Abbas pushes forward with plans for PNC by year-end


RAMALLAH, West Bank — Fatah movement member Azzam al-Ahmad said on Palestine TV on Sept. 10, “The decision to convene the Palestinian National Council [PNC] is final. Contacts are still ongoing with the different Palestinian factions to agree on the details of the meeting.”

Ahmad added that President Mahmoud Abbas had previously requested to speed up the discussions with the factions so as to reach an agreement upon his return from the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Meetings will be held throughout the month of September with the PLO factions in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, meetings with the other factions such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), whose leadership is based abroad, the PFLP-General Command and the Vanguard for the Popular Liberation War (As-Saiqa) are scheduled for October in Beirut.

Fatah continues to reject the participation of Hamas in the PNC until the administrative committee in the Gaza Strip is dissolved and the national reconciliation government is able to function in Gaza. In March, Hamas formed the administrative committee to run the Gaza Strip’s affairs. The committee was made up of seven subordinate ministries to act on behalf of the national reconciliation government. This prompted Abbas to take a series of punitive measures against Gaza.

“Hamas cannot be part of the meeting and the PLO in light of the continued division,” Ahmad said. He based his argument on the PLO Central Committee’s Aug. 9 recommendation, whereby the PNC ought to convene as soon as possible, with the presence of the council’s members only. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are not members of the PNC, rejected along with the PFLP this recommendation and have been calling for the establishment of a national council that includes all Palestinian factions at home and abroad.

Palestinian factions disagree with Abbas’ vision to convene the PNC in Ramallah. A source in Fatah, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Al-Monitor, “President Abbas is insisting on convening the PNC in the presidential headquarters in Ramallah while holding discussions via video conference with members based abroad. The president also refuses to hold the conference in any Arab country.”

There are several reasons behind Abbas’ insistence on convening the PNC before the end of the year, most importantly because it will be held in the presidential palace, as Abbas confirmed in an April 3 interview with the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, which will allow him to keep a close eye on the course of the sessions and the ensuing decisions.

What’s more, convening the PNC will deal a severe blow to the alliance between Hamas and the loyalists of dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan. If convened, new blood would be brought into the PNC. This means Abbas will make sure to block any interventions by Arab countries in the council, and maintain the independent Palestinian decision-making process. The PNC session would also guarantee the council’s legitimacy to play a pivotal role in the future in case of any emergency presidential vacuum and block all possibilities for Hamas-affiliated PLC speaker, Aziz Dweik, to make it to the presidency in the event of the death of Abbas, as provided by the Palestinian law.

According to Article 37 of the Palestinian Basic Law, in the event the position of the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) becomes vacant in case of death, resignation or loss of legal capacity, the president of the PLC shall assume presidential tasks temporarily for a period of no more than 60 days during which free and direct elections shall be held to elect a new president. This was the case after the death of late President Yasser Arafat, when then-PLC President Rawhi Fattouh assumed the post of PA president.

Meanwhile, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP insist on adhering to the Cairo agreement of May 11, 2011, and the results of the PNC Preparatory Committee’s meeting, which includes both Hamas and Islamic Jihad as members. The committee convened in Beirut on Jan. 10 and agreed to form a national council that would gather all Palestinian factions.

Omar Shehadeh, a member of the PFLP’s political bureau, told Al-Monitor, “We flatly reject holding the PNC in its current form, as it will not be able to address any political challenges in the Palestinian arena. We insist on a national unity council that includes everyone as the only path toward solving the division crisis.”

“Abbas wants to convene the PNC in Ramallah, which the PFLP considers a wrong move that only allows Abbas to tighten his grip on the national decision. We will not allow the holding of a council that would harm the PLO. We will escalate our rhetoric to prevent the PNC from convening in Ramallah, as the highest legislative body in Palestine should not convene with the permission or approval of Israel,” he added. Council members based abroad or in Gaza need permits from Israel to enter Ramallah to participate in any PNC session. These permits could be denied by Israel.

