Israel approves plan to reoccupy Gaza

Palestinians inspect wreckage after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrike towards a building belonging to Hamas, in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 March 2019. [Ashraf Amra - Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians inspect wreckage after Israeli fighter jets carried out airstrike towards a building belonging to Hamas, in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 March 2019

The Israeli occupation army proposed a plan to reoccupy the besieged Gaza Strip during any future offensive, Al-Khaleej Online reported yesterday.

The plan was approved 14 years after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the costal enclave.

The Wallah news website, which is close to the Israeli intelligence, said the plan were prepared when Gadi Eisenkot was the chief of staff while his predecessor Aviv Kofach approved it.

The news website reported senior Israeli military officials saying: “Hamas might flareup the region and go for a major confrontation if the truce understandings failed.”

The Gaza Strip has suffered under a more than 12-year siege at the hands of Israel, with support from Egypt and the international community. Goods, food, aid, construction materials and other essentials have not been allowed into the Strip and people have been left unable to leave even to access medical care.

READ: Israel suppressing only pharmaceutical factory in Gaza

The General Federation of Palestinian Labour Unions reported last year that as a result of the siege, unemployment in the enclave almost doubled to 50 per cent, rising from 27.2 per cent before 2007.

A report released by the UN last month raised concerns that the Strip is “de-developing” faster than anticipated, such that the 2020 deadline by which it was said that Gaza would be “unliveable” may have already arrived.

The Gaza Strip has also been hit by Israel in three major offensives; 2008, 2012 and 2014 wars. These turned the coastal enclave into a pile of rubble.

In its most recent war, 2,251 people were killed and more than 11,000 were wounded. During “Operation Protective Edge” at least 20,000 buildings were destroyed in the Israeli bombardment, either reduced to rubble or rendered uninhabitable, including mosques, churches, hospitals and schools.

In February the Palestinian housing minister revealed that ten per cent of homes destroyed during the Israeli bombardment had still not been rebuilt.

READ: Israel shoots, kills 2 Palestinians in occupied West Bank

(Source / 18.03.2019)

Israel arrests Fatah secretary in Jerusalem

Fatah Secretary Shadi Mutwar - [Quds Press]

Fatah Secretary Shadi Mutwar

Israeli occupation forces and general intelligence yesterday arrested the Fatah movement’s secretary in Jerusalem, Shadi Mutwar.

The Mutwar family said Israeli police and intelligence forces raided their house in the occupied city of Jerusalem and arrested Shadi, adding that the reason for his arrest was not yet known.

In January, Israeli forces detained Shadi while at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge (King Hussein Bridge) crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan, on his way back from a visit to refugee camps in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said Israeli forces also arrested two young boys, Areen Zaanin and Faris Owaisat from Jerusalem yesterday morning.

The Israeli occupation army announced yesterday morning that it had arrested ten Palestinians from the occupied West Bank for their alleged involvement in the Palestinian resistance.

Chasing Mirages: What Are Palestinians Doing to Combat the ‘Deal of the Century’? 

(Source / 18.03.2019)

Update: “Israeli Soldiers Shoot Two Palestinians, Abduct Two Others, Near Salfit”

18 Mar 5:34 AM

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Sunday at night, two young Palestinian men, and shot two others, during ongoing military invasions carried out by the army in the az-Zawiya, Bruqin and Kafr ed-Deek towns, west of Salfit, in central West Bank.

The soldiers invaded and violently searched dozens of homes in the three towns and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards.

The soldiers also attacked many protesters with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades.

Media sources in az-Zawiya said the soldiers searched many homes, and fired at dozens of protesters, shooting one with a rubber-coated steel bullet, and causing others to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.

In Bruqin town, the soldiers abducted Zakariya Mahmoud Samara and Abdul-Hafith Shafiq Abdullah, during searches of homes.

The soldiers also shot one Palestinian with a concussion grenade in Kafr ed-Deek town, west of Salfit.

It is worth mentioning that dozens of soldiers have been deployed around many Palestinian communities in Salfit governorate since morning hours, following the stabbing attack that led to the death of one Israeli soldier.

Updated From:
Israeli Soldiers Shoot Two Palestinians Near Salfit
Mar 18, 2019 @ 01:47

At least twenty Israeli military jeeps invaded, on Sunday at night, the towns of az-Zawiya and Kafr ad-Deek, west of Salfit in central West Bank, and shot two Palestinians with live fire, in addition to causing many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.

