Israeli government deducts 300 million dollars from the PA tax money

Muayad Afaneh

Muayad Afaneh, a Palestinian financial expert, said that the Israeli government deducted 300 million dollars (over a billion shekels) from the Palestinian Authority (PA) tax money under various pretexts.

Quds Press quoted Afaneh as saying, in a workshop held in the chamber of commerce in Tulkarem, that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) deducts 28 million dollars (100 million shekels) annually from the PA tax money as a compensation of stolen vehicles in Israel whether the thieves were known or not.

Afaneh opined that the PA postponement of its general budget to the current year instead of the previous date scheduled in last October is a legal violation by the PA.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Special TV report unveils Israel’s secret tunnels under Aqsa Mosque

Geheime tunnels

Al-Quds satellite channel on Thursday released a special video report on the network of secret tunnels beneath the Aqsa Mosque, providing further evidence of Israel’s intents to destroy the Islamic holy site and build the alleged temple on its ruins.

The televised report, titled “Secrets underneath the Aqsa Mosque, shows tunnels, rooms and gates, some of them closed, running under the Mosque compound and Palestinian neighborhoods in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The report contains serious information and footage confirming the presence of an underground Jewish city, where Israeli guards standing at its doors and guiding visitors to take certain routes and enter halls intended only for specific people.

Arab visitors to the underground city, however, are led to rooms, where they cannot see other sections of the place, the report says.

The footage also shows new diggings intended to connect the network of tunnels with each other as well as large gates believed to lead to other secret tunnels and rooms under the Mosque.

In the video, there are a synagogue under the Tankiziyya School at the Aqsa Mosque’s western wall, and plaques and signs bearing Hebrew names related to the alleged temple mount placed over the doors of tunnels.

The channel hosted Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands, Arab Knesset members, experts, and a representative from the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf to comment further on the information and footage that came in the report.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Rights group: UN pressured to withdraw report saying Israel ‘apartheid’ state

Image of the apartheid wall in West Bank

Image of the apartheid wall in West Bank

The European-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights (EMOHR) said on Friday that the UN had come under pressure to withdraw its report accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians, Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu reported.

The rights group, which is based in Geneva and has many offices across the Middle East, expressed its regret about UN chief Antonio Guterres’ request for the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) to withdraw its report.

“The UN asked the ESCWA to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinians and to disown its content despite the fact it was prepared based on scientific and professional approaches,” the group said.

Read: UN ESCWA chief resigns over report on ‘apartheid’ Israel

This request pushed the ESCWA chief Rima Khalaf to announce her resignation at a news conference in Beirut.

“Khalaf has been one of the most prominent independent and objective individuals [in the UN] and her resignation is a blow to international justice,” the Observatory said.

Immediately, after announcing her resignation, Guterres accepted the resignation without any review.

“This is not about content, this is about process,” said Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

“The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorise the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself,” he told reporters.

On Wednesday,  ESCWA, which comprises 18 Arab states, published the report describing Israel as an “apartheid” state, which was the first time a UN body had clearly made the charge.

Read: UN invokes human rights on Israel’s bill banning Muslim call to prayer

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Clashes erupt in Balata refugee camp

Balata vluchtelingenkamp

Clashes broke out Saturday afternoon between PA security forces and Palestinian youths in Balata refugee camp east of Nablus.

Eyewitnesses told PIC reporter that the clashes erupted when PA forces stormed the camp and were deployed in its roads in conjunction with holding a press conference by local activists.

The press conference was scheduled to be held today evening in protest against the distortion campaign waged against the camp and its activists.

However, a state of tension prevailed among the residents as PA forces stormed the camp and tried to prevent journalists’ entry into the camp to cover the press conference.

PA forces heavily fired tear gas bombs during the clashes, the sources added.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Will Egypt put term limits on Al-Azhar grand imam?

General view of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, April 17, 2016

CAIRO — New sources of friction keep heating up the conflict between Al-Azhar University and those outside the school seeking to influence the way it’s run.

