Israel will deport the Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s regional office, Omar Shakir, refusing a Supreme Court petition.
On Thursday the Israeli government submitted its response to a Supreme Court petition previously filed by Shakir in a bid to fight the deportation order against him. The response stated that: “[Shakir] promoted the boycott of Israel for many years, and since joining the human rights organization [HRW] he continued his calls to boycott Israel on his personal Twitter account.”
The Israeli government also claimed that Shakir – who is an American citizen of Iraqi origin – wanted to go to Bahrain to promote a boycott of Israel at the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) conference in 2017, and that he previously attempted to establish an organisation calling for the boycott of Israel while studying at Stanford University in the US.
Thursday’s decision comes after a several-year-long ordeal for Shakir at the hands of the Israeli government. The initial decision to deport Shakir was made by Israel’s Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, on the recommendation of the Minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan. Deri declared that Shakir should be deported and that his residence permit be revoked.
The deportation order was seen as a direct response to the Knesset’s ratification, in March 2017, of a bill prohibiting foreign citizens who call for a boycott of Israel from obtaining work or residency visas. In December of that year, the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Internal Security presented a file on “Shakir’s activities of boycott over the years, which included a recommendation that: “Shakir should be deprived of his work visa and thus prevented from returning to the country.”
In May 2018, Deri issued an order to cancel Shakir’s work permit and deport him on the pretext of “his activity against Israel”, prompting Shakir to petition the Israeli Supreme Court.
The Israeli government then requested a postponement of its response to the Supreme Court petition, pending a response to another petition filed by Palestinian-American student Lara Alqasem. Alqasem was detained at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport on the grounds that she is active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, yet in October the Supreme Court ruled that she would not be deported since the anti-BDS law did not apply to her case.
Israeli forces keep watch near the Separation Wall in the West Bank
The Palestinian Authority (PA) said yesterday that Israel’s storming of Ramallah is an attempt to coerce it into accepting the “Deal of the Century”.
PA spokesman Yousef Al-Mahmoud said that “no power on the face of the earth can push the Palestinian people and their leadership to kneel down,” Safa news agency reported. Al-Mahmoud added: “The repeated invasions of Palestinian cities are attempts to undermine Palestinian sovereignty,” pointing to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warnings that it could “ignite wars”.
Al-Mahmoud continued: “Our people, with our leadership, announced a continuous confrontation with anything aiming to undermine our cause and against all the conspiracies aiming to undermine our efforts to achieve our freedom, independence and dream of a sovereign Palestinian state.”
The spokesman also blamed Israel for regional deterioration, pointing to its “continuous aggression, invasions and hunting of Palestinian people,” and the fact that it “unleashes the hands of the terrorist settlers to practice their terror under its official protection”.
The Israeli army has been invading the central West Bank city of Ramallah – the headquarters of the PA, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah’s leadership. Israeli forces have carried out operations close to the residence of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in the light of a complete absence of the PA security services or the president’s guards.
KHAN YOUNIS, PALESTINOW.COM – Farid Qudeih has been receiving dialysis from Nasser Hospital in the Gaza Strip’s Khan Younis ever since he began to suffer kidney failure two years ago.
The sessions are long and he needs them three times a week, but the treatment has kept him going, and allowed the 52-year-old to live his life alongside his 13-person strong family.
Severe shortages of fuel in the besieged coastal enclave have, however, threatened his treatment, and put Qudeih and thousands of other Palestinians requiring medical attention at risk.
Both the Gaza health ministry and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have warned of a “real catastrophe” if new sources of fuel aren’t found, with supplies set to hit rock bottom in a week’s time.
Last year, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pulled the plug on Palestinian Authority (PA) funds for fuel in the Gaza Strip, part of a number of moves to squeeze the Hamas movement.
Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the PA in the occupied West Bank, have been at odds since 2007, when the movement took control of the coastal enclave.
Soon after Israel imposed a crippling siege on Gaza, which combined with several Israeli offensives and the PA-Hamas breakdown has devastated Gaza’s infrastructure and living conditions.
Abbas’s fuel embargo has only exacerbated this, with electricity supply about 50 percent of what it should be. Gaza’s health ministry has kept its generators running through international donations, but now those funds are coming to an end.
“What is the guilt of thousands of patients who are suffering from the disease and paying the tax of internal Palestinian political contradictions?” asked Qudeih, an education inspector.
Over the two years he has been taking dialysis, Qudeih has experienced shortages of medicines, equipment and medical supplies, as well as a lack of fuel and power cuts.
In one of these cases electricity was cut off, causing a blood clot to form in the tubes of a dialysis machine, which worked its way into one patient’s body.
The patient lost blood as a result, with it taking a significant amount of time for doctors to treat the problem and for the patient to recover.
What is the guilt of thousands of patients who are suffering from the disease and paying the tax of internal Palestinian political contradictions
– Farid Qudeih, Palestinian patient
Seeing this happen terrified others in the hospital, Qudeih said.
