Little change for Palestinian prisoners despite agreement

DUBAI (IRIN) — The death of a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli detention last week has raised tension in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, leading to renewed rocket fire from Gaza into Israel for the first time since a ceasefire ended eight days of heavy conflict in November 2012, and a series of clashes between demonstrators and the Israeli Army.

Jeffrey Feltman, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, told the Security Council that the rocket fire on 26 February was “a most troubling development” and called for an “independent and transparent” investigation into the death of Arafat Jaradat on 24 February. The Palestinians allege he was tortured to death – a claim the Israelis deny.

Four other prisoners are on a hunger strike, the longest has lasted more than 210 days, protesting against the conditions of their detention, including limited visitation rights and so-called “administrative detention” without charge, which the UN deems a violation of international human rights law.

The UN has called for the full implementation of an agreement signed in May 2012 to ease detention conditions in exchange for security guarantees.

“Until now, nothing really happened – nothing we could feel on the ground. There is no change,” said Osama Mustafa, whose father, Wasfe Mustafa, a senior Hamas official, was imprisoned in 2006, released in 2009, and put under “administrative detention” several times since then.

“My father is still in prison without any official charge or trial,” Mustafa told IRIN.

“The conditions of visits got even worse for my family. I am still not allowed to visit my father. Only my mother and the younger sisters can. Before the agreement, they could go and talk with my father inside the prison. Today, they are often forced to meet in a facility outside, under the heat of the sun.”

More than 4,500 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons: dozens have been held since before 1993; hundreds are being held without charge; and many have died in custody since 1967.

(Source / 02.03.2013)

Nablus rally in support of hunger strikers attacked by Israeli forces

Nablus, Palestine: Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers, in solidarity with Palestinian hunger strikers at Huwara checkpoint March 2, 2013

A rally and march commemorating the 44th anniversary of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in support of hunger strikers, turned violent today as Israeli forces began firing tear gas into the crowd and arresting people.

Ma’an NewsIsraeli forces fire tear gas at DFLP rally in Nablus:

The rally, attended by hundreds of people, started at al-Quds street [Nablus] and walked toward Huwwara checkpoint. Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters carrying Palestinian flags and shouting slogans in support of hunger strikers.

A number of people suffered tear gas inhalation and teenagers Omar Daraghmeh, 14, and Bilal Safoutta, 16, were arrested by Israeli forces, witnesses said.

An Israeli spokeswoman said “50 Palestinians took part in a violent and illegal riot and threw rocks at security forces, who responded with riot dispersal means.”

 (Source / 02.03.2013)

A struggle for Palestinian identity

The hunger strikers have been anonymous for years and in their desperation are attempting to make the headlines of international news outlets to draw attention to systematic Israeli oppression

  • The abuse of prisoners is nothing new. Prisoners are a pain in the neck; they are an expense to maintain alive. If they are enemies of the state — as many Palestinian prisoners are for Israel — then that state must now ensure, according to humanitarian law and international human rights, that all prisoners are treated properly. That is really annoying for Israel.

And this is precisely the argument being advanced by the Palestinians. The grassroots and civil society movements supporting the plight of the prisoners are not claiming that they are innocent. In 2011, the hunger strike was launched by Khadr Adnan, a member of the group Islamic Jihad that endorses the use of violence to achieve the liberation of Palestine.

It is not innocence that is being advanced; it is a sense of unrequited justice that is replete in the Palestinian discourse. Years and decades of festering frustration have led the Palestinians to call for Israel to either finish them off or to release them of their bondage. They ask Israel to condemn them for existing or to free them. Put us on the stand! Sentence us for something, cry the Palestinians.

A majority of the nearly 5,000 Palestinian prisoners vegetating in Israeli jails are being detained without trial in sight. Their cause has been picked up by the same underdogs that launched the freedom flotillas — they are clever and have found the Achilles heel of and loopholes in the Israeli security system, and their strategy is to exploit those inconsistencies on the international stage.

In essence, such groups as the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR) based in London with a mini lobby office in Brussels and a regional office in Gaza, are smart to play the humanitarian card, particularly because it elicits solidarity and support from international human rights groups, and it appeals to the Christian feeling of guilt, of good-vs-evil, so prevalent still in Europe’s discourse.

Hunger artists

How can Israel claim to be a democracy and respect human rights — one of the pillars of modern liberal democracies — when they deny basic civil rights to their Arab and Bedouin minorities and blatantly violate the international code of human rights? The prisoner who died last week was tortured to death: Six bones were broken in his neck, spine, arms and legs.

