IOF storms Hizma town, threatens to punish its residents

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Monday evening threatened to take punitive measures against the residents of Hizma town, northeast of Jerusalem, on allegations that local youths continued to throw stones at settlers’ cars.

According to local sources, the IOF stormed the town, fired stun grenades and intercepted cars and passersby.

Israeli soldiers also circulated notices containing threats to take punitive measures against the residents if stone-throwing attacks on Israeli cars did not stop.   

Later, the IOF closed the main entrance to the town and prevented Palestinian cars and citizens from leaving or entering through it.

(Source / 26.02.2019)

War in Al-Aqsa: What Price Netanyahu’s Victory

By Ramzy Baroud

While the blood of Palestinians is irrelevant in Netanyahu’s quest for political dominance, the international community should take immediate measures to prevent what could become an Israeli-induced bloodbath in the coming weeks.

On February 18, members of extremist Jewish groups raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Occupied Al-Quds (Jerusalem). They clashed with Palestinian worshippers, as the settlers attempted to shut down the gate of Al-Aqsa itself.

The clashes involved the Israeli army and police as well, who opened fire and brutally assaulted Palestinians, leading to scores of injuries.

On February 19, the Israeli army carried out the unusual step of shutting down Al-Rahma Gate, which leads to a section of the Al-Aqsa compound that has, itself, been shut down by the Israeli army since 2003.

The provocative decision to seal the gate was clearly made in advance, and the lock and key have the fingerprints of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

It is quite typical for Israeli politicians to carry out confrontational measures against Palestinians shortly before general elections are due. The nature of these measures is determined by the kind of political constituency that Israeli leaders aim to appease.

However, a war on Gaza, at least for now, is too risky an option for Netanyahu as it would take place too close to the April 9 elections date. Moreover, a botched Israeli attack on the Strip on November 11 caused Netanyahu a major embarrassment, forcing him to shelve the Gaza option for now.

That said, if the Israeli Prime Minister’s political standing grows too desperate in the coming weeks, a Gaza war may, once again, be placed on the table.

Indeed, the political union between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, which was declared on February 21, has certainly upped the ante for Netanyahu who has assumed that his election victory is a foretold conclusion.

Gantz and Lapid merged their two parties into one election list called Kahol Lavan (“Blue and White”), the single most serious electoral challenge for Netanyahu in years.

For the time being, Netanyahu has decided to appeal to the most messianic religious segments of Israeli society in order to keep his challengers at bay. This should come as no surprise as the religious, ultra-national far right has been backbone of the Israeli leader’s coalitions for a decade.

In fact, weeks before the Gantz and Lapid union, Netanyahu had taken several measures to show signs of goodwill towards his religious constituency.

One such overture was made on Jan. 28, when Netanyahu ordered the U.N. unarmed international observers to leave the Occupied Palestinian city of Al-Khalil, where a few hundred armed Jewish settlers have been a constant source of violence. The Jewish settlers of Qiryat Arba’a live under the protection of a massive Israeli army contingent. Both groups have worked together to terrorize the Palestinian inhabitants of the city for many years.

A joint statement issued by several humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Save the Children warned of the terrible fate awaiting the Palestinian community as a result of Netanyahu’s decision in Al-Khalil.

“Hundreds of civilians, including children, will see their safety put at risk by the withdrawal of international observers deployed in the city of Hebron,” the statement read.

True to form, attacks by Jewish settlers followed, as media and rights group reports point to a surge of violence against Palestinian civilians in the city.

By unleashing the wrath of Jewish settlers in Al-Khalil, Netanyahu wanted to communicate to his supporters that he remains committed to their settlement project, an unworthy cause that violates international law and comes at the price of protracted human suffering.

Similarly, the Israeli decision to shut down Al-Rahma Gate on February 19 was a pre-calculated move, aimed at uniting the entirety of the Israeli right, including the most extremist of all religious and settler groups behind Netanyahu’s leadership in the coming elections.