Yasser Kouraa, assistant to the Wafd Party’s head of political and parliamentary affairs, recently suggested amending the university’s internal regulations. His proposals would affect the way senior scholars — including Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb — are selected and dismissed, in the name of renewing religious discourse. The proposals have sparked debate and angered Al-Azhar scholars, who see it as an attempt to undermine their roles.

Kouraa said that’s not the case.

“The proposal to amend Al-Azhar internal regulations does not downplay the importance of the institution. No one dares offend an institution like Al-Azhar, and I highly appreciate and respect Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb,” Kouraa told Al-Monitor.

“Yet, if we really want to renew religious discourse, keep pace with changes all around us arising from the extremist current, and counter all forms of terrorism … we need to give up the idea that the grand imam should remain in office as long as he is ‘qualified for the post,’ and have Al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars limit his term to either eight or 10 years to avoid an endless or indefinite term in office,” Kouraa said.

Keeping pace is important because the rise of terrorism “threatens Arab and Islamic societies and gives the West the wrong idea about the correct Islamic faith and moderate Islamic principles,” he noted.

Kouraa said his proposal doesn’t contradict the constitution, as some have claimed. Though the constitution protects the grand imam and says he shall not be dismissed from his post, the constitution also states that parliament is entitled to determine the length of his term.

Parliamentarian Mohammad Abu Hamed, a member of the pro-regime majority Support Egypt Coalition, also suggested March 8 an amendment to the law that regulates Al-Azhar’s affairs. The proposal would address how Al-Azhar councils are formed, including the Council of Senior Scholars.

The council now consists of 40 members headed by the grand imam. Each member holds a doctoral degree or is a professor of Islamic studies or language sciences from Al-Azhar University, and must be committed to Al-Azhar’s religious teachings and conduct. The grand imam appoints qualified council members. The Council of Senior Scholars in turn elects the grand imam when the post is vacant.

Under Hamed’s draft law, the Council of Senior Scholars would expand, adding secular scholars and specialists to provide different points of view before any fatwa is issued. The proposal would entitle the president of the republic, rather than the imam, to choose council members. Thus, the president will be indirectly controlling the method to appoint the grand imam. This has ignited fears about the executive branch tightening its grip over the religious establishment.

Hamed’s proposal comes after other recent problems between Al-Azhar and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi​. In a Jan. 24 speech, Sisi said Egypt’s divorce rate has been rising significantly to the point that 40% of all marriages in the country end within the first five years. Sisi demanded that new legislation be enacted to invalidate orally declared divorces. Currently, such divorces are valid under Sharia before they are officially documented.

Less than two weeks later, the Council of Senior Scholars rejected Sisi’s demand, stressing that orally declared divorces have been undisputed since the days of the Prophet Muhammad, and do not need to be documented to be considered valid.

Commenting on the issue, Sabri Abada, a professor of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University, told the press March 6 that people hostile to Al-Azhar are planning to bring down and dismiss the grand imam.

“They are taking advantage of the crisis over orally declared divorces to stir strife between Al-Azhar and the presidency. Nevertheless, they are unaware that the constitution safeguards the independence of Al-Azhar institution and its exclusive [control] over its own affairs, considering it to be the first reference for Islamic affairs in Egypt and the whole world,” Sabri said.

“Al-Azhar and the Council of Senior Scholars will continue to fight destructive, misguiding and extremist ideas, and will not give in to some opinions and issue laws that contradict the Sharia law,” he added.

Another decision that doesn’t sit well with Al-Azhar came in January, when the Ministry of Religious Endowments announced it will be determining the topics of the imams’ weekly sermons.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Egypt, Jordan Agree on Importance of Resuming Negotiations for a Palestinian State

Ayman al-Safadi, Reuters

Cairo- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman al-Safadi met for three hours in Cairo on Thursday to discuss crises and recent challenges facing the Arab region.

“It’s time to clear up the Arab atmosphere and provide a minimum of consensus on resolutions issued by the Amman summit, to deal with all crises, conflict, war and terrorism tearing the region apart,” said Safadi.