In his view, responsibility for the successive crises and shortages in the Gaza Strip lies both with Hamas and the PA.
He believes that the solution to the situation lies in “ending the division”, but he saw no hope of that happening any time soon as the conflict between the two parties continues to escalate.
Suleiman Abu Amer, a 36-year-old man accompanying his elderly father as he visits the dialysis unit for treatment, agrees with Qudeih.
He says that both rival factions must take responsibility for the deteriorating situation.
Power outages have been a common occurrence and threat for Abu Amer’s 72-year-old father. And the thought that the power may cut out at any point during the dialysis process has gripped them with fear.
New year, old problems
A report released last week by the Union of Health Care Committees described the state of healthcare in Gaza in 2018 as “the worst”.
The head of the union, Raed Sabbah, said that the health services witnessed a marked setback in 2018 due to several factors, the most important of which is the continuation of the siege and political division.
He also cited the fuel shortage crisis and the continued power outages, which have caused the disruption of many services and the inability of facilities to perform their duties as fully as possible.
As the new year arrived, the situation appeared to be taking a turn for the worst.
On the last day of 2018, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s development and humanitarian coordinator in Palestine, warned that the “severe humanitarian disaster will worsen” this year due to the fuel shortages.
He said $2m was desperately needed in order to keep “saving lives in hospitals and clinics”.
McGoldrick recalled a recent experience at a hospital, when he saw a doctor having to manually pump air into the lungs of a child on a ventilator when power was cut out for almost a minute.
“This is a situation that is repeated every day. There are people in hospitals that cannot leave because there is no electricity in their homes. They are stuck in hospitals. In homes, life is paralysed because of limited hours of electricity,” he said.
‘Serious, real and very dangerous’
“The fuel crisis is part of the complex crises that have plagued the health sector since Israel imposed its blockade in 2006,” Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Middle East Eye.
Since the UN’s emergency fund ran dry in November, the ministry has followed a “series of austerity measures to prolong the remaining fuel,” Qidra said.
Things might have been worse, he added, were it not for a Qatari grant that has helped keep the only power plant in Gaza active, reducing the number of hours hospitals need to reply on generators.
It is a particularly difficult time of the year to conserve fuel, as chilly winter temperatures encourage greater consumption. As a result, power cuts are growing in frequency.
This is a situation that is repeated every day. There are people in hospitals that cannot leave because there is no electricity in their homes
– Jamie McGoldrick, United Nations
Currently, around 300,000 litres of fuel is needed per month to keep medical facilities functioning properly.
Gaza has less than 40 percent of that, and Qidra warns that if the Strip’s reserves were to empty out completely, all health facilities would be paralysed and thousands of patients’ lives will be at risk.
The director of the WHO’s Gaza office, Mahmoud Daher, warns that the health sector crisis is “serious, real and very dangerous”.
“The health situation will be extremely dangerous and the lives of thousands of patients will be in the wind,” he told MEE.
“We are not an institution to blame anyone,” he said, declining to point fingers at one side in particular, but stressed that “responsibility is shared”.
Daher said the PA’s health ministry in the West Bank is fully aware of the precarious situation Gaza has been put in partly as a result of its withholding of cash.
“It knows more about the reality of the serious situation in the health sector in Gaza, and international reports are available to all,” he said.
This was confirmed by Qidra, who said a detailed report on the real crisis and its seriousness was given to the ministry in Ramallah, but “we received no assurances to move to remedy the situation.”
Daher stressed that “the seriousness of the crisis highlights the absence of any promises to resolve it from any point until this moment”.
Ramping up pressure
Hamas politburo member Suhail al-Hindi believes the fuel crisis and other calamities are manufactured by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to turn people in Gaza against the movement.
“All indications show that the authority headed by Abu Mazen [Abbas] is interested in the escalation and pressure on people in Gaza as a way to push them into a coup against what is described as the authority of Hamas, which is dangerous and its consequences are serious,” he told MEE.
Hindi warned of a “big explosion” in light of the great suffering of thousands of families, and stressed that the effects of this would have serious consequences for the Palestinian cause, and that Abbas would not benefit from his punitive policies towards Gaza.
On Sunday, the PA announced it was withdrawing from Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt in response to Hamas’s “brutal practices”.
Sources close to Hamas revealed with condition of anonymity a discussion within the leadership frameworks to expel PA staff from the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings too.
The sources speculated that Abbas is seeking to “incite” Egypt and the Arab League to move against Hamas, in order to gain “Arab legitimacy” for the PA’s escalation and punitive measures.
On Tuesday, Egypt restricted Palestinians’ movement through the Rafah crossing, which is the only way in and out for 95 percent of Gaza residents.
However, Hindi said he has faith that regional players will help deescalate the crisis and find relief for Gaza.
“There are wise heads in the Arab League and the Arab capitals, who will say to Abu Mazen ‘no’, and will not agree to his plans against Gaza.”