In fact, a trend began a few weeks earlier. On January 9, the Palestinian Ministry of Endowment documented a sharp increase of Israeli violations, involving the Israeli army and Jewish settlers at holy Palestinian sites throughout the month of December. According to the Organization, over 100 such violations were reported, including 30 different incursions into Al-Aqsa itself.

raid on Al-Aqsa on January 7 involved more than the usual suspects, but was led by Israeli Agriculture Minister and a strong ally of Netanyahu, Uri Ariel.

This type of politically-motivated and highly militarized ‘visits’ to Al-Aqsa are reminiscent of the infamous ‘visit’ by late Israeli right-wing leader, Ariel Sharon in September 2000. At the time, Sharon wanted to increase his chances of becoming Israel’s next prime minister, and to ensure that his arch-rival (then, interestingly enough, the very Benjamin Netanyahu) did not win the Likud Party nomination. The gambit worked. Sharon sparked the Second Palestinian Uprising (2000-05), leading to the deaths of thousands and, of course, securing his seat at the helm of Israeli politics for years.

Netanyahu, ever studious and resourceful, has, indeed, mastered the art of political manipulation as his mentor and, once again, Al-Aqsa is the platform for this sinister Israeli politicking.

Netanyahu’s decision to strike an alliance with Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) – the rebranded party of the extremist late Meir Kahane – further demonstrates how the current surge of violence around the holy Palestinian sites is a pre-calculated political move by Netanyahu and his government.  

The fact that Netanyahu would bring into his future coalition groups that are the ideological mutation of the Jewish Defense League – which is classified as ‘terrorist organization’’ by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – speaks volumes about the changing relationship between the US and Israel. Thanks to Washington’s blind support of Israel, Netanyahu feels politically triumphant and invincible, even above US’ own laws.

However, to achieve his pathetic dream of being Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, Netanyahu should be wary of the bloody consequences that his reckless action is sure to yield. Indeed, Netanyahu may be provoking the kind of violence that is much bigger than his own ability to contain.

Al-Aqsa Mosque has served not only as a religious symbol for Palestinians, but a national symbol as well, representing their coveted freedom and serving as a source of hope and unity over the course of generations.

While the blood of Palestinians is irrelevant in Netanyahu’s quest for political dominance, the international community should take immediate measures to prevent what could become an Israeli-induced bloodbath in the coming weeks.

(Source / 26.02.2019)

Disabled Palestinian Detainee Declares Hunger Strike

26 Feb 9:33 PM

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported, Tuesday, that an ailing, disabled Palestinian detainee, who is held under arbitrary Administrative Detention orders without charges or trial, has declared a hunger strike, demanding his release.

The PPS stated that the detainee, Mo’taz Obeido, who is held at the Negev Detention Camp, was moved to solitary confinement after he declared hunger strike.

It added that Obeido, from Hebron in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, was shot by the Israeli soldiers in the year 2011, before he was abducted, and that the injuries caused paralysis in his left leg, weakness in his right leg, and various complications in his nerves, in addition to serious damage to his intestines, which required surgeries, including a colostomy.

After he was shot and abducted by the soldiers, he was moved to the Ramla Prison Clinic, which lacks specialists and adequate tools, and stayed there for three years.

Obeido requires rehabilitation and constant medications, but the only thing he receives are painkilling pills.

The PPS said that Obeido was previously frequently abducted and imprisoned by Israel, spending a total of eight years behind bars, before he was abducted again this month, and was slapped with an arbitrary Administrative Detention order.

(Source / 26.02.2019)

PCHR Condemns Security Services’ Arrest of Civilians on Grounds of Practicing their Right to Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly

26 Feb 6:55 PM

The Palestinian Center For Human Rights (PCHR): During the last few days, The Internal Security Service (ISS) in the Gaza Strip arrested dozens of Fatah Members on grounds of calling for Pro-Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Protests.

