Qatar says its Gaza aid to continue through March 2020 at least

Palestinians queue to receive the first stage of the Qatari aid at a post office in Gaza City, Gaza on 26 January 2019. [Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians queue to receive the first stage of the Qatari aid at a post office in Gaza City, Gaza on 26 January 2019

Qatar will continue providing humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip into next year, the gas-rich Gulf state’s envoy to the Palestinian enclave said on Wednesday, a pledge that may help stave off conflict between Hamas and Israel, Reuters reports.

Since the last Gaza war, in 2014, Qatar has with Israel’s approval provided over $1 billion in reconstruction funds and stipends for poor Palestinians. The aid has helped Doha win favour in Washington despite Qatari-Saudi diplomatic tensions.

Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi visited Gaza this week to oversee the donation of 22 fire trucks and other emergency vehicles and discuss proposed new energy and health projects.

“For the first quarter of the year we are continuing, this is for sure. For the rest of the year, I think we will continue, we are looking carefully and positively on this issue,” Emadi told Reuters when asked about future Qatari grants.

READ: Israel allows rescue vehicles to enter Gaza after 20 year ban

In an effort to ease economic hardships and help calm down tensions along the border with Israel, Qatar provided more than $150 million in 2019 to buy fuel for Gaza’s lone power plant and provide monthly cash handouts to nearly 70,000 of the enclave’s needy.

Israeli and Palestinian officials say the Qatari aid helps calm internal Gaza economic hardships that, in the past, have contributed to flare-ups in fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Emadi said Hamas, whose chief Ismail Haniyeh visited Qatar this week, had requested extending the financial aid into 2020.

“After March there is a big chance we will continue this monthly support for electricity and poor people,” Emadi said.

Qatar does not have formal relations with Israel, which disapproves of the Gulf state’s ties to Iran and Hamas. But Israeli officials privately welcome the Qatari largesse in Gaza, seeing a means of preventing humanitarian crises even if the money helps Hamas maintain its rule over the blockaded strip.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

Israel allows rescue vehicles to enter Gaza after 20 year ban

Finally, after two decades

For the first time in 20 years Israel has allowed rescue vehicles to enter the besieged Gaza Strip.

Twenty-four civil defence and firefighting vehicles arrived in Gaza through the Karm Abu Salem commercial crossing after being donated by Qatar. They had travelled from Jordan through the Allenby Bridge, Israel’s Kan news station said.

The Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza handed over the vehicles and equipment to the Palestinian Fire and Civil Defence Agency in a ceremony today.

Head of Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza Strip, Mohammed Al-Emadi, and his deputy, Khaled Al-Hardan, arrived in Gaza yesterday evening to oversee the Gulf state’s projects in the enclave.

READ: US Congress rejects White House request of $175m to support ‘deal of the century’
(Source / 18.12.2019)

Soldiers Demolish A Home In Al-‘Isawiya

Israeli soldiers demolished, Tuesday, a Palestinian home, owned by a wheeclhair-bound man, in the al-‘Isawiya town, in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) said dozens of soldiers invaded the town, and surrounded the Palestinian home, owned by a wheelchair-bound man, identified as Hatem Hussein Abu Ryala.

Silwanic added that the soldiers demolished the second floor of the building, under the pretext of being constructed without a permit.

The family has been repeatedly trying to obtain a permit from the City Council in occupied Jerusalem since the year 1999, but all applications were denied despite the costs of just filing the permit applications.

While Israel continues to build and expand its segregated illegal colonies, in direct violation of International Law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, and Area C (%60) of the occupied West Bank, continue to be denied construction permits, and face the demolition of their homes and property.

Israel has also been demolishing homes that received permits from the local councils in various towns in the West Bank, under the pretext of not being permitted by the so-called “Civil Administration Office,” the administrative branch of its illegal occupation.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

Israel Places Second Woman Under Administrative Detention

Less than 24 hours after the Israeli authorities have placed a female Palestinian journalist under administrative detention, a second woman, on Tuesday, was slammed with administrative detention, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported.

The Palestine Prisoners Services (PPS) said that Shatha Hasan, 20, from the Ramallah district, who was detained on December 11 at her family home, was placed in administrative detention for three months without charge or trial and based on “secret” evidence not even available for her attorney.