He also pointed to the possibility of reaching Arab unanimity, despite existing differences in a desire “to spare the region further devastation threatening security and stability of Arab states.”

The two FMs held a press conference following talks in Cairo to discuss the latest developments in the region, including the Palestinian peace process and Egyptian-Jordanian relations.

Safadi, who arrived in Cairo early Thursday, hoped the upcoming Arab League summit to be held in March in Amman would enhance joint Arab action in a way that improves capability of addressing crises affecting the Arab world.

Safadi replied to a Syria question with “Jordan is taking part in Astana’s Syria peace talks as an observer and supports any effort that aims at reaching a ceasefire across Syria, especially in the southern region closer to Jordan’s northern border.”

The Astana talks are not an alternative to the Geneva efforts that form the main framework of reaching a political solution to the Syrian conflict, the minister highlighted.

He also said that discussions with Shokry addressed the major challenges facing the Arab world and ways to address them, underlining Cairo’s important role in enhancing the regional stability and security.

Jordanian-Egyptian consultation and coordination not only aim at serving bilateral relations, but also seek to serve the interests of the Arab nation and its peoples to enhance joint Arab action and maintain pan-Arab security, Safadi stressed.

The minister also highlighted the significance of increasing the level of coordination among Arab countries to find solutions to regional crises, especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the Syrian war and the developments in the Libyan arena.

For his part, Shokry expressed hope that the Arab summit will boost joint Arab action and serve Arab national security, voicing Cairo’s readiness to help Amman in organizing the summit.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Palestinian fighter attack Israeli post in Jenin

JENIN, PALESTINOW.COM — Gunmen, believed to be from the Palestinian resistance, opened fire on Friday night at an Israeli military post located west of Jenin city in the occupied West Bank.
Local sources told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that armed men showered the watchtower of the Salem military base west of Jenin with volleys of bullets at around two o’clock after midnight.The sources added that the gunmen were aboard a vehicle and withdrew from the area, where the Israeli army immediately dispatched a large number of troops.

Citizens from the nearby towns of Rummanah and Zabuba also reported hearing gunshots at the time of the attack.

Consequently, dozens of Israeli soldiers and military vehicles stormed Palestinian areas around the Salem base, especially Rummanah and Zabuba towns, and established roadblocks at their entrances.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Palestinian prisoner enters 22nd day of hunger strike

Nasser Alaqma

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian prisoner Muhammad Nasser Alaqma entered the 22nd day of hunger strike on Saturday that he launched in protest of his administrative detention — Israel’s widely condemned policy of internment without charge or trial, according to the Ramallah-based radio station Sawt al-Asra (Voice of Prisoners).

The 27-year-old resident of the village of Bartaa in the northern occupied West Bank Jenin has been held in Israeli custody since Aug. 16, 2016, when he was detained at an Israeli military checkpoint on the way to his village.
His administrative detention order has been renewed three times, each time for four months, since his intial detention. The radio station noted that Alaqma is a husband and father of two.
While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed that the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.
Rights groups say that Israel’s administrative detention policy has also been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were detained by Israel as of January, 536 of whom were held in administrative detention.

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Clashes after funeral for slain Palestinian teen leave 8 injured by Israeli fire

Begrafenis Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Clashes erupted between Palestinians and Israeli forces following a funeral procession held Saturday for 16-year-old Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi in al-Arrub refugee camp north of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank, which was attended by hundreds of mourners and came a day after the boy was shot dead by Israeli forces.
Sources from the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance service told Ma’an that eight young men were hit with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes with Israeli troops that erupted after the funeral.
All eight received treatment on the scene, and dozens of others — including women, children, and elderly people — were treated for severe tear gas inhalation.
Begrafenis Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi1
Local sources said an Israeli border guard sustained minor wounds after he was hit with a stone.
The clashes came after a motorcade of vehicles brought the body of Abu Ghazi from al-Ahli hospital in Hebron to his home in al-Arrub camp. After family members said their goodbyes, the teen’s body was carried to the camp’s mosque for the funeral prayer, and then to the cemetery for burial.
Mourners chanted slogans hailing Palestinian ‘martyrs’ and denouncing the Israeli occupation.