Previously, many unionists were summoned while governmental teachers were prevented from holding a strike against PA’s cutting the salaries of dozens of teachers on its payroll.  The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns these arrests and restrictions.

PCHR emphasizes that the freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and political participation are rights guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law, particularly Articles 19 and 26, and shall not be prejudiced under any pretext.  \

PCHR also calls upon the security services to completely stop the arrests and summonses on grounds of political affiliation, unionism or freedom of expression.

According to PCHR’s investigations, the ISS summons campaign during the last 2 days targeted dozens of Fatah Members throughout the Gaza Strip, and is still on.

The security services released some of the arrestees while others are so far under arrest.  Some of the arrestees declared hunger strike as they returned the meals provided to them during their detention, claiming for their immediate release.

Those arrests came on grounds of Pro-Abbas protests organized by activists in Fatah Movement throughout the Gaza Strip titled as “We Choose You” in response to an anti-Abbas protest organized by Hamas movement on Sunday, 24 February, in al-Sarayah Square in central Gaza City and titled as “Step down Abbas.”

The Security services prevented and went after the pro-President protestors.  In al-Nussairat Refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip, police officers attacked a protest and beat up the protestors, arresting 4 of them on 24 February.  Previously, the security services dispersed a similar protest organized in Jabalia refugee camp on 23 February and arrested a number of the protesters.

Following that, the ISS launched a campaign of arrests and summonses against dozens of Fatah Members and detained some of them in their offices but released others.  Meanwhile, many Fatah Members are so far under arrest.

The security services also arrested a number of civilians, including a child from Deir al-Balah, on grounds of tearing down posters calling for the ouster of the president.

(Sh. S.) , a 17-year-old child, said that he was summoned by the ISS in Deir al-Balah and interrogated on grounds of tearing down a poster calling for the ouster of President Mahmoud ‘Abbas.

(Sh. S.)  said that he was tortured as the security officers ordered him to sit on a chair and stretch his legs in order to beat him on the soles of his bare feet with a stick many times; one of which lasted for 15 minutes, to force him to admit tearing down the poster.

On 19 February, the security services summoned teachers and unionists to interrogate them on calls by the Palestinian Teachers’ General Union to suspend school for 2 days, 20 and 21 February, claiming for teachers’ rights after deductions from their salaries by the PA.

Among those summoned was Khaled al-Seiqali, Member of the Union’s General Secretariat from Khan Younis; Mohammed Salah al-Naffar, Fatah Teachers Office in Khan Younis; Usamah ‘Abdel Hamid al-Maqadmah, Deputy Secretary of Fatah Teachers’ Office in western Khan Younis; Usamah Abu Younis, teacher and Member of Fatah Movement; and Kamal ‘Abdel ‘Aziz Abu ‘Eishah Deputy Secretary of the Teachers’ Union in the central Gaza Strip.

PCHR is concerned over the summons of dozens of Fatah activists on grounds of their political affiliation and unionism, emphasizing, “personal freedom is a natural right that is ensured and cannot be prejudiced” according to the Palestinian Basic Law, which also prohibits “arresting, checking, detaining or restricting the movement of a person without a judicial warrant,” and “whoever is arrested or detained must be informed of the reasons of his arrest or detention.”

PCHR emphasizes that the right to peaceful assembly is guaranteed in the Palestinian Basic Law and the international human rights standards; stressing that the right to peaceful assembly only requires a written notification to be sent to a Police Director or the Governor according to Article 3 of the Public Meetings Law 12/1998. Moreover, violating this condition is not enough for dispersing the demonstration or arresting the organizers unless the demonstration included riots.

PCHR Stresses that calling for a demonstration does not constitute in any way a crime or basis for a summons even if the demonstration has not met the procedures.

Thus, PCHR Calls upon the Attorney General to intervene immediately to stop such summons campaigns without a warrant issued by the Public Prosecution and without any real basis that proves occurrence of a crime or an incident that requires a summons.  PCHR also calls upon the security services in the Gaza Strip to respect the Palestinian law and public freedoms and adhere to the Palestinian Criminal Procedure Code and Palestinian Basic Law.

