Israeli police officers and Jewish settlers close the main street, leading to the settlement of Yitzhar near the West Bank city of Nablus, on 8 Nov. 2015
Party leaders from right-wing alliance Yamina yesterday announced a plan to construct 113,000 housing units in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, reported the Times of Israel.
According to Yamina, the plan – which would see the settler population rise by some half a million – is a solution to Israel’s housing crisis, which has seen rising house prices.
“The Tel Aviv metropolitan area is almost as crowded as Gaza and as expensive as New York,” Yamina chair and former justice minister Ayelet Shaked claimed at a press conference held to launch the plan in Etz Efraim settlement.
“The different magic tricks we’ve seen in recent years haven’t worked. The solution is simple: to lower prices you must increase supply,” she added.
Yamina is looking to construct 113,000 settler housing units over a period of five years, effectively linking Ariel – deep in the northern occupied West Bank – and Rosh Ha’ayin inside the Green Line.
The right-wing alliance’s number three candidate, Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, said that by combining “ideology with practicality” the plan would help “erase the Green Line”.
Yamina’s official position is that Israel should move to formally annex Area C of the West Bank.
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, the plan would bring the total number of settlers in the West Bank to one million. Yamina “estimates that the Israeli population will reach 10 million by the year 2024”, said the Post, “and it wants one million of those people to live in Samaria [the West Bank]”.
As part of the plan, Yamina seeks to add additional lanes to Route 5, which would “be extended eastward to reach the Jordan Valley” in the eastern flank of the West Bank.
Israeli forces take down Palestinian flag off mosque in Issawiya
Raids by Israeli occupation forces in Issawiya, a Palestinian neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, are continuing to “disrupt daily life” for residents, reported Israeli NGO Ir Amim.
“Sustained hostile police incursions” into Issawiya “have continued now for two and half months”, said Ir Amim, “severely disrupting daily life and creating intolerable conditions for area residents”.
The organisation noted that while Israeli police “expressed intent to halt the raids particularly over last week’s holiday of Eid Al-Adha”, the raids and harassment “on the ground only intensified, precluding the residents from celebrating their holiday in peace”.
Ir Amim warned that “the recurring hostilities [provoked by raids] are liable to claim more lives.”
“Over the course of the past two and half months, the police have effectively imposed a perpetual state of collective punishment on the entire neighbourhood,” Ir Amim stated, “marked by nightly police raids, severe limitations on movement, and clashes with residents.”
“Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily detained, while an estimated 250 have been injured as a result of the police’s use of excessive force, which already claimed the life of one young man” – a reference to the killing by Israeli forces of 20-year-old Mohammed Obeid.
Ir Amim urged Israeli authorities to “immediately” end “the concerted punitive measures arbitrarily directed at the entire community” of Issawiya “and allow the residents to live free from the threat of constant harassment and inexplicable police targeting”.
13-year-old Palestinian child, Adam Abu Ryalah, can be seen in policy custody after Israeli forces detained him on 10 February 2019
The Israeli occupation’s court in Ofer Prison has ordered Palestinian children to pay fines worth $100,000 since the start of this year, Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies reported yesterday.
The centre said in a statement that most of the Palestinian children detained by Israel are fined in addition to spending time in prisons.
Head of the Centre Riyad Al-Ashqar added that “this is an arbitrary Israeli policy practiced against Palestinian children and their families.”
Al-Ashqar described the fines imposed by the Israeli courts on Palestinian children as a form of “theft” aimed at “blackmailing” them in order to prevent their participation in the anti-occupation activities.
He noted that the children are fined following minor offenses such as throwing stones or being held near military checkpoints of illegal Jewish only settlements in the occupied West Bank.
A group of people stage a demonstration in front of the Israel’s West Bank separation wall to show their support to the Palestinian prisoners in Bethlehem, West Bank on 22 March 2019
In an unusual move, the Israeli General Security Service (Shin Bet) has allowed Hamas prisoners from the Gaza Strip to make phone calls to their families.
The calls will be made through public phones installed in prisons.
