Gaza teen draws with her feet after being born with no hands

Image of Seventeen-year-old Palestinian Aya Masoud [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Seventeen-year-old Palestinian Aya Masoud is unique; her skill is not only the artwork she produces, but the method she uses to make it.

Born with no hands, Aya learnt to write and draw using her feet. She hopes that her drawings will be showcased in a gallery in the future.

With the help of her mother and support from the rest of her family, Aya now writes legibly. Her family and the help she received from her school teachers allowed her to reach the stage she has today, Aya told MEMO.

She believes she is a message of determination and perseverance to those with special needs, and proof that you can achieve your goals even with disabilities. She believes that disabilities are in the mind and not in the body.

Read: PA reducing funds for Gazan to access medical care

Image of Seventeen-year-old Palestinian Aya Masoud [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor] Seventeen-year-old Palestinian, Aya Masoud, draws with her feet after being born with no hands [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Seventeen-year-old Palestinian, Aya Masoud, draws with her feet after being born with no hands [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor] Art work belonging to seventeen-year-old Palestinian, Aya Masoud, who draws with her feet after being born with no hands [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]  Seventeen-year-old Palestinian, Aya Masoud, draws with her feet after being born with no hands [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor] Seventeen-year-old Palestinian, Aya Masoud, draws with her feet after being born with no hands [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Palestinian succession gets more complicated

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during a joint news conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Amman, Jordan, May 14, 2017

The case of the succession of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has just gotten more complicated with news that PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat will undergo risky lung surgery this month. Palestinian officials had made a number of changes, including the creation of a constitutional court in April 2016, to ensure that Erekat would be interim president if Abbas is unable to continue his presidential duties. It is expected that the constitutional court would rule in favor of the PLO’s secretary-general, rather than the speaker of the parliament, to act as interim president in the 60 days leading up to new elections.

Multiple Palestinian sources and Israeli media have confirmed that the PLO’s secretary-general and the head of the Palestinian negotiating team will have a lung transplant later this month.

A senior member of the Fatah Central Committee told Al-Monitor that while Erekat has been taking drugs for his lung ailment for nearly 10 years, the situation has recently deteriorated to the point that a transplant is required. “His ability to work well has been affected and his lungs are now operating at 35% capacity,” the Fatah official said on condition of anonymity due the personal and sensitive nature of the case.

report published on the i24news site claimed that Erekat is likely to travel to the United States for surgery, although a senior Fatah source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that if the right donor is found he might undergo surgery in the region.

Abbas’ most prominent known replacements are unlikely to reach the presidential headquarters. Public opinion polls show Marwan Barghouti — currently serving multiple life sentences in Israeli prison — as the most popular Palestinian to replace Abbas. According to a poll published July 5 by the Ramallah-based Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research, if elections were held at this time, Barghouti would receive 41% of the vote and Abbas 22%.

Former Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan — pushed for by the Arab quartet (Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) — was rejected by the ruling Fatah movement during its seventh congress held in Ramallah in November 2016.

In the absence of any clear replacement candidate, most of the current attention has now shifted to the mechanism of the transition.

The Palestinian Basic Law states in Article 37 subsection 2 that the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) will assume the role of president for 60 days if the presidential office is vacant. Multiple Palestinian officials close to the president have argued that a new mechanism must be introduced since the PLC has not been in session for seven years. They also suggested that one way to overcome this problem would be to create the position of vice president.

The argument is that, currently, there is no speaker of the PLC. The last speaker after the Hamas 2007 victory in the parliamentary elections was Abdel Aziz Dweik. While he served for about a year, the PLC has been dormant ever since the split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. With the PLC not in session and with the speaker having to be elected anew every session, the position of PLC speaker has been vacant.

Instead, supporters of Abbas call for reverting to the PLO, which had signed the Oslo Accord in 1993 and had approved the setting up of the Palestinian National Authority. In this case, the secretary-general of the PLO could become the interim president. To boost this argument, Abbas set up a constitutional court in April 2016 in the hope that it would agree to this argument if and when such a constitutional decision is needed. The court would only look into the issue once a decision is made as to who will be acting president and only if that decision was contested. The ailment of Erekat complicates this situation.

In addition to his position within the PLO, Erekat holds the important portfolio as the head of the Palestinian negotiating team. The PLO’s negotiating department has been working for years under Erekat’s leadership to prepare for peace talks.

Multiple senior Palestinian officials interviewed for this article agreed that the only person who currently could step in the shoes of Erekat in terms of the negotiations is Maj. Gen. Majid Faraj, the head of the Palestinian intelligence. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, no one agreed to be quoted on the record.

