The Palestinian patient prisoners’ plight in Israeli jails


NABLUS, (PIC)– Hashim Mohammed Yasser Taha, 24, from al-Khalil, was a student when he attacked two Israeli occupation soldiers stationed at the Ibrahimi mosque doors in 2007.

Hashim’s sister told Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies that his family was informed at first of his martyrdom after being shot by Israeli soldiers at the Ibrahimi mosque.

However, eyewitnesses had confirmed that he was still alive but bleeding, she noted.

The Israeli soldiers interrogated him after being stripped naked while bleeding on the ground, his sister added, saying that many TV channels have broadcasted the occupation soldiers’ violent treatment towards him.

The Israeli soldiers refused all attempts to transfer him to hospital for treatment, she continued. Hashim fell into a coma that lasted for four days, before being transferred to Hadassah hospital where he spent more than two months.

He underwent several surgeries where large amounts of his intestines were removed.

After a little improvement in his health, he was moved to Ramle prison hospital where he spent a whole year and two months suffering too many health problems, Um Muhanned added to Ahrar center.

Despite his difficult health situation, the Israeli authorities sentenced him to 13 years plus 5 years suspended, in addition to a fine of five thousand shekels.

For his part, Fouad Khuffash the director of the Center stated that Hashim is being continuously moved since his arrest from Hadassah hospital to Ramle prison hospital and from Be’er Sheva to Negev prisons with complete disregard to his health.

Um Mohanned stated that Hashim’s family is visiting him regularly, calling on human rights institutions to intensify their efforts for the release of the patient prisoners.

The family said that they live tough moments during Eid in the absence of their youngest son.

Hashim has continued with his secondary and university from his cell studies despite his suffering.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

More Israeli-made missiles found in Syria

More Israeli-made missiles found in Syria.
More Israeli-made missiles found in Syria.
Syrian army troops have confiscated a number of Israeli-made missiles, which were in the possession of foreign-backed militants.

According to Al-Alam reporter, the seizure was made near the village of al-Tabeh in the countryside of the southwestern city of Dara’a on Monday.

Despite the missile, the Syrian troops also seized a large amount of Israeli-made weapons and ammunition, including developed machine guns and wireless communication devices.

This is not the first time that government troops have made such a seizure.

Media sources have in the past showed arms with Hebrew inscriptions, which they said originated from Israel.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

In other news, the Syrian army troops annihilated a weapon warehouse belonged to foreign backed militant groups in the countryside of Daraa Balad, located in the southern part of Daraa city.

Some clashes were also reported in Aleppo where dozens of militant were reportedly killed in heavy clashes along the al-Kastillo-al-Jandoul road.

Army navy troops meanwhile launched air strikes on areas southeast of Damascus on Monday after militant groups trying to seize a key position of the government, while troops pressed their onslaught on the besieged suburb of Moadamiyet al-Sham.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

Army Invades Central Gaza

[Monday October 21, 2013] A number of Israeli military vehicles invaded Palestinian farmlands east of Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza, and fired rounds of live ammunition.

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Eyewitnesses said that seven armored vehicles, including thee bulldozers, invaded the farmlands, while the soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition targeting farmlands and homes in the area.

The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) has reported that the soldiers bulldozed and uprooted agricultural lands before withdrawing from the area.
WAFA added that the vehicles came from a military base across the border fence.

Israeli soldiers conduct frequent invasions into Palestinian areas close to the northern and eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, and prevent the farmers from entering their lands, especially those located close to the border.

In related news, Israeli soldiers handed the Wadi Fokkin village council, west of Bethlehem, a military order informing it that it should stop the construction in a public park in the area.

The order states that all constructions should stop immediately, and that the area in question is “under Israeli sovereignty”.

Wadi Fokkin has been subject to frequent attacks and violations, as Israel illegally confiscates Palestinian lands for settlement activities, while settlers frequently flooded Palestinian lands with wastewater.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

Seven Palestinians Kidnapped In Hebron, Northern Plains

Palestinian medical sources have reported that Israeli soldiers kidnapped five Palestinians near Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, and two in the Northern Plains area of the West Bank.

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Local sources have reported that dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded Bani Neim town, east of Hebron, broke into and searched several homes, and kidnapped five Palestinians.

The sources said that the five have been identified as Khaled and his brother ‘Ala’ Lahlouh, Khalil Ismael Manasra, Ahmad Qassem Manasra, and Mohammad Jamil Manasra.