Clashes broke out immediately after Abu Ghazi was laid to rest, with young Palestinian men hurling stones at an Israeli military post near the camp, while Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at the protesters and at the camp’s houses.An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports of the clashes.

Begrafenis Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi2

Begrafenis Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi3
Abu Ghazi succumbed to a critical gunshot wound in his chest Friday night around 9:30 p.m, while 17-year-old Saif Salim Rushdi, also a resident of al-Arrub, underwent surgery for a bullet wound in the chest. Doctors told Ma’an on Saturday that Rushdi remained in critical condition, as his left lung was severely damaged and he suffered from fractures in his rib cage.
An Israeli army spokesperson claimed at the time that the incident came after “firebombs were hurled at passing vehicles on a road near the village of al-Arrub. In response to the immediate threat, forces fired toward suspects.”
The spokesperson only confirmed to Ma’an that “hits were made,” but did acknowledge the death of Abu Ghazi or the injury of Rushdi, and said investigations were still underway.
Abu Ghazi was the 13th Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of 2017.
His death also marked the second time this year that Israeli forces fatally shot a Palestinian minor. The Israeli army also claimed that 17-year-old Qusay Hassan al-Umour was throwing Molotov cocktails — a claim that was widely contradicted by video evidence and investigations undertaken by rights groups.

Begrafenis Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi4

In January, Israeli forces shot al-Umour in the chest with live fire at least three times, in what was branded by rights groups as an unlawful and unjustified killing.
In dozens of cases, Israel’s version of events has been disputed by witnesses, activists, and rights groups who have denounced what they have termed a “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner — amid a backdrop of impunity for Israelis who committed the killings.
Though the Israeli army and military police opened an official investigation into al-Umour’s death, the precedent set by cases such as that of 15-year-old Khalid Bahr, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in October for allegedly throwing rocks at soldiers during a raid in a Hebron-area village, casts doubts on the likelihood of real accountability.
According to rights group Yesh Din, of 186 criminal investigations into suspected offenses against Palestinians opened by the Israeli army in 2015, just four resulted in indictments.

Begrafenis Murad Yusif Abu Ghazi5

(Source / 18.03.2017)

Erekat slams Lieberman for designating Palestinian National Fund as a ‘terror’ group

Saeb Erekat

JERICHO (Ma’an) — Secretary-General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat slammed a recent decision by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to designate the Palestinian National Fund (PNF) — a PLO institution that provides monthly financial aid to families of Palestinians who were either killed or wounded in the conflict with Israel — as a “terrorist organization.”

Erekat’s comments came during two separate meetings held in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho with the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Fernando Gentilini and China’s ambassador to Palestine Chen Xingzhong.
Erekat said that such a decision represented the withdrawal of Israel’s recognition of the PLO, and called upon Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say explicitly whether or not his government has in fact reversed the 1993 decision that recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
Erekat also denounced Israel for intensifying settlement expansion and “imposing facts on the ground” — especially in the occupied East Jerusalem — describing the escalation as “part and parcel of the Israeli plan to destroy the two-state solution and replace it with an apartheid system based on one state with two systems.”
In a statement released on Thursday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned Lieberman’s decision, when reiterated that the PNF “operates according to international agreements and standards.”
Abbas said his government “strongly opposed” the defense minister’s move and called upon the Israeli government the cancel it immediately, warning the decision would “lead to the collapse of the foundations of the Oslo Agreement and the legal relationship with Israel,” Israeli media quoted him as saying.
In Palestinian society, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is responsible for providing financial assistance to families of those slain, injured, or imprisoned by Israeli forces. In 2016, this included 112 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces and nearly 4,000 Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces mostly during clashes, according to UN documentation.
In addition, Israeli authorities currently hold 6,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, including 536 without charge or trial. The group has reported that 40 percent of the Palestinian male population has at some point been detained by Israeli forces.
The controversial social program has been the target of criticism for years by both the Israeli and United States government.
(Source / 18.03.2017)