Chairman of the political bureau of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh speaks during the funeral of Palestinian teenagers Louay Kahil and Amir Al-Namara, who were killed in an Israeli air strike at a mosque during their funeral in Gaza City on 15 July, 2018
Senior Hamas leader Mohammad Nazzal has revealed that his movement is preparing for an international tour for its chief Ismail Haniyeh.
Nazzal pointed to arrangements with Egypt to facilitate this, Al-Ray News Agency reported yesterday, reiterating that Egypt has pledged not to close the Rafah Crossing – the only civilian exit point from the besieged Gaza Strip – because Egypt is keen not to punish the Palestinian people.
He also confirmed previous reports that Hamas is following up on the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Egyptian jails, stating that the issue of four Palestinians kidnapped after while travelling through Rafah Crossing a couple of years ago is on top of Hamas’ agenda.
“There are important promises to release Palestinian prisoners from Egyptian jails and Hamas is following up the issue of all Palestinian prisoners in Egypt, not only those affiliated with Hamas,” he said.
Regarding the truce with Israel, Nazzal said that there have been clear understandings but Israel continues to violate them “due to the internal Israeli conflict”. He noted that Hamas’ efforts to stabilise the truce would not stop until an agreement was reached and enforced.
Nazzal added: “The protests of the Great March of Return and the use of different methods by protesters is linked to the progress of the truce understanding,” noting that Hamas had pressured the UN’s Middle East Envoy Nicolay Mladenov to uphold its responsibility in this regard, given that the UN had promised to lift the Israeli siege on Gaza.
Nazzal stated that his movement is cooperating with several parties, including the UN, Qatar and Egypt in order to lift the suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people in Gaza. He revealed there are certain sides which do not want the siege to be lifted, but rather want Gaza to surrender to the Israeli occupation, though he did not elaborate on which sides thought as such.
This picture taken on September 25, 2018 on the outskirts of Jerusalem shows a new high speed train travelling between Jerusalem and Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport with the Palestinian village of Beit Iksa in the background
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to participate in an Israeli project which will see a railway connect Israel to Arab states.
The PA Minister of Civil Affairs and Member of Fatah Central Committee, Hussein Al-Sheikh, said yesterday that the PA has refused to join the project, Al-Wattan Voice reported. “We refused this completely,” Al-Sheikh wrote on his Facebook page. “No to normalising ties with Israel and no to economic solutions which reinforce the occupation,” he added, stressing that a “crumb of bread is not an alternative for a free country”.
Israeli reports have recently noted progress in the project, which became known as the Railway of Peace, after the visit of the Israeli Transport Minister Yisrael Katz to Oman in November.
The railway aims to connect Israel with Jordan and the Gulf States in order to “achieve peace and economic cooperation”, according to Katz, who has called for affording the budget for the project. The Palestinians, however, have lambasted the idea, seeing it as part of the Gulf’s increasing willingness to ignore their cause in order to further normalise ties with Israel.
The group was standing around 150 metres from the fence when Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters directly at the youngsters; Hassan was struck on the right side of his head, fracturing his skull.
Taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital for emergency care, Hassan then underwent surgery in Shifa hospital, “where he remained in critical condition”, DCIP stated.
Dr Hazem Kahil, a neurosurgery specialist at Shifa hospital, told DCIP that the surgery was performed to stop a brain bleed, but Hassan was pronounced dead on 12 February.
Former Israeli defence minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during a press conference at the Israeli Parliament on November 14, 2018 in Jerusalem, Israel
Former Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday warned that the next confrontation with the Gaza Strip must be the last.
“For nearly a year, since the [Great March of Return] started along the Gaza Strip border fence, the most volatile Israeli border [has been] the one it shares with the Gaza Strip,” Lieberman said. He then explained that the military intelligence assessment published on Wednesday- which indicated that Israel is likely to face a major escalation with the Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank within the next 12 months – is consistent with his assessment over the past year.
“The question now is not whether there will be another confrontation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but when will that happen,” he added.
Lieberman said he believed the Israeli government is responsible for “strengthening” the Palestinian resistance factions by not launching a war on the already-besieged Gaza Strip and by easing sanctions against it.