His name was Arafat Jaradat. He was 30 years old and the father of three children. He worked at a gas station and was detained by Israel for throwing stones at the Jewish colony of Kiryat Arba outside the violently contested West Bank city of Hebron in 2011. He was starving himself to death to show his self-destructive dedication to remain a proud Palestinian.

The hunger strike tactic is a different approach from the victorious ‘V’ flashed by the shackled leader of Fatah, Marwan Barghouti, also detained for decades for violent means of resistance against Israel.

Devoid of a leader, the grassroots movements behind the hunger strikers are calling for the masses to mobilise again, from the nearly 5,000 prisoners to the millions of Palestinians still imprisoned within the sordid Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs, Eisa Qaraqe, expressed dismay at Jaradat’s death, and called on US President Barack Obama to pressure Israel into releasing the prisoners before his visit there in March, “or else he will visit while Palestine is on fire”. Many pundits have been calling for a third intifada, but these are the same smouldering embers from the injustices created and left by European colonialism.

This would not be a third round of popular Palestinian uprisings; the Palestinians have been squashed by Israel’s military machine; they are subdued and controlled by an omniscient Israeli security system; it is sad and pathetic to watch the hunger strikes. The Palestinians are becoming like performance artists, much like in Kafka’s short story, A Hunger Artist. Although one could read this tragedy unfolding as yet another facet of Kafka in action, the difference is that these are real people dying. They have been anonymous for years and in their desperation they are attempting to inscribe their names on the headlines of international news outlets to prove that they existed, to be remembered for having fought to maintain an existential place for Palestine.

But this is just a tactic to gain visibility. One should not forget that previous Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan (backed by Israel and the US) was notorious for his torture methods on Hamas prisoners in Gaza during the Oslo years. Now, the tides have turned, and the points being marked by the hunger artists are all going to the grassroots Islamist movements.

(Stuart Reigeluth / Source / 02.03.2013)

Obama visit is off if Netanyahu fails to form government by mid-March

Barak ObamaUS officials cancel Barak Obama’s visit to Israel.

US officials preparing for President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel have told their Israeli counterparts that the visit will be cancelled if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to form a new government by mid-March. Obama is due to land in Israel on March 20th.

The deadline set by President Shimon Peres for the new government to be in place expires on teh evening of Saturday, 2nd March. Due to the difficulties faced by Netanyahu it is expected that an extension of 14 days will be requested; if he has still not cobbled together another coalition by the end of the extension period then another Knesset Member will be invited to do so.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper on Friday, political officials in Israel have confirmed that the White House is preparing for a possible cancellation of Obama’s visit.

Netanyahu’s difficulties arise from the alliance between the Yesh Atid Party, headed by Yair Lapid, and Jewish Home Party, headed by Naftali Bennett. Both have made any agreement with Likud conditional on the lowering of the age for recruitment into the army of young ultra-Orthodox men and women (Haredim) to 21, and not 24, as proposed by Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu alliance. Netanyahu wants the older age in order to ensure the inclusion of the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties in his government.

Although press reports mention an understanding between Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Yesh Atid Jewish Home, Lapid has said that he refuses to join a government with the Haredim parties. Likud -Yisrael Beiteinu’s chief negotiator, attorney David Shimron, said at the close of negotiations with Yesh Atid on Thursday, that a lot of time was spent to clarify Yesh Atid’s position on the inclusion of Haredim parties in the government. “The response we got,” he added, “was that, in terms of practicality, and in the opinion of Yesh Atid, there is no place for the Haredim in the next government.”

A spokesperson for Yesh Atid, meanwhile, said that the party will continue to stick to its principles. “These have gained us the trust of the public; we hope that the structure of the new government will reflect the will of the people by making changes that express the new agenda of the State of Israel.”

The leader of the Shas Party, Aryeh Deri MK, followed this up by saying that Yesh Atid leader Lapid is “waging a campaign of hatred” against the Haredim. “It has now become clear that behind the alleged concern about spreading the burden [of military service and taxation] equally there is hatred towards the Haredim,” he claimed.

The alliance between centre-right Yesh Atid and extreme right-wing Jewish Home, which represents Israeli settlers, requires that both parties should join the government or both should be in opposition; there is no room for one to split away leaving the other isolated.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has only signed-up one extra coalition partner to-date, old rival Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah Party. It has been agreed that Livni will take charge of the justice portfolio, with the party also looking after environment issues. Livni will lead peace negotiations with the Palestinians, should they ever resume. In an example of how complex coalition talks can get, Jewish Home has made it clear that it will not join a coalition with Livni in such a role. Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu denies that this is the case.