The Palestinian officials contacted by Al-Monitor argued that since Faraj has been present at all meetings taking place in Palestine and Washington, he carries with him the institutional memory that is needed for successful negotiations and in order not to loose on issues that might have been agreed to in past talks.

According to sources close to Abbas, Faraj is also Abbas’ handpicked leader to succeed him. Faraj was born in the Palestinian refugee camp of Dheisheh near Bethlehem and spent years in Israeli prisons. He is generally well-liked by Palestinians but lacks the needed experience to become the next president.

Members of the Executive Committee are elected by the Palestine National Council or the Palestine Central Council. The different PLO factions that have a quota in the Executive Committee are allowed to replace their representatives in the PLO’s Executive Committee if the seat becomes vacant, according to PLO bylaws.

For Fatah, it has been customary that their representative in the PLO’s Executive Committee should come from the Fatah Central Committee. Faraj is not a member of that prestigious committee either.

To become a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, one needs to be elected by the rank and file of the movement. Abbas is allowed to appoint members at large and, according to Abbas Zaki, a senior member of Fatah’s Central Committee, this could happen — although it will need two-thirds support of the current members.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Zaki recalled that Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), a former Palestinian prime minister and head of the Oslo negotiating team, was appointed to the PLO’s Executive Committee in 2006, even though he had failed to be elected to the Fatah Central Committee.

The legal and political succession issues could be solved if there is a Fatah-Hamas agreement that would usher in legislative and presidential elections. Abbas and his team expected Hamas to surrender to this issue after the Ramallah government stopped subsidizing the electricity costs to the Gaza Strip. But a recent Hamas-Egyptian agreement and the rapprochement between Hamas and their archrival renegade Fatah leader Dahlan have dashed the hopes many had of reconciliation and elections.

Erekat’s ailment has again refocused attention on the difficult Palestinian political landscape. Although he appears to be in good shape, Abbas is in his early 80s and will need to pass the baton to a younger, more energetic leader. It is still unclear whether he will maneuver things so that the head of his intelligence service, Faraj, will be in line for his position or whether it will be a free fall.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Expansion plan for Palestinian town a power test for Liberman

Israel Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Feb. 19, 2017

The conflict between Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the settlers over his plan to expand the Palestinian city of Qalqilya is about to reach a boiling point. While Liberman insists that his plan is essential for purely security reasons, the settlers are waging an aggressive campaign to block it, claiming that it is actually dangerous.

Next week, the Cabinet is expected to determine the fate of the plan, which was put on hold at the order of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to vociferous opposition by HaBayit HaYehudi ministers. They, in turn, are being subjected to every imaginable pressure from the settlers. Ever since Channel 2 News first revealed the plan last June, the settlers, led by Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council and their representative in the Likud Party, have successfully applied pressure also on Likud ministers who are security Cabinet members. This only exacerbates the potential political volatility of the entire issue.

In many ways, this decisive moment is a test of Liberman’s strength in dealing with what he derisively calls the “messianic” right, whose most senior representative in the government is HaBayit HaYehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett. In contrast, Liberman sees himself as representing the pragmatic, responsible right.

The conflict itself is fascinating, because it defines the division within the right-wing camp. It cuts off Liberman — who is himself a settler — from the far right, while bringing him closer to new groups of potential supporters. This will apparently have an impact on electoral movements within the right-wing camp before the next election.

The commotion surrounding the Qalqilya expansion plan also shows the strength that the settler leadership has amassed within the Cabinet, and the way that they have succeeded in transforming a security issue of the utmost importance into a political debate. It raises the question: Will the prime minister favor them over his defense minister?

The Qalqilya plan had its origins in August 2016. Having entered the Defense Ministry in May 2016, Liberman sought out creative ways to curb the wave of terrorism, which seemed to be growing. The plan that he put together, in coordination with and with the support of the most senior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Shin Bet officers, was called “carrots and sticks.” The underlying logic was to provide benefits to those Palestinian towns that had remained calm in terms of terrorism, while striking out against those places that were the source of terrorist attacks.

The entire security establishment, including Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, believed and continue to believe that taking positive steps to benefit the quiet Palestinian population would serve as a moderating force and reduce the scope of terrorism considerably. Qalqilya has been marked as a quiet town, deserving of “carrots.” According to the plan for the city, it has been decided to approve the construction of some 6,000 housing units, a new commercial center and a zoo. While the land for all this is in West Bank Area C, which is under Israeli control, the land within the city is under private Palestinian ownership.