Some Fatah and PLO officials had said in August that the PNC was scheduled to be held at the beginning of September in its current form. But following the events in Jerusalem and at Al-Aqsa Mosque, it was postponed due to Abbas’ political commitments and to give another chance to broader discussions with the different factions to ensure their participation in the council’s session.

Taysir Khaled, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, told Al-Monitor, “Convening the PNC has become a national necessity to reinvent the PLO and its institutions. The holding of the PNC should serve as a launchpad to restoring national unity and unifying the political system [in Palestine].”

The PNC is the highest authority for the Palestinian people, setting the regulatory policies for the PLO. The council’s living members number 691 and the deceased 83.

Given the significance of the PNC as the highest legislative authority in the country, some press reports said that Abbas seeks to take advantage of the holding of the council to appoint a successor as the head of the PLO and the PA in the event of his sudden death. However, Mahmoud Ismail, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, dismissed such claims, telling Al-Monitor that the PNC is not likely to discuss Abbas’ succession.

“Appointing a successor or a deputy to Abbas will not be touched upon during the PNC session. The president is still there and the PNC is the highest legitimate Palestinian authority responsible for making such a decision,” Ismail said.

Abbas will be taking part in the UN General Assembly meeting, where he will meet with US President Donald Trump and several world leaders on the sidelines, most likely including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is possible that a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu could set the wheel of peace negotiations back in motion. Abbas could find himself forced, upon his return to the Palestinian territories, to convene the PNC in its current form in Ramallah, shrugging off the factions’ objections, to gain legitimacy for moving forward with a new round of negotiations with Israel.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

‘Unliveable’: Gaza’s rising suicide rates

A woman mourns during the funeral ceremony of Nidal al-Jafari, border security officer who lost his life on the suicide attack carried out at Rafah Border Gate, in Rafah, Gaza on 17 August, 2017

A woman mourns during the funeral ceremony of Nidal al-Jafari, border security officer who lost his life on the suicide attack carried out at Rafah Border Gate, in Rafah, Gaza on 17 August, 2017

“I ask myself, what’s the point behind all of this and then I fall asleep.”

Such is an excerpt from a short story by 22-year-old Mohanned Younis, a young writer and pharmacy graduate who committed suicide at the end of last month by inhaling poisonous gas. Having tried to leave the Gaza Strip numerous times to advance his writing career, he eventually fell into depression, and finding no apparent use to his life, took the decision to end it.

Younis’ case is not an isolated incident. Reports of suicide in Gaza have grown increasingly common; whilst there are no official statistics on the issue, health officials in the Gaza Strip say they are aware of 200 to 300 suicides taking place in the past two years. Other data considers that a conservative estimate, with contributors to grassroots NGO We Are Not Numbers (WANN) noting 80 suicides per month in January and February 2016, an increase of 160 per cent compared to previous years. In some neighbourhoods, suicides have become a weekly occurrence.

Anas Jnena, a writer at WANN, notes how such incidents were unheard of some years ago.

When I was a teen, I never heard about anything like suicide, I never even knew what suicide meant, probably only in books. But it was so far from something to comprehend, until it became more regular and common in Gaza.

The primary cause of the increase is no mystery. Blockaded by Israel since 2007, Gaza is the world’s sixth most densely populated area. Scant resources and an inability to escape have chipped at morale, leaving citizens feeling trapped.

Read: Hamas calls on Abbas to stop punishing Gaza

As the siege surpasses its tenth year, the Strip has been declared “unliveable” by numerous human rights organisations; three years earlier than the UN had predicted. Today the Strip faces an energywater and healthcare crisis. Residents are only receiving a maximum of two to four hours of electricity each day, making fresh water and sewage systems inoperable. An estimated 40 per cent of necessary drugs are also unavailable or will be depleted within a month, while patients requiring urgent treatment are prevented from leaving the world’s largest open air prison.