According to Lieberman, the transfer of funds and fuel to the Gaza Strip and expanding the fishing area all contribute to strengthening Hamas at both the military and civilian levels, and increase popular support for it in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
“We must strike a hard and disproportionate blow on Hamas – completely break their willpower to continue to fight against us and destroy their belief that they could ever defeat us,” he added.
Meanwhile, Israel Hayom yesterday revealed a plan announced by the Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Army, General Aviv Kochavi, aimed at improving the Israeli army’s operational readiness in the Gaza Strip, at the expense of other sectors.
Gaza “will be the most explosive in the coming months” the newspaper quoted Kochavi as saying.
Members of the Palestinian Youth Against Settlements (YAS) activists escort children on their way to school in Hebron, West Bank on 10 February 2019
Oxfam, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Save the Children warned Thursday that “hundreds of civilians, including children, will see their safety put at risk by the withdrawal of international observers deployed in the city of Hebron”.
In a joint statement, the international NGOs condemned the Israeli government’s decision last month to decline to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
According to the NGOs, the removal of the international observer force “threatens the already fragile security situation and risks contributing to a rapid decline in the city’s stability”.
Save the Children Regional Director, Jeremy Stoner, said: “Palestinian children attending schools near Israeli settler communities in Hebron have experienced threats and violence from settlers for years. The role of the TIPH and other international observers has been very important in reducing confrontations and ensuring children’s safety and access to education”.
“Just last week, we visited one of the schools in Hebron, and the headmistress told Save the Children that staff and students felt exposed and vulnerable without international observers accompanying the children,” he added.
Oxfam Country Director, Chris Eijkemans, said: “This move will exacerbate an already volatile situation, increase impunity for human rights abuses and put civilians in more danger. Decisions like this pave the way for further settlement expansion and annexation of Palestinian land. It is a dangerous green light for more violence and abuse of international law, making any prospect of a peaceful, just and lasting resolution for Palestinians and Israelis increasingly remote”.
NRC Deputy Regional Director, Maureen Magee, said: “Short of dismantling the system of closures, restrictions and checkpoints affecting Palestinians in Hebron, the Israeli government is responsible for ensuring the unhindered passage of civilians, including students and school staff, through checkpoints on their way to and from schools. Israel must ensure that schools are protected, safe places for children. We see from our work in Hebron’s schools how children are traumatised by harassment and violence. Left unchecked, this will leave long-lasting scars”.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain on 27 October 2018
Confronting “the Iranian threat” is more important than dealing with the Israel-Palestine issue, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said in a panel discussion at this week’s Warsaw Conference, the New Khaliji has reported.
The statements came to light in a video that was briefly uploaded to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official YouTube channel, before being quickly deleted yesterday. Believed to be filmed by an Israeli official, the video also featured Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel Al-Jubeir, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah Bin Zayed, participating in the discussion.
“We have grown up saying that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the most important issue, and it must be resolved in this way or that, but in the final stages we have seen a greater challenge, the most serious in our modern history, the threat of the Iranian Republic,” Al-Khalifa can be heard saying.
“This is not about the Iranian people, but about the fascist religious regime in Iran, which we face every day,” Al-Khalifa reportedly says, adding that: “Iran smuggled weapons and explosives capable of wiping the Bahraini capital off the face of the earth.”
“This challenge [Iran] must be faced in order to devote [time] to other challenges. But it is this capital [Tehran] that is preventing us from solving it [the Palestinian issue] by forming a threat in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and even Bahrain,” he concludes.
Also heard in the video was Saudi diplomat Al-Jubeir, who argued that in every place in the region Iran plays a devastating role, citing its support of Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Al-Jubeir can also be heard condemning Iran’s ballistic missile program, stating that Tehran must be punished for its actions until it promotes peace in the region.
The Warsaw Conference – held in the Polish capital this week – saw delegates from over 60 countries attend what was widely perceived as an attempt by the US to isolate Iran and gather support for Washington’s renewed sanctions against Tehran.