When Liberman first presented his plan in 2016, it was approved by the Cabinet without any problems. The settlers began to speak out against it last month, when they claimed to have “discovered” that the plan actually involved the construction of more than 14,000 housing units, which would double the Palestinian city’s population. They caused a stir and won the support of the ministers from HaBayit HaYehudi, as well as some Likud ministers, including Ze’ev Elkin, Gilad Erdan and Yisrael Katz. These ministers all committed themselves to blocking the plan in the Cabinet.

On July 12, Liberman paid a visit to the settlement of Maale Shomron, where he got into a highly publicized confrontation with Dagan, who is said to control the many thousands of settlers who joined the Likud. They are the source of Dagan’s strength, when dealing with the Likud’s ministers and Knesset members.

Liberman lashed out at Dagan, saying, “I represent the responsible right, not the messianic right. The plan involves just 6,000 housing units within a restricted area. Qalqilya is only the trigger in the struggle between the pragmatic right and the messianic right.”

Dagan replied, “I really respect the minister, but I don’t think that I am messianic or part of the delusional right. The Qalqilya plan is simply dangerous.”

The Cabinet met again that same evening to discuss the plan once more, after several ministers complained that Liberman failed to update them on the scope of construction, when he first laid out the plan to them.

Before this second Cabinet discussion, senior IDF officers were quoted by the media as saying that the plan to expand Qalqilya has received all the necessary permits from the defense establishment. They said that the plan creates hope and provides the majority of the Palestinian population the option not to engage in terror. During the discussion itself, Liberman said, “I’m responsible. Come to me with your complaints if the plan fails to prove itself.”

Nevertheless, Dagan scored a victory of sorts when, at the end of the discussion, it was decided to put the plan on hold temporarily.

Liberman has no plans to give in. He is already waging a political and media battle against the settlers. According to some political sources, during internal discussions he describes the disagreement as a struggle between the pragmatic right and the messianic right, between those who want a binational state and those who want a Jewish state.

Liberman also hints that political intervention in what is so clearly a security issue could incite the Palestinian population. As he asks sarcastically: Who do we believe? The people in the primaries (settlers voting for Likud leadership) or the security hawks (security establishment)?

While it may seem to onlookers that Liberman is committing political suicide, there are actually two layers to what Liberman is doing. First of all, he is showing himself to be a responsible minister committed to the official well-being of the state. This contrasts sharply with the aggressive and impulsive image he had before he was appointed to his current position, when he was depicted as someone who could, potentially, set the entire Middle East on fire. He has, in fact, been working harmoniously with the chief of staff, which is why it is worth paying attention to his “carrot-and-stick” plan, which he formulated together with the IDF.

The second layer shows Liberman as a politician with a keen sense of survival. He is preparing himself for what lies ahead, and in his case, this means giving up on the electoral support of the settlers and the extreme right, which, he realizes, have already cast their lot with Bennett. He understands that his electoral potential lies with the Russian immigrant community and the “sane” right, including those who are still part of the Likud. That’s who he is targeting now.

In the Liberman of today, it is hard to find the slightest reminder of the Liberman who served as foreign minister in the previous government, during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014, when he claimed that Netanyahu’s policy against Hamas was too lax. As defense minister, he is a moderating force in the Cabinet, cooperating with both the prime minister and the IDF. Netanyahu certainly knows how important Liberman’s plan is. Next week, we will see if he actually takes the side of his defense minister and the IDF.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Former allies of Sisi call for him to step down

Image of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

Allies of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi are now reportedly calling for his replacement in next year’s elections signalling a shaky future for the former military commander.

Although Al-Sisi has not officially declared he will be running in elections in June next year, only two people have publically challenged his seat so far with the widely held belief that Al-Sisi is still likely to win given his heavy crackdown on opponents.

However in recent months, several of his former staunch allies have come out in criticism of the leader who came to power in a military coup in 2013. Much of the criticism comes as a result of his handling of the economy and security situation in the country.

One of those criticising Al-Sisi is Hazim Abdelazim, a leading figure in the president’s official 2014 presidential campaign who has said Al-Sisi “must go”.

He wasn’t honest. He didn’t respect the law or constitution. He has drowned the country in debt, and he had given up [our] land

Abdelazim told Reuters.

Al-Sisi and his allies have continuously denounced accusations of human rights abuses by using security as a justification for the crackdown in the face of an Islamist insurgency.