Earlier this month the Popular Committee against the Siege on Gaza found that eight out of ten Gazans were living below the poverty line. With no sign of the blockade ending, the economy has been unable to bear the cost and unemployment has exceeded 42 per cent.

Poverty rate hits 80% in #Gaza

MEMO Infographic by QUAD Business House

The hopelessness is only added to by the continued dispute between Gaza Strip authority Hamas and Fatah which runs the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Despite many attempts being made to reconcile the two parties, both remain resolute, although for now Fatah seems to have succeeded following Hamas’ dissolution of the administrative committee in the Strip. Meanwhile, the people of Gaza remain trapped in between, struggling against the inevitable.

Youth under siege

More than half of those who live under siege in the Gaza Strip are under 18 years of age. A rise in depression has particularly been noted amongst the youth who, having attained high educational levels despite the Israeli blockade, now find that their skills have no use and they are unable to leave. The Strip has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world, with 58 per cent of people under 30 out of work in the long term.

“Many of those who tried to commit suicide, in the cases we managed to interview are highly educated; they are all university graduates with no hope of finding jobs,” says Ahmed Abu Tawahina, the director general of the Mental Health Promotion and Capacity Building Centre which runs several clinics in the Strip.

Life in Gaza is really difficult, so they are trying to quit it.

Over half of Palestinians in the Gaza Strips who took part in a WANN study were tested as likely to have clinical depression. The reason cited by most young people were an inability to travel outside Gaza, followed by continual power outages, the lack of employment prospects and the threat of Israeli attacks.

With a 43% unemployment rate, 40% of #Gaza‘s population live below the poverty line.

Read more about it here:…/18889-gaza-economy-on-t…

Infographic by The White Canvas

The study also noted the sadness young Gazans felt when they observed other people’s lives outside of the Strip; one respondent reported suffering from chest pains when scrolling through social media and commented: “All I could think about was my own sorry situation compared with the way other people in the world get to live.”

Read: 250,000 unemployed in Gaza did not celebrate Eid holiday

Suicide across the Palestinian territories more generally has been documented in previous years, and whilst not every death has been a result of the socioeconomic situation imposed by the Israeli occupation, it has always compounded other problems present in society. Whilst studies have shown that women who attempt to commit suicide are often victims of domestic abuse or are depressed because of family issues, the occupation has meant that they rarely have access to organisations or equipped hospitals where they can seek help.

Similarly, the pressure for men to financially provide for their families is one that often leads to misery for many as they are perceived as useless by their relatives and wider society. WANN’s Jnena seconded this as a cause in Gaza, and also identified the generational rift between many young men and their fathers as a cause of conflict.

“There is really a big gap between how our fathers think and perceive things, and how we do…. It can always create misunderstandings and misunderstandings grow.”

A cry for help

It is not simply the rise in suicides that has been noted in Gaza, but the way in which the deaths occur. Public displays of suicide have become a norm, a trend which Jnena considers a cry for help from those suffering from depression.

“Most of them [recent cases] have been in public places, or something like that, and it’s more like crying out ‘I’m here, I need your attention’, unlike someone who is mentally ill who would do it at midnight and would not let anyone see him. People are trying to burn themselves in the street, why in the street and why burning?”

Yet help for those suffering from depression is not easily available. Those caught trying to attempt suicide are sent to trial; one Gazan lawyer reported seeing cases brought before the courts on an almost daily basis at the end of last year. Yet convictions are not coupled with any kind of therapy, pushing victims further into their despondency.

According to Abu Tawahina, there is a huge lack of professionals with the expertise to deal with mental health issues in the Strip; similarly the Ministry of Health and the UN’s Relief and Work’s Agency (UNRWA) do not offer substantial services to deal with those attempting suicide. There is also a lack of consistency in the way the issues are treated, complicating conditions later on.

“It [treatment] is being provided in an episodic way. If any of the NGOs had a project for ten months, one year or so, they would take care of certain phenomena. But at the end of the project they will leave it, they give up. And this is another risk factor for deepening and creating new psychological problems.”

