Israel MK calls for Trump to recognise Israel’s annexation of West Bank

Bezalel Smotrich, Extremist Israeli Jewish MK [Atbannett/Wikipedia]

Bezalel Smotrich, Extremist Israeli Jewish MK

Hours after US President Donald Trump announced the recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, controversial Israeli Knesset Member (MK) Bezalel Smotrich has called for Trump to take a similar step regarding the occupied West Bank.

On Twitter, Smotrich wrote: “President Trump, thank you. For 52 years, we have succeeded in the West Bank. It is also of a strategic, historical and security importance for Israel,” Safa news agency reported yesterday.

He added: “It is the time to recognise our sovereignty over the West Bank. God willing, we will work to achieve this soon. We hope to see your support, too.”

President Trump justified his recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights by claiming “it is of strategic, historical and security importance for Israel”.

Read: Syria vows to recover Golan as Trump policy shift draws criticism

Many of Israel’s right-wing parties – among which is Smotrich’s National Union party – are calling for annexing “Area C” of the occupied West Bank to Israel, which constitutes 60 per cent of the whole territory. Buoyed by President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, these parties have become more fervent in their demands, particularly ahead of Israel’s upcoming election on 9 April.

The US State Department did not use the word “occupied” in reference to the Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza Strip in its report about human rights issued earlier this month.

Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula in the Six Day War of 1967. Despite returning the Sinai to Egypt under the Camp David Accords of 1979, Israel has maintained its occupation of the other territories.

Read: Trump move on Golan Heights divides US Israel lobby

(Source / 24.03.2019)

ISRAEL KILLS YOUNG MAN AT CHECKPOINT IN AL-KHADER


Israel’s occupation forces have killed a fourth young man in the span of two days in the occupied West Bank.

Ahmad Jamal Mahmoud Manasra, aged 22 or 26, was killed by Israel’s occupation forces at a checkpoint at the entrance to the town of al-Khader – situated near the city of Bethlehem on the occupied West Bank – on the evening of Wednesday March 20th.

Manasra was shot in arm, chest and shoulder in the incident, which started as Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire at a car driving before his own vehicle. The male driver of that car was hit in his abdomen and was seriously wounded; Manasra is claimed to have stopped to help him.

When Manasra was running back to his own car to move it from the road he was shot several times by occupation soldiers and died on the scene according to a Palestinian source. His body was recovered by Palestinian first responders and taken to hospital in near by Beit Jala.

Either Manasra or the man who was seriously wounded had his wife and children in a car with them; exactly which of them it was is unclear in sources.

Before Ahmad Manasra’s death Israel’s occupation troops had killed Omar Abu Leila(19), Raed Hashem Muhammad Hamdan(21) and Zaid Imad Muhammad Nuri(20) on Tuesday. According to PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi, these killings:

“…are illegal under international law and expose criminal intent on the part of Israeli forces, who continue to act with impunity and abject disregard for the Palestinian people’s basic right to live.”

Palestinian government condemns Israeli killing of 3 Palestinians

PLO condemns Israel’s summary execution of Palestinians

Updated: “Army Kills A Palestinian Trying To Provide Aid To Wounded Man In Bethlehem”

#FreePalestine #Palestine #WestBank

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Israel’s official anti-BDS ministry behind attacks on Rasmea Odeh

Even after the silencing of Rasmea Odeh from giving a speech on Palestinian women in the struggle for liberation in Berlin on 15 March, the Israeli state is officially continuing its campaign of defamation and harassment. The Ministry of Strategic Affairs is headed by Gilad Erdan, who also heads the Ministry of Internal Security (which includes the Israel Prison Administration) . A prominent figure in the Likud party, Erdan has stepped up global defamation campaigns against BDS organizers and Palestine solidarity activists around the world in the months leading up to the Israeli elections.

Most recently, Erdan publicly claimed credit for pressuring Germany to issue a decision cancelling Rasmea Odeh’s Schengen visa and forcing her to leave the country. Erdan’s ongoing political attacks have especially targeted Palestinian human rights defenders as well as solidarity groups (including Samidoun) working to support Palestinian political prisoners. In this context, the attack on Rasmea Odeh comes as perhaps no surprise – but the German government’s decision to cancel her visa under the demands of Erdan and (far-right-linked) U.S. ambassador Richard Grenell remains shocking and appalling.