Read: Al-Sisi claims that his coup ‘ended fascism’ in Egypt

Much of the backlash Al-Sisi has faced is as a result of the handing over two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia which Egyptians saw as an affront to national sovereignty.

The country is also struggling with rampant inflation in a tepid economy and an increase in attacks by groups loyal to Daesh on both civilians and security personnel despite promises of stability, economic growth and a crackdown on militants made in 2014 by Al-Sisi.

The cost of living for most Egyptians has soared following the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, tax rises and subsidy cuts introduced his government as part of an IMF loan deal.

Al-Sisi’s time in office has been marred by his crackdown on dissidence and independent media. Since 24 May, the government has blocked at least 122 news websites, according to the NGO Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.


According to reports, there has been a 14 per cent drop in Al-Sisi’s popularity and subsequent warnings by the government against citizens participating in the polls.

Nour Al-Huda Zaki, formerly part of Al-Sisi’s campaign team, criticised Egypt’s loss of the islands as an “insult to the oath that the president swore.”

The regime that we revolted against in January 2011 has returned. This regime’s repressive tools are worse than Mubarak’s.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Israel razes Palestinian land to expand settlement

Image of Israeli bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes on 2 February 2016 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Image of Israeli bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes on 2 February 2016

Israeli bulldozers razed Palestinian land near the village of Jalud, south of occupied Nablus, yesterday morning to expand an Israeli settlement, Palestinian sources said.

The head of Jalud village council, Abdullah Haj Mohammed, said the Israeli bulldozers flatten land confiscated by the Israeli authorities 27 years ago in order to build a new neighbourhood in an illegal settlement.

He told Quds Press that the land is adjacent to the settlement of Shvut Rachel which is built on Palestinian land, southwest of the village of Jalud.

He pointed out that the new settlement neighbourhood will increase the suffering of the villagers, who have lost large areas of their land. A number of settlements and outposts have since been built on the land.

Read: Expel 100,000 Palestinians and annex settlements

The Israeli authorities stepped up the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories after the Israeli Knesset ratified a law allowing the confiscation of private Palestinian land in the West Bank for the purpose of building settlements.


The law bans the Israeli courts from taking any decisions to dismantle illegal settlements and allows them only to compensate Palestinians with money or alternative plots of land.

On 23 December 2016, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling on Israel to immediately and fully halt its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Did the PA kill a Palestinian teacher who uncovered corruption?

Image of Palestinian teacher Niveen Ekailan

There have been claims that the PA has targeted and ultimately had a part in the death of Palestinian engineer to silence her after she exposed financial and administrative corruption at the Dura Girls’ Vocational School where she worked.

Thirty-six-year-old Niveen Ekailan’s body was found by the Palestinian police near her apartment building in Birzeit on 16 July, days after she disappeared. Although an autopsy performed by the Palestinian Institute of Forensic Medicine at Al-Quds University concluded that Niveen plummeted to her death, many, including her family, believe that she was killed.

Niveen’s family is refusing to receive her body until another autopsy is performed by the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, as they do not believe the first autopsy was performed by an unbiased party.

The engineer and teacher continuously posted on social media sites about the alleged corruption at the school she worked in for four years. Her posts included documents, details and names of those involved in the administrative and financial corruption. She also posted documents showing letters and complaints she filed to various government officials and institutions in order to investigate her claims.

She also sent letters to various higher institutions and ministries regarding the threats she was receiving due to her claims. However, no action was taken to remedy the situation. She was later forced to resign from her job at the Dura Girls’ Vocational School.

Read: Protests against Palestinian Authority in Ramallah

Niveen and her family had come under pressure to silence her claims. Her father told Al-Hurriya news agency that he was approached by individuals asking him to file a report saying that his daughter was mentally ill and to admit her to a mental institute. However, her father stressed that Niveen did not suffer from a mental illness and was about to start her PhD in Computer Engineering at the University of Kassel in Germany.

Her family said she has never been afraid to say the truth and ultimately sacrificed her life for the sake of her morals and values. They said that they will reserve judgement regarding Niveen’s claims until investigations prove who was involved, but they do believe that justice must be served.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Vice President Mustafa: Int’l Community Failure to Hold Assad Accountable Won’t Discourage Syrians from Achieving Their Demands

Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Rahman Mustafa said the top priority of the international community should be to hold Bashar al-Assad and his clique accountable for the thousands of war crimes they have committed in Syria.

The Assad regime does not threaten the security of Syria alone, but also threatens the stability of the entire region and beyond, Mustafa said. He cited the Assad regime’s support for Qaeda in Iraq and for the Hezbollah militias in Lebanon and its involvement in the assassination of a number of leaders and officials in Lebanon and Arab countries.

