Rohingya Refugees Agree Move to Bangladesh Island

Rohingya refugee girls carry metal pitchers with water at Balukhali makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, September 13, 2017

Thousands of Rohingya living in Bangladesh refugee camps have agreed to move to an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said Sunday, despite fears the site is prone to flooding.

Dhaka has long wanted to move 100,000 refugees to the muddy silt islet, saying it would take pressure off the overcrowded border camps where almost a million Rohingya live.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in August 2017 in the face of a military crackdown, joining 200,000 refugees already in makeshift tent settlements at Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner, Mahbub Alam, said officials overseeing the relocation would be posted to Bhashan Char island in the next few days.

“Approximately 6,000-7,000 refugees have already expressed their willingness to be relocated to Bhashan Char,” Alam told AFP from Cox’s Bazar, adding that “the number is rising”.

He did not say when the refugees would be moved, but a senior Navy officer involved in building facilities on the island said it could start by December, with some 500 refugees sent daily.

Bangladesh had been planning since last year to relocate Rohingya to the desolate flood-prone site, which is an hour by boat from the mainland.

Rights groups have warned the island, which emerged from the sea only about two decades ago, might not be able to withstand violent storms during the annual monsoon season.

In the past half a century, powerful cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the Meghna river estuary where the island is located.

Rohingya leaders would be taken to Bhashan Char to view the facilities and living conditions, Alam said.

Safety facilities built on the island include a nine-feet (three-meter) high embankment along its perimeter to keep out tidal surges during cyclones, and a warehouse to store months-worth of rations, he added.

Rohingya father-of-four Nur Hossain, 50, said he and his family agreed to relocate to Bhashan Char after they were shown video footage of the shelters.

“I have agreed to go. The camp here (at Leda) is very overcrowded. There are food and housing problems,” the 50-year-old told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from the UN, although Bangladeshi officials said they expect a delegation would visit the island in the next few weeks.

(Source / 20.10.2019) 

Settlers Conduct ‘Provocative Tours’ in Aqsa Mosque

More than 250 settlers stormed the yards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Tuesday, under strict security measures by the Israeli occupation forces. The raid came in response to calls by Jewish organizations to intensify “visits” to the place in celebration of the Jewish Throne Day.

The Jerusalem Islamic Waqf said that the settlers entered through the Mughrabi Gate and carried out “provocative tours” in the mosque, while listening to explanations about the “alleged temple” which the Jews say was built there.

The number of settlers entering the mosque is expected to increase in the coming days. Israeli ministers and officials participated in some of these incursions, creating further tension with the Palestinians.

The large-scale raid on Tuesday came a day after Palestine and Jordan warned against dragging the region into a “religious war” if Aqsa continued to be targeted.

In this context, Ramallah and Amman condemned the statements of the Israeli Minister of Public Security, Gilad Ardan, who called for the Jews to be allowed to pray freely in the Aqsa Mosque.

The Mosque is run by hundreds of Jordanian employees of the Jordanian Islamic Waqf, but Israel allows Jews to visit the place contrary to the Waqf’s will.

Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Head of the Jerusalem Affairs Department Adnan al-Husseini warned of the repercussions of the “fierce attacks carried out by the settlers, under the protection of the Israeli occupation authorities, on the Aqsa Mosque.”

Husseini said in a press statement that developments at the Aqsa “call for more resolve and presence to protect the place, and preserve its sanctity.”

Jordan’s Parliament Speaker Atef Tarawneh said on Tuesday that the Israeli occupation violated all principles of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy.

Addressing the 141st meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Belgrade, he said: “We in Jordan, where we are bound by a peace treaty with the Israeli occupation government, today see that this peace is under threat, in light of the blatant violation of its provisions, especially with the issue of Jerusalem.”

(Source / 16.10.2019) 

Palestine: Israeli Forces Conduct Manhunt for Ramallah Attackers

Israeli security forces search vehicles west of Ramallah

The Israeli army arrested two Palestinians as part of a large-scale manhunt for the attack that killed an Israeli woman and wounded two others in the West Bank.

The army arrested Ribhi Abu al-Safa and Mohammed Nayef Abu al-Safa from the village of Ein Arik after raiding and ransacking their homes. They also arrested former prisoner Israr Maarouf, who is a student at Birzeit University, from Ein Qinya. 

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said the Ramallah operation was very disturbing to Israeli security as this type of attack was rare and unusual.

Israeli security sources said that five similar attacks were thwarted since the beginning of the year. 

The arrest came hours after chief of Israeli army Aviv Kochavi announced that security services were at an advanced stage of the search. Kochavi said significant efforts were being made in the intelligence field to quickly arrest the perpetrators.