Although a societal stigma does exist in seeking treatment, Abu Tawahina emphasises that for the majority of sufferers, the desire to receive support is there.

“All of those we interviewed so far … are really willing and looking for some help to be able to build up their own internal resiliency, where they can cope better with their daily lives. Generally speaking, and based on our clinical experience, the will to live is there.”

Read: UNRWA will have no money by the end of the month, official says

But Gaza is a unique case, and Abu Tawahina stresses the need for prospective solutions to address the individual circumstances the people of the Strip is facing.

“When we talk about Gaza, we are talking about a traumatised community; so the approach that should be used to meets such massive needs for mental health services, should not only rely on the  one-to-one approach, which is the case among the majority of service providers,” he explained.

Some professionals use the ‘safe place technique’ – of course there is no safe place in Gaza Strip. When you ask any of the clients to think of a safe place in the Gaza Strip, they couldn’t think of anywhere … they couldn’t feel safe. So these techniques should be re-standardised in a way to respond to the norms.

Life in Gaza is reaching breaking point. Jnena speaks of the pessimism of young Gazans, even those whose financial situation is above average or are employed. The widespread poverty around them, the limitation of prospects and the helplessness that comes with being trapped has hollowed many of the youth of all optimism and determination. Abu Tawahina’s services are helping those suffering with mental health issues, but the continuing siege puts all medical services at risk.

Unless the blockade comes to an end soon, Israel can add stripping the happiness and potential of an entire generation of Gazans to its ever growing list of crimes against the Palestinian people.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

Israel sentences injured Palestinian minor to more than 3 years in Israeli prison

Lama al-Bakri 3 y and 2 months

HEBRON (Ma’an) — An Israeli military court sentenced a wounded 16-year-old Palestinian to three years and two months in Israeli prison on Wednesday.

According to sources, Lama al-Bakri was sentenced to prison and was ordered to pay a 6,000 shekel ($1,715) fine.
Al-Bakri was initially detained in Dec. 2015 after allegedly attempting a stabbing attack near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron in southern occupied West Bank.
Israeli soldiers shot and seriously injured al-Bakri at the time.
An uptick of violence erupted in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in 2015, when scores of Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces for actually or allegedly carrying out attacks on Israelis.
According to Ma’an documentation, 55 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis since the beginning of the year during actual or alleged attacks, while at least 18 of these Palestinians were killed during clashes with Israeli forces or during violent Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank.
Since the beginning of 2017, 13 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, almost all of whom were uniformed Israeli officers or Israeli settlers residing in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law.
Palestinians have often cited the daily frustrations and routine Israeli military violence imposed by Israel’s nearly half century occupation of the Palestinian territory as main drivers for political attacks on Israelis.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 300 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli prison as of August.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

Three Detainees Currently Holding Hunger-Strikes

19 SEP
1:48 PM

The Palestinian Detainees Radio has reported, Tuesday, that three detainees, held by Israel, are ongoing with hunger strikes protesting being held without charges, bad living conditions and treatment.

It stated that detainee Anas Ibrahim Shadeed, 20, from Doura town, in the southern West bank governorate of Hebron, has started a hunger strike six days ago, protesting being held under an arbitrary Administrative Detention order, without charges or trial.

He was taken prisoner on July 14, 2016, only two weeks after he was released from prison, and received a six-month administrative detention order.

It is worth mentioning that Shadeed held a ninety-day hunger strike during his previous abduction on September 25, 2016, protesting being held under Administrative Detention, after he graduated from high school and was preparing to attend a college.

Also, detainee Ahmad Salama Sawarka, from Gaza city, started a hunger strike four days ago, protesting being held without charges, bad conditions and repeated harassment in Nafha prison.

Sawarka was taken prisoner on March 16, 2009, and was sentenced to seven and a half years; he was supposed to be released in September 2016, but Israel kept him detained without charges.