Mustafa stressed that the attempts to produce or rehabilitate the Assad regime are contrary to international laws and risk threatening international peace and security. He stressed that the Syrian people will no longer accept to be ruled by a regime that killed more than half a million Syrians, displaced millions more, and destroyed the state economy.

Mustafa made it clear that the failure of the international community to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable or refer him to the International Criminal Court will not dissuade the Syrian people from their demands for freedom and dignity and the transition to a democratic state that guarantees respect and equality for all.

Throughout its history, Syria has never accepted to be divided, Mustafa said. He added that Syria will recover from the current crisis and will be independent of the Russian and Iranian occupation and without Bashar al-Assad.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 20.07.2017)

IOF shoots, kills Palestinian after alleged stabbing attempt

IOF kills Palestinian Tuqu

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) shot and killed a Palestinian in the southern West Bank village of Tuqu, near Bethlehem city, on Thursday afternoon after an alleged stabbing attack.

Israeli media sources said that IOF soldiers opened their gunfire at a Palestinian while attempting to stab Israeli soldiers.

A video shared on social media showed a man lying on the ground after being shot by Israeli soldiers.

Israeli forces were seen preventing Palestinian medics from approaching the scene.

The Palestinian Health Ministry did not identify the slain Palestinian; however, it confirmed his martyrdom.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Israeli settlement to cut off Ramallah from Jerusalem

The plan was first initiated in 2004, but after new US president, who supports settlement, the plan was taken out of the drawers

Israeli construction and housing ministry is planning a major housing project that includes 1,100 settlement units cutting off Ramallah from Jerusalem.

The report added that officials from the Civil Administration confirmed that such a plan had been discussed in 2004, but had languished since then

Israeli construction and housing ministry is planning a major housing project that includes 1,100 settlement units cutting off Ramallah from Jerusalem.

The plan will extend the city’s built-up areas eastward, filling in the gap between the illegal settlement of Adam (also known as Geva Binyamin) and the illegal settlement of Neveh Yaakov.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the planned settlement units will cut off the southern outskirts of Ramallahfrom East Jerusalem.

The paper noted that Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant’s office confirmed the details of the settlement plan.

“We will be everywhere that it is possible to build and to provide solutions to the housing shortage, particularly, as in the case of Adam, in the vicinity of Jerusalem,” the minister’s office said.

The report added that officials from the Civil Administration confirmed that such a plan had been discussed in 2004, but had languished since then.

It noted that the housing ministry has yet to submit a new plan for the same project.

(Source / 20.07.2017)

Israeli soldiers shoot, kill Palestinian after alleged stabbing attempt, sparking clashes

Zio's killed Palestinian

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian in the southern occupied West Bank village of Tuqu on Thursday afternoon, sparking clashes in which at least one Palestinian was injured.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that a Palestinian attempted to stab Israeli soldiers at an Israeli military checkpoint near Tuqu, adding that “responding to the immediate threat,” soldiers shot and killed the man. They added that no Israelis were injured in the case.
A Ma’an reporter present at the scene said that Israeli soldiers fired four shots towards the Palestinian near Tuqu’s school, while eyewitnesses said that an Israeli military vehicle then run over the man.
The army spokesperson said they would look into the reports of the Palestinian being run over.
Palestinian medical and security sources identified the slain Palestinian as 26-year-old Muhammad Hussein Ahmad Tnouh.

Zio's killed Palestinian1

Zio's killed Palestinian2
Muhammad Hussein Ahmad Tnouh
Israeli forces prevented bystanders and Palestinian medics from approaching the scene, and were seen covering up the Tnouh’s body with a sheet as he lay by an army vehicle’s wheel.
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent told Ma’an that one of the organization’s ambulances had been prevented from accessing and treating Tnouh.

Following the killing, clashes erupted in Tuqu between residents and Israeli forces, as soldiers fired live bullets and rubber-coated steel bullets towards the crowd, injuring a Palestinian police officer who was hit by a rubber-coated steel bullet to the head.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they would look into reports of clashes. 

According to Ma’an documentation, 46 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis thus far this year, 10 of whom were killed in the month of July alone.
Ten Israelis have been killed by Palestinians during the same time frame.
Though Israeli forces have claimed that Palestinians were allegedly attempting to carry out attacks in a majority of instances when Palestinians were killed, rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in a number of cases, and argued that many alleged attackers could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner.

(Source / 20.07.2017)