Video shows Israel settlers started West Bank fires, contradicting army statement

An Israeli settler set fire to a field in Burin  

Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has released a video showing illegal Israeli settlers setting fire to fields in the occupied West Bank, contradicting the Israeli army’s claim that the blaze was started by Palestinians.

The Spokesperson’s Unit of the Israeli army was yesterday forced to change its original statement, in which it claimed to have extinguished “a fire set by Palestinians”.

The fires were started last Friday near the occupied West Bank villages of Burin, Urif and Asira Al-Qibliya, all located off Route 60 south of Nablus. Illegal Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar had attacked Palestinians from these villages, with both groups subsequently blaming the other for causing the fires which followed.

Contradicting the Israeli army’s claim of Palestinian culpability, video footage released by B’Tselem showed “two Israeli [settlers] — one of them armed with a Tavor assault rifle — entering grasslands, crouching down and walking away. Moments later, flames can be seen in the area where they’d been standing,” the Times of Israel reported.

B’Tselem added that “[Israeli] soldiers who were standing next to [the settlers] did not arrest them and prevent[ed] the Palestinians from reaching their burning lands”. In a separate video, settlers can also be seen throwing rocks at nearby Palestinian homes while four Israeli soldiers stand idly by.

B’Tselem stressed that the Israeli army had granted “almost total immunity” to the settlers involved in the attacks, noting that none were interrogated or arrested following the incident.

Although the Israeli army today issued a new statement saying “several fires were set and quickly spread” and that, “in addition to the fires, some 20 settlers went down to the outskirts of Asirah Al-Qibliyah and began throwing rocks,” it did not admit its attempts to cover up the settlers’ attacks. The Israeli army also refused to comment on why no settlers had been arrested for the arson.

READ: Israel settlers and military intensify attacks against Palestinian shepherds

This is not the first time the Israeli army has been found to have covered up settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Last month, B’Tselem found that the army had covered up the killing of 23-year-old Mohammed Abd Al-Fatah, who was shot by illegal settlers near Huwara – again located off route 60 – on 3 April. Though media reports at the time stated that a “would-be Palestinian attacker was shot dead […] during an attempted stabbing near Huwara,” B’Tselem’s investigation revealed that in fact Abd Al-Fatah was killed at close range by armed Israeli settlers.

B’Tselem detailed how, at 08:30 local time [06:30 GMT], Abd Al-Fatah “started throwing stones at cars bearing Israeli license plates”, one of which hit an Israeli settler’s car. The driver pulled over, “then two gunshots were heard, apparently fired from inside the vehicle”. The settler then got out of the car and “fired several more shots” at Abd Al-Fatah, with the help of a truck driver who had seen the incident and come to “assist” him.

Despite being transferred to hospital, Abd Al-Fatah later succumbed to his wounds, leaving behind his wife and young daughter.

B’Tselem, however, found evidence that the Israeli army subsequently covered up this series of events:

Minutes after the two settlers opened fire, Israeli military jeeps arrived on the scene. […] Eight soldiers [then] went into two nearby shops to check their security cameras. They dismantled a DVR [recording equipment] in one of the shops and left. About twenty minutes later, the soldiers returned to the shop, reinstalled the DVR and watched the footage. Two soldiers filmed the screen with their mobile phones. They then erased the footage from the DVR and left.

The NGO concluded: “Contrary to media reports, [the] shooting of ‘Abd al-Fatah was unjustified […] The Israeli security forces that arrived on the scene ignored these facts. They did nothing to arrest the two settlers, promptly drove the Palestinians away from the scene, and then addressed the urgent task of eliminating any footage of the incident, to ensure that the truth never comes to light and the shooters would not face any charges or be held accountable in any way.”

READ: Israel army killed Palestinian paramedic then distributed misleading video

(Source / 24.05.2019) 

Report: 605 Palestinian refugees tortured to death in Syria regime prisons

Image of Palestinian children holding banners in solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Syria [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Palestinian children holding banners in solidarity with Palestinian refugees in Syria

Some 605 Palestinian refugees have been tortured to death in Syrian regime prisons since the civil war began in 2011, the Action Group for Palestinians in Syria said in a report yesterday.

The group said it has documented the death of as many as 80 refugees under torture in 2018 compared with 13 refugees documented in 2017, and 77 victims were identified through images leaked from Syrian regime prisons.