European powers, who oppose US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a nuclear deal with Iran, were openly sceptical of the summit; France and Germany declined to send their top diplomats, while British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt left before Thursday’s main events. EU policy chief Federica Mogherini, who was a key player in the Iran nuclear deal, also did not attend the two-day conference due to scheduling issues, an EU official said, although US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Brussels today to meet with her.
The conference was boycotted by Iranian ally Russia, with the Foreign Ministry stating on social media that the meeting “is a new US attempt to promote its unilateral geopolitical interests through initiatives that are presented as the opinion of the international community”.
Qatar also did not attend the meeting, with Former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim describing it as the “Warsaw wedding ceremony”, seeming to refer to the growing public normalisation of ties between Israel and the Arab world. “I am not against normalization or against opening a relationship with Israel, but the relationship must be equal and not at the expense of Palestinian rights,” he said on Twitter.
Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs has released a report called Terrorists in Suits: The Ties Between NGOs promoting BDS and Terrorist Organisations. The report has a sense of melodrama, especially its pictures of BDS activists pinned to a noticeboard with red pins connected by red thread, like a scene from a crime drama.
The man behind the report is Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan; he clearly has a wild imagination. Names, places, dates, events, meetings and pictures are all jumbled together to present a scenario which is supposed to deter people from supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and wash away all of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. In doing so, it simply peddles more myths and lies.
Every pro-Palestine, pro-justice activist named in the report, it is alleged, is not what they seem. It quotes, for example, an Israel Supreme Court 2007 description of Shawan Jabarin, the General Director of Al-Haq Foundation, one of the oldest human rights organisations in the occupied West Bank, as a “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” character. Due to “significant security concerns”, the court backed the army’s decision to ban him from overseas travel. Khalida Jarrar, Deputy Director of Addameer rights group, is defined in the same way. She has been held under an administrative detention order since 2017 for her role as a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and her alleged involvement in terrorist activities. Administrative detention allows Israel to keep people – always Palestinians – behind bars with neither charge nor trial on a renewable six-monthly basis.
One section of the Israeli report seeks to present an act of piracy on the high seas as some kind of heroic act against terrorists. When Israeli commandos attacked the Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara in 2010 the vessel was part of a convoy of ships taking humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. In international waters and with utter disregard for international law and human life the Israelis hijacked the convoy and killed nine Turkish activists — İbrahim Bilgen, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Furkan Doğan, Cengiz Akyüz, Ali Heyder Bengi, Cevdet Kılıçlar, Cengiz Songür, Fahri Yaldız, Necdet Yıldırım — and left a tenth, Ugur Suleyman Soylemez, so badly wounded that he died after being in a coma for four years. Israel eventually agreed to pay more than $20 million to the victims’ families. Israeli propagandists working for Erdan’s ministry still engage in the character assassination of these martyrs and distort the reality of that attack. Indeed, everyone who had anything to do with the Mavi Marmara convoy is still accused of “terrorism”, including the then head of Britain’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign Sarah Colborne, Ismail Patel of Friends of Al-Aqsa and leading Palestinian exiles Muhammad Sawalha and Zaher Birawi.
Allegations against such activists include appearing on Al-Aqsa TV channel, which belongs to Hamas; promoting freedom flotillas to break the Israeli siege of Gaza; calling for an end to arms sales to Israel; and arranging demonstrations in support of the Palestinians’ legitimate right of return and the Great March of Return protests. It is even enough, according to Erdan’s report, to have gone to Gaza to give humanitarian aid and moral support to the Palestinians. Describe Israel as an Apartheid state and you will be called a terrorist, even though it fulfils all of the criteria for such a description.
Throughout Terrorists in Suits… there is a brazen disregard for international law, UN resolutions and plain common sense, reflecting Israel’s contempt for the laws and conventions intended to protect vulnerable people and provide them with justice. Nowhere does the report give you any indication that its authors are even remotely aware of Israel’s brutal military occupation, to which the country’s courts and security agencies are in thrall. Indeed, it cites court judgements and reports by Shin Bet, the internal security agency, as if they are independent and completely impartial, which is nonsense. Any opposition or resistance to the illegal and belligerent occupation is ranked as terrorism, and woe betides anyone who thinks differently.