According to the Shin Bet decision, 69 Hamas prisoners will be allowed to make phone calls to their relatives, 17 of whom are residents of the Gaza Strip and the rest from the West Bank.
A report by Haaretz said that this move contradicts Israel’s position that prisoners should not be released from the Gaza Strip as long as Hamas holds Israeli prisoners.
The prisoners will be allowed to make call phones and talk with up to five members of their family. They will also be able to call three times a week, provided that one call is no more than 15 minutes. Shin Bet will intercept a part of the calls.
The newspaper suggested that Netanyahu made this agreement in an effort to find a truce between Hamas and Israel. Moreover, the move comes in the wake of the installation of public phones in Ktzi’ot detention facility, where Hamas movement prisoners are detained. 30 Hamas prisoners from the West Bank signed on a pledge not to smuggle cell phones to prison, in exchange for installing public phones and allowing prisoners to use them.
The Shin Bet held the dialogue with the captive movement to end the strike in April. Both sides agreed that the prisoners would have the right to speak three times a week for 15 minutes per call with their first-degree relatives, in calls intercepted by the Shin Bet. In the event of a breach, communications will be cut off from the prison cells, and the family visits from the Gaza Strip will be prevented. In March, Hamas prisoners started a hunger strike in response to plans to install jamming devices in their prison cells that prevent them from making phone calls with smuggled mobile phones.
As part of the agreements reached to end the hunger strike, at the initiative of the Shin Bet and with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and contrary to the position of the Prison Authority, Israel agreed to install public phones in the prison cells where jamming devices were connected.
According to the agreements, prisoners must be allowed to call five family phone numbers. They can hold three conversations a week from public phones for 15 minutes each.
Public telephones in prison have been activated after about 30 prisoners signed a pledge not to smuggle any cell phones, and after confiscating the smuggled phones. The confiscation will result in indefinite sanctions.
Palestinians wave flags as Israeli security forces intervene protestors with tear gas during a demonstration near the rubble of buildings that were demolished by Israel, in the village of Sur Baher, on 26 July 26, 2019
Israeli occupation forces arrested over 500 Palestinians from Jerusalem in July, mainly from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya, Director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club in Jerusalem Naser Abu-Qouse said yesterday.
Among those detained, Arab48 reported Abu-Qouse saying, were children who were under five years old.
He stated that at least 300 people were arrested from Issawiya alone.
Israeli soldiers have also killed Palestinian Photojournalist Yaser Murtaja in the Gaza Strip
Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ) announced on Monday that the Israeli violations against Palestinian photojournalists are increasing, the Anadolu Agency reported.
This came in a statement issued by the FAJ on the occasion of World Photography Day.
“Many of the photojournalists made many sacrifices for the sake of special journalistic coverage during the wars in the Middle East over the past five years,” the FAJ said.
The FAJ hailed the efforts of photojournalists and stressed that they are doing an important job by covering events in the region.
Meanwhile, the Freedoms Committee of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said that more than 144 Palestinian photojournalists have been subjected to violations of the Israeli occupation in the first half of 2019.
According to a press release issued by the syndicate, the frequency of photographers being targeted by the Israeli occupation is increasing with 232 violations against the Palestinian press in the first half of this year.
The statement called on Arab and international media and human rights organisations to support the Journalists Syndicate in its efforts to protect journalists from systematic attacks and to prosecute the Israeli occupation for its ongoing crimes.
Nasim Mokafeh Abu Romi and Hamoudah Khader Al Shaikh from Ezareyah town, occupied Jerusalem. Both aged 14 and 15
Palestinian NGOs and families yesterday called for international pressure to be placed on Israel to release the body of a Palestinian teen executed by occupation forces, Wattan reported.
In a statement, the NGOs and families replied to reports about Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri’s decision to withhold the body of 14-year-old Nasim Abu Romi from Jerusalem’s neighbourhood of Ezareyah to exchange it with the body of an Israeli soldier held in Gaza.
Israel’s plan to keep the body of the minor, the statement continued, added to its crime of executing him and his 15-year-old friend Hamoudah Khader Al Shaikh.
Abu Romi was shot more than seven times on 15 August from a distance of less than four metres, including bullets which were fired as he lay motionless on the floor.
Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories
By Rebecca Stead
Cycling4Gaza will travel across four countries to highlight the freedoms enjoyed by many in Europe but denied to Palestinians in the occupied territories
In March 2018, Dr Zara Hannoun visited the Gaza Strip. “I can’t even begin to put the experience into words,” she tells MEMO. “From the start, you can see that there is strict restriction of movement on the people in Gaza. There are no real resources; the infrastructure in the cities is completely devastated.”
“You go to the hospitals and see that they’re doing what they can with what they have, but the situation is dire. Coming back I really struggled, it’s hard to just accept what we call reality and yet know what is out there,” she added.
Zara is just one of a team of volunteers who are working to change this reality. Founded in the wake of Israel’s 2008 assault on the already-besieged Gaza Strip, Cycling4Gaza has been raising money for and awareness of the grave humanitarian situation in the Strip for almost a decade.
“My first cycle was in 2011,” Zara explains, “we were meant to do it in Greece but because there were quite a few logistical problems, it was moved to Jordan. It turned out to be a wonderful route, because we were basically cycling from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea and you could see Palestine just across the border.”
“Every cycle is completely different,” she adds, “each one brings a completely different experience, whether the ride is taking place in Europe, the US or the Middle East.”
Cycling4Gaza raises money for humanitarian projects in Gaza, working closely with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) to provide for the medical needs of Palestinian children, such as travelling abroad for surgery or having access to adequate treatment within the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).
“We always look for projects that are underfunded or lack support in Gaza,” Zara explains. “Often this includes focusing on mental health care, because this is something that is quite overlooked and still holds a bit of a stigma in Palestinian society,” she adds.
Yet as the Great March of Return – which has seen thousands of Palestinians demonstrate along the Gaza fence to demand the right of return to the homes from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948 – enters its 18th consecutive month, providing emergency medical aid across the Strip has become increasingly important.
As Salwa Abu Wardeh, who is herself the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and now a member of the Cycling4Gaza committee, explains: “There are very limited resources in Gaza and access to these is difficult. The idea of being able to leave Gaza to access medical care is virtually non-existent because of the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.”
“The blockade basically eliminates freedom of movement for the population of Gaza, which has a devastating effect on so many areas of life,” she adds.
“Because of this, the theme of this year’s ride is freedom,” Salwa’s colleague Dina Dajani explains. Between 27 August and 1 September, some 50 participants will cycle across four countries, starting in Germany before heading through Luxembourg, France and Belgium, before finishing in front of the European Union (EU) Parliament in the Belgian capital Brussels.
“The idea was to demonstrate the lack of freedom of movement that people in Gaza face as opposed to the freedom of movement that is present in the EU,” Dina tells MEMO.
At a time when thousands of refugees and migrants are braving perilous journeys in search of a better life in Europe, the hope is this theme will resonate beyond the Palestinian context.
“A lot of people are at least able to escape difficult situations in order to pursue a better life, but this is something that’s completely impossible for people in Gaza,” Dina emphasises.
Asked what difference initiatives like Cycling4Gaza can make, the team tells MEMO it is about sparking a “butterfly effect”, introducing new supporters to the Palestinian cause and exposing already-well-informed followers to fresh information.
“Firstly it’s about the awareness we raise in local communities in the countries in which we’re cycling,” Dina tells me. “We have a big event at the finish line, hand out flyers, and talk to people along the way. It’s one of the reasons we chose cycling, because we can pass through a lot of places in one ride.”
Yet even those taking part in the cycle, many of whom are often well-informed on Palestine, have the opportunity to learn more. “We try to get children who have been treated by the PCRF, in one capacity or another, to join the cycle,” Salwa adds.
“So for example, in 2014, we had one young man called Ahmad Abu Namous who was a recent amputee; he had been shot at close range in the knee and lost the bottom half of his leg. He was fitted with a prosthetic and he cycled 360 kilometres with us in the US that year.”
“I think this really gives everyone, the people we encounter along the way, the cyclists themselves and us as team members an opportunity to get real life, first-hand accounts from people in Gaza.”