According to the group, the Syrian regime’s security services have handed over the victims’ personal documents to their families, however, the families refuse to reveal the victims’ names for fear of retaliation by the Syrian security forces.

The group said the victims include doctors, engineers, university students, artists, media professionals and volunteers.

The detention of 1,757 Palestinian refugees in Syrian prisons, including children, women, elderly people and infants in the arms of their mothers whose fate is unknown, has also been documented.

According to testimonies obtained from former detainees, the Palestinian refugees in the Syrian security branches are subjected to all forms of torture and humiliation including beating, electrocution and rape.

READ: Syria regime forcibly disappears more than 1,700 Palestine refugees 

(Source / 24.05.2019)

Palestine rallies continue near Gaza-Israel buffer zone

Protesters ‘united against deal of the century’ in Gaza on 10 May 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Protesters ‘united against deal of the century’ in Gaza on 10 May 2019

Palestinian demonstrators on Friday converged along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone to take part in ongoing rallies against Israel’s decades-long occupation, Anadolu Agency reports.

According to Gaza’s National Authority for Breaking the Siege (NABS), Friday’s rally is being held under the slogan, “Compassion and solidarity”.

Demonstrators demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

READ: Kushner unites Palestinians against the Bahrain workshop

(Source / 24.05.2019)

Amnesty: Palestinian Photojournalist at Risk of being Separated from Family

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4 May 4:44 PM

Amnesty International, yesterday, called upon Israeli authorities to grant Palestinian photojournalist Mustafa al-Kharouf, who is at imminent risk of deportation and being taken away from his wife and young child, permanent residency in East Jerusalem.

Al-Kharouf has been arbitrarily detained at Givon prison in Ramle, in central Israel, since January 22, 2019. His arrest came after the Israeli Ministry of Interior Affairs refused his application for family unification on alleged security grounds, and ordered his immediate deportation to Jordan, where he has no legal rights to reside and will remain stateless.

“The Israeli authorities’ decision to refuse Mustafa al-Kharouf’s residency application and deport him based on unfounded accusations is cruel and unlawful. He must be released immediately and granted permanent residency in East Jerusalem so he can resume his normal life with his wife and child,” said Saleh Hijazi, the Head of Amnesty International’s Jerusalem Office.

“The arbitrary detention and planned deportation of Mustafa al-Kharouf reflect Israel’s long-term policy to reduce the number of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, while denying them their human rights.”

While two Israeli courts have previously upheld his deportation decision, al-Kharouf’s lawyer has recently filed an appeal request to the Israeli Supreme Court in an attempt to reverse the decision. The Court has yet to decide whether to consider his appeal.

“Israeli authorities must adhere to their international obligations and ensure that Mustafa al-Kharouf can remain safely in his home by granting him a permanent residency status in East Jerusalem. The international community must act urgently to pressure the Israeli authorities to reverse its decision to deport him,’’  Said Saleh Hijazi.

Israel’s deportation of Mustafa al-Kharouf from the Occupied Palestinian Territories would constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Between 1967 and end of 2018, Israel revoked the status of 14,643 Palestinians from East Jerusalem, according to Amnesty figures.

Mustafa al-Kharouf is a 32-year-old Palestinian photojournalist who was born to an Algerian mother and a Palestinian Jerusalemite father. He lives in occupied East Jerusalem with his wife Tamam al-Kharouf and 18-month-old daughter Asia. He had moved to East Jerusalem with his family from Algeria when he was 12.

(Source / 24.05.2019)

PCHR Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (16 – 22 May 2019)

24 May 5:12 AM

Israeli forces continued with systematic crimes, in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), for the week of 16-22 May, 2019.

Eight Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, were wounded in the northern West Bank. Israeli forces conducted 55 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 6 other incursions into Jerusalem. 47 Palestinian civilians, including 12 children, were arrested in the West Bank. Five Shooting incidents were reported against the fishing boats in the Gaza Strip Sea.