On Monday, the Israeli authorities issued an administrative detention order for four months against Bushra Tawil, 26, who was also detained on December 11 at her al-Bireh family home in the Ramallah area during an after midnight army invasion.

The PPS said in addition to Hasan and Tawil, two other Palestinian women – Ala Bashir, 23, from Qalqilya, detained on July 24, and Shorouk Badan, 25, from, Bethlehem, detained on July 25 – are also serving time in administrative detention.

It said another 38 Palestinian women are currently serving prison time in Israeli jails for their activities in resistance of the occupation, including Afnan Abu Sneineh, 17, from Hebron.

The PPS said the Israeli forces have detained 110 women since the start of the year, most of whom were later released.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

Israeli Settlers Sabotage Road Equipment For a Second Time

Israeli settlers, on Tuesday, vandalized a bulldozer and other equipment that are used to work on rehabilitating and paving roads in the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank, said the owner of the equipment, Salah Zayed.

The Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported that settlers, for the second time, have sabotaged his equipment by filling the fuel tank and engine with sand and cutting the electric wires, making the bulldozer and other equipment inoperative.

He also stated that he filed a complaint with the Palestinian liaison office in this regard.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

MPs, experts slam ICC for refusing to probe Israel’s deadly raid on pro-Gaza flotilla

The ICC has repeatedly refused to open an investigation into Israel’s 2010 raid on a flotilla carrying aid to Gaza

International lawmakers and experts slammed on Tuesday the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) refusal to open investigate Israel’s deadly 2010 raid on flotilla carrying aid to besieged Gaza strip.

The experts also severely criticised the court’s case selection policies.

“Israeli crimes are being met with silence from the international community”, said Mohammed Jamil, the director of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK (AOHR), which hosted an event entitled ‘Time for the ICC to Act for Justice in Palestine’.

Early in December, the ICC decided, for the third time, that it will not open an investigation into crimes committed by Israeli commandos against the Mavi Marmara flotilla.

“The crimes committed in Palestine needs a court similar to the court that was established to investigate crimes in Yugoslavia and Croatia,” Jamil said.

Nine Turkish citizens were killed by Israeli marines who had stormed the Mavi Marmara – a Comoros-registered ship among eight ships trying to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip – on 31 May 2010.

Another crew member died in hospital in 2014 as a result of wounds sustained during the raid.

William Schabas, professor of International Law at Middlesex University, said on Tuesday that there is a problem with the selection process at the ICC, where the majority of the cases being investigated are African except for the Palestinian case, which has not been picked up yet by the court.

“The ICC was set up to deal with the burning issues of our time, such as Palestine,” Schabas said.

Schabas added that while some say an ICC formal investigation against Israel will lead to tensions with Washington, he believes that the case would only strengthen the court.

The group of experts said in a statement that Bensouda has received substantial evidence and documentation of war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians, giving her a firm basis to open a formal investigation.

Baroness Helena Kennedy, member of the House of Lords, called on Bensouda to take that step before her term ends as ICC general prosecutor.

After nearly ten years of considering the case and five years of preliminary investigation, no conclusion was reached by Fatou Bensouda, the ICC’s prosecutor.

In 2014, Bensouda concluded that the case – in which 10 people were killed – was “not of sufficient gravity” to prosecute Israel over, meaning that it could be settled as inadmissible before the ICC.

In September, Bensouda was asked by the ICC to reconsider her previous refusals to formally probe the incident, but she refused, repeating her claim that “there is not a reasonable basis to proceed”.

The incident led to strained ties between Israel and Turkey. The two countries agreed to normalise relations after holding long-running secret talks in third countries, with Israel offering an apology over the raid and $20m in compensation.

Israel also agreed to allow Turkish aid to reach Gaza as part of the agreement.

Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 whose results were heavily contested by the Palestinian Authority, dominated by the Fatah party. Tensions between the two political parties led to a near civil war in 2007, in which Hamas wrest control of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank-based PA.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, upheld by Egypt leading to dire and deteriorating living conditions in the small coastal enclave.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

B’Tselem: Israel soldiers ‘wantonly’ shoot Palestinian children

According to the rights group, Israeli occupation soldiers use live ammunition to shoot little Palestinian boys who do not pose any threat on them

Israeli occupation forces “wantonly” shoot Palestinian children in Al-Jalazun refugee camp, an investigation conducted by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem found.