Soldiers also installed a roadblock at the Halhoul Bridge, stopped and searched dozens of vehicles, and interrogated several residents while inspecting their ID cards.

Furthermore, dozens of soldiers invaded Ein Al-Hilwa area, north of the West Bank’s Northern Plains area, and kidnapped two Palestinian youths.

Aref Daraghma, head of the Wadi Al-Maleh Local council, has reported that the soldiers kidnapped two Palestinians identified as Jasser Qadry and Hilal Adel.

He added that Israeli settlers have attacked the two, adding that the soldiers kidnapped the two as they tried to escape the attack against them.

Furthermore, a group of extremist settlers attacked several shepherds in the area, and forced them out of grazing lands while threatening to shoot them.

Earlier on Monday, soldiers invaded the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and kidnapped one resident.

On Sunday, soldiers kidnapped three Palestinians in Bethlehem, and the Deheisha refugee camp, south of the city.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

‘Pessoptimism’ and the politics of Palestinian health

The development of culture-specific research measures takes time, but adding the dimension of human insecurity and distress to quality of life measures is a vital step.

“Science is political. I want to use science as a political instrument to promote social justice.” These were the words of Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, at the opening session of this year’s Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance (LPHA) conference. His keynote speech hinged on the notion of accountability, which has become something of a watchword in global health. We have a historic opportunity, he suggested, to use this growing interest in accountability and “to put science in the service of social justice and self-determination.”

Held in Cairo from 18-19 March, and organised by the Institute of Community and Public Health (ICPH) at Birzeit University and the American University of Beirut, the conference focused on the ‘Health of Palestinians inside and outside the Occupied Palestinian Territory’. As an external observer, it was of particular interest to see how the discipline of science might be used to inform political argument in a Palestinian context.

Established in 2009, the LPHA is a network of Palestinian and international researchers committed to using the highest scientific standards to describe, analyse and evaluate the health and healthcare of Palestinians. Led by Dr Horton and a group of around 20 academics, the alliance provides the challenge, the opportunity and necessary support to produce research that is subject to high level peer review. A selection of the abstracts presented in Cairo will be published by the Lancet  in November. Many LPHA research findings deserve to be more widely known in order to make an impact.

This year’s presentations included the medical consequences of Israel’s offensive on Gaza in November 2012; the psychosocial health of Palestinian children in the aftermath of the attack; the risks of chronic exposure to demeaning political violence; and sniper femoral syndrome as an example of psychological warfare against civilians. More unspoken issues affecting Palestinian health, such as economic decline and environmental degradation were also explored, while papers on perceptions of drug abuse and sexual behaviour among adolescents in the West Bank; the impact of infertility on women in occupied Palestine; and a story of discrimination surrounding Palestinian breast cancer patients in Israel brought to light some fascinating new research.

Given events in the region, holding a conference in Cairo with a special focus on Palestinian health could be regarded as shoring up exceptionalism – at a time when the security situation in the Sinai is adding yet another layer to Egypt’s political turmoil; when, after two years of bloodshed in Syria, more than one million people have sought shelter in neighbouring Arab countries; and when political instability in Lebanon is being exacerbated by the spill-over of violence in Syria and the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Palestinians and Palestinian healthcare face a unique situation owing to prolonged occupation, the impact of internal divisions and the difficulty of establishing a sustainable health system. Yet, as Dr Ala Alwan, the WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, observed in his opening remarks, many of the difficulties Palestinians face are common to the region, including the rising burden of non-communicable diseases; the problem of equitable access; the importance of being able to respond to crises and the need to strengthen information systems and evidence-based research for decision-making.

The development of culture-specific research measures takes time, but adding the dimension of human insecurity and distress to quality of life measures is a vital step. As Professor Graham Watt, a trustee of Medical Aid for Palestinians, pointed out during the conference, “measuring health, without a political element, misses the point.”

Indeed, the political element is hard to ignore. As the proceedings began, participants discovered that two people from Gaza and three people from the West Bank had been denied permission to travel. In response to the news, Professor Rita Giacaman of the ICPH, Birzeit University, declared that this year the conference would draw on Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of ‘habitus’, which in the Palestinian context is about accepting and resisting the Palestinian predicament – summed up by the Palestinian novelist Emile Habiby’s notion of ‘pessoptimism’. “We felt pessimistic and then sad when we realised that we don’t have five people with us,” observed Professor Giacaman, “but in optimism we are hoping that everyone will be able to make it next year.”