Rina Shnerb, 17, was killed and her father and brother were seriously injured in a bombing at a natural spring outside the central West Bank settlement 

Israel Forces Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the army considered the blast to be a “serious terror attack,” noting that the device may have been planted at night by Palestinians who knew the area well, detonated it remotely and then fled the scene.

Israeli forces sealed off main roads leading to the western Ramallah in the West Bank, deployed troops, and blocked major roads 

The youths were arrested after Israeli soldiers seized tapes from the street surveillance cameras installed by shop and homeowners in these villages.

The new operation reinforced Israeli fears of a gradual security deterioration leading to a possible popular uprising soon ahead of next month’s Israeli elections.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Israeli elections approach. 

Hamas praised the perpetrators of a bombing in the West Bank, saying it was a “proof of the vitality and bravery of the Palestinian people, and of the fact that it will not surrender to the crimes and terrorism of the occupation.” 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called it “a heroic attack,” though he claimed he was not aware as to who was responsible.

But it “shows that the default state in the West Bank is one of resistance, despite what our residents suffer there. The West Bank has strong people who are no less faithful and steadfast than their brethren in Gaza,” he said. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to arrest the perpetrators and intensify settlement activity in the West Bank in response to the attack. Meanwhile, the United States has called on the Palestinian Authority to explicitly condemn the attack.

US special envoy to the Mideast Jason Greenblatt described the attack as “savage” which killed an Israeli teenager who was with her family.

“This isn’t the path to peace, just endless suffering,” he tweeted. 

Greenblatt called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to “unequivocally condemn this attack,” adding that “if they don’t, donor countries should demand the PA answer for why their donor funds continue to be used to reward attacks.”

The PA usually does not condemn any operations against Israeli soldiers or settlers inside the West Bank given that it is an occupied territory, but condemns operations in Israel. 

(Source / 25.08.2019) 

Abbas Hopes for Dialogue with New Israeli Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets members of the Democratic Camp, including Noa Rothman, granddaughter of late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his hope to resume dialogue with the new government that will be formed in Israel after the next elections.

Abbas, in a secret meeting with members of the Democratic Camp, including Noa Rothman – the granddaughter of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of refusing to meet with him several times in Moscow, referring to the invitation made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to both leaders.

Abbas strongly attacked Netanyahu, saying he had “repeatedly opposed the formation of a unity government with Hamas and the establishment of Palestinian internal reconciliation, but he immediately paid millions of dollars to Hamas.”

The meeting, which took place on Tuesday, was not published by the Palestinian official news agency, but was revealed by the Israeli channel 13, which broadcast images of Abbas receiving the Israeli delegation.

The meeting with Abbas was secretly organized, with the sole knowledge of the party chairman Ehud Barak, who supported the initiative to meet with the Palestinian Authority president.

Rothman asked Abbas to take steps to free Israeli citizen of Ethiopian origin Avera Mengistu, who is being held by Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian president promised to help.

Hamas immediately described the meeting as “suspicious” and said it was a form of normalization with Israel and disregard for Palestinian sacrifices.

The Democratic Camp seeks to attract voters from the Blue and White or Labor parties.

Relations between Netanyahu and Abbas are currently at their worst with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accusing the Israeli government of waging an open war on the Palestinian people.

Israel’s general elections are set for September 17.

(Source / 15.08.2019) 

Abbas Says Palestine For Canaanites…Outsiders Will Leave

PA President Mahmoud Abbas inspects Jalazone camp on Saturday, August 10, 2019 

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that outsiders will be deported from the Palestinian land to the “dustbin of history” because this land is for the Canaanites.

“We are the Canaanites,” he stressed.

Addressing the crown in Jalazone refugee camp in Ramallah, Abbas said the Palestinians will remain “steadfast, patient and resilient.”

“We will remain in our homeland, and the outsiders on this land has no right in this country. The land is for its inhabitants, this land is for the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago, and we are the Canaanites.”

Abbas’s rhetoric was sharp compared to his usual diplomatic speeches. He congratulated the masses on Eid al-Adha, hoping victory to be achieved by next year.

He praised the Palestinian people’s honorable stance and patience, especially as they haven’t received their full salaries for a quiet period of time now.

Abbas was referring to the deduction of half the salaries of civil servants for nearly six months now after Israel deducted money from Palestinian tax revenues as punishment for the PA for continuing to pay the martyrs and wounded.

The PA refused to receive deducted money and rejected any compromises.

“We won’t accept that our martyrs be labeled as terrorists,” Abbas noted, adding that they are martyrs of the homeland and ‘we will not accept the deduction of a penny from their money.”

He reiterated the Palestinian political position rejecting the US “Deal of the Century,” affirming that no meetings are accepted or attended without the Palestinians’ consent.

