Al-Qeq held in ‘grave-like’ prison cell, lawyer says

“The [Israeli] court will hold a hearing for him on February 28 to see whether it would decide to keep him under administrative detention or release him,” noting that it “became difficult to visit him now.”

“He has been unable to stand up from his bed for three days.”

Israeli occupation forces arrested Al-Qeq in the middle of January at a military checkpoint in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

His lawyer insists that he is being detained over political reasons.

(Source / 23.02.2017)

80,000 of Iraq’s displaced Sunnis stopped from returning home

Image of internally displaced Iraqi civilians after having fled from Daesh controlled areas [Anadolu]

Some 80,000 people from north of the province of Babil have not been allowed to return home two years after the area was recaptured from Daesh, the National Forces Union, the largest Sunni bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said yesterday.

In a statement, the bloc said: “There is a real intention to conduct demographic change in the area.”

It called on Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to allow the residents of the Jurf Al Jabal area to return to their homes.

Read: Iraq, US bomb airport as Mosul advance continues

According to the bloc, officials in the province have issued a series of statements which place “obstacles to prevent the displaced people from returning to their areas”.

The head of the security committee in the Babil province, Falah Al-Rahdi, denied local authorities had any intention to conduct demographic change in the region.

He told the Anadolu Agency that the areas in question lack basic services including electricity and water.

“The Babil Provincial Council has prepared a list of damages caused by Daesh in the area, noting that the area needs $400 million to restore the services.”

(Source / 23.02.2017)

I.C.S.P.R: Concluded law training course to Provinces of Gaza staff

International Commission to Support Palestinians Rights concluded a training course on Wednesday 22/2/2017 at its headquarter in Gaza city, entitled “International human Rights and Advocacy “, which targeted 25 volunteer of both gender in Provinces of Gaza staff.

Sahar Abu Ramadan, The Commission Board member, thanked the trainees on their eagerness to attend and interact during the training, and volunteering in the commission confirming that it open its doors to all energies to contribute to the protection of human rights in Palestine.

Abu Ramadan affirms the importance of the volunteer’s working among legal groups inside the provinces to spread the human right culture, and organizing initiatives supporting human rights, interacting in the commission activities at the national and international levels.

Dr. Alaa Hamouda, Director of Training and Activities department, added that: “Training has reached its goals of providing the community group the knowledge of International Human Law and Advocacy to be activist in the international commission in advocacy and lobbying in legal and human issues inside their provinces”

Fadi Abu Ajoua, one of the trainees, thanked the commission teamwork and the staff of the training course, within their constructive role in increasing their knowledge in Human Rights, indicated that they received unique training and experiences in human rights.

At the end of the course, certificates were granted to the trainees, in presence of the Commission Chairman: Dr. Salah Abdel Atii, Members of Boards of Directors: Rami Mohsen and Sahar Abu Ramdan, Director of Training and Activities Unit: Dr. Alaa Hamouda and Director of legal Unit: Dr. Karem Nashwan.

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(Source / 23.02.2017)

Mezan: 5 Palestinian fishermen killed, 107 injured since 2007

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Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights revealed in a new report issued Wednesday that five Palestinian fishermen were killed, while 107 others were injured since 2007.

The report has documented the human rights violations carried out by Israeli forces since 2007 when Israel declared the Gaza Strip a “hostile entity.”

Since 2007, Israeli forces killed five Palestinian fishermen, injured some 107 others, arrested 547 others, and confiscated 181 fishing boats.

The most recent Israeli violation was the arrest of five fishermen and the confiscation of their fishing boat off Beit Lahiya shores north of the Gaza Strip, the center said.

According to the center, Israel has tightened since October 2000 restrictions on Palestinian access to the sea. Fishermen were prevented to access the fishing areas allocated under the Oslo Accords 20 nautical miles (nm) from the coast, it added.

The fishing area was limited to 12 nautical miles, and then to only six nautical miles. However, fishermen are currently allowed to access only three nautical miles.

The center has collected dozens of testimonies from fisherman apprehended via the dangerous and humiliating “swimming procedure”: fishermen were compelled to undress at gunpoint and swim from their boat to a navy craft, regardless of weather conditions.

Dozens of fishing boats were seized and towed away, the center added.

These Israeli violations have resulted in the decline of Gaza’s fishing sector, the report concluded.

(Source / 23.02.2017)

AGPS: 50 Palestinian refugees drowned onboard “death boats” to Europe

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At least 50 Palestinian refugees from Syria drowned at sea as they embarked on a journey fraught with danger to Europe, a Thursday report by the Action Group for the Palestinians of Syria (AGPS) found out.

AGPS kept record of the death of 50 Palestinians onboard the “death boats” to Europe, fleeing war-tattered Syria.

According to AGPS, most of the casualties were women, children, and elderly refugees.

A number of casualties died off the Libyan seashore on way to Italy while others sunk in Marmara waters as they tried to disembark in Greece.

The death-journey is often preceded by another life-threatening trip to such points of departure as Turkey, Libya, and Egypt, before setting sail to the new asylum destination.

Over 80,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria reached Europe since the outburst of deadly hostilities in that Arab country.

(Source / 23.02.2017)

Amnesty: Israel killed 110 Palestinian civilians in 2016

The rights group also accused Israeli of putting thousands of Palestinians under administrative detention

Amnesty International accused Israel on Wednesday of unlawful killing of 110 Palestinian civilians, including children in Israel, West Bank in 2016.

Amnesty International report noted that Israeli officials who are responsible for the serious infringement of Palestinian rights got away with impunity

Amnesty International accused Israel on Wednesday of unlawful killing of 110 Palestinian civilians, including children in Israel, West Bank in 2016.

In its annual report, the organisation also said that the Israeli occupation authorities had arrested thousands of Palestinians who have spent or are spending prison terms without trial or under what is known as administrative detention.

The report also accused the Israeli occupation of torturing the Palestinian prisoners and mistreating them while inside prisons.

Meanwhile, it noted that Israeli officials who are responsible for the serious infringement of rights got away with impunity.

Furthermore, the report accused the Israel occupation of continuous promotion of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It also criticised the latest Israeli law which is attempting to retroactively legalise them after they were built on private Palestinian land.

The report also stated that Israel severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, closing some areas after claimed attacks by Palestinians.

Israeli forces continued to blockade the Gaza Strip, subjecting its population of 1.9 million to collective punishment, the report continued.

About homes and displacement, it said that Israeli continues demolishing homes of Palestinians in the West Bank and of Bedouin villagers in Al-Naqab, forcibly evicting residents.

The Israeli occupation authorities imprisoned conscientious objectors to military service and detained and deported thousands of asylum-seekers from Africa.

(Source / 23.02.2017)