Na’im Shqeir, the mayor of az-Zawiya, said more than twenty Israeli military jeeps invaded the town while firing live rounds, concussion grenades, gas bombs and rubber-coated steel bullets.

He added that the soldiers shot two Palestinians with live fire, and causing dozens of suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, in addition to various cuts and bruises.

He added that dozens of soldiers were deployed around the town, and various Palestinian communities in Salfit, since morning hours, following the stabbing attack that led to the death of one Israeli soldier.

In addition, the mayor of Kar ad-Deek town, Mohammad ad-Deek, said the dozens of soldiers also invaded the town, and shot a young man with a gas bomb in his face, while the Palestinians were protesting the invasion.

He added that the injured young man suffered moderate wounds, and was rushed to a hospital for treatment.

The mayor also stated that dozens of soldiers were still in the town, after isolating it from the surrounding communities, and added that dozens of villagers were unable to return to their homes.

In addition, the soldiers stormed and ransacked many homes, and occupied their rooftops to use them as firing posts and monitoring towers.

The soldiers also invaded Bruqin nearby town, stormed and ransacked many homes, and interrogated dozens of residents.

In related news, the soldiers closed the iron gate which was installed by the army in Wadi ad-Dalb road, near the villages of Deir Ebzi’ and Kafr Ni’ma, and prevented the Palestinians from crossing, forcing them to take alternate, unpaved roads to their homes.

(Source / 18.03.2019)

Soldiers Demolish A Well In Hebron

18 Mar 10:27 AM

Israeli soldiers invaded, Monday, Khirbat Um Neer village, east of Yatta town, in the southern West Bank governorate of Hebron, and demolished a water well.

Rateb Jabour, the coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Annexation Wall and Colonies in southern Hebron, said the soldiers demolished the well, allegedly for being dug without a permit.

He added that the Palestinian who owned the well, identified as Farid Ahmad Jabour, used it to collect rain water for his home and farmland, amidst frequent water shortages in the area.

Jabour also said that the well is near the illegal Israeli Susya colony, which was built on private Palestinian lands, and stated that the army and the colonists carry out frequent violations against the villagers, their homes and lands, to force them to leave.

In related news, illegal Israeli colonists installed several mobile homes on Palestinian lands, in the southeastern area of Kufur Qaddoum town, east of Qalqilia, in northern West Bank.

The colonists installed the homes near Kedumim illegal colony, while dozens of soldiers were deployed in the area, and on roads between Qalqilia and Nablus.

(Source / 18.03.2019)

Israeli occupation demolishes residential home in Wadi Ara

Israeli occupation bulldozers demolished on Monday morning a five-storey Palestinian residential structure in Wadi Ara area in the pre-1948 occupied territories on the pretext that it was built without license.

Local sources reported that the bulldozers of the Israeli occupation destroyed a building consisting of five floors in the village of Khor Saqr in Wadi Ara.

The Israeli authorities keep demolishing Palestinian homes in the pre-1948 occupied territories on the pretext of being built without license, which Israel itself puts obstacles against it.

(Source / 18.03.2019)

5 Palestinians injured as IOF raids Salfit

At least five Palestinians were injured when the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed Salfit in the West Bank on Sunday evening.

Local sources said that violent clashes broke out in al-Zawiya town in Salfit between Palestinian youths and the IOF soldiers who raided the town in large numbers.

According to the sources, four Palestinians were injured and many others arrested. No precise number has been given yet.

The raid followed the Israeli occupation’s announcement that the Salfit attacker, who was identified as Omar Abu Laila, 19, is a resident of al-Zawiya.

Eyewitnesses said that the IOF heavily fired tear gas bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets at the Palestinian youths.

The IOF further broke into a number of Palestinian shops and seized their surveillance camera recordings.

A fifth Palestinian was injured in the neighboring Kafr ad-Dik town after the IOF climbed the rooftops of Palestinian homes in al-Zawiya and opened fire.

A Palestinian man, named Zakaria Samara, and others whose identities have not been confirmed yet were arrested during the IOF raid.

Two Israelis were killed and two others injured on Sunday morning in a Palestinian stabbing and shooting attack near Ariel settlement in Salfit.