Emailing from Queen Mary University of London, Dr Ali M Ghanem, the supervisor of one of the researchers from Gaza who had been prevented from attending the conference, wrote:

“It is with a great sadness that the ordeal and medieval blockade of the Gaza Strip continues, mostly affecting the vulnerable such as students, the sick and the poor, as politicians and decision makers are spared and enjoy freedom of movement. All the stronger argument for this collective effort to transform the socioeconomic political and humanitarian oppression of the Palestinian people through science and medicine.”

Until now, perhaps the greatest impact of the alliance has been its very existence, as a highly productive partnership between Palestinian and international researchers. The conference was told of how hundreds of angry emails were received by the Lancet after one of its LPHA publications. When they were reviewed, however, it became apparent that few of the complaints concerned the detail of any of the research abstracts. It was their very appearance, the idea of alternative versions of the truth of what is happening being published in a credible medical journal that caused alarm.

The norms of the debate about Palestine, which the LPHA is a part of, are changing. As Professor Paola Manduca of the University of Genoa put it, “Truth, as we can seek by science, has its revolutionary potential in the history of humankind.” In this respect, the LPHA’s focus on Palestinian health should not be seen as shoring up exceptionalism. Rather, it can be viewed as a critical response to the current political environment that is both helping to ensure the Palestinian experience is not forgotten and making a scientific contribution to the potential for change, which unflagging ‘pessoptimists’ are still hoping to bring to fruition throughout the region.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

Kerry: Assad re-election would extend Syria war

PARIS (AFP) — US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that any attempt by Syrian leader Bashar Assad to be re-elected would extend the country’s civil war.

“If he thinks he’s going to solve problems by running for re-election, I can say to him, I think that certainly this war will not end as long as that’s the case that he’s there,” Kerry said after talks with Arab League officials in Paris.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

Foreign jihadists surpass Afghan-Soviet war, storm Syria in record numbers

Foreigners fueled by Islamic fury are rushing to Syria to fight President Bashar Assad at a faster rate than the flow of rebels into Afghanistan in the war against a Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, analysts say.

An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 foreign fighters have come to Syria since the outbreak of the uprising in March 2011.

“This is probably one of the biggest foreign-fighter mobilizations since it became a phenomenon in the 1980s with the Afghan jihad against the Soviets,” said Aaron Y. Zelin, a Washington Institute researcher who studies al Qaeda and Syria.

The number of foreigners in Syria has not reached the level in Afghanistan three decades ago, but that civil war lasted nine years, while the Syrian rebellion is 2 years old.

Mr. Zelin said the rate of foreign recruits streaming into Syria is “unlike anything else.”

The foreign fighters — called jihadists, or holy warriors — come from at least 60 nations. Most are Arabs from Saudi ArabiaLibya and Tunisia, but a few dozen are from Western Europe, particularly Britain, BelgiumFrance and the NetherlandsMr. Zelin said. Ten to 20 fighters have come from the United States, he said.

Analysts say fighters join the rebellion out of a sense of religious duty to help fellow Sunni Muslims, but they become radicalized because the most powerful rebel groups are affiliated with al Qaeda.

More and more opposition groups are peeling away from the Western-backed moderate Syrian National Coalition and its Free Syrian Army military umbrella, and joining with al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra, which are better funded, equipped and organized.

Foreigners make up about 80 percent of Jabhat al-Nusra’s leadership, and as much as 20 percent of its 6,000 to 7,000 fighters are from other nations.

About 40 percent of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s 4,000 to 5,000 fighters are foreigners, and its leadership is about 80 percent foreign, according to the Syrian Support Group, which distributes U.S. supplies to opposition rebels.

Several dozen Syrian rebel groups split from the Syrian National Coalition earlier this month, and about a dozen rebel groups formed an Islamist bloc with Jabhat al-Nusra late last month.

Those radicalized fighters will pose a threat to their home countries when they return, said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst.

“It is clearly more serious today than ever before,” he testified at a congressional hearing in Washington last week.

“They return with confidence that victory is possible. They and their colleagues now know that they inflicted humiliating defeats on the United States military in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that knowledge will boost both spirits and recruitment.