Shooting:

  • During the reporting period, Israeli forces continued to use lethal force against the participants in the peaceful protests organized along the Gaza Strip borders. In the West Bank, Israeli forces wounded 8 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children. Five of them, including 2 children, were wounded in the northern West Bank, while 3 others, including a child, were wounded in the southern West Bank. In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces continued to escalate their attacks against the Palestinian fishermen and target their livelihoods.
  • In the West Bank, in excessive use of lethal force against the participants in the peaceful protests, Israeli forces wounded 5 protestors, including 2 children, while participating in Qaddoum weekly protest, northeast of Qalqiliyia. The abovementioned protest was organized on Friday, 17 May 2019, and on Saturday, 18 May 2019.
  • On 21 May 2019, Israeli forces opened fire at Mahmoud Husain Salah (15), from al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem, when he was near the annexation wall, which surrounds the village. As a result, Mahmoud was hit with 2 live bullets to the lower limbs. The soldiers then arrested him and took him to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in West Jerusalem to receive medical treatment.
  • On 22 May 2019, Israeli forces wounded 2 protestors while moving into al-Duhisha refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, to carry out an arrest campaign. They then opened fire at dozens of Palestinian young men who were protesting against them.
  • As part of targeting the Palestinian fishermen in the sea, the Israeli forces continued to escalate their attacks against the Palestinian fishermen, indicating the on-going Israeli policy to target their livelihoods. During the reporting period, PCHR documented 5 incidents were as follows: 3 incidents in the northern Gaza Strip Shore and 2 incidents in the southern Gaza Strip Shore.

Incursions:

During the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted at least 55 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 6 other incursions into Jerusalem and its suburbs. During those incursions, Israeli forces arrested at least 29 Palestinians, including 2 children, from the West Bank, while 18 other civilians, including 10 childre, were arrested from Jerusalem and its suburbs.

Israeli Forces continued their settlement activities, and the settlers continued their attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property

  • As part of the Israeli house demolitions and notices, on 16 May 2019, Israeli forces moved into Sosiya village, south of Yatta, south of Hebron. They dismantled a 30-sqaure-meter residential tent built with sheds, rubber tires and steel pillars. The tent belongs to Hussain Radi Nawaj’ah (55). The Israeli authorities claimed that the tent was confiscated and demolished under the pretext of non-licensing. It should be noted that it was the fourth time that the tent was confiscated and the latest was on 16 April 2019.

Israeli authorities continued to create a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.

Despite their claims to provide facilities for Palestinian civilians in Ramadan and allow them to perform prayers in al-Aqsa Mosque yards in occupied Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli forces continued to impose restrictions on them, including the city residents. During this week, a large force of Israeli soldiers raided al-Aqsa Mosque after al-‘Isha and al-Taraweeh prayers and forcibly ordered al-Mo’takefeen, who are staying in the al-Aqsa Mosque for a certain number of days to perform prayers, to leave the mosque.

In the same context, the Israeli authorities confiscated dozens of food parcels prepared by Jerusalem Endowment Fund. Those parcels were supposed to be distributed to poor families. The Jerusalem Endowment fund said that the Israeli authorities claimed that the food parcels are funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that is banned by the Israeli authorities and considered in violation of its law.

Use of Force against Demonstrations in Protest against the U.S. President’s Decision to Recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel:

Israeli forces continued its excessive use of lethal force against peaceful demonstration organized by Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it was named as “The Great March of Return and Breaking Siege.” The demonstration was in protest against the U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration to move the U.S. Embassy to it. According to PCHR fieldworkers’ observations, the border area witnessed large participation by Palestinian civilians as the Israeli forces continued to use upon highest military and political echelons excessive force against the peaceful demonstrators, though the demonstration were fully peaceful. The demonstration was as follows during the reporting period:

West Bank:

  • At approximately 13:30 on Friday afternoon, 17 May 2019, a group of Palestinians organized a peaceful demonstration from the center of Kufor Qaddoum village, northeast of Qalqiliyah, into the eastern entrance to the village, which has been closed for 15 years in favor of “Kedumim” The protestors threw stones at Israeli soldiers stationed behind sand barriers. The soldiers immediately fired rubber bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at them. As a result, 4 civilians, including a child, were hit with rubber bullets.

(PCHR keeps the names of the injured civilians)

  • At approximately 16:30, on Saturday, 18 May 2018, a group of Palestinians organized a peaceful demonstration from the center of Kufor Qaddoum village, northeast of Qalqiliyah, into the eastern entrance to the village, which has been closed for 15 years in favor of “Kedumim” The protestors threw stones at Israeli soldiers stationed behind sand barriers. The soldiers immediately fired rubber bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at them. As a result, a child was hit with a rubber bullet to the head.