According to Erdan and his team, nobody is safe from such a damning indictment, whether civil society organisations, Palestinian factions, intellectuals or activists. The report claims that 42 leading NGOs out of nearly 300 international organisations promote the “delegitimisation of Israel” and the BDS campaign against the Zionist state. That alone, it insists, is a good enough reason to classify them as “terrorists” and discredit them and their admirable work. Such activism, in the eyes of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is only acceptable when it favours Israel, otherwise, it is “terrorism”.
As US President George W Bush said post-9/11, “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” He left no room for the middle ground; that it is perfectly reasonable to be both against US militarism and terrorism. Israel has jumped onto this bandwagon, so either you are pro-Israel or you are a terrorist; you cannot be pro-justice if that justice will benefit the people of occupied Palestine. When I wonder, will Israel and its supporters wake up to the fact that peaceful pro-justice, pro-Palestine activists are not the problem, and that it is the Israeli occupation which is at the core of the matter?
Israeli forces fire at Palestinians during the Great March of Return on 2 February 2019
The Israeli military is preparing for a major new offensive in the besieged Gaza Strip.
The Israeli army’s Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi – who was sworn in last month – “has already prioritized preparations for a potential Gaza war,” Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. “Kochavi has approved operational plans for combat and set up an administrative unit to handle the formation of a list of potential targets in the Strip”, the paper added.
Haaretz noted that Kochavi has “recently visited the Southern Command headquarters and met with top commanders in charge of operations in the area” and “also ordered two Iron Dome anti-missile batteries to be manned”.
The report claims that the army’s preparations are based on an “assessment” by the Israeli military intelligence’s research division that Hamas – which governs the besieged enclave – may seek a military confrontation “in a bid to obtain international involvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza”.
According to the “intelligence assessments”, Hamas has grown frustrated with the lack of progress in talks with Egyptian mediators and now believes that “only an extreme move” will lead to any change in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The same article notes that Israeli intelligence believes a Palestinian revolt in the occupied West Bank is also more likely in light of the fact that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ rule is nearing its end.
As is well known, “the relative quiet in the West Bank is maintained mainly due to Israel’s military and intelligence activities carried out by the army, police and Shin Bet”, Haaretz stated.
A view of construction works in Ramot, a Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem on October 04, 2018
Israel is “intensifying” its settlement activity in and around Jerusalem’s Old City, according to NGO Ir Amim.
Publishing a new map yesterday, Ir Amim described an “accelerated, intensifying chain of new facts on the ground in the most historically contested and politically sensitive part of Jerusalem: the Old City and adjacent ring of Palestinian neighbourhoods”.
Ir Amim pointed to “a mounting number of state-sponsored settlement campaigns inside Palestinian neighbourhoods”, as well as “settler-initiated evictions of Palestinians, takeovers of their homes, and the expansion of settler compounds”, as well as the use of “touristic settlement sites” as “key points along a ring of tightening Israeli control”.
According to the group, the Israeli authorities have struggled over the decades to advance plans for settlements due to “the population density in the built-up areas of the Old City”. Some 100,000 Palestinians live in the Old City and its immediate environs, compared to 6,000 Israelis.
In these circumstances, Ir Amim stated, tourism and supposed archaeology projects “assume a central role in Israeli settlement policy”.
Handing over management of such projects to settler organisations allows Israel “to exploit tourism as a tool for reinforcing settlement initiatives in the Old City and its environs, erasing the significant Palestinian presence there, promulgating the idea of the entire area as an Israeli environment, and imposing a nationalistic Israeli character that blurs the multi-religious and multi-cultural nature of the space, primarily to the detriment of the Muslim sites and presence”, Ir Amim said.
Ultimately, the NGO added, “this use of national parks and tourist sites serves the goal of transforming the Palestinian neighbourhoods in and around the Old City – including Silwan, A-Tur, Ras al-Amud and Sheikh Jarrah – from a densely populated Palestinian area into one sprawling tourist site that bolsters Israeli control of the area and access to it”.