(Source / 18.03.2019)

Israel’s Checkpoint 300: Suffocation and broken ribs at rush hour

Palestinian workers say conditions at the notorious checkpoint in occupied West Bank have worsened over the last months

By Jaclynn Ashly

Bethlehem, occupied West Bank – Frantic clamouring disrupts the usual noises at Israel’s Checkpoint 300 in Bethlehem, where thousands of Palestinian workers queue for hours, starting at 3am, to make it on time for their jobs in Israel.

Workers chat, bicker, joke, frustratingly shout, bang on the steel bars, and rattle the turnstiles that Israeli border police officials intermittently lock amid the heavy traffic.

“He has fainted. Everyone move! Call an ambulance!” The crowd becomes louder as a young man is carried outside the checkpoint. Numerous workers surround the man’s limp body stretched out on the ground, and others attempt to resuscitate him – to no avail.

Several of the bystanders shout: “Move, move! Make room! Let the journalist film! Show the world what is happening to us”, as they push people aside to create a cleared space for Al Jazeera to photograph the scene.

An ambulance arrives, and the young man is lifted onto a gurney and rushed to the hospital. The workers continue on through the single cement lane, sipping on small paper cups of coffee to push past their exhaustion. One worker looks at Al Jazeera and says: “Israel treats animals better than us.”

It’s a typical morning at Checkpoint 300.

Suffocation, broken ribs and death

Palestinians have long complained of the volatile conditions at the checkpoint – also referred to as the Gilo checkpoint. However, Palestinian workers tell Al Jazeera that the conditions at the crossing have worsened over the last two months.

The checkpoint was built more than a decade ago as part of Israel’s separation wall, deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004. EAPPI, an organisation that monitors Israel’s checkpoints, tells Al Jazeera that 300 is “the worst (checkpoint) in the West Bank”.

Thousands of Palestinians from the southern occupied West Bank must cross this barrier to work in occupied East Jerusalem – part of the occupied Palestinian territory – or Israel. It can take up to three hours to cross the checkpoint during the rush hour. When traffic is less during the day, the journey takes just a few minutes.
 

Many Palestinians are escaping high unemployment rates in the occupied West Bank, while others prefer to work in Israel for the better wages – at times receiving more than double than what they would make in the West Bank.

The scene each morning is chaotic, with Palestinians squeezed together inside a single lane, and pulling themselves up on the surrounding steel bars, climbing over, and dangling among the crowd.

When Israeli officials unlock the turnstile at the entrance of the checkpoint, Palestinians push forward, passing one by one, until it is locked once again. Those who make it through then enter a warehouse-like compound where they meet more turnstiles, a security conveyor belt – where they must place all of their items – and a metal detector.

Finally, they arrive at the permit check, where Israeli officials verify work permits and take their fingerprints.

Abed Abu Shiera, who has sold coffee outside the checkpoint for 11 years, has seen first-hand the effects of the barrier’s harsh conditions. Every morning, at least one or two workers suffocate and faint from the lack of airflow, he says. Abu Shiera himself often has to call the ambulance to collect them.

The 44-year-old has witnessed legs being broken after Palestinians fall off the steel bars where dozens of workers hang from. Other times, he has seen workers get their ribs broken from the pressure of the crowd pushing forward each time the turnstile is unlocked.

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Abu Shiera has even witnessed death. In October, a 65-year-old worker from Arroub refugee camp in the southern Hebron district reportedly slipped and fell on his head inside the narrow corridor of the checkpoint. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead.

Despite this daily reality, Abu Shiera echoed the voices of many workers Al Jazeera spoke with: “I have come here six days a week for 11 years,” he said. “But this past month and a half is the worst period I have ever seen.”

‘It gets worse and worse’

Palestinian workers tell Al Jazeera that before a few months, the large crowds would thin out by 7am. However, during Al Jazeera’s visit this week, even at 8am, the checkpoint was still crammed with people.

Amir, a 23-year-old Palestinian who has worked as a cleaner at the checkpoint for a private Israeli company for some five years, says that Israeli officials used to typically lock the turnstiles for five- to 15-minute intervals, before letting more Palestinians pass.

For the past two months, however, Israeli officials have locked the turnstiles for up to one hour, Amir says, causing the already intolerable conditions at the checkpoint to exacerbate. Palestinians are now fainting more frequently, and some workers expressed fear of being crushed in the crowd.

