Man injured, another arrested in clashes in Tuqu

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian was injured, and another was arrested in clashes with Israeli forces in Tuqu southeast of Bethlehem on Tuesday, witnesses said.

An ambulance took Mohammad Saleem Sabbah, 22, who was shot with a live bullet in the right abdomen, they said.

Noureddin Mahmoud Sabbah, 26, was arrested during the clashes and taken to an unknown destination, witnesses said.

An Israeli military jeep overturned while chasing Palestinians during the clashes, causing light injuries to a soldier.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls.

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Israeli detention of Palestinian children ‘up 80%’

Israeli detention of Palestinian children 'up 80%'

A human rights body says 740 children were detained during the first two months of 2014, with 465 remaining in custody for at least a week.

The number of Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces during the past two months rose by 80% compared with a monthly average over the past two years, according to an international human rights monitoring organization.

The Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights, a nonprofit, non-governmental human rights group, stated in a report released on Monday that 740 children were detained during the first two months of the current year, with 465 of them remaining in custody for a minimum of one week.

Euro-Mid, based in Geneva, Switzerland, said on average 200 Palestinian children were detained per month during 2013 and 197 during 2012, based on the records of the Defense for Children International (DCI) and the Israel Prison Service.

A total of 350 Palestinian children were detained in January. Some were released within hours of their capture, while 220 others were held for a week or more.

In February, 390 children were arrested, 245 of whom were kept in custody for at least one week.

Collective punishment

Euro-Mid’s report stated that most charges brought against the detainees involved stones being thrown at Israeli troops patrolling in Palestinian cities, taking part in a peaceful demonstrations condemning Israel’s separation wall, the shouting of slogans and the writing of statements or production of paintings glorifying Palestine and rejecting the occupation.

Under international law, such acts are not deemed crimes and do not support the detention of a child, the report said, adding that the principles of the International Law and the Rights of the Child state that a child should be exempted from detention as much as possible. It also noted that Israel often resorts to collective punishment.

The international human rights observer pointed out that most detentions of children were carried out after midnight and were accompanied by repressive acts by police which frightened children and their families without their being any genuine security threats.

The children’s guardians were also not allowed to accompany their sons and were not told where they were being taken.

Five-year-old detained

Most children were also denied from their right to immediate legal assistance, since Israeli authorities often begin investigations straight after the detention of a child without waiting the arrival of the private lawyer.

The majority of the children face solitary confinement, a practice which has severe negative psychological effects.

Mira Bushara, a researcher at Euro-Mid’s legal department, said, “Israel is totally indifferent to the Convention on the Rights of the Child when it comes to Palestinian children,” pointing to the incident of one five-year-old Palestinian child from Hebron, Wadea Muswada, who was detained in June 2013 on the charge of “throwing stones.”

A number of children told Euro-Mid after their release that during their interrogation by the Israeli army they were subjected to psychological pressure, scolding, deprivation of sleep, denial of access to toilets, and beatings – all forms of torture and “harm, abuse, and violence” prohibited under the provisions of article (19/1) of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report stressed that such an escalation in detentions of Palestinian children without any legal basis is at odds with article (37/b) of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states: “No child shall be tortured or suffer other cruel treatment or punishment. A child shall only ever be arrested or put in prison as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.”

The report also made clear that the detention of Palestinian children during peaceful demonstrations mounted to “a stark violation of their right to their freedom of expression.”

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Collective punishment of Gazans continues: family visits cancelled

Today, the military cancelled family visits to residents of Gaza imprisoned in Israel. Usually, relatives of these residents are allowed to visit them only once every two or three months.

On Wednesday, 12 March 2014, the IDF Spokesperson announced that Kerem Shalom Crossing would be closed, and activity at Erez Crossing restricted to cases that the military defines as humanitarian, following rocket fire from Gaza to communities in southern Israel.

The IDF Spokesperson stated that “a decision to open Kerem Shalom Crossing and restore activity at Erez Crossing to full capacity will be made based on evaluations of the situation and on security considerations.” It is Israel’s duty to protect its borders and residents; however, that does not justify inflicting such harm on all residents of the Gaza Strip who are not involved in the hostilities.

Closing the crossings had a severe impact on electricity supply in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. Israel delayed the transfer of diesel fuel for operating Gaza’s power plant, which has operated only partially since the tunnels on the Egyptian border were closed, for two days. Consequently, the power cuts in the Gaza Strip were extended from 8 to 12 in 24 hours. On 16 March 2014, Kerem Shalom Crossing was reopened and 450,000 liters of diesel fuel were transferred into Gaza, as well as petrol and cooking gas. The fuel was purchased by the power plant with the aid of a Qatar government donation.

B’Tselem calls upon Israel to refrain from collectively punishing the residents of the Gaza Strip

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Syria launches ‘space agency’ project amid war

State news agency SANA said the cabinet had approved a project to create the so-called Syrian Space Agency.

The Syrian government on Tuesday decided to establish a “space agency” to conduct scientific research despite the civil war that has torn the country apart and devastated its economy.

State news agency SANA said the cabinet had approved a project to create the so-called Syrian Space Agency, “with the goal of using space technology for exploration and observing the earth.”

SANA said the government hopes to employ such technology “in the service of development.”

The three-year civil war has destroyed the economy and seen Western sanctions slapped on Damascus, raising questions about how Syria would fund the new research initiative.

Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi had earlier estimated that the country had suffered $31 billion in damage from the war, a figure nearly equivalent to its GDP.

“The damage caused by the war in Syria stands at 4.7 trillion Syrian pounds,” or $31.3 billion dollars (22.5 billion euros), Halqi told the ruling party’s Al-Baath newspaper.

He did not say whether he was referring exclusively to property damage or to some broader measurement.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has forecast that GDP will reach $34 billion this year.

Syria’s uprising began in March 2011 in the form of peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad but escalated into a full-blown insurgency after the regime launched a brutal crackdown.

Over the last three years, an estimated 146,000 people have been killed and millions have fled the country.

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Jordan PM escapes no-confidence vote over row with Israel

Israeli troops shot dead 38-year-old Zeiter, a Palestinian-Jordanian

Amman: Jordan’s prime minister escaped a no-confidence vote by parliament Tuesday that was motivated by his government’s allegedly weak response to the killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli soldiers.

The 150-member lower house renewed its confidence in Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur by an 81-29 vote, with 20 abstentions and 20 MPs absent.

Incensed by the shooting death of judge Raed Zeiter at a border crossing last week, MPs had demanded the government expel the Israeli ambassador and release Jordanian soldier Ahmad Dakamseh, who shot dead seven Israeli schoolgirls in the 1990s.

They have also demanded the government recall the Jordanian ambassador to Israel.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, becoming the only Arab country besides Egypt to have made peace with the Jewish state.

Nsur told the MPs on Tuesday the government “does not see that expelling the Israeli envoy and calling the Jordanian ambassador serve the path of our martyr’s case