Referring to an incident that occurred on the afternoon of 17 November, when Israeli occupation forces raided Al-Jalazun refugee camp to chase Palestinian children who had been throwing stones at them at the entrance of the camp.

After reinforcements arrived in an Israeli military jeep, uniformed soldiers and “at least one armed person in civilian clothing” began “firing live rounds toward the fleeing children and teens”, as well as rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters.

Thirteen-year-old Rami Abu Nasrah and 11-year-old Amir Zbeideh were both shot with live ammunition.

Rami suffered “an open fracture in the arm and underwent surgery to stabilise the bone”, while Amir “had surgery to reattach his right index finger and remove shrapnel from his chest”.

As B’Tselem noted, at the time, the Israeli military spokesperson claimed that soldiers had “used crowd-dispersal methods including the firing of rubber bullets and shooting into the air.”

The spokesperson added that in a report received by army officials, “it was claimed that two youths were wounded by rubber bullets”.

Despite officials’ denial that live fire was used, “once again”, B’Tselem stated, the findings of their investigation “contradict these claims”.

“Using live fire in such circumstances – against young children who clearly posed no threat to the lives or bodily integrity of the soldiers, from a distance – is illegal and immoral,” the NGO added.

“It is yet another example of the military’s trigger-happy policy, backed and bolstered by the military law enforcement system, which is making sure, again, that no one gets prosecuted for the illegal act.”

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(Source / 18.12.2019)

Israel’s international war against human rights

Israeli soldiers intervene in Palestinian demonstrators during a demonstration to protest against Israeli attacks towards Gaza, in Bethlehem, West Bank on November 14, 2019. [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli soldiers intervene in Palestinian demonstrators during a demonstration to protest against Israeli attacks towards Gaza, in Bethlehem, West Bank on November 14, 2019

By Asa Winstanley

Israel has a long record of camouflaging the truth where Palestine is concerned.

Integral to this, in recent years, has been the growing war against human rights groups documenting Israel’s abuses against Palestinians and other Arabs.

Israel’s hostility towards such groups is targeted, first and foremost, against Palestinians themselves.

The office of Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, was raided by Israeli soldiers in September. The human rights group carries out vital solidarity work for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. So, naturally, it has been repeatedly targeted via the means of harassment and persecution.

But Israel’s war against human rights is not limited to Palestinian groups – it also targets international human rights groups. The state’s latest authoritarian actions, once again, demonstrate this in abundance.

Any group or organisation striving to shed light on, or expose Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, is considered a threat by the apartheid state occupying Palestine. Therefore, they are unlawfully hostile towards such groups – no matter how timid and toothless they are in their criticisms.

Amnesty International recently noted that the trend of Israeli attacks on it has been escalating in recent years.

The latest such action was an arbitrary travel ban on one of their own Palestinian staff members, Laith Abu Zeyad.

In October, he was banned from travelling from the Israeli-occupied West Bank to Jordan, in a clear act of punishment, for his help in exposing Israeli human rights abuses. Abu Zeyad had been on his way to attend a family funeral in Jordan. This ordinary human act was instead cruelly blocked by Israel’s vindictive hatred of Palestinians.

The Israeli pretext was the usual nebulous one: “Security reasons”.

Amnesty International’s secretary-general, Kumi Naidoo, denounced the Israeli action, explaining that: “The Israeli authorities’ claim that they have security reasons for banning Laith Abu Zeyad from travelling is totally absurd. Their failure to provide any details to justify the ban reveals its true intent. This is a sinister move imposed as punishment for his work defending human rights of Palestinians.”

Amnesty International’s Naidoo demanded that: “The Israeli authorities must immediately lift arbitrary travel bans on Laith Abu Zeyad and all other Palestinian human rights defenders who are being punished for daring to speak out about Israel’s systematic discrimination and human rights violations against Palestinians.”

Israel’s war on international human rights groups escalated even further last month, in a particularly high-profile fashion.