“And they come home with a list of contacts among their fellow mujahedeen from whom they can seek advice or more material forms of assistance.”

Al Qaeda recruiters are running charm campaigns to win local support and bring more foreign fighters to Syria.

Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria pay their fighters “competitive” monthly wages compared with other rebel groups, and are conducting public outreach efforts such as giving presents to children and teaching them to sing religious chants, Mr. Zelin said.

“They make you feel like you want to be a part of it, like you want to join them,” he said. “It’s very compelling, the way they do it. They’re very good at proselytizing. They’re posting all these pictures online, videos online of all these activities, providing free health care in some areas, providing fuel for people, food.”

The moderate opposition is being “squeezed” between the Islamist rebels and government forces in the civil war, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

The United States can do little about the alarming trend, having lost credibility and alienated moderate opposition fighters who are disappointed and angry with empty U.S. promises, analysts said.

“At this point, I haven’t seen any indication the [Obama] administration has any plan of how to deal with the jihadis in Syria,” said Barak Mendelsohn, an associate professor of political science at Haverford College who studies Islamic terrorism.

Washington has protested the influx of foreigners in the war.

“We have been very vocal and clear in denouncing the presence of all foreign fighters,” State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

Syrian Rebel-Held Suburb Appeals For Urgent Help

(BEIRUT) — Residents of a besieged rebel-held suburb of Damascus issued an urgent plea on Monday for the international community to save them from starvation and constant bombardment after efforts to evacuate civilians from the area collapsed this week.

The humanitarian situation in Moadamiyeh west of the capital has been deteriorating for months as troops loyal to President Bashar Assad have blocked food and supplies from entering, activists say. Around 3,000 residents of the suburb were able to flee the area late last month during a rare, temporary cease-fire.

Aid agencies say Syrians across the country face difficulties getting food, but hunger in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, largely surrounded by government territory, is particularly acute.

In an open letter circulated by the main Western-backed opposition group, Moadamiyeh residents pleaded with the international community for help.

“Save us from death. Save us from the hell of Assad’s killing machine,” the letter said. For nearly one year, Moadamiyeh “has been under siege with no access to food, electricity, medicine, communications, and fuel,” it said.

The Syrian National Coalition, the main umbrella group for the opposition, called on international organizations to establish a humanitarian corridor to allow food into the area. On Saturday, the United Nation’s humanitarian chief Valerie Amos called for an “immediate pause” in clashes to allow civilians to leave.

A spokesman for the Moadamiyeh council, Qusai Zakarya, confirmed that local residents had sent the letter to the Coalition asking for help.

“We are heading toward a definite destiny: starvation,” he said via Skype, with the clap of shelling and the thumping of a helicopter audible in the background. “Please, we are begging you (international organizations) to enter and distribute food. Residents are living on boiled grape leaves and olives,” he said.

Activists say that for months, Syrian troops at checkpoints surrounding the battered suburb west of Damascus have not allowed food or medical supplies to enter. The siege is aimed at squeezing out rebels from the area, they say. It is not certain how many civilians remain, but activists estimate around 12,000.

Activists from the Moadamiyeh Media Center reported that six people died of starvation in September: two women and four children.

In a reprieve for some, the Syrian Red Cross and Red Crescent helped evacuate some 3,000 civilians from Moadamiyeh earlier this month during a rare cease-fire coordinated by a controversial pro-government Catholic nun, Mother Agnes Mariam al-Salib, who has lived in Syria for decades, said two activists.

Efforts to evacuate more civilians this week failed after clashes forced hundreds of women and children who had gathered at a checkpoint on the neighborhood’s edge to scatter.

Another Moadamiyeh activist, Wisaam al-Ahmad, said international pressure had allowed chemical weapons inspectors to move freely through the country. He said the same pressure would force the Syrian regime to feed blockaded civilians.

The dire situation in Moadamiyeh is part of the broader humanitarian crisis triggered by Syria’s civil war. The conflict, which began with largely peaceful protests in March 2011, escalated into a civil war that has now claimed the lives of more than 100,000.

The fighting has proven relentless, and on Monday Syrian opposition activists and state television said government forces killed a prominent army defector who became a rebel leader.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as well as the pro-government Al-Ikhbariya TV said Yasser al-Abboud was killed Monday during fighting in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Daraa.

Al-Abboud was among the first high-ranking Syrian army officials to defect and join the rebels fighting to topple the Assad regime. Al-Abboud once commanded the military council of the Free Syrian Army group and led a rebel brigade in Daraa.