A poll published by Haaretz newspaper on Friday suggested that if an election was to be held in Israel today, Netanyahu’s bloc would see its Knesset membership fall from 31 to 26 seats. Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid would, on the other hand, gain 11 seats, to end up with 31; Jewish Home would gain one extra seat, leaving it with 13 MKs. Both the Labour Party and the extreme right-wing religious parties would have reduced numbers of MKs, the poll claimed.

(Source / 02.03.2013)

Samsom wil meer inzet van Israël

Volgens Samsom is van de Israëlische verantwoordelijkheid momenteel weinig te zien

Volgens Samsom is van de Israëlische verantwoordelijkheid momenteel weinig te zien

PvdA-leider Samsom heeft op een partijbijeenkomst gezegd dat Israël zich meer moet inzetten voor vrede. “Israël draagt als de bovenliggende partij in het conflict met de Palestijnen verantwoordelijkheid voor het vruchtbaar hervatten van de onderhandelingen over een duurzame tweestatenoplossing”, zei Samsom in Zwolle.

Daar spraken PvdA-leden in deelsessies en plenaire bijeenkomsten over de ontwikkelingen in het Midden-Oosten.

‘Fysiek onmogelijk’

Volgens Samsom is van de Israëlische verantwoordelijkheid momenteel weinig te zien, zo zei hij in zijn afsluitende speech. “Met de voortdurende bouw van nieuwe illegale nederzettingen op de Westelijke Jordaanoever en in Oost-Jeruzalem maakt Israël een duurzame oplossing fysiek onmogelijk.”

Er werd ook gesproken over de Arabische Lente. Die zal volgens Samsom nog heel lang duren: “Want Rome is niet gebouwd in één dag, noch zal een gehele regio – uitstrekkend van Tanger tot aan Teheran – in een paar jaar een proces van democratisering doorlopen.” Het opbouwen van een democratie vergt volgens Samsom een lange adem. Hij trok een parallel met Centraal- en Oost-Europa, waar jaren na de val van het communisme sommige landen nog altijd worstelen met democratie.

(Source / 02.03.2013)

Retired nurse relives Israeli jail hell

Apr 27 2012

FREED ex-nurse Jim Henry told how five short words saw him arrested at gun point and thrown into an Israeli prison.

As Jim landed in Tel Aviv and told officials “I am going to Palestine,” he was cuffed and taken in a cage to a prison in Givon.

Talking exclusively to the Irvine Herald, Jim, 60, who returned from his four days of hell in the prison, said he would go back in a heartbeat “to help those poor people.”

The moment widower Jim touched down in Tel Aviv the plane was surrounded by hundreds of armed police and soldiers.

He was shackled in hand and leg chains, and thrown into a cage before being taken to prison along with eight others.

Dad-of-one Jim was travelling as part of a group, Welcome To Palestine, who wanted to fly to Israel and declare honestly where they were going. At the moment no visitors are allowed entry to the West Bank.

“All I said was I am going to Palestine and before I knew it, I had been handcuffed and thrown into a cage being taken to prison,” said Jim, of Broughton Green.

“I knew that would happen and was prepared for it but there was a part of me wondering what was going to happen next.”

Jim found himself in a small cell with eight others. Next to him were French, American and Belgian supporters of Welcome to Palestine.

For the next three days Jim and his fellow campaigners were held in cells with only two hours of yard time a day.

They refused to eat in protest at the female prisoners being held captive.

And at one point the prison guards sent in riot squads who ordered the inmates to, “sit down, shut up” and proceeded to rattle the bars and shout at them.

“We didn’t eat and drank little as we were scared it may have been tampered with,” said Jim. “Thankfully I was allowed my medication and one bar of soap.

“It was a tough few days but we were strong for each other. I have to say the women were stronger than the men.”

For Jim, the scariest part of his experience was the journey home again. He was taken in a van on his own and feared his life was in danger.

“Deep down I knew it was scare tactics but when I was thrown in a cage in a van on my own and the others were put in a different van, I began to think I wasn’t being taken to the airport.

“But after a short journey, I was reunited with the men and women. We refused to board the plane before the women as we wanted to make sure they were safe.

“But I have to say that plane home was a nightmare.

“There were Israeli soldiers and people who thought we were terrorists, if it hadn’t been for the cabin crew, who gave us some chocolate to eat and showed us some kindness, it would have been unbearable.

“I have to say I was glad to land in Edinburgh.

“I was proud we had raised a little awareness about the plight of the people over there who live in fear every day of their lives.”