(PCHR keeps the name of the injured child)

Israeli forces’ attacks:

  • At approximately 10:00 on Thursday, 16 May 2019, Israeli forces backed by 2 military vehicles and accompanied with a bulldozer and a vehicle of the Israeli Civil Administration moved into Sosiya village, south of Yatta, south of Hebron. The Israeli Civil Administration officers dismantled a 30-sqaure-meter residential tent built with sheds, rubber tires and steel pillars. The tent belongs to Hussain Radi Nawaj’ah (55). The Israeli authorities claimed that the tent was confiscated and demolished under the pretext of non-licensing. It should be noted that it was the fourth time that the tent was confiscated and the latest was on 16 April 2019.
  • Recommendations to the International Community

PCHR warns of the escalating settlement construction in the West Bank, the attempts to legitimize settlement outposts established on Palestinian lands in the West Bank and the continued summary executions of Palestinian civilians under the pretext that they pose a security threat to the Israeli forces. PCHR reminds the international community that thousands of Palestinian civilians have been rendered homeless and lived in caravans under tragic circumstances due to the latest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip that has been under a tight closure for almost 11 years. PCHR welcomes the UN Security Council’s Resolution No. 2334, which states that settlements are a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions and calls upon Israel to stop them and not to recognize any demographic change in the oPt since 1967.  PCHR hopes this resolution will pave the way for eliminating the settlement crime and bring to justice those responsible for it. PCHR further reiterates that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are still under Israeli occupation in spite of Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan of 2005.  PCHR emphasizes that there is international recognition of Israel’s obligation to respect international human rights instruments and international humanitarian law.  Israel is bound to apply international human rights law and the law of war, sometimes reciprocally and other times in parallel, in a way that achieves the best protection for civilians and remedy for the victims.

  1. PCHR calls upon the international community to respect the Security Council’s Resolution No. 2334 and to ensure that Israel respects it as well, in particular point 5 which obliges Israel not to deal with settlements as if they were part of Israel.
  2. PCHR calls upon the ICC this year to open an investigation into Israeli crimes committed in the oPt, particularly the settlement crimes and the 2014 offensive on the Gaza Strip.
  3. PCHR Calls upon the European Union (EU) and all international bodies to boycott settlements and ban working and investing in them in application of their obligations according to international human rights law and international humanitarian law considering settlements as a war crime.
  4. PCHR calls upon the international community to use all available means to allow the Palestinian people to enjoy their right to self-determination through the establishment of the Palestinian State, which was recognized by the UN General Assembly with a vast majority, using all international legal mechanisms, including sanctions to end the occupation of the State of Palestine.
  5. PCHR calls upon the international community and United Nations to take all necessary measures to stop Israeli policies aimed at creating a Jewish demographic majority in Jerusalem and at voiding Palestine from its original inhabitants through deportations and house demolitions as a collective punishment, which violates international humanitarian law, amounting to a crime against humanity.
  6. PCHR calls upon the international community to condemn summary executions carried out by Israeli forces against Palestinians and to pressurize Israel to stop them.
  7. PCHR calls upon the States Parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC to work hard to hold Israeli war criminals accountable.
  8. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their obligations under article (1) of the Convention to ensure respect for the Conventions under all circumstances, and under articles (146) and (147) to search for and prosecute those responsible for committing grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions to ensure justice and remedy for Palestinian victims, especially in light of the almost complete denial of justice for them before the Israeli judiciary.
  9. PCHR calls upon the international community to speed up the reconstruction process necessary because of the destruction inflicted by the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
  10. PCHR calls for a prompt intervention to compel the Israeli authorities to lift the closure that obstructs the freedom of movement of goods and 1.8 million civilians that experience unprecedented economic, social, political and cultural hardships due to collective punishment policies and retaliatory action against civilians.
  11. PCHR calls upon the European Union to apply human rights standards embedded in the EU-Israel Association Agreement and to respect its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights when dealing with Israel.
  12. PCHR calls upon the international community, especially states that import Israeli weapons and military services, to meet their moral and legal responsibility not to allow Israel to use the offensive in Gaza to test new weapons and not accept training services based on the field experience in Gaza in order to avoid turning Palestinian civilians in Gaza into testing objects for Israeli weapons and military tactics.
  13. PCHR calls upon the parties to international human rights instruments, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), to pressurize Israel to comply with its provisions in the oPt and to compel it to incorporate the human rights situation in the oPt in its reports submitted to the relevant committees.
  14. PCHR calls upon the EU and international human rights bodies to pressurize the Israeli forces to stop their attacks against Palestinian fishermen and farmers, mainly in the border area.