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Nasser Abu Maria, a 45-year-old construction worker from Beit Ummar in Hebron, stands to the side with a few dozen other Palestinians, waiting for the crowd to disperse before daring to enter the checkpoint.

A week and a half ago, Abu Maria suffocated and fainted inside the checkpoint. The lane was too crowded for workers to carry him outside, forcing them to hurl his listless body over the steel bars, where workers on the other side grabbed him and settled him on the ground.

He was then rushed to a hospital. “I am too scared to enter the checkpoint when it’s like this,” he said, gesturing to the sea of workers crammed and stacked on top of each other in between the cement and steel.

“All we want is for them (Israelis) to just stop locking the gate. Just let us pass. That’s all we ask. Stop putting us through all this humiliation,” he said. “The exhaustion I experience going through this checkpoint is more tiring than my eight-hour workday.”

Last week, frustrations at the checkpoint reached a boiling point, as Israeli officials locked the turnstiles for long durations throughout the morning hours. Abu Shiera tells Al Jazeera that out of frustration workers broke one of the turnstiles and a gate inside the checkpoint in order to rush through.

Abu Shiera says that the workers were suffocating, but an Israeli border police spokesperson claims the workers were “acting violently, shoving, pushing and breaking things”.

 

Israeli officials gathered the workers into an open yard inside the compound until they could fix the damage.

“This checkpoint has always been difficult,” Ibrahim Hushiyye, a 28-year-old construction worker from the town of Yatta in Hebron, told Al Jazeera. “But it used to be easier than these days.”

“Every day it gets worse and worse,” he said. “It’s far beyond just being intolerable. If someone has never experienced something like this, then I hope they never have to.”

‘We are humans’

The Israeli border police spokesperson confirmed that the Israeli army is expanding the area of the checkpoint, creating more lanes, and introducing technological upgrades in order to lessen traffic, similar to the recent developments at Israel’s Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah.

However, he denied that this was the cause of the heavy traffic, instead telling Al Jazeera that it was the result of an increase of permits Israel has been issuing for Palestinians to work in Israel. Yet Abu Shiera says he has not seen any increase in the number of workers, and the main issue is the Israeli officials locking the turnstiles.

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When asked by Al Jazeera if Israeli authorities were aware of the difficult conditions Palestinians are facing at the checkpoint, the spokesperson took a long pause, and said: “Yes.” But went on to say these issues are relegated to “the Palestinian side [of the checkpoint], not the Israeli side”, and said it was the responsibility of Palestinian authorities to address these issues.

A source at the Palestinian District Coordination Office, which coordinates with the Israeli army, spoke to Al Jazeera on the condition of anonymity and said that the entire area of the checkpoint is Israeli-controlled. “We have no decision-making power with the Israelis. They don’t consult with us at all. We have no control over the Israeli checkpoints,” he said.

Even if the Israelis were to request Palestinian assistance at the checkpoint, however, the Palestinian side would refuse. “We won’t allow them to put us in front of the workers. Then the workers will fight us instead of the Israelis.”

“We don’t interfere at all,” he added. “The problem is the checkpoint itself and this is caused by the Israelis.”

The Israeli border police spokesperson assured Al Jazeera that a new, upgraded checkpoint would be open in the coming months and would solve the issue of traffic.

Palestinian workers, meanwhile, say that the Israeli army has been renovating a new portion of the checkpoint for at least a year and a half, and each time a date is set for its opening, it gets postponed.

“We are always told that the checkpoint is being renovated and it will get better. But I don’t think Israel is interested in making our lives any easier,” Abu Maria said.

“All of this is completely unnecessary,” he continued. “We pass through this checkpoint almost every day. They (Israeli officials) know us. We are carrying our lunch bags, not weapons. We are just trying to make it to work on time.

“We are not any less human than they are.”

(Source / 18.03.2019)

Islamophobia and the elephant in the room …

christchurch mosque al nur

The Al Nur mosque in Christchurch, where dozens were killed and injured last week.  Every human life is precious and sacred, killing one is like triggering a genocide. (Al Quran 5:32)

Jamal Kanj

By: Jamal Kanj, Ph.D.

Were you surprised by Masjid al Noor massacre in Christchurch, New Zeeland? If your answer is yes, I would like to be the first to welcome you to our planet earth. According to FBI records, hate crimes against Muslims have increased by as much as five folds since 2001.