Rasmea is continuing her struggle in German courts and refusing to accept this unjust action. At the same time, Erdan’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which enjoys a multi-million dollar budget for attacking Palestine solidarity around the world, is defaming Odeh in paid ads on Twitter.

The ministry’s official Twitter account, @4ILorg, purchased paid “promoted” tweets in German and English attacking Rasmea as well as the BDS movement and Samidoun. It approvingly quoted German officials who conceded to the Israeli demand to silence Odeh, violating basic expressive rights in order to appease Israeli officials responsible for ongoing human rights violations, unjust detention, colonial occupation, settlement building, land confiscation and ongoing extrajudicial killings, both in the West Bank and in the targeting of popular protesters on the colonially-imposed “border” with Gaza every week in the Great March of Return.

“This vicious campaign reflects a deliberate exaggeration, attempting to portray the alliance of Zionist and imperialist forces in silencing a Palestinian speaker as a historic achievement. This is part of a clear policy of terrorizing the Palestinian and Arab communities in Europe. It is destined to fail inevitably, confronting the growing role of refugee movements, student organizing, youth movements and the growing popularity of the BDS movement. This is a reflection of the ongoing struggle for justice and liberation in Palestine that will end with the victory of the Palestinian people,” said Mohammed Khatib, Europe coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

He pointed out that the targeting of the Samidoun Network by the “anti-BDS ministry” is “a failing attempt to distort our image by the racist minister Gilad Erdan, who is also the Minister of Internal Security daily targeting Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.” Khatib said that these attacks are part of an “ongoing campaign to criminalize Palestinian resistance in any form, targeting all voices and supporters of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and their daily struggle, as the prisoners stand at the forefront of the campaign to defend their rights and all of our rights as well.”

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza wound 3 Palestinians

Flame and smoke blow up after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrikes towards points of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in Rafah, Gaza on March 15, 2019 [Abed Rahim Khatib / Anadolu Agency]

Flame and smoke blow up after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrikes towards points of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, in Rafah, Gaza on March 15, 2019

Israeli fighter jets on Saturday struck the eastern parts of the Bureyc refugee camp in central Gaza City, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

In a written statement, the ministry said three Palestinians were wounded in the airstrikes. These airstrikes were followed by two others later in the day.

The statement gave no further details on the condition of the wounded.

Israeli forces have recently been targeting Gaza with airstrikes, alleging that burning kites and balloons were sent from Gaza to the Israeli side.

Read: Israel avenges burning balloons with airstrikes on Gaza refugee camp

Last week, on March 15th, the Israeli airforce carried out a staggering 100 air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Following the air strikes, Israel warned it would continue to use “uncompromising force” against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip should the UN Security Council not condemnthe alleged launching of two rockets towards Tel Aviv. For its part, Hamas said that Israel is causing new crises in the Gaza Strip through its military escalation and targeting of Palestinian resistance sites and civilian facilities.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Friday condemned Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip during the Great March of Return.

In addition to condemning Israel, the UNHRC also called for perpetrators of violations in the besieged enclave to face justice.

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Israel avenges burning balloons with airstrikes on Gaza refugee camp

Protestors seen at the Gaza-Israel border, gathered as part of the continuing 'Great March of Return' on July 13, 2018 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Protestors at the Gaza-Israel border, gathered as part of the continuing ‘Great March of Return’, launch a balloon, on July 13, 2018

Israeli fighter jets carried out two airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Sunday following the launch of incendiary balloons from the Palestinian territory, according to the military.

In a statement, the army said the attacks targeted two Hamas posts in the seaside enclave.

According to an Anadolu Agency reporter, the Israeli warplanes struck positions in Al-Awda refugee camp, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

No injuries were reported.

These airstrikes followed two other airstrikes earlier today, on eastern parts of the Bureyc refugee camp, which injured three Palestinians.