In neighboring Lebanon, rockets fired from Syrian territory landed in the northeastern town Hermel near the border, a Lebanese official said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. One rocket landed near a Lebanese military base, while the other four crashed in nearby fields. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Syrian rebels have fired dozens of rockets at Hermel and nearby villages in retaliation for the involvement of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah in Syria’s civil war. Hezbollah forces have been bolstering regime troops as the Syrian war takes on sectarian hues.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

Israeli court orders partial demolition of Jerusalem house

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – An Israeli court in Jerusalem has decided to demolish parts of the house of a Palestinian Jerusalem resident in al-Qarmi neighborhood of Jerusalem’s Old City under the guise that the third floor of the house was expanded without obtaining the needed license and without architectural plan.

Ayid Castero told Ma’an that the court ordered the demolition of the roof of three rooms, a balcony and a staircase on the third floor of his three-story house. The demolition must be completed before the end of 2013 and Castero must pay a fine of 90,000 NIS as reimbursement to five Jewish organizations.

Castero, who lives with his wife and nine children in the house, confirmed that he had an architectural plan for his home. He added that his lawyer would appeal the decision and highlighted that demolition would cause damages to the rest of the building and to ancient buildings which abut the structure.

(Source / 21.10.2013)

A portrait of steadfastness in the Gaza Strip’s deadly “buffer zone”

An older man meets us when we step out of the taxi, a patriarch, his back straight, with a firm handshake and a welcoming smile. The other activists I shared a taxi with have all been there before, and we sit with no major ceremonies at the gate of the house as the sun casts its last warm rays upon us.

Abu Jamal Abu Taima (right) poses with an international activist. (Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

Abu Jamal Abu Taima (right) poses with an international activist.

Soon we are served soft drinks and biscuits, followed by coffee, tea and dates. Our visit is clearly expected. Around us gather children and grandchildren.

By Palestinian standards, Abu Jamal Abu Taima is a large-scale farmer with his 50 dunams. But he also has many mouths to feed: three generations with 71 people. “It was crowded during Eid,” he says with a smile that shows more pride than concern with making room for everyone. But as we begin to discuss the conditions of this great crowd, the smile vanishes.

The years between 1995 and 2001 were something of a golden age. He grew a variety of products, and had greenhouses and a substantial income from what he could export. Then the worries began. His land is adjacent to the Israeli separation barrier, and as Israeli forces expanded the “buffer zone,” it swallowed more and more of his land beside it.

Within this zone, there are no longer any olive or other fruit trees. In 2003 Israeli bulldozers devastated his greenhouse and former home. All he can grow there now is wheat, because it does not need to be tended as regularly as other crops.

And it is only wheat that he hopes to sow when the rains start in November. The occupying power does not allow irrigation. They destroy any irrigation pipes in the area. There is also the danger of death if farmers go onto their fields to manage crops.

Today Abu Taima can grow enough to feed his family, but no more. Before his olive trees in the “buffer zone” were destroyed, they produced enough olives for 70 bottles of olive oil. Those left this year gave six. No exports of what he can grow are allowed.

Farmers grow much less with their greenhouses gone, and they are not given access to their fields to use artificial fertilizers or irrigation.

There are fuel shortages. When given the opportunity to obtain fuel, the price has nearly doubled. Some goods, like dates, are cheaper, precisely because they can no longer be exported. Other crops, costlier to produce, will be more expensive for buyers.

Since they discovered the  tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Israeli forces had become more aggressive. Only a few days ago, a shepherd was shot at, even though it was obvious what he was doing. We understand Abu Taima’s hope that we and other activists in Gaza will put our solidarity into action. This season, we will join the planting and harvesting in yellow vests.

But a question grows stronger within me, and I finally have to ask it. “Since the situation only seems to get worse, would you then want your sons to one day take over from you?” I have to ask it twice, rephrasing it slightly, when he does not seem to understand what I mean.

“Palestinians do not leave their land easily,” he explains patiently. “It gives life. I have no desire to be at a center of political and strategic interests. I just ended up there. All I want is to cultivate my land and support myself and my family.

“And if we leave the land, what happens then? Will Israel advance their positions, crowding us further? It may be another Nakba. I have a responsibility not only to my family but also to Palestine.”

(Source / 21.10.2013)