Palestinian legislator Mohammed al-Tal seized by Israeli forces; Samira Halaiqa indicted by military court

The number of imprisoned Palestinian Legislative Council members climbed to 11 on Tuesday, 21 March after a pre-dawn raid by Israeli occupation forces seized PLC member Mohammed al-Tal from al-Khalil, along with 19 more Palestinians. Al-Tal has previously spent 11 years in Israeli prisons, half of those in administrative detention without charge or trial.

Also on Tuesday, 21 March, an Israeli occupation military court at Ofer submitted an indictment against PLC member Samira Halaiqa, 53, from al-Khalil, accusing her of participating in political and social activities and engaging in “incitement” for making political posts on Facebook.  Halaiqa was seized on 9 March by occupation forces who invaded her home. She, along with her husband Mohammed Halaiqa, had previously been imprisoned for one year in 2006 under administrative detention, following her election to the PLC

Both Halaiqa and al-Tal are part of the Change and Reform bloc, the PLC bloc associated with Hamas.

The 11 detained PLC members include: Khaled Tafesh and Anwar Zboun, both from the Bethlehem area, members of the Change and Reform bloc, seized on Monday, 6 March. Zboun spent over six years in Israeli prison, including several months in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, a former deportee to Marj al-Zohour, was also previously held in administrative detention in 2014. Tafesh, Zboun, Halaiqa and al-Tal were all arrested in the month of March.

Other detained PLC members include Hassan Yousef and Ahmad Mubarak of Ramallah and Azzam Salhab and Mohammed Jamal Natsheh of al-Khalil. All members of the Change and Reform bloc, they are held in administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial. General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sa’adat, is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison, while Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi is serving several life sentences. Jerusalemite PLC member of the Change and Reform bloc, Mohammed Abu Teir, was subject to expulsion from his home city of Jerusalem and is now serving a 17-month sentence in Israeli prison.

(Source / 22.03.2017)

Israeli attacks on Omar Barghouti part of ongoing attempt to silence and criminalize growing BDS movement

Leading Palestinian advocate for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign for Palestinian rights, Omar Barghouti, has faced repeated attacks by the Israeli state, including attempts to undermine his residency or impose a travel ban upon him to prevent his international advocacy and hinder his work as a human rights defender. On Sunday, 19 March, Israeli tax authorities invaded the home of Barghouti and his wife Safa, detaining them for 16 hours on the first day; Barghouti has been subsequently interrogated for four days.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network stands in solidarity with Barghouti and all Palestinian activists, strugglers and human rights defenders daily struggling against a settler colonial regime of criminalization, racism, apartheid and repression. In response to all attempts to criminalize or suppress BDS advocacy or campaigns for justice in Palestine, the most necessary response from all people concerned with justice is to escalate and build the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions and the international isolation of Israel, to demand justice and liberation for the land and people of Palestine.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) issued the following statement in response to the attacks on Barghouti, as part and parcel of the systematic attack of the Israeli government against BDS and the struggle for Palestinian rights and freedom:

A prominent Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, has for years been subjected to intense threats, intimidation and repression by various arms of the far-right Israeli government, particularly after it considered the movement a “strategic threat” to its entire system of injustice against Palestinians.

At a March 2016 conference in occupied Jerusalem, several Israeli government ministers threatened Omar and key BDS human rights defenders with severe measures, including “targeted civil elimination” – a euphemism for civil assassination. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs last year established a “tarnishing unit,” as exposed in the Israeli daily Haaretz. This unit’s job is to tarnish the reputation of BDS human rights defenders and networks.

It is in this context that the Israeli tax department’s investigation of Omar and his wife, Safa, must be understood. After failing to intimidate them through the threat of revoking Omar’s permanent residence in Israel, and after the effective travel ban imposed on him proved futile in stopping his human rights work, the Israeli government has resorted to fabricating a case related to Omar’s alleged income outside of Israel to tarnish his image and intimidate him.

The fact that this investigation includes a travel ban and that it comes a few weeks before Omar Barghouti is scheduled to travel to the U.S. to receive the Gandhi Peace Award jointly with Ralph Nader in a ceremony at Yale University proves its true motive —repression.

The fact that the Israeli government publicized the inflammatory fabrications against Omar just 24 hours after he was taken in for investigation shows beyond doubt that the investigation’s real goal is to tarnish his reputation.