A Palestinian-launched "incendiary device" [balloon or kite] can be seen in the top-right, as Israeli forces shower Palestinians in a hail of tear gas, at the Gaza-Israel border, gathered as part of the continuing 'Great March of Return' on August 3, 2018 [Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Palestinian activists have been flying burning kites and balloons into Israel as part of ongoing anti-occupation protests along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

According to Israeli officials, the improvised aerial “weapons” have caused a number of fires inside illegal Israeli settlements, causing significant material damage but not resulting in any deaths or injuries.

Since March of last year, more than 250 Palestinians have been killed and thousands more injured by Israeli army fire during protests demanding the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

Read: UNHRC condemns Israel’s use of ‘lethal force’ against Gaza protesters

Israeli forces have recently been targeting Gaza with airstrikes, alleging that burning kites and balloons were sent from Gaza to the Israeli side.

Last week, on March 15th, the Israeli airforce carried out a staggering 100 air strikes in the Gaza Strip. Following the air strikes, Israel warned it would continue to use “uncompromising force” against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip should the UN Security Council not condemnthe alleged launching of two rockets towards Tel Aviv. For its part, Hamas said that Israel is causing new crises in the Gaza Strip through its military escalation and targeting of Palestinian resistance sites and civilian facilities.

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Friday condemned Israel’s “apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force” against civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip during the Great March of Return.

In addition to condemning Israel, the UNHRC also called for perpetrators of violations in the besieged enclave to face justice.

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Israeli Soldiers Injure Several Palestinians, One Seriously, In Gaza

24 MAR1:49 AM

Israeli soldiers injured, on Saturday evening, several Palestinians, including one who suffered life-threatening wounds, during protests across the eastern parts of the besieged and improvised Gaza Strip.

Medical sources said the soldiers shot four Palestinians with live fire, east of Jabalia in northern Gaza Strip, and east of al-Boreij, in central Gaza, and added that one of the wounded Palestinians suffered life-threatening wounds.

They also said that several Palestinians suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation, east of Rafah, in southern Gaza strip, and received the needed medical attention.

Also Saturday, The Israeli Airforce fired a missile at a motorcycle carrying three Palestinians, injuring all three.

On Friday, Israeli forces killed two Palestinian civilians, identified as Nidal ‘Abdel Karim Ahmed Shatat, 29, and Jihad Munir Khaled Hararah, 24, and wounded more than 180 during protests at the Gaza-Israel border.

Also on Friday, Israeli navy ships fired live rounds at Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza Coast, wounding three fishermen.

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Syrian Rights Group says Trump’s Call on Golan Heights Will Destabilize Region

24 MAR5:06 AM

The Arab Human Rights Center in the Golan Heights condemned United States President Donald Trump’s tweet calling for the US to fully recognize Israel’s “sovereignty” over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, saying it signals a major shift in US policy that runs contrary to facts, logic, and international law, while threatening stability across the Middle East.

Israel invaded and occupied the Golan during the 1967 war against Syria that led to razing 340 out of 345 native Syrian villages and farms, and the displacement of 95 percent of the region’s population, approximately 130,000 people, according to WAFA.

“Israel has illegally occupied the Syrian Golan ever since, systematically instituting policies that perpetuate the discrimination and oppression of the native Syrian population,” said Al-Marsad in a statement.

“Numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions have condemned Israel’s illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan, including resolutions 242 and 497. The US supported and voted in favor of both of these resolutions, signaling that it does not believe Israel’s seizure and asserted annexation of the Syrian Golan is legitimate.”

Al-Marsad said that international law is unequivocal in its outlawing of the acquisition of territory after its seizure through acts of aggression and the US has assertively supported this principle elsewhere around the globe.

It also said that Trump’s tweet claims that recognizing the occupied Syrian Golan as part of Israel is necessary for Israeli security and regional stability while in reality “the only threat to security in the occupied Syrian Golan is prolonged illegal occupation and US recognition of Israel’s claimed ‘sovereignty’ over the region.”

Al-Marsad denounced Trump’s tweet, stressing that US recognition of the occupied Syrian Golan as part of Israel would “validate systematic human rights abuses, glorify violations of international law, and cause a major shift in US policy that will destabilize the Middle East.”