In addition, detainee Ezzeddin ‘Amarna, 55, from Jenin, in northern West Bank, also declared an open-ended hunger strike, on Monday, protesting an Israeli decision holding him under an Administrative detention order.

He was abducted by the army on September 10, and was  instantly slapped with an Administrative detention order.

It is worth mentioning that, in mid-February of 2006, Amarna was released after spending five years in Israeli prisons.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

District court extends detention of pro-Aqsa activist

Khadija Khuwais

The Israeli district court in Occupied Jerusalem on Wednesday extended the detention of pro-Aqsa activist Khadija Khuwais until next Sunday.

Captive Khuwais complained about being forced to take off her robe and hijab (headscarf) while being isolated in solitary confinement cells.

Khuwais had received a court verdict ordering her release on bail, but the same court delayed her release after the prosecutor objected to its decision. Later the prosecutor took the case to the district court, where he managed to extract an extension to her detention.

Khuwais was detained on September 5 after she was summoned for interrogation by the Israeli police in Jerusalem.

The female Jerusalemite activist, who is banned from entering the Aqsa Mosque, was rallying peacefully every day with other women at Israeli police barriers outside the holy site. She had been exposed to persecution and arrests several times before by the police.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

Arrests reported in IOF storming operations in West Bank

Raids WB weapons Nablus

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) raided at dawn Wednesday different locations in the West Bank and arrested a number of Palestinians. IOF soldiers claimed seizing weapons in Nablus city.

IOF troops rounded up five youths in Balata refugee camp in the city after breaking into a number of houses and Yazour Charity’s headquarters. The soldiers allegedly found 6 pieces of automatic rifles, 3 pistols, 12 manual grenades and ammunition.

In the morning, Israeli forces arrested 3 Palestinian youths from Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.

An old man reportedly choked on tear gas that was fired by IOF soldiers as they raided Azzoun town east of Qalqilya.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

Israeli forces injure 9 Palestinians in clashes near Jerusalem-area school

9 Palestinians injured area school

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Nine Palestinians, including students, were injured Wednesday morning when Israeli forces raided the town of Abu Dis in the central occupied West Bank district of Jerusalem, triggering clashes with Palestinian residents next to a university and schools in the area while children were present.

Local activist in the town Hani Halabiya said that Israeli soldiers raided Abu Dis as students were heading to school, and claiming that there was “a suspicious object found,” with clashes erupting in the area afterwards.
Israeli soldiers indiscriminately fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades at Al-Quds University campus and schools in the area, interrupting schooling, he said.
Schoolchildren were evacuated from the classrooms after inhaling the tear gas, Halabiya said, adding that one person was hit by a live bullet while eight others were injured from rubber-coated steel bullets.
He said all of the wounded were treated at local clinics because Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances were not able to reach the site of clashes.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into the incident.
Israeli forces raid Abu Dis on a daily basis, particularly since the new school year started last month, Halabiya said, and Israeli forces deploy at the streets surrounding al-Quds University and and four schools in the area attended by more than 2,000 students.
Al-Quds University, along with other Palestinian universities, has been subjected to numerous Israeli military raids in the past. Six al-Quds University students were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes there in April.
The university was raided several times last year, when Israeli forces destroyed school’s property, injured scores of students during clashes, confiscated the school’s equipment and documents, and even staged a raid during a book fair for students in need, proceeding to destroy and confiscate all of the contents of the fair meant for struggling, low-income students.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

Israeli forces uproot dozens of fruit trees in northern West Bank

Uprooted trees Nablus

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Israeli forces have uprooted dozens of fruit trees and leveled Palestinian land west of Nablus city in the northern occupied West Bank district of Tulkarem.

Tareq Hazzaa, the owner of the land, told Ma’an on Tuesday that a bulldozer escorted by Israeli Civil Administration forces razed more than 50 fig and lemon trees that were bearing fruit, and was told the works were undertaken to expand the main Nablus-Tulkarem road near the Beit Lid crossroads and to create a roundabout in the area.