No matter what extreme measures of repression Israel wields against the BDS movement or its human rights defenders and vast network of supporters, it cannot stop this movement for human rights. Bullying and repression can hardly affect a grassroots movement that grows in people’s hearts and minds, empowering them to do the right thing — to stand on the right side of history, against Israel’s fanatic regime of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing, and for freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

This latest desperate chapter of repression and intimidation by the Israeli government against Omar Barghouti is the strongest indicator yet of the failure of the Israeli regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid to slow down the impressive growth of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Visit www.bdsmovement.net and follow @BDSmovement

(Source / 22.03.2017)

Nidaa Tunis’ problem and the government’s performance

Moncef Marzouki

Moncef Marzouki

When the Nidaa Tunis party emerged on the Tunisian political scene at the end of 2012, it appeared to be the only possible alternative to the three party coalition formed by the Ennahda party, the coalition led by Moncef Marzouki, and the cluster of parties being led by Mustapha Ben Jaafar. The rhetoric of the new party has already brought together personalities from different walks of life (from the old regime, the political left, trade unionists, feminists and other liberal figures). This mixture of personalities seemed to be the perfect formula for defeating the current of political Islam and its revolutionary forces. In addition, one must note the social tensions emphasised by the Tunisian General Union of Labour.

The new party did not have a specific ideological or political platform, as many believed that the main battle was to wage and win the fight against Islamists perhaps in what would be their electoral victory. It looked to the model implemented by Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Egypt: change according to circumstance and not the alleged party animosity. In reality, it appears that the party gained the three largest positions (prime minister, government majority and the constituent assembly). It was at this point that the disagreements began which lead to a strange situation for analysts.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi

The reality that normally ensues is that a party becomes more united and cohesive after a victory but this was not the case for Nidaa Tunis which began to unravel after a number of parliamentarians formed a separate group with its own agenda. The problem rests with the emergence of two offshoots within one targeted party, one led by Moncef Marzouki. In response, the moderate personalities within the party who had contributed to its formation, began to gradually withdraw from the party and support Hafedh Caid Essebsi, the son of the current President of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi.

Aside from this, the crisis facing the party does not end at the borders of the internal conflict but extends and negatively impacts the performance of the Tunisian government. This began with the attempts to bring down former Prime Minister of Tunisia, Habib Essid, who wanted to leave behind a legacy that was different than that of the ruling parties.

One must end what is happening today by noting the actions of the current Prime Minister, Youssef Chahed. The latest in leaked documents showed the minutes from the party’s most recent meetings revealed the current tensions between Hafedh Caid, his followers and the rest of the party. The latter accused the former of conspiring against the party in an effort to bring down ministers by promoting an atmosphere that would lead to their political failure. The accusations waged against Nidaa Tunis’ opposition are that the party has been prevented from exercising its full potential. What is worth noting in these leaked documents, which are not the first of their kind, are Hafedh Essebsi’s way to foster the image that the relationship between himself and his ally in the government – the Ennahda party – is one based on tensions and chaos and that stability will prevail so long as the old man stays in the presidential palace.

The leaked documents are a source of worry for a number of political analysts from two specific angles. The first is that Nidaa Tunis, if dissolved, will leave behind a political void that cannot be filled at the current moment by any other replacement. This will cause a sense of chaos among the ranks of those who voted for this party. From another angle, governmental performance has been severely weakened due to a growing level of confusion. Youssef Chahed’s visit to Ben Kardan was a case in point for the importance of his presence on the political scene, and the magnitude of his political influence when he found himself in front of a large crowd praising the former Prime Minister Moncef Marzouki.

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (R) meets with Youssef Chahed head of the future national unity government, at Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia on August 21, 2016

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (R) meets with Youssef Chahed head of the future national unity government, at Carthage Palace in Tunis, Tunisia on August 21, 2016

In addition to what the government is facing with regards to meeting the demands of the labour unions, and the demands of the replacement of the education minister among other ministers, it has been exposed that some ministers and politicians have been making political gains. All of this points to one major thing: the need to review the role of the government based on its performance and its separation from Nidaa Tunis, which is slowly falling apart. The rest is dependent on Beji Caid Essebsi’s continued role as president. The current situation exposes the reality of Tunisian parties in a post-revolutionary society and the challenges facing the democratisation process and its radicalisation.

In exchange, this might be the perfect opportunity for some of the political forces who may now win over Nidaa Tunis’ voters. It is also important to know that the power of the Tunisian political parties is currently suffering from a political impasse and a lack of political mobilisation and organisation on the popular level. The consequences of this will be reflected in the coming elections. Many might abstain from voting unless provided with alternatives.

(Source / 22.03.2017)

Israeli Supreme Court once again rules not to release slain Palestinians’ bodies

Mars Bethlehem over dode lichamen

Protesters march in Bethlehem demanded released of slain Palestinians’ bodies

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled not to release the bodies of Palestinians still held in Israeli morgues to their families for burial, shortly after a rally organized by relatives of the slain Palestinians was violently suppressed by Israeli forces in Bethlehem.