Finishing this year’s ride in Brussels, Cycling4Gaza hopes to highlight the role – large or small – that everyone in the international community can play.
“Landing in front of the EU parliament we’re hoping to say, look, Palestine is still on the map, and the humanitarian situation there is dire,” Salwa stresses.
The situation is getting worse and we need to understand that in order to address it. No one can pretend it’s not happening anymore.
“The international community as a whole has to push for lifting the blockade – that’s the most urgent and desperate situation right now. For us as an organisation, it’s just about being able to create a world where those people who can make a difference are aware that every action counts and to put as much onus as possible on the international community to help lift the siege on Gaza.”
The Cycling4Gaza team concludes: “Ultimately access to food and medicine is a freedom enshrined in international law; it’s a freedom stipulated in the Geneva Convention on Human Rights. So we’re not asking for anything that doesn’t apply to us [in Europe and elsewhere] and shouldn’t apply to everyone in the world.”
“It’s really easy to say ‘my actions aren’t going to make a difference.’ But we just need to take that first step”.
A scheme intended to enhance the voice of Palestine globally and professionally has been launched in Nablus at the Second Conference for Palestinian Expatriates. The “Palestine Ambassador Initiative” will equip anyone wanting to present the Palestinian cause in the public domain with access to concrete facts and the skills necessary to do so. The initiative was mooted at last month’s Palestine Expo event held at London’s Olympia.
According to the director of Stream Media Consultancy, Rawan Damen, the aim is to set common grounds and develop a common language. “The Palestine Ambassador Initiative hopes to open the door to specialising in the issue while raising skill levels, as well as enhancing the voice of Palestine both locally and globally,” she explained.
The initiative consists of a teaching platform available in three languages: Arabic, English and Spanish. The platform is based on remote learning at a time and pace that are convenient for the learner, from anywhere in the world through various audio-visual and print materials. It will take nine months to complete a diploma in this subject and anyone can register via the website, regardless of their age, original nationality or place of residence.
“The idea was born due to the continued demonisation of Palestinians in a number of Arab countries and under a lot of pressure to normalise relations with the Zionist project,” said Damen, the founder of the initiative. “The digital world opens up very wide horizons for communication between individuals. As such, there has to be a platform that equips participants with accurate information and sound presentation.”
She added that there needs to be such ambassadors for Jerusalem, for Safed, for the environment and water in Palestine, as well as an ambassador for the Palestinians of Lebanon and even the Palestinians of Chile. The cause of all Palestinians everywhere needs to be highlighted and promoted.
The initiative has partnered with a number of organisations, including the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad, the Moroccan Observatory Against Normalisation, the Palestinian Centre for Policy Research and Strategic Studies (Masarat), the Academy of Refugee Studies, the International Campaign for Preserving Palestinian Identity (Intimaa), Dar Al-Awda for Research and Publications, the Jordanian Engineers’ Association, Engineers for Palestine and Jerusalem, Association 302 for Defending the Rights of Refugees and Thabit Organisation for the Right of Return.
The platform is expected to be operational next month. Online teaching and discussions will be supplemented by a competition next year.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas holds a press conference at the Presidency Building in Ramallah, West Bank on 3 July 2019
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas sacked all of his advisers, Wafa news agency reported yesterday.
The Fatah head also ordered former Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his ministers repay money they received “illegally”. The ministers, Abbas ruled, must repay the funds in a single payment and not in instalments.
The Palestinian Authority has been reeling as a result of a reduction of funding after the US cut aid to a number of Palestinian and international organisations with support Palestine refugees including UNRWA, and also as a result of Israel’s decision to withhold millions in taxes it collects on behalf of he PA which it says are used to pay salaries to the families of Palestinian prisoners.
In spite of this, in 2017 Abbas approved a 67 per cent pay rise for Palestinian Authority (PA) officials – as well as other financial benefits amounting to tens of thousands of dollars – while the West Bank’s economy struggled and swathes of public sector employees spent months with reduced pay.
At the time, Abbas approved pay rises for PA officials, increasing their monthly salaries from $3,000 to $5,000. The prime minister’s monthly salary was raised to $6,000.