Abbass added that Jerusalem will remain Palestine’s capital, stressing that all Palestinians and Islamic and Christian Arab nation will visit this capital one day.

He urged Palestinians in Gaza Strip to end the division that only serves the enemy, adding that Hamas and its leaderships are working for the enemy, not for Palestine.

Palestinian unity should include Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank for the State of Palestine to have East Jerusalem as its eternal capital, Abbas further noted.

Abbas has earlier arrived in Jalazone camp and was briefed with the refugees’ conditions and needs. He visited the camp’s institutions and met its residents.

(Source / 11.08.2019) 

Gazans Too Poor to Afford Sheep for Eid Sacrifice

A Palestinian herding sheep against the backdrop of a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem

Ali usually marks the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha with his family in the Gaza Strip by sacrificing a sheep, a customary annual ritual for those who can spare the cost.

But this year the 49-year-old police officer says he cannot afford to buy an animal for the “feast of the sacrifice” holiday, which begins next week, after the Palestinian Authority halved his salary five months ago.

“I have slaughtered a sheep every year … but this year there is no way I can. I am ashamed,” the father of five, who declined to give his last name, told Reuters.

Gaza has suffered under years of Israeli blockade. Nearly 80 percent of the enclave’s 2 million residents rely on some form of aid and over half are unemployed.

Ali said that in March, the PA cut his monthly salary in half, leaving him with 1,500 shekels ($431). A sheep costs around $500.

The PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, still has some 25,000 Gazan civil servants on payroll despite a decade-long feud with rival Hamas which has left the group in control of the coastal territory.

Many PA employees across Gaza and the West Bank had their salaries slashed in March amid a dispute with Israel over payments it makes to the families of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Israel says the payments fan Palestinian violence, and in February it removed the portion the PA designates for prisoners’ families from taxes it transfers monthly to the body under interim peace accords.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to accept partial transfers, saying the PA is entitled to the entire sum of around 700 million ($197 million) shekels, over half its budget. The mounting fiscal pressures have squeezed the Palestinians’ $13 billion economy.

The cuts have put a particular strain on Gaza, where civil servants had already been hit by earlier salary cuts Abbas imposed in 2017 to isolate Hamas.

“I used to offer a sacrifice every year but this year there is no money,” said Hassan An-Najjar, an unemployed father of six. He says the cost of a sheep would run out the $500 in welfare he receives quarterly from the PA.

“I am looking for someone who can sell me a sheep and divide the cost into three or four payments,” An-Najjar, 58, told Reuters.

The median monthly wage in the Strip is around $330, according to the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute.

The territory’s livestock breeders and farmers say they are desperate for customers ahead of the eid.

“This year I brought only 40 cows and so far I haven’t even sold half of them,” said Gaza farmer Mohammad Al-Balawi. He says he normally sells 500 each year to people who may also split the animal’s 9,000 ($2,600) shekel price.

“I have not seen a year as bad as this in my life,” he said.

(Source / 09.08.2019) 

Partial Dutch Burqa Ban Goes Into Effect

Protestors demonstrate against the ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in public in The Hague, November 30, 2006

The Netherlands banned the wearing of face-covering veils, such as burqas or niqabs, in public buildings and on transport from Thursday as the law on the garment came into force.

According to the Dutch government’s main advising body, only 200 to 400 women are estimated to wear a burqa or niqab in the country of 17 million people.

The legislation was passed by the Dutch Upper House of parliament in June 2018 after more than a decade of political debate on the subject. The far-right politician Geert Wilders had proposed the face-covering veil ban back in 2005.

“From now on the wearing of clothing which covers the face is banned in educational facilities, public institutions and buildings, as well as hospitals and public transport,” the Dutch interior ministry said in a statement. 

It added that it was important in such public places to be recognized and seen, which besides the burqa, also bans a face-covering motor helmet, ski-mask or hood. A person could be fined 150 euros ($165).

However, the public transport sector said it would not stop to make a woman in a burqa get off as it would cause delays. And hospitals also said they would still treat people regardless of what they are wearing.

The Dutch law does not ban the wearing of a burqa on the street, unlike France’s ban which took effect in 2010. Belgium, Denmark and Austria have similar laws.

(Source / 01.08.2019) 

Egypt Committed to Two-State Solution as US Excludes It

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during a visit to the military academy in Cairo on Saturday, July 13, 2019   Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reiterated Saturday his country’s commitment to a “two-state solution” within the framework of settling the Palestinian issue.

His remarks were made following the announcement made by US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt that the awaited Deal of the Century does not include the two-state solution.

Sisi spoke during his visit to the Military Academy about various regional issues and he pointed to his country’s clear stance regarding the Palestinian cause.