The massacre in New Zealand, or the murders of shop-owners (some were Indian Sikhs suspected of being Muslims) and mosque bombings in the US, or Quebec City mosque massacre and the London van ramming into a crowd of worshippers in 2017. To name just few, these were not abstract singular events, but the outcome of organized virulent campaigns to demonize Muslims in the West.

It is impossible to have constructive discourse on Islamophobia absent of confronting the elephant in the room: Islamophobia is the creation of an unholy alliance between political Zionism and neocons in the West. The depraved alliance made it easy for Islamophobes to normalize Muslim hate and castigate Islam as “radical” religion.

In America, the recent coordinated malicious attacks on Muslim US Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar for questioning Israeli hold on US elected officials, are inseparable from the Islamophobic cultural onslaught vilifying followers of the “demonized” religion and dismissing their views as irreverent and out of touch.

Hordes of Islamophobe predators cast slanderous aspersions on Congresswoman Omar as Anti-Sematic for expressing views on the nation of Israel. The defamatory blackmail label intentionally conflates Anti-Jewish racists—who are for the most part allies of political Zionism—with those who justly criticize the Netanyahu Jewish apartheid regime in Israel.

Throughout the years, political Zionism has successfully perfected this intellectual terrorism tool to silence critique of Israel. Sadly, the same is blindly mimicked by most Jewish leaders, media outlets and Islamophobes to stifle any rational debate on Israel.

It is not mere coincidence that the exact same phrase “radical Islam” is parroted across four continents: Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, John Hagabee  in the US, Scott Morrison and Fraser Anning in Australia, Tommy Robinson and Gerard Batten in UK.

Defying centuries old trends to regionalize the English language, it’s most likely that globalizing the same Islamophobic locutions is part of a cheat sheet to debase Islam and hence, promote Islamophobia. Especially since all these pundits have one thing in common, besides uniting an English lexicon, they’re staunch supporters of Israel and political Zionism.

Neocons and political Zionism mantras like “radical Islam” are fodders for Islamophobia in the West. It blames the belief system of more than one billion human beings for the actions of relatively small number of individuals, although this only applies to Muslims.  

It’s certain that Benton Tarrant massacre will not be attributed to “radical Christianity.” As no one had implicated “radical Judaism” on the celebrated Jewish terrorist Brauch Goldstein—who used an Israeli army supplied automatic rifle to massacre 29 Palestinian worshipers in 1994. And his tomb became a religious shrine with a plaque that read “To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah, and the nation of Israel”.

Owning to their shared Islamophobic values, anti-Muslim pundits have cultivated unique relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As with his allies in the West, Netanyahu has just entered into unholy alliance with Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of “Jewish Power”―the Israeli Jewish version of the KKK.

Typical of tribal hate, Gvir calls Christians “bloodsucking vampires” and displays a photo in his room of the Jewish copy of the Christchurch terrorist. Gvir, the decedent of a Kurdish immigrant advocates the ethnic cleansing of non-Jewish Native Palestinians from villages and homes their existence predated Gvir’s birth, and certainly before his father immigrated to Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

Israeli racist Jewish politics had drifted too far, prominent Jewish and international Linguist and Scholar Noam Chomsky has recently reminded us of decades old concerns expressed by renowned Israeli biochemist and polymath, Yeshayahu Leibowitz who described Israeli occupation of Palestinian land as “Judeo-Nazi” in nature. Leibowitz had cautioned his compatriots of the danger in making Israel and Zionism more sacred than Jewish humanist values.

The onus is therefore on mainstream Jewish organizations to make sure “Jewish humanist values” are not defined by Israeli Prime Minister alliance with the Jewish version of the KKK, or with Netanyahu’s Islamophobe allies in the likes of Trump, Morrison, Cruz, Hagabee, Huckabee, Batten …etc.   

Mainstream Jewish leaders must stop abusing the “Anti-Semitic” cry to stifle legitimate political debate on Israel’s version of the KKK, or to defend the unholy alliance between political Zionism and Islamophobes in the West.

Else, they risk making the Anti-Semitic label as hollow as the gun barrel that massacred 51 Muslim worshipers in New Zealand.


*Mr Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) an author who had written weekly newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. His recent coauthored book “Bride of the Sea” was published in Germany and Poland. This Op-Ed piece can be published with the author’s permission.