Fully detailed document available at the official website of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

(Source / 24.05.2019)

At Least Four Palestinians Injured In Tunnel Collapse In Gaza

24 May 2:51 PM

Medical sources said at least four Palestinians were injured, including one who suffered serious wounds, in a tunnel collapse accident, in northern Gaza.

The sources said medics, and rescue volunteers rushed to the collapsed tunnel, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, and managed to locate the four Palestinians.

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has reported that one of the wounded young men suffered a life-threatening injury.

Although some of the tunnels are used by armed resistance factions in Gaza Strip, many tunnels are used for smuggling, among several other materials, food supplies, medicine and fuel into the besieged and impoverished coastal region.

In February of this year, two Palestinians were killed, and nine were injured in a tunnel accident on the border with Egypt, in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

There have been dozens of casualties, including fatalities in similar incidents, in addition to those who were killed or injured when Israel, and sometimes Egypt, bombarded the tunnels.

(Source / 24.05.2019) 

Trump doesn’t want peace, he wants Palestinians surrender

A Palestinian flag flies on top of the rubble of a woman’s home who reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished her house in a disputed military zone in the area of Musafir Jenbah, which includes several villages, south of the West Bank town of Hebron on February 2, 2016. Israeli forces demolished at least a dozen buildings in a disputed military zone in the southern West Bank, leaving a number of families homeless, authorities and residents said. Israel has carried out a long campaign to relocate the residents of the area, which was declared a military zone by the Israeli government in the 1970s

PALESTINOW.COM — The Trump administration says it has a peace plan for the Middle East. Those behind it claim that they are offering a new approach to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one focused on an “economic vision,” and that it deserves a chance. Yet none of what has been revealed so far has addressed the real issues: the end of the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and the preservation of the internationally recognized inalienable rights of the people of Palestine.

Unless the Trump administration’s plan addresses these issues head-on, it is a non-starter for the Palestinians. It should be for the rest of the world, as well. Judging from the statements and actions that have emerged from the administration so far, there is no reason to believe that President Trump’s supposed peace plan will present a departure point for peace. On Sunday, the administration announced it will hold a meeting next month in Bahrain called “Peace to Prosperity,” replacing the historic concept of “land for peace.” Let us be clear: There will be no economic prosperity in Palestine without the end of the occupation. Notably, the Palestinian leadership was not consulted by any party on this meeting.

Perhaps none of this should come as a surprise. Palestinians — including me — engaged with the Trump administration for months. Shockingly, the Americans then decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 478and the United States’ own avowed commitments to the peace process.

The Trump administration in effect claims it is reinventing international mediation. While the concept of a “biased mediator” has in some negotiations been used to obtain concessions from the party closer to the mediator, that is not what is happening here. The “concessions” that the Trump administration will ask of Israel are marginal. Above all they do not require Israel to end its military control over the land and people of Palestine. What the Trump administration is seeking is not a peace agreement but a Palestinian declaration of surrender.

The members of Mr. Trump’s Middle East team claim that they want to boost the Palestinian economy and improve Palestinian lives, but economic growth can never be a substitute for the right to live in dignity, free from military occupation and oppression, in our homeland. The main obstacle to Palestinian economic growth is clear: the occupation. This has been repeatedly documented in reports by the United Nations and the World Bank. Yet Mr. Trump’s Middle East envoy repeatedly blames the Palestinian government for the economic situation, even as Israel maintains control over our natural resources and borders, including the isolation of occupied East Jerusalem and the blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The Trump team has a background in the real-estate business. But the issues at stake are about national liberation, justice and equality. No one can devalue the right of any nation to be free or eliminate its dignity. Israeli soldiers taking a Palestinian youth into custody following a demonstration against the expropriation of Palestinian lands by Israel in the village of Kfar Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, in January. 

Our position is an expression of our national dignity; it is based on international law and United Nations resolutions. Our recognition of Israel on the 1967 border, equivalent to 78 percent of historic Palestine, was a painful compromise. Our support for the two-state solution was reaffirmed by the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which offered full normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab world. Israel never formally responded to it. This was also the basis of the peace plan presented by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to the United Nations Security Council in February 2018.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and one of the architects of the plan, has said the administration does not want to mention the “two-state solution.” It certainly doesn’t want to mention the alternative: one democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens. If the Trump administration doesn’t want to talk about a two-state solution on the 1967 border or about one democratic state for everyone, what it is actually talking about is the consolidation of a “one-state reality”: one state, Israel, controlling everything while imposing two different systems, one for Israeli Jews and another for Palestinians. This is known as apartheid.