Hazzaa said that about two dunams (0.5 acres) were leveled out of his four-dunam piece of land.
A spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration, the military body that imposes Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Uprooted trees Nablus1

Israeli forces and settlers regularly attack olive and fruit trees in a bid to oust Palestinian farmers from their land, and a loss of a year’s crops can cause destitution for farming families.
Beit Lid is located adjacent to the illegal Israeli settlement Einav, and hundreds of fruit trees have been uprooted in the area over the years on land confiscated from the Palestinian village for development of the settlement.
All building and development of Palestinian land must be approved by Israeli authorities in the more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank classified as Area C under the Oslo Accords, where Israel has full military and civil control.
As a result of rarely-approved permits, Palestinian residents are forced to build structures without permits, which are liable to be torn down later by Israeli forces.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

IOA erects more security camera towers in Old City of J’lem

More security cameras

The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) on Tuesday set up more structural towers for holding security cameras in Bab al-Amud area (Damascus Gate), the main entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem.

According to WAFA news agency, these structures will be used to install more security cameras in the area, where there are already several of them.

The Israeli police intensified their security procedures ahead of the Jewish new year’s celebrations to be observed by settlers as of Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, police forces escorting a municipal crew stormed a commercial store in Beit Safafa town, south of Jerusalem, and carried out arrests among its employees.

Eyewitnesses said that soldiers physically assaulted the store’s employees before arresting them at the pretext that they had no permits for their stay in the holy city.

(Source / 20.09.2017)

Facebook And Israel Officially Announce Collaboration To Censor Social Media Content

(Sept 16) Following Facebook’s censorship controversy over a world famous photograph of the Vietnam War, Facebook has agreed to “work together” with Israel’s government to censor content Israeli officials deem to be improper. Facebook officially announced the “cooperative” arrangement after a meeting took place between Israeli government ministers and top Facebook officials on September 11th. The Israeli government’s frenzied push to monitor and censor Facebook content it deems inappropriate follows the viral success of BDS, or Boycott, Divest, Sanctions, a global non-violent movement that works to expose Israeli human rights violations.

The success of BDS has struck a nerve with Israel, leading its government to pass legislation allowing it to spy on and deport foreign activists operating within Israel and Palestine. Israel has also threatened the lives of BDS supporters and has lobbied for legislative measures against BDS around the world. They are now seeking to curtail any further BDS success by directly controlling the content of Facebook users.

However, Facebook’s formal acknowledgement of its relationship with Israel’s government is only the latest step in an accord that has been in the works for months. In June of this year, Facebook’s Israel office hired Jordana Cutler as head of policy and communications. Cutler is a longtime adviser to Netanyahu and, before her recent hire at Facebook, was Chief of Staff at the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Facebook may have been intimidated into the arrangement by Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs, and Information, who threatened to enact legislation, in Israel and abroad, that would place responsibility on Facebook for attacks “incited” by its social media content. Erdan has previously said that Facebook “has a responsibility to monitor is platform and remove content.”

In addition, as the Intercept reported in June, Israel actively reviews the content of Palestinian Facebook posts and has even arrested some Palestinians for posts on the social media site. They then forward the requests for censorship to Facebook, who accepts the requests 95% of the time.

In what is an obvious and troubling disparity, Facebook posts inciting violence against Palestinians are surprisingly common and Facebook rarely censors these posts. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Glenn Greenwald, this disparity underscores “the severe dangers of having our public discourse overtaken, regulated, and controlled by a tiny number of unaccountable tech giants.”

With Facebook arguably functioning as the most dominant force in journalism, its control over the flow of information is significant. The fact that a private company with such enormous influence has partnered with a government to censor its opponents is an undeniable step towards social media fascism. Though social media was once heralded as a revolutionary opportunity to allow regular people to share information globally and to politically organize for grassroots change, allowing governments to censor their opposition threatens to transform it into something else entirely.

(Source / 20.09.2017)