After a long-running legal struggle, Israel expelled Omar Shakir from the country – the director of the Jerusalem office of Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Shakir’s work visa had been revoked by Israel last year, and he was ordered to leave the country over his alleged support of the BDS movement – for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

In fact, HRW is a rather timid, liberal-establishment type of technocratic human rights group, which never fundamentally challenges the established corporate world order. Shakir’s supposed support for BDS amounted to little more than one tweet of an article about the BDS movement.

HRW itself, during the court case, rather shamefully distanced itself from BDS, stating: “Neither HRW – nor Shakir as its representative – advocate boycott, divestment or sanctions against companies that operate in the settlements, Israel or Israelis.”

This cowardice didn’t help them in the slightest, however, since Shakir was still expelled.

The Israeli high court last month cleared the way for this, with one judge disclosing: “Human Rights Watch is not classified as a boycott organisation – and it can request the employment of another representative who is not involved up to his neck in BDS activity.”

Israel’s war against international human rights groups is part and parcel of Israel’s war against the truth.

Although it is incredibly oppressive, and may appear to be a sign of its fortitude, it is actually a sign of its fragility.

This is for the same reasons that Israeli collusion with Donald Trump in the US, and Boris Johnson in the UK, in an attempt to ban the BDS movement – while of extreme concern – is in fact a sign of long-term weakness.

Israel cannot win the arguments. Instead, it has resorted to brute force and crude censorship – in collusion with its right-wing allies around the world.

The Israeli lobby is in long-term, eventual and terminal decline.

To resist, it is important to insist on the right of honesty.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

Some Palestinians in Gaza are forced to start marriage via social media

A Palestinian bride to be looks at a wedding dress in Gaza on 14 February 2017 [Reham Al Gazaly/Apaimages]

A Palestinian bride to be looks at a wedding dress in Gaza on 14 February 2017

By Yousef al-Helou

The Gaza Strip is well known for the hardships imposed by Israel’s ongoing 13-year land, air and sea blockade, as well as three devastating military offensives. As “the world’s largest open air prison”, its two million residents face travel restrictions and punitive measures. People are surviving on the bare minimum of provisions, and rely heavily on humanitarian aid. For many of them, though, this is not the main issue, which is freedom of movement and being able to travel whenever and wherever they want.

One of the less well known effects of the siege is the impact it has on the social and personal aspects of life. Engagements and marriages, for example, often start via social media because of the travel restrictions. The Rafah Border Crossing into Egypt is often closed by the authorities in Cairo; it is Gaza’s main window to the outside world.

Those who do not have Palestinian ID Cards known as “Haweyyah” and issued by Israel at the time of birth in the occupied Palestinian territories have a problem if they wish to go to Gaza. They have to prove to the Egyptian authorities at Cairo Airport or Rafah that they have a Palestinian, Israeli-approved ID card, normally registered on Israel’s government database. If they can’t do that, then they can’t travel.

“I met my wife online as she was a media activist in Gaza,” explained “LM”, a Palestinian who asked to remain anonymous. “My family in the Gaza Strip met hers and they became friends; then I proposed to her online due to the travel restrictions and difficulties of getting to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.” He said that his mother had to present the engagement ring to his fiancée on his behalf. “We only knew each other online until the crossing was re-opened. She managed to leave Gaza and arrived at Cairo Airport after a very dangerous journey that lasted 3 days due to the many security checkpoints, searches and delays on the 400km route from Rafah via North Sinai.” That journey should only take 7 or 8 hours, including breaks.

Palestinians without a Palestinian ID card, no matter what citizenship they hold, are not allowed by Egypt to visit Gaza via Rafah unless they have high level security clearance from the Egyptian intelligence agency. Aid workers may be given such clearance, for example, including non-Palestinians. This has to do with the agreements between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has controlled the Registry of Palestinians since 1967, when it captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the West Bank from Jordan during the Six Day War. The census of Palestinians conducted by Israel at that time recorded 954,898 people physically present in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; it did not include at least a quarter of a million Palestinians who were absent when the census took place, either because they had fled during the conflict or were abroad for different reasons, such as study, work or medical treatment.