The court also a rejected a petition by Israel’s general prosecution that requested that the four Palestinians, who died while carrying out attacks on Israelis, be buried in Israel’s “cemetery of numbers,” a series of mass graves comprised of marked and unmarked plots of mostly Palestinians killed by Israeli forces over the past 60 years.
In January, Israel’s security cabinet said that the bodies of Palestinians allegedly affiliated to the Hamas movement would not be returned to their families, as Israel considers the bodies to be a bargaining chip that could be used in a future exchange deal with Hamas, the de facto ruling party of the besieged Gaza Strip, where the bodies of two Israeli soldiers are believed to be held.
According to lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud, who was present at the court hearing, the Supreme Court rejected the state’s order because the claim that the bodies could be used in such a deal was “unconvincing.”
Mars Bethlehem over dode lichamen1
Protesters march in Bethlehem demanded the release of slain Palestinians’ bodies
The court gave the Israeli prosecution 45 days to again justify the state’s reasoning for continuing to detain the four bodies — those of Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, Muhammad al-Faqih, Muhammad Tarayra, Rami Awartani, and Misbah Abu Sbeih — which have been held for 11 months, eight months, seven months, seven months, and five months, respectively.
As the court ruled to reject both the request to return the bodies to their families for burial and to bury them in the cemetery of numbers, it remained unclear what outcome the court envisaged for the case.
The petition for the release of the four bodies had been submitted by the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs, the National Campaign to Retrieve Bodies, and the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center(JLAC).
Israel has also continued to hold the body of Fadi al-Qunbar, whose house was punitively sealed with cement on Wednesday, although he was not included in the case heard at the Supreme Court.
Mars Bethlehem over dode lichamen2
The court’s decision was handed down shortly after Israeli forces suppressed a march in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, which was held by Palestinian families involved in the case, and attended by dozens of supporters, including head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe.
Protesters marched to the northern entrance of Bethlehem adjacent to Israel’s separation wall, where Israeli soldiers suppressed the rally by firing bullets, sound bombs, and tear gas at crowds, with a number of Palestinian youths sustaining injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets, while others suffered from severe tear gas inhalation.
Azhar Abu Srour, the mother of Abd al-Hamid Abu Srour, who has since become a leader in the protest movement against Israel’s policy of withholding bodies, had addressed protesters Wednesday afternoon: “Our message today to the Israeli occupation is the same as every day. We will continue until the last body of our slain Palestinians is returned.”
“I’m not only referring to these martyrs who are currently being held in Israeli morgues, but also to those who have been held al-Arqam cemetery (cemetery of numbers) for decades, which makes us wonder — why is this crime still being committed?”
“Families have the right to say a final farewell and to visit their sons at their graves,” she affirmed, adding that “we cannot give up on seeking justice for our martyrs” — using a term commonly used to describe Palestinians who were killed in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A joint statement released by Addameer and Israeli minority rights group Adalah in March 2016 condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture.”
Mars Bethlehem over dode lichamen3
(Source / 22.03.2017)

Israeli forces carry out multiple raids across West Bank, detain 11 Palestinians

Detaining 11 Palestijnen

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained at least 11 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, raiding multiple areas across the occupied Palestinian territory.

Locals said that Israeli forces raided the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem and detained Muhammad Jamal al-Azza in Bethlehem city and Wael Amjad al-Khatib in the neighboring town of Beit Jala, which was confirmed by the Israeli army.
An Israeli army spokesperson also told Ma’an that three Palestinians were detained in the village of al-Rashayida south of Bethlehem.
In the town of Beit Sahour east of Bethlehem, Israeli forces raided a Palestinian home and interrogated the family, without detaining anyone.
Locals said that Israeli forces raided Beit Sahour at 3:15 a.m. and surrounded the three-floor building, where Issam Qumsiyeh, 57, his brother Sami, 60, and their two families live.
The Qumsiyeh family said they woke up to the sound of explosions and discovered Israeli forces blasting open the exterior door to the building.
Dozens of soldiers broke into the house, forcing both families into one room where they were thoroughly interrogated, while the building was being searched and ransacked.
Israeli forces also cut off the telephone and the internet during the half-hour raid.
Members of the family told Ma’an that “soldiers had a map (of the building) and knew detailed information about the family, as if the interrogation was only to confirmation what they already knew.”
Israeli forces also raided the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah and detained Ali Ahmad Khattab in the town of Beit Sira, Hassan Ribhi Nafe from the town of Nilin, and 17-year-old Murad Suleiman Atta from Deir Abu Mashaal, according to local sources and confirmed by the Israeli army.
According to Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri, two Palestinian youths from the northern occupied West Bank city of Nablus were also detained overnight at a military checkpoint near Tulkarem, claiming Israeli forces found an M-16 rifle in their position after searching their vehicle.
Detaining 11 Palestijnen1
Israeli forces also detained 23-year-old Mahmoud Muhammad al-Hroub the village of Ibziq in the northern Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank when a tractor and private vehicle were also confiscated.
Local sources also said that Israeli forces detained 15-year-old Bassam Shukri al-Qunbar from Jabal al-Mukabbir. Israeli forces had raided the occupied east Jerusalem neighborhood early Wednesday to seal a home with cement, as a punitive action taken against the family of slain Palestinian Fadi al-Qunbar.
Local sources mentioned that a Palestinian was also detained in the northern Israeli town of Sandala, who was identified as Sheikh Firas al-Omari, a member of the Freedoms and Prisoners Committee.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,500 Palestinians were held in Israeli prisons as of January, 53 of whom were women and 300 of whom minors. Some 420 Palestinians were detained throughout the month of February alone — including 70 minors and 22 women and girls.
(Source / 22.03.2017)