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Palestinian Dies From Serious Wounds He Suffered In Gaza

24 MAR8:46 AM

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the besieged Gaza Strip has reported, on Sunday at dawn, that a young man died from serious wounds he suffered, on Saturday at night, after Israeli soldiers shot him in the northern part of the coastal region.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, the spokesperson of the Health Ministry in Gaza, has reported that the Palestinian has been identified as Habeeb al-Masri, 24.

He added that the Palestinian was shot during a protest near the perimeter fence, east of Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, after the soldiers targeted many protesters with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets and high-velocity gas bombs.

The Palestinian suffered a very serious injury after a soldier shot him with a live round in the chest, and was rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, in Jabalia, before he was moved to the Shifa Medical Center in Gaza city, due to the seriousness of his wounds.

Dr. al-Qedra said that, despite all efforts to save his life, the Palestinian succumbed to his wounds at dawn, Sunday. The soldiers also injured at least two other Palestinians with live fire and caused many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.

Also at dawn, Israeli army drones fired missiles into several areas, east of Rafah, in southern Gaza, and east of the al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza, causing damage.

The army claimed that the sirens were sounded in the Eshkol Regional Council of Settlements and added that some protesters flew flammable balloons which apparently exploded even before flying over the perimeter fence.

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Israeli Settlers Assault Palestinian Woman, Her Son In Hebron

Days Of Palestine [ Hebron ] –  On Saturday evening, a horde of Jewish settlers physically and verbally attacked a Palestinian woman and her son in Tel Rumeida neighborhood near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City of Hebron.

According to local sources, a woman and her son, from the family of Qa’kour, were beaten and verbally abused by extremist settlers during their presence outside their house in Tel Rumeida.

The settlers live in an illegal outpost in the same Palestinian neighborhood.

The local residents in Tel Rumeida are exposed to repeated assaults by settlers and soldiers to force them to leave their homes.

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

Israel’s War Crimes Fuel Mental Illness In Gaza

Days Of Palestine [ Report ] – It was a roasting July afternoon and the reverberations of bombs were so continuous her body seemed like it was vibrating in time with them. There was no time to consider whether to don her hijab, what belongings to gather together or even where to seek refuge. Amal blindly followed her neighbours jamming the streets of al-Shujaiea – pushing and shoving in their effort to flee, even without knowing exactly where they would go.

Sweating profusely while her heart raced, Amal attempted to ward off the stinging teargas by covering her nose and mouth with her sleeve. It didn’t quite work, however, and Amal sneezed and coughed, reflexively trying to spit to clear her throat.

That was 2014, during the Israeli military’s last major assault on Gaza. But more than four years later, 46-year-old Amal still suffers fits in which she coughs and compulsively spits; trying to replace the habit with gum-chewing didn’t work. It was a behaviour pattern that was particularly troublesome when Amal was trying to socialise. Despite repeated trips to ear, nose and throat specialists, relief was elusive, and her throat felt raw.

International attention shifts away when a war ends, but its victims live with the consequences – both the visible and invisible – for years after. There are many other Amals in Gaza, still suffering from past Israeli aggressions. The World Health Organization estimates that, following the violence in 2014, 20 percent of Gaza’s population developed mental health problems. 

Likewise, a study of children conducted by Abdelaziz Thabet in 2017 found nearly a third suffered some degree of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD). Exacerbating the effects of violence are the chronic pressure from unemployment and a lack of hope for a better future. 

Today, Palestine leads the Middle East-North Africa region in depression and anxiety disorders, with some estimates suggesting that more than 40 percent of Palestinians suffer clinical depression, making it the highest rate in the world. 

Many sufferers do not seek help due to a failure to recognise mental illness or the stigma associated with psychiatric treatment in a conservative society. Little information is available on the number of suicides or attempts, since officials are concerned about the impact on public morale, and how they would be portrayed by Western media or opposition factions ready to pounce on any sign of leadership failure. 

However, the few statistics available indicate an upward trend. According to one report, there were 226 attempts in 2010, 624 in 2015 and 208 just in the first quarter of 2017. Note that these numbers are likely severely understated, since many attempts are never reported.

Her subconscious remained stuck in a recall loop, reliving those moments among charred bodies and suffocating gas.

