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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One outcome is certain when it comes to the forthcoming Israeli elections – Gaza will remain a top target for the new government. Amid the sparring between contenders for the elections, former IDF chief Benny Gantz declared he would implement Israel’s policy of targeted assassinations against Hamas leaders if elected, and if necessary.
His comments sought to counter Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s remarks over “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, in which the latter used derogatory language to criticise Gantz’s decisions which, according to Bennett, endangered the lives of Israeli soldiers. Bennett alleged that Gantz would be Hamas’ preferable leadership option. This claim is also being supported by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stated that Gantz’s party would make “significant concessions to the Palestinians.”
Both Gantz and Netanyahu have increasingly focused on Gaza in their electoral campaigns, with “Operation Protective Edge” and the Great March of Return providing premises for their arguments. Gantz, who was in charge of the aggression against the enclave, has compared the 2014 aftermath to the ongoing protests and Netanyahu’s response, which was to order snipers positioned at the border to kill and injure Palestinians participating in the demonstration.
Gantz described Netanyahu’s strategy as a “tired policy”. The alternative in such a scenario, according to the former army chief, is to “return to a policy of targeted killings.”
In June 2018, Israel’s Security Minister Gilad Erdan advocated for the targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders and Palestinians launching the “incendiary kites” from Gaza’s border.
A return to targeted killings, however, is not accurate. Israel has a long history of assassinating Palestinian leaders from Hamas and other Palestinian political factions. Only last year, a Palestinian scientist affiliated to Hamas was gunned down in Malaysia, in an operation which raised speculation about Mossad’s role even in Israeli media, although there was no forthright confirmation of the agency’s involvement.
Gantz, therefore, will not be “returning” to a policy of targeted assassinations but embarking upon a continuation of Israel’s policy. Yet, speculation on targeted assassinations alone is just a deviation from the damage which both Netanyahu and Gantz have the power to inflict on the enclave in terms of political and humanitarian related violence.
Following “Operation Protective Edge”, Netanyahu adopted a strategy that prolongs violence for Israel’s benefit. The Great March of Return is one such example. Extrajudicial killings by Israel’s snipers raised international scrutiny which, with time, mellowed down to the usual expressions of concerns regarding what is deemed as routine violence. Distancing Israel from targeted assassinations in Gaza during this period provided Israel with the opportunity to normalize its ongoing violence on the border.
Gantz is no stranger to strategy. Targeted assassinations cannot be attributed to one single leader but to the existence of the colonial state and its policies of elimination. What Gaza will face under the new Israeli government is more likely to be a continuation of measures which maintains Palestinians’ deprivation in the enclave. Electoral campaign rhetoric aside, an outright endorsement and implementation of targeted assassinations contradict the intentional ambiguity which Israel has employed against leaders or individuals who have the potential to challenge its existence.
Israeli sources claimed that two Gaza rockets were fired at Tel Aviv on Thursday night and the Israeli missile defense was activated, the source added.
The source said that Israel called on Egyptian security delegation to leave Gaza. The delegation came later on Thursday evening and Netanyahu held an emergency security consultation to monitor the magnitude of the response and its targets.
The Egyptians delegation were trying to mediate to achieve a more tolerable situation in Gaza. Local Palestinian agencies said that the delegation will hold several meetings with Palestinian factions to discuss ways to break the blockade, the efforts exerted to reach a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel, the latest Israeli aggression on al-Aqsa Mosque, and the escalated attacks on Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
On the other hand, the Palestinians Resistance categorically denied the attack and the Israeli claims that the Islamic Jihad is responsible fir the attack, local agencies reported.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad informed the Egyptian delegation that they are not responsible for firing rockets this evening.
Palestinians expect that tonight, Gaza will be under Israeli warplanes attacks, as the Israeli sources reported that Israeli terrorist PM Netanyahu held security consultation to examine the magnitude of the response and its targets.
Israeli aircrafts launched at Thursday midnight on a series of raids on various targets in Gaza Strip.
Palestinian local agencies reported that Israeli warplanes bombed 7 different locations including the Naval Site in the northern Gaza Strip, the Al-Baydar Site off the Gaza shore, the Badr site in Netzarim all of which belong to the Palestinian Resistance.
In addition, the New Port of Khan Younis and a hall for a wedding party along the Gaza city beach were hit leading to their complete destruction.
The Ministry of Health reported that there have been no casualties due to the Israel attack on Gaza.
Earlier, Israeli occupation claimed that 2 rockets launched from Gaza attacked Tel Aviv, while the Palestinian Resistance affirmed the total denial of such attack.
Several Palestinian students and teachers on Wednesday morning suffered from their exposure to tear gas fumes after the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) attacked them and their schools in the southern area of al-Khalil.
According to Quds Press, the IOF showered al-Khalil elementary school in the southern area of the city with tear gas canisters, which caused many students and teachers to suffer from inhaling the resultant fumes.
One teacher and a few students were transferred to a nearby Palestinian hospital to receive medical assistance.
Many teachers and students also received medical help inside the school building.
A Palestinian young man was pronounced dead at midnight Monday after he succumbed to an injury he sustained while taking part in the Great March of Return rally on March 1,2019 in the east of Al-Burij Camp, in the middle of Gaza Strip.
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 23-year-old Mousa Mohammed Mousa died of a serious injury after an Israeli sniper shot him on the 49th Friday of March of Return.
With the killing of Mousa, the number of Palestinians protesters who have been killed by Israeli occupation forces since the March of Return started on March 30, 2018, has risen to 270 martyrs.
A horde of Jewish settlers on Monday afternoon attacked Palestinian farmers in Burin town, south of Nablus, as they were working their lands.
Burin mayor Yahiya Qadous said that more than 25 settlers from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar brutalized a group of farmers as they were plowing their plots of land in al-Mayadin area, south of the town, and tried to expel them from their own lands.
After obtaining a permit from the Israeli military authorities, the farmers had brought agricultural tractors to their lands in the morning to plow them.
They have been prevented many times by the Israeli army to reach their lands at the pretext they are located near Yitzhar settlement.
Jewish settlers on Sunday bulldozed a vast tract of Palestinian-owned agricultural land in Jalud village, south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.
Local official Ghassan Daghlas said that Jalud villagers discovered in the morning that their lands were razed and spoilt by bulldozers belonging to settlers from the nearby illegal outposts of Ahiya and Esh Kodesh, adding that local farmers had already been banned from reaching their lands by Israeli soldiers.
Daghlas affirmed that the Israeli occupation army prevents farmers from cultivating their lands in the eastern plain of the village.
He said that the settlers bulldozed more than 10 dunums of Palestinian land, deployed water pipelines, planted trees for them on parts of the land, and transported a large amount of soil from the plain to their outposts.
During the past two years, the Israeli army deliberately prevented local farmers from harvesting 250 dunums of wheat on this land, which led to the devastation of all crops.
In a separate incident, a group of settlers attacked Palestinian shepherds in the Jordan Valley of Tuba province and unleashed their dogs on their sheep.
Some sheep were badly hurt by the settlers’ dogs, according to local official Omar Faqha.