Israel preparing major new attack on Gaza

Israeli forces fire at Palestinians during the Great March of Return on 2 February 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Israeli forces fire at Palestinians during the Great March of Return on 2 February 2019

The Israeli military is preparing for a major new offensive in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army’s Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi – who was sworn in last month – “has already prioritized preparations for a potential Gaza war,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. “Kochavi has approved operational plans for combat and set up an administrative unit to handle the formation of a list of potential targets in the Strip”, the paper added.

Haaretz noted that Kochavi has “recently visited the Southern Command headquarters and met with top commanders in charge of operations in the area” and “also ordered two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to be manned”.

The report claims that the army’s preparations are based on an “assessment” by the Israeli military intelligence’s research division that Hamas – which governs the besieged enclave – may seek a military confrontation “in a bid to obtain international involvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza”.

READ: Hamas asks UN to pressure Israel to commit to truce

According to the “intelligence assessments”, Hamas has grown frustrated with the lack of progress in talks with Egyptian mediators and now believes that “only an extreme move” will lead to any change in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The same article notes that Israeli intelligence believes a Palestinian revolt in the occupied West Bank is also more likely in light of the fact that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ rule is nearing its end.

As is well known, “the relative quiet in the West Bank is maintained mainly due to Israel’s military and intelligence activities carried out by the army, police and Shin Bet”, Haaretz stated.

READ: Abbas blasts US support for Israel’s lawlessness

(Source / 14.02.2019)

Israel intensifying ‘settlement ring’ around Jerusalem’s Old City, NGO says

A view of construction works in Ramot, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem on October 04, 2018. ( Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency )

A view of construction works in Ramot, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem on October 04, 2018

Israel is “intensifying” its settlement activity in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, according to NGO Ir Amim.

Publishing a new map yesterday, Ir Amim described an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground in the most historically contested and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem: the Old City and adjacent ring of Palestinian neighbourhoods”.

Ir Amim pointed to “a mounting number of state-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighbourhoods”, as well as “settler-initiated evictions of Palestinians, takeovers of their homes, and the expansion of settler compounds”, as well as the use of “touristic settlement sites” as “key points along a ring of tightening Israeli control”.

According to the group, the Israeli authorities have struggled over the decades to advance plans for settlements due to “the population density in the built-up areas of the Old City”. Some 100,000 Palestinians live in the Old City and its immediate environs, compared to 6,000 Israelis.

READ: Christians in Jerusalem warn of Israel attempts to take their land

In these circumstances, Ir Amim stated, tourism and supposed archaeology projects “assume a central role in Israeli settlement policy”.

Handing over management of such projects to settler organisations allows Israel “to exploit tourism as a tool for reinforcing settlement initiatives in the Old City and its environs, erasing the significant Palestinian presence there, promulgating the idea of the entire area as an Israeli environment, and imposing a nationalistic Israeli character that blurs the multi-religious and multi-cultural nature of the space, primarily to the detriment of the Muslim sites and presence”, Ir Amim said.

Ultimately, the NGO added, “this use of national parks and tourist sites serves the goal of transforming the Palestinian neighbourhoods in and around the Old City – including Silwan, A-Tur, Ras al-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah – from a densely populated Palestinian area into one sprawling tourist site that bolsters Israeli control of the area and access to it”.

NGO: Palestinians face ‘new and imminent eviction threats in the Old City’

(Source / 14.02.2019)

Saudi, Israel officials met during 2014 Gaza war

An Israeli airstrike destroyed the Al-Evkaf Masjid in al-Nuseirat Refugee Camp within the ongoing 'Operation Protective Edge' in Gaza City, Gaza on July 12, 2014

An Israeli airstrike destroyed the Al-Evkaf Masjid in al-Nuseirat Refugee Camp within the ongoing ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza City, Gaza on July 12, 2014

High profile Saudi Arabian and Israeli officials secretly met during Israel’s 2014 offensive on the Gaza Strip, with Saudi proposing a peace plan.

According to Arab 48, Israel’s Channel 13 yesterday revealed that Saudi Arabia presented Israel with a peace initiative that included reconstructing Gaza, resuming talks with the Palestinians and laying down a joint strategy to face Iranian hegemony on the last day of the 2014 Israeli offensive on the besieged enclave. Israel however turned the Saudi initiative down.

Citing three informed sources, the Israeli TV channel said that Saudi Arabia suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declare the plan in a joint speech with then Saudi foreign minister Saud Al Faisal. The pair was supposed to declare the plan at the UN General Assembly meeting, which was held in October of that year.

Channel 13 also stated that Netanyahu was enthusiastic about the initiative, pointing out he reached an initial deal with Saudi intelligence chief Bandar Bin Sultan that would mobilise international opinion in support of the plan.

READ: Ex-Saudi intelligence chief reveals secret Israel-Saudi relations

To this end, Netanyahu met with aides of Bin Sultan – who had been in charge of Saudi-Israel relations for decades – to write down the peace plan.

Israel presented a draft of the plan and the Saudis accepted it, but asked Israel for few concessions. Netanyahu then refused, the sources said, causing the Saudis to freeze relations and blame Netanyahu for the failure, describing him as a “liar”.

Direct Saudi-Israel relations remained frozen for a year, but were eventually unfrozen by a meeting between Bin Sultan and Netanyahu after the death of King Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz and the instatement of the new King Salman Bin Abdel-Aziz in January 2015.

Channel 13 added that, after the nuclear deal between Iran and the West later that year, Saudi Arabia received the plane of Israeli Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo in Saudi capital Riyadh, as the Saudis were afraid of a rapprochement between Iran and the US.

Pardo met with the Saudis – including Bin Sultan – in a third party country because such a meeting was deemed to be “breaking taboos”. The meetings were therefore kept top secret. During those meetings, Bin Sultan asked Pardo to persuade Israel not to object to a weapons deal between the US and the Kingdom.