Is this the Trump administration’s goal? The president said that he had taken Jerusalem off the negotiating table by recognizing it as Israel’s capital. Seemingly, the administration has been trying to do the same with the refugee issue by attacking funding for services for refugees. The administration closed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington and closed the American consulate in Jerusalem, established in 1857. The State Department dropped the term “occupied” from its recent human rights report and appears to have gone as far as recognizing the acquisition of land via the use of force, setting a dangerous precedent not only for Palestine but also for the world.

Amid all of this, there may be some good news. The damage caused by the Trump administration to the cause of peace can still be averted. The international community, including Israel’s primary trading partner, the European Union, can take immediate action — recognizing the state of Palestine and holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law, pushing us both closer to a just and lasting peace. The alternative would be to perpetuate Israel’s occupation and apartheid, condemning the Middle East to more decades of instability and bloodshed.

Written by: Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, is the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

(Source / 24.05.2019)

Palestinians despair of Israeli restrictions to medical treatment outside Gaza

Rejection or delay of travel permits for Gaza patients amount to ‘war crimes,’ rights groups say

By Motasem A Dalloul

Over 60 per cent of travel permits for Palestinian suffering from serious illnesses in Gaza are denied or delayed by Israeli occupation, leading to death or permanent disabilities.

The air was thick with anxiety as Muna Awad stepped out of the taxi at the entrance to the Erez Crossing, her five-year-old daughter Aisha in tow.

Aisha was about to embark on a journey from the besieged Gaza Strip to occupied East Jerusalem for emergency medical treatment – and Muna was handing her young daughter over to a woman the family had never seen before to help facilitate her travel.

“I felt as if my soul was leaving my body,” recalled Muna about being unable to travel with Aisha that day last month.

The five year old was diagnosed with brain cancer on 10 April.

The specialist hospital in Gaza that handles cancer patients told Muna it was ill-equipped to treat her daughter, and ordered her to be transferred to the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem for urgent care.

While Aisha got a permit to leave Gaza within 24 hours, Muna said she was barred from accompanying her daughter, not granted a permit to leave the besieged Palestinian territory because she was under the age of 45.

“That was not my choice, but Israel’s choice,” said Muna.

“My shock was aggravated when I learnt that her father wouldn’t be allowed to accompany her either because of his age… We were told that male companions must be above 55” years old, she added.

Searching for solutions

Aisha’s father, Wissam, said he searched for solutions when he and his wife had their travel applications rejected.

He first asked his mother, Rifqa, 75, to apply for the companion permit, but Israeli authorities denied her application as well.

In the end, Israel allowed Halima Edaees – a Palestinian woman from al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza who had no previous ties to Aisha’s family – to accompany the young girl.

Edaees offered to go with Aisha because she already held a permit to travel with another patient.

“Accepting the fact that my sick little daughter would travel without me was the most difficult decision that I have ever taken in my life,” Muna said.

Aisha left the Gaza Strip on 17 April and arrived at al-Maqasid hospital in East Jerusalem, where she underwent an operation.

“We were happy when we were told that Aisha had a successful surgery and she was OK,” Wissam told MEE.

“I have a friend in Jerusalem and I asked him to visit her and let us speak with her on Skype and he did… We spoke with her and she looked fine, but she suddenly went into a coma.”

Aisha was transferred to Augusta Victoria Hospital, also in East Jerusalem, where she had several more surgeries – but, Wissam said, “she never woke up”.

The little girl was sent back to Gaza, but remained irresponsive. She died on 15 May.

Thousands rejected or delayed

Aisha’s story is not unique. Many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been unable to travel with their loved ones as they seek medical treatment outside the coastal Palestinian enclave.

In fact, according to the Gaza-based Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Israel only allows men above age 55 and women 45 years and older to accompany patients who need to travel outside Gaza for medical treatment.

The group said that 25,658 Palestinians applied for permits to seek medical treatment outside of Gaza last year. Of that number, Israeli authorities delayed processing or rejected outright 9,832 applications – some 38 percent of cases.