“Egypt is committed to the Palestinian people’s rights in accordance with the international references and resolutions and the two-state solution,” he said.

When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat about the two-state solution, the US envoy said the peace plan did not mention this term.

“The use of this term leads to nothing,” he noted, adding that a conflict of such complexity could not be resolved with a two-word slogan.

Last month, Egypt participated in the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” workshop hosted by the Bahraini capital of Manama and was part of the US administration’s measures taken to implement its new peace plan between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

An Egyptian delegation led by Deputy Finance minister will take part in the “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop, which will be held in the Kingdom of Bahrain on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 25-26), said the Egyptian Foreign Ministry back then.

Foreign Ministry’s Official Spokesman Ahmed Hafedh stressed his country’s unwavering keenness on dealing with economic challenges facing the Palestinian people.

He also reiterated Egypt’s steadfast commitment to the achievement of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations and the reinstatement of their inalienable rights, including the establishment of an independent state on the June 4, 1967 borders, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital, conducive to the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution, the international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. 

(Source / 14.07.2019) 

Tension Prevails Ahead of Egypt’s Delegation Arrival to Gaza

Hamas said that Israel will have to handle the consequences of killing Mahmoud Al-Adham

Tension has risen in Gaza with Israel killing a civil official in Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, amid escalating threats from both sides prior to the arrival of the Egyptian security delegation to the strip.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a field leader near the border of northern Gaza.

The Israeli army confirmed the forces fired on two “armed suspects approaching the fence in the northern Gaza Strip,” refusing to provide further details.

The health ministry in Gaza said that 28-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Adham was shot and killed in Thursday’s incident near Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the territory.

Al-Qassam said that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and that Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act,” according to a statement. 

In response to this threat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting at city hall in the coastal city of Ashkelon: “I prefer that there be calm. But we are preparing for a campaign that is not only broad but also surprising.”

Interior Ministry spokesman in Gaza Iyad al-Bazm said that the ministry and the national security have conducted an emergency maneuver simulating an abrupt security threat – this falls under testing the readiness of the security bodies and forces.

Officials from Hamas said that the exercise imitated Israeli special forces units’ incursion.

According to the ministry’s statement, the maneuver was conducted due to the enemy’s attempts to subvert the security and the state’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian delegation has convened with Israeli security officials and is planning to meet Hamas officials in Gaza to discuss understandings with Israel and the Palestinian reconciliation. Before Gaza, the delegation arrived in Ramallah to discuss the dispute about the reconciliation issue.

(Source / 12.07.2019) 

Israeli Government Eases Restrictions on Gaza, Army Prepares for Military Campaign

Gas canisters fall among Palestinians during a demonstration near the border of Gaza City, on March 30, 2019 

The Israeli government announced easing the restrictions imposed on Gaza Strip, within the framework of its understandings with Hamas. Meanwhile, the Israeli army is preparing for an intensive drill of a wide-scale military campaign.

Over the recent months, the Israeli cabinet had relaxed a minor part of their blockade over the strip. It allowed the transfer of $30 million Qatari funds, the entrance of fuel to increase electricity supply hours, and the expansion of the fishing zone in the Mediterranean. 

Israeli authorities also agreed to remove items from the “blacklist” of goods banned from entering Gaza, expand the export basket, and increase the number of merchants allowed to enter Israel.

Sources revealed that among the 18 items are steel cables for large fishing boats; banned for fear that they would be used for underground tunnels, and fertilizer for agriculture that had previously been banned. In addition, the export of iron doors, aluminum housewares, wipes and toys were permitted.

Authorities lowered the age over which Gaza merchants would be permitted to enter Israel from 35 to 25, thus increasing the number of merchants authorized to enter Israel to 5,000.

Sources revealed that Israel is considering to allow the construction of a controlled industrial zone on the border with Gaza, funded by Qatar, which is predicted to employ up to 5000 workers. 

The agreement was reached following an understanding between Qatar and Hamas on ensuring strict Israeli control of the industrial zone and materials manufactured.

The new employment for the Gaza residents will include fields of agriculture, textile, food and furniture; as long as security is maintained in the region. 

The far right-forces of the government criticized PM Benjamin Netanyahu for easing the restrictions, to which he responded saying Israel’s policy is clear: “We want to return calm, but at the same time, we are preparing for a large-scale military operation, if necessary. These are my orders to the military”. 

Meanwhile, the Israeli army unveiled this week drills conducted by soldiers and officers of the southern brigade to occupy several populated towns and neighborhoods. The command explained that the army was trained on occupying such neighborhoods with maintaining the least losses possible among Israelis.

The command admitted that a land invasion would be costly, but it will cost Palestinians much more, noting that the army will introduce into the battle modern and surprising weapons and warfare equipment.

(Source / 06.07.2019)