READ: Saudi Arabia pays $60m to support PA’s budget

(Source / 14.02.2019)

UN: 10,000 new jobs to be created in Gaza

United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov [File photo]

United Nations (UN) Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov

UN Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov yesterday revealed that the UN is preparing work projects to create 10,000 job opportunities in the Gaza Strip.

During his participation in the Palestine Youth Summit 2030 – which was held simultaneously in the besieged Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank – Mladenov said: “We are working on specific projects aiming to help improve the deteriorating situation related to the siege in the Gaza Strip,” Felesteen newspaper reported.

Mladenov pointed out that the projects, which are being prepared in coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Bank, would be announced soon.

The UN envoy stated that the work opportunities would target youth who hold high qualifications, pointing to the high rate of higher education in Gaza and the rate of youth unemployment.

READ: Israel preparing major new attack on Gaza

About the recent situation in Gaza, Mladenov said: “Every single day, with my colleagues, I deal with all issues related to lifting the pressure and siege on the Gaza Strip.”

He continued: “Unfortunately, I do not have a magic stick. What I am trying to do at the moment is to persuade all the parties to reverse back from the edge of the abyss and not to escalate the situation more in Gaza. Unfortunately, we are close to a war.”

About the Youth Summit, he said: “Gaza is the soul of Palestine. If we separate the soul from the body, we will lose both of them. Youths are the blood who runs in the veins of Palestine. We, in the UN, have a great responsibility for preserving the body, the soul and the blood.”

He continued: “We will never give up hope and we will never give up our responsibilities until we reach Palestinian unity and an independent state. Despite all of the political and economic hardships, we will not stop [our] hard work.”

The UN official concluded that Palestinian youths deserve a better life: “In Gaza, there are 2 million Palestinians who lived four crises and wars in 10 years, the occupation and the siege […] This must not continue. We want to help Gaza residents to have a new future.”

READ: Israel forces kill 4 children in 2 weeks, NGO reports

(Source / 14.02.2019)

317 Palestinian refugees lost in Syria, rights group says

Palestinian children hold candles in solidarity with the Palestinian refugees in Syria

London-based human rights observers Action Group for Palestinians of Syria revealed yesterday that it had documented the disappearance of 317 Palestinian refugees since the start of the war in Syria.

In a statement, the Action Group said that half of the lost Palestinian refugees were residents of Al-Yarmouk Refugee Camp, Safa news agency reported. The Action Group accused militias affiliated with the Syrian regime of kidnapping and arresting Palestinians under the pretext that they were wanted by the Syrian security services or in order to oblige the families to pay ransom.

The statement pointed out that there are a large number of detainees inside Syrian regime jails, which has refused to release details about there whereabouts or their condition. Witnesses told the group that there are prisoners inside Syrian regime prisons whose names have been reported as lost.

Meanwhile, the Action Group reported that 24-year-old Palestinian refugee Mohammad Adnan Ammouri was lost four months ago in Germany.

Ammouri had fled Syrian oppression in Al-Yarmouk Refugee Camp and immigrated to the Netherlands before moving to Germany 18 months ago. The Action Group said that he is suffering from several diseases.

His family has called for international rights and humanitarian groups to help them gain contact with their son or to at least know where he is now.

WATCH: Syrians’ impossible choice: national service or torture?

(Source / 14.02.2019)

Israeli Colonists Puncture Tires, Write Racist Graffiti, Near Salfit

14 Feb 8:54 AM

A number of illegal Israeli colonialist settlers infiltrated, on Thursday at dawn, into Iskaka Palestinian village, east of Salfit city in central West Bank, wrote racist graffiti and punctures tires of several cars.

Abdul-Qader Abu Hakma, the head of Iskaka village council, said the colonists wrote anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian racist graffiti on several homes, and on the walls of the local mosque.

He added that the assailants also punctured the tires of twenty Palestinian cars, and wrote racist graffiti on them.

On Tuesday, a group of illegal colonists invaded a Palestinian home, in the Old City of Hebron, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, and threatened to kill the entire family.

(Source / 14.02.2019)

Army Injures Several Schoolchildren In Hebron

14 Feb 9:59 AM

Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday morning, the southern area of Hebron city, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, and fired gas bombs near a local school, causing dozens of schoolchildren to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation. The soldiers also invaded homes in the city, and in Yatta town, and confiscated two cars.

Media sources in Hebron that the soldiers invaded the area surrounding the local Tareq Bin Ziad School and fired many gas bombs and concussion grenades at students, protesting the invasion.

They added that several schoolchildren suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, and received the needed treatment by the local medics, who rushed to the school.

The soldiers also invaded many neighborhoods in southern Hebron and searched the homes of Ahmad al-Qawasmi and Anas al-Hashlamoun, before confiscating al-Hashlamoun’s car.

In addition, the soldiers invaded Yatta town, south of Hebron, and searched the home of Samir Bheiss, before confiscating his car.

(Source / 14.02.2019)

Israeli Soldiers, Navy, Fire At Farmers, Shepherds And Fishermen In Gaza

14 Feb 10:37 AM

Israeli soldiers, and Israeli navy ships, opened fired on Thursday at dawn, at many Palestinian farmers, shepherds and fishermen, in several parts of the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip.

Media sources in Gaza said Israeli navy ships fired dozens of live rounds at fishing boats, and at the coast in the Sudaniyya and the al-Waha areas, in central Gaza.

They added that the soldiers, stationed in military towers across the perimeter fence, also fired live rounds at Palestinian farmers, and shepherds, on Palestinian lands in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, and in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, in addition to areas east of Gaza city.

(Source / 14.02.2019)