Jim is planning to set up a Friends of Palestine in North Ayrshire and his hope is to return to the Middle East.

“I probably won’t be allowed to board a plane but I want to keep trying to help these people.”

(Source / 02.03.2013)

PA official: Gaza crossing to remain closed Sunday

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities will keep the Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza closed on Sunday, a Palestinian border official said.

Nathmi Muhanna, PA director of border crossings, told Ma’an Saturday that the crossing will be closed for “security reasons.”

Kerem Shalom has remained shut since Monday, when a projectile fired from Gaza struck Israeli territory, but was scheduled to be reopened Sunday.

On Friday, an Israeli military spokeswoman said Palestinians hurled rocks and firebombs over the fence at army patrols in several locations and that militant gunfire damaged an army vehicle.

(Source / 02.03.2013)

Syrian army, rebel clashes bring conflict to Iraq doorstep

  • Smoke rises after what the photographer said were missiles fired by a Syrian Air Force fighter jet loyal to President Bashar al-Assad at the Syrian town of Yaarabiya, near the main border between Syria and Iraq March 2, 2013. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousuly
(Reuters) – Clashes between the Syrian army and rebels at a border post brought the civil war close to neighboring Iraq, where troops fired warning shots into the air, residents, officials and a Reuters reporter said.

Insurgents seized control of half of the northeastern Syrian town of Yaarabiya, including a border post with Iraq, in a battle with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on Friday and early Saturday, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, said on Saturday.

The fighting on Iraq’s doorstep shows how Syria’s near-two-year conflict could spill over its borders, threatening to drag in neighboring countries and further destabilize the region.

Iraqi troops on the other side of the border from Yaarabiya fired warning shots, residents, local officials and a Reuters reporter said.

On Friday, a Scud missile fired from Syrian territory landed near a village opposite Yaarabiya, causing no damage but terrifying locals, the mayor of the town of Telefar, near the Rabia crossing, said.

A Syrian rebel commander told pan-Arab satellite television channel al-Arabiya the Iraqi army fired across the border at Syrian rebels following the Scud incident, but residents and Iraqi military sources denied the report.

Rebel commander Brigadier Selim Idris also told al-Arabiya some Syrian army soldiers fled into Iraq after rebels took the crossing, the second post on the Iraq border to fall into rebel hands.

A medical source from a hospital in Telafar said one corpse and four wounded had been delivered there, identifying them as Syrians, probably from the regular army.


“We have been hearing the sound of explosions and guns in Yaarabiya for the past three days,” said Ali Shibaib, who lives 300 meters from the border post in Iraq.

“The Syrian regular army troops are stationed between the Iraqi army and the Free Syrian army,” he added.

The Free Syrian Army is the main rebel force.

The conflict in Syria has previously spilled into Iraq. In September, a five-year-old girl was killed when three rockets struck a border town in the al Qaim area.

Opposite another Syrian border, Israeli soldiers also found fragments of mortar shells that fell near an Israeli settlement in the occupied Golan Heights on Saturday. No casualties or damage was caused and United Nations observers were notified, an army spokeswoman said.

Israel seized the Golan from Syria in a 1967 war and later annexed it.

Iraq’s precarious sectarian and ethnic balance has also come under strain from the conflict next door, where mainly Sunni Muslim insurgents are fighting to overthrow Assad, who is backed by Shi’ite Iran.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi’ite Muslim, says his government has a policy of non-interference in Syria.

Syria and Iran on Saturday condemned a move by the United States to give non-lethal aid to rebels fighting to topple Assad, accusing Washington of double standards.

“I do not understand how the United States can give support to groups that kill the Syrian people,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said at a news conference in Tehran with Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister.

(Source / 02.03.2013)

Al-Qaeda leader behind Algeria gas plant hostage massacre killed in Mali – report

A senior commander for al-Qaeda’s north African wing has been killed by Chadian soldiers in Mali. Mokhtar Belmokhtar allegedly masterminded the raid on the gas plant in southern Algeria that left 37 hostages dead.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed during an assault on an Islamist rebel base on Saturday, Chad’s military have reported.

“The Chadian forces in Mali completely destroyed the main jihadist base in Adrar of the Ifoghas mountains,” an army statement said, adding that the death toll included “several dead terrorists, including their leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar.”

West Africa and Chad sent 1,000 some soldiers to Mali in January to help the French effort to drive Al-Qaeda linked forces out of the northern part of the country, which was seized following a coup in Mali in March last year.

(Source / 02.03.2013)