“These are very difficult conditions,” said Yamen al-Madhoun, an Al Mezan field worker.

Mohammad Abu Silmiyyeh is the director of al-Rantisi hospital, which offers cancer treatment in Gaza. The doctor told MEE that the medical complications in Aisha’s case may have been tied to the delays in her travel.

In fact, he said such delays have “fatal consequences in the cases of many patients in Gaza”.

Lack of facilities, lack of equipment

While Gaza is home to a cancer treatment department and skilful medical specialists, hospitals in the coastal territory regularly send patients suffering from serious illnesses to the West Bank, Jerusalem, Israel or abroad.

There is a systemic lack of medicine and medical equipment in Gaza, due to the restrictions imposed under Israel’s 12-year siege, Abu Silmiyyeh explained.

He said that lack of medical equipment makes it impossible to offer chemotherapy and radiotherapy, one or both of which are usually necessary for the treatment of cancers.

Add to that delays or bans on travelling outside of Gaza for treatment, and fears among some patients about being detained at Erez Crossing – the main crossing between Gaza and Israel – and medical patients in Gaza truly face a myriad of challenges, he said.

“The protocols for treating cancer are the same in Gaza as they are in the West Bank, Israel, Africa, America and everywhere else,” he said.

“The problem we have is the lack of [tools]… including medicines and equipment.”

Violating international law

According to Madhoun at Al Mezan, Israel is committing “flagrant violations” of international law by putting up roadblocks that bar or delay patients and their companions from freely accessing medical treatment.

“Israel violates the right to life for Palestinian patients, the right to freedom of movement and the right to access healthcare services,” he said.

“These violations amount to flagrant violations of human rights and international law, and they are… collective punishment.”

On 25 October last year, Mohammad Baraka, a 25-year-old agricultural engineering graduate from the village of Abasan in southern Gaza, was told he was suffering from a “non-dangerous” tumour.

Doctors in the Gaza Strip ordered him to be transferred immediately to al-Maqasid in East Jerusalem for medical treatment.

But after several delays, Baraka was only sent to Jerusalem on 9 December. By then, the tumour had become life threatening, his family said.

“He spent three months in Jerusalem. He had 11 surgeries, but unfortunately his condition deteriorated dramatically and he fell into a coma,” his father, Azzazi, 57, told MEE.

After he was transferred back to Gaza, Baraka spent 40 days in local hospitals before being discharged because the facilities were unable to offer him proper treatment.

“And he has not woken up to this day,” his father said.

(Source / 24.05.2019)

24 administrative detention orders issued against Ramallah prisoners

Israel’s military courts in May issued 24 administrative detention orders against Palestinian prisoners from Ramallah only.

Prisoners Media Office on Wednesday said that Israel issued 7 new administrative detention orders against Palestinians from Ramallah.

It added that 6 detainees during the month received orders extending their detention for the fourth time in a row, 5 for the third time, and 6 for the second time.

Prisoners Media Office noted that Ramallah is the most affected West Bank city by administrative detention, where the number of administrative detention orders issued since the beginning of 2019 increased to 116.

Administrative detention is based on no charge or trial but on “secret files and evidence” which neither the detainees nor their lawyers have access to.

According to Israeli military courts’ laws, a prisoner is initially detained administratively for 6 months and it can be extended for an unlimited number of times.

About 5,700 Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails, including 48 women, 230 children, 500 administrative detainees, and 700 prisoners suffering from health problems.

(Source / 24.05.2019)

IOA allows PA to get military vehicles, bars entry of balloons to Gaza

The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has allowed the Palestinian Authority security forces to receive US-funded armored vehicles from Jordan and announced it prevented shipments of child balloons from entering the Gaza Strip.

According to Israel’s channel 12, the Israeli authorities in Ashdod port obtained information from security officials about the presence of shipments of about one million balloons intended for Gaza.

The IOA claimed the balloons would have been used by groups in Gaza to launch arson and explosive attacks on Israeli areas, adding that a man was exploiting his Israeli nationality to evade security checks on the shipments he was intending to export to Gaza.

Meanwhile, the IOA allowed the PA to receive new military vehicles for its security forces in the West Bank to use them in their campaigns against Palestinian citizens and to protect Israel’s security and citizens.

The vehicles were funded by the US but equipped and armored in Jordan, where PA security elements were trained to drive and use them.

(Source / 24.05.2019)