(Source / 26.02.2019)

UN Report: Israel Using Syrian Golan for Radioactive Nuclear Waste Dump

26 Feb 7:09 AM

The UN has been adopting resolutions condemning the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights for decades; however, Tel Aviv hasn’t changed its policies and is continuing to exercise sovereignty over the disputed territory, including holding municipal elections.

Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres has presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council based on Syrian accusations against Israel’s action in the Golan Heights, saying that Israel has been burying “nuclear waste with radioactive content in 20 different areas populated by Syrian citizens” in the occupied territory. Most of the waste has allegedly been dumped in the area near Al-Sheikh Mountain.

According to the report, this puts “the lives and health of Syrians in the occupied Syrian Golan in jeopardy” and violates the 4th Geneva Convention.

Israel is suspected of possessing nuclear weapons, but no evidence proving or disproving the suspicion has been presented so far. Tel Aviv has neither officially confirmed, nor denied possessing nuclear weapons.

The Golan Heights was seized by Israel from Syria during the Six-Day War, in 1967. In 1981, Tel Aviv decided to extend its laws to the occupied territory and established a civil administration in a move that drew condemnation from the UN Security Council and was labelled illegal, in terms of international law.

Israel justified the decision by saying that it was aimed at safeguarding its borders from aggressive military acts by its neighbours.

PNN further reports that, in 2018, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution urging Israel to immediately withdraw its forces from the Golan Heights after Tel Aviv organised local elections in the Golan Heights, on 30 October.

(Source / 26.02.2019)

Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre 25 Years On

26 Feb 7:43 AM

Palestinian people all over the world, on Monday, marked the 25th anniversary of the massacre which took p;ace inside the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, leading to 29 deaths and over 150 injuries, among worshipers.

Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency reports that, on February 25, 1994, the 15th of Ramadan, American-born Israeli military settler Baruch Goldstein entered the Ibrahimi Mosque and launched a shooting attack against worshipers who were kneeling in morning prayer.

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers based in the mosque’s area closed the doors of the mosque, to prevent worshipers from fleeing, and also blocked people from entering it to help save the wounded.

Other Palestinians were gunned down later, by Israeli forces, outside the mosque and during funerals for the slain, with the death toll, on this day, reaching 50; of them, 29 were killed inside the mosque.

Tensions heightened throughout the day, and violent confrontations erupted with Israeli soldiers, in all Palestinian towns and cities, and mainly in Hebron, bringing the total number of the fallen to 60.

Following the massacre, Israeli forces closed the mosque and all entrances to Hebron’s Old City for six consecutive months, allegedly for conducting an investigation into the incident.

A one-sided committee called “Shamga” was formed by the Israeli occupation, at that time, to investigate the massacre, and led to a number of recommendations. Of these, to be noted is the division of the mosque into two sections; 60% of it for the Israeli settlers, and the remaining 40% for the Palestinians.

The Israeli occupation also maintained a harsh reality of occupation against the Palestinian people of Hebron’s Old Town district, sealing off a number of markets and roads in the city, and installing security cameras and electronic gates on all entrances to the mosque.

Moreover, the Israeli occupation closed all  entrances to the mosque, in the face of Muslims, leaving one entrance with very strict military procedures.

With these procedures, the Israeli occupation has separated Hebron’s Old Town, in which the Ibrahimi Mosque is located, from its surroundings, with a view to Judaize and seize over them.

Baruch Goldstein is a Brooklyn-born Israeli physician. He had emigrated to Israel in 1983, and lived in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement, based on the Palestinian lands of Hebron.

It’s noteworthy that the Ibrahimi Mosque is the fourth holiest site in Islam and the second holiest site in Palestine. It is located to the southeast of Hebron and at the heart of the Old town.

(Source / 26.02.2019)