 However, as the burden becomes harder to deny, more Gazans gradually are seeking treatment. According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, the number of patients referred to the Strip’s sole psychiatric hospital has risen 21 percent since 2016. Likewise, the number of individuals visiting clinics with mental or emotional disturbances rose by 69 percent in the same period.

Amal is one of them. After hearing about the successful treatment of a relative, she eventually sought help from psychologist Sami Owaida. He diagnosed her with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) caused by her experience during the war. Her subconscious remained stuck in a recall loop, reliving those moments among charred bodies and suffocating gas. 

Relief came from a combination of antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy and a technique called exposure-and-response prevention (ERP). After identifying the nature and source of her fear, explains Owaida, he helped her overcome it by repeatedly reliving it until she became desensitised to the memories.

“She began therapy in October and today, she is 90 percent better,” he says.

Owaida works with the private Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, established in 1990, which has three branches across the Strip. It supplements the overstretched government system, including the one specialised mental health hospital established to serve the entire Gaza Strip – home to two millions residents. 

It opened in 1970, but mental health services remained dramatically under-resourced and fragmented until 2008, when the government formed a general directorate for psychological treatment. Today, the directorate also runs six community mental health centres. Among its 149 employees are 49 nurses, 14 physicians, 25 psychologists, 17 social workers, 12 pharmacists and 18 rehabilitation specialists. 

After the 2014 Israeli aggression, a day care centre was added.

Collective trauma harms social fabric

According to Samah Jabr, a Jerusalem psychotherapist who heads the mental health unit for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, PTSD is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in Palestine. However, she says, it doesn’t adequately capture the nature of the Palestinian condition. 

For example, “post” implies that the original trauma is over. Yet for Palestinians living under occupation or blockade, the trauma is ongoing and enduring. “There is no ‘post-traumatic’ safety,” says Jabr. Likewise, the traditional definition of “trauma” is too narrow, she says. 

In addition to violence, daily and constant humiliation and objectification are equally toxic over time – for individuals, but also for a society as a whole.

“Just as individual trauma harms the brain tissue of a person, collective trauma harms the integrity of the social fabric – its capacity to foster connections, trust, norms, world views and moral conventions,” Jabr says.

Their actions may seem heroic but, actually, they are a sign of a critical mental-health crisis.

Owaida agrees, pointing to the Great Return March – weekly protests in Gaza that started a year ago on March 30. To date 256 protesters have been killed, and more than 28,000 have been wounded. Many of the martyred or maimed young people went perilously and deliberately close to the border with Israel – seeming to be fearless. 

But Owaida characterises their true motives differently: “Their actions may seem heroic but, actually, they are a sign of a critical mental-health crisis.”

Unfortunately, he says, treatment can only help a limited amount, since it’s not possible for psychiatrists to combat the root problem: the stifling Israeli occupation and blockade.

“I treated a 10-year-old child suffering from bed-wetting (enuresis) and other post-trauma symptoms, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), anxiety and aggression. I worked with him and his parents and teachers in a systematic parallel process,” said Owaida. 

“I was making some headway – until Israel launched its third aggression in 2014 and destroyed his home. Then he became even worse. I needed to start treating him again from scratch.”  

There also are homegrown barriers to mental wellbeing. Cultural beliefs discourage many Palestinians from admitting to family members, friends or even themselves that that they need psychological help. This is particularly true for young women, who fear being labeled “mad” will discourage potential suitors from approaching them. 

Many Gazans instead seek help instead from a local sheikh, or religious scholar, who reads them Quranic verses or healing invocations called ruqya. Owaida dismisses such remedies as “wishful thinking”.

Jabr has found that, unlike in the West with its individualistic culture, Palestinians respond better to approaches such as informal gatherings through which group therapy can be practiced. Like Owaida, she believes the key is to encourage and support remembrance, recognition and mutual solidarity. 

She points to the #WeAreAllMary campaign in support of women living in Jerusalem as an example of a group solidarity action that acts as psychological support as well.

“People from Palestine, and even from outside it, standing together with the oppressed and suffering is therapeutic,” says Jabr. 

Some names of people mentioned in this article have been changed at their request.

(Source / 24.03.2019)