According to Gisha, the Israeli legal centre for freedom of movement, the Israeli-controlled Palestinian population registry includes births, marriages, divorces, deaths and changes of address. “The Palestinian Authority may amend or issue an ID card only after Israeli approval is granted,” explains the organisation on its website. “Israel updates all the changes in its copy of the population registry, which determines who is recognised as a Palestinian resident for the purpose of travel permits. Palestinian passports are issued by the Palestinian Authority only to residents who are listed in the Israeli-administered population registry. Coordination on issues pertaining to the population registry for Gaza is done through meetings between representatives from Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

A 2012 Human Rights Watch report said that between 1967 and the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in 1994, about 50,000 Palestinians, mainly refugees, fled from historic Palestine and, for various reasons, were not granted ID cards and thus were neither recognised by Israel nor have they any official status in any other country.

In the same period, according to the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli military revoked the residency status of 108,878 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who were abroad at the time, for not being present in Gaza for more than 7 years.

Following the start of the autonomous rule of the PA, a few thousand Palestinians, including security personnel and their families, returned to Gaza, which was the headquarters of the PA under Yasser Arafat and up to 2006. Many of those were spouses of local residents allowed in on short-term visitor permits who stayed after their expiry date. Some without ID cards managed to enter Gaza via tunnels under the border with Egypt, while others entered when Palestinians destroyed part of the security fence on the Gaza-Egypt border in 2008, allowing them to cross into Egyptian Rafah and return to the Strip with basic necessities and products unavailable in the besieged territory.

According to Gisha, about half of the permits and legal returnees were designated for status-less individuals in the Gaza Strip. “By 2008, Israel had approved residency for 12,308 status-less persons in the Gaza Strip. The process has since been put on hold. The Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza estimates that there are currently at least 10,600 people living in the Gaza Strip without Palestinian ID cards, among them thousands whom Israel considers ineligible for such cards, even in the context of future gestures, since there is no record of them having received Israeli approval to enter Gaza.”

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This means that those individuals may not travel through the Erez Crossing into Israel, an almost impossible task in any case unless security clearance is granted, which is a lengthy process. If they manage to leave via Rafah then they may not be allowed to come back, as they are not registered in the Israeli-controlled Palestinian population registry and won’t be able to present the required ID card. Hence, many are trapped in the besieged Gaza Strip with no way out, fearing that if they leave they won’t be allowed back.

The Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas has no control over this matter. Nor has it any effective security control over cities under its administrative rule in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

That means that people like “LM” who want to meet their loved ones have to meet outside Gaza, whether it is in Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere. Getting married means that either the bride or the groom has to abandon their residency in Gaza, and face the possibility that they will not be allowed to return.

“NK” has a Palestinian ID card and currently lives abroad but going to Gaza means that he might be stuck there for a long time waiting for the Rafah Crossing to be open. “This means that I might lose my residency rights in the European country where I live now,” he told me. “The journey from Cairo to Rafah or vice versa is hellish and risky. I wish that the Egyptians would open El-Arish Airport, which is only 55km away from Rafah.” That’s why, he added, his fiancée in Gaza whom he met online agreed to bear the suffering and travel to his home after the engagement was arranged between the two families in the besieged territory. For obvious reasons, “NK” also asked to remain anonymous.

The “time bomb” of Palestinian demography is one of Israel’s concerns, so only those with Israeli-approved ID cards are allowed to go back to Gaza, mainly via the infamous Rafah Crossing. Not for nothing is it called the “gate of hell” by many Palestinians. Digital technology may make it easier for people to “meet” online, and even get married, but it is no way to start a life together. It is yet another, less obvious, harmful effect of the Israeli-led siege on the occupied Gaza Strip.

(Source / 18.12.2019)

IOF shot Palestinian teen near Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, PALESTINOW.COM — Israeli soldiers shot, on Tuesday evening, a Palestinian teenage boy near Beit Jala city, west of Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank.

Media sources said the soldiers shot Hamza Khaled al-Hreimi, 16, in the thigh, before abducting him, and took him to an unknown destination.

They added that a Palestinian ambulance rushed to the scene after the teen was shot, but the soldiers refused to allow the medics to approach him.

The Israeli army claimed the teen “hurled a Molotov cocktail” towards the soldiers before they shot him.

(Source/ 18.12.2019)