A group of illegal extremist Israeli colonists attacked, Saturday, Palestinian homes in Burqa village, north of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, causing damage.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian Authority official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the colonists attacked many homes in the northeastern area of the village.
He added that the colonists came from the location of the former Homesh illegal colony, which was evacuated in 2005.
The locals then rushed out of their homes and chased the colonists, who fled the area.
Daghlas stated that the colonists have been constantly trying to rebuild and inhabit the former illegal colony and are responsible for numerous assaults and violations against the Palestinians, their homes and lands.
A group of extremist illegal Israeli colonialist settlers attacked, Saturday, many Palestinian farmers while working on their own lands, and several shepherds, in Yatta town, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, causing them to suffer cuts and bruises.
Rateb Jabour, the coordinator of the National and Popular Committees against the Annexation Wall and Colonies in southern West Bank, said the colonists attacked many farmers in at-Tiwana, Susiya and Khirbat Umm al-Amid communities, in Yatta, and assaulted many Palestinian farmers and shepherds.
Jabour added that the settlers also used their dogs in attacking the Palestinians, causing injuries.
Three of the wounded Palestinians have been identified as Nasr Nawaj’a, Ahmad Khaled Najjar and Jabr Zein.
Nawaj’a, who is also a nonviolent activist against the Israeli occupation and its colonies, said the colonists unleashed dogs on him, before the dogs mauled and bit him in his arms and legs. He was then moved to Abu al-Hasan al-Qassem hospital, in Yatta town.
Jabour denounced the latest attack and stated that it was part of numerous assaults and violations by the illegal colonialist settlers against the Palestinians and their lands, amidst military and political protection from the Israeli occupation, and its judicial system.
“The attacks are escalating against innocent civilians, including simple farmers and shepherds, in many villages in southern Hebron, he said, “They are all part of the ongoing attempts to force the indigenous Palestinians out of their homes and lands in order to build and expand the illegal colonies.”
In its annual report that Gaza European Hospital has revealed that %20 of the Palestinians, who were shot by the Israeli army during the Great Return March processions in the Gaza Strip in 2018, were children, and more than half of them were shot with life fire.
The report stated that %20 of the wounded were shot by Israeli soldiers in the head, neck or chest, leading to the death of 75 children, and added that %92 of the medical procedures on wounded children were bone and Vascular surgeries.
It also stated that the medical teams in Gaza managed to save many of the wounded from undergoing amputations in their lower limbs, as only 24 amputations were performed.
Raed Abdul-Razeq, the head of the Patients’ Services Department at the hospital, stated that surgeons have performed 1682 surgeries on wounded Palestinians, adding that %58 of the surgeries were orthopedic, %34 were vascular, while the rest were neurological, or in the chest, nose, ears and eyes.
He added that most of the injured children underwent at least two surgeries, due to the seriousness of their wounds.
According to the report, the soldiers shot 1169 Palestinians, including 43 women, while 59 of the wounded were placed in intensive care units, and 567 others were placed in surgery wards.
609 of the wounded Palestinians, including 242 children, were shot with live rounds, while the rest were either injured after being directly shot with Gaza bombs, or by shrapnel, in addition to those who suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi today strongly condemned Israel’s opening of a new “Apartheid Road” in occupied Jerusalem and its surrounding areas, segregating Palestinians from Israeli settlers by an eight-metre-high wall, the WAFA news agency reported.
“The creation of this new apartheid road affirms Israel’s wilful intent to entrench its racist colonial regime and superimpose ‘Greater Israel’ on all of historic Palestine,” she said in a press release .
“With the blanket support of the current US administration, including endorsement of Israel’s egregious violations and total disdain for international law and the global consensus, Israel is successfully destroying the territorial contiguity and territorial integrity the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to enhance its colonial settlement enterprise and facilitate the creation of Bantustans throughout occupied Palestine.”
The PLO official called on the international community, including the European Union, “to confront these glaring manifestations of colonial racism and hold Israel accountable for its unlawful unilateralism and war crimes with effective concrete measures, including sanctions.”
Ashrawi also denounced the daily Israeli military raids into the heart of Palestinian cities, including Ramallah and Al-Bireh, describing them as “campaigns of gratuitous terror against the civilian population that intend to assert Israel’s absolute control.”
She went on to condemn Israeli plans to appropriate 1,200 dunams (300 acres) of occupied Palestinian land in Bethlehem to expand the illegal settlements of Efrat and Gush Etzion, including land inscribed as world heritage under threat by UNESCO.
The deafening silence of the international organisations and governments worldwide to Israel’s actions is allowing the Israeli occupation to destroy the remaining chances for a just peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
“Every day, Israel is reaffirming its status as a rogue state that acts with persistent impunity. It is making a mockery of international law and all states that continue to turn a blind eye to its violations,” Ashrawi continued.
“This silence and inaction will further embolden Israel to escalate its campaign of aggression with impunity and threaten international peace and security.”