Haaretz: Israel determined to annex Maale Adumim

Maale Adumim annexatie

Haaretz Hebrew newspaper revealed that Israeli authorities decided to annex Maale Adumim settlement despite postponing vote on the settlement bill at the Knesset.

Israeli bulldozers have already started, over the past few weeks, works to link between Maale Adumim settlement and occupied Jerusalem, the paper said.

Postponing vote on annexing Maale Adumim at the Knesset was just a diplomatic attempt to avoid the international community’s criticism, according to the sources.

The paper quoted an Israeli pro-settlement association official as saying that a new junction has been established to facilitate movement between the settlement and occupied Jerusalem.

A new tunnel has been also established to alleviate the overcrowding in the area and facilitate movement between the northern and southern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, the sources added.

The paper pointed out that Israeli authorities seek to demolish the Palestinian Khan al-Ahmar village for the same purpose, recalling that dozens of demolition notifications were distributed in that village last month.

(Source / 22.03.2017)

One person lightly injured by Israeli fire at Tulkarem-area checkpoint

Taybeh

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — One person, whose identity as an Israeli or Palestinian remained unknown, was lightly to moderately injured on Wednesday after being shot by Israeli forces at the Taybeh checkpoint in southwestern Tulkarem in the northwestern occupied West Bank, according to Israeli media.Israeli media reported that Israeli police chased a “suspect” who reached the military checkpoint between Tulkarem and Israel, before soldiers deployed at the checkpoint opened fire at him, injuring him in the leg. Reports added that the incident was “criminal” in nature.An Israeli police spokesperson said they were not familiar with the incident.

(Source / 22.03.2017)

Israeli forces seize Palestinian car, tractor in Tubas

Tubas ISrael aanval

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at daybreak Wednesday seized Palestinian vehicles east of Tubas city, in the northern West Bank.

Speaking with a PIC reporter, Palestinian citizen Omar Na’naghiya, a resident of Bzeiq Hamlet, said the Israeli soldiers seized a car of the Mitsubishi brand and another vehicle owned by Palestinian citizen Hayel Turkman, along with an agricultural tractor belonging to citizen Namer Harroub.

He added that residents of Bzeiq Hamlet have been subjected to simmering crackdowns and had their tractors often seized by the Israeli forces under the pretext that they are used to cultivate military lands and carry water tanks to Palestinians.

According to Na’naghiya, the move makes part of Israeli attempts to force the Palestinians out of the area.

(Source / 22.03.2017)

Battles Continue to Rage in Eastern Damascus as Regime Forces Suffer Heavy Losses

Fighters of the Free Syrian Army have pressed on with their offensive to break the siege on the districts of Qaboun and Barza in eastern Damascus. Dozens of airstrikes and a barrage of artillery shelling by regime forces and their allies have so far failed to reverse the FSA and rebel gains.

Activists on Tuesday said that the FSA and rebel groups have reached the Fares Khoury Street, adding that they are now pushing towards the Abbassiyen Bus Station as part of the second phase of the offensive they launched on Sunday.

The FSA and rebel offensive came in response to continued truce violations by the Assad regime and its allies and the massed forced displacement operations they have carried out across Syria, including most recently in the AlWaer neighborhood in Homs.

Activists pointed out that regime forces and their allied foreign militias have so far suffered at least 100 casualties. The Assad regime had to bring in troops from other fronts to repel the attack.

Experts said that the recent fighting in the capital Damascus have exposed the military weakness of the Assad regime and the extent of its reliance on the Iranian-backed militias to survive.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 22.03.2017)

Israeli army launches limited incursion into blockaded Gaza

Khan Younis inval

A flock of Israeli military vehicles on Wednesday morning launched a limited incursion into eastern Khan Younis city, south of the blockaded Gaza Strip.

A PIC news correspondent said four Israeli military bulldozers deployed at the Kissufim base moved into the eastern edges of Khan Younis city and leveled Palestinian lands in the area.

At the same time, barrages of gunshots were fired from Israeli military watchtowers toward al-Qarara, east of Khan Younis. No injuries were reported in the attack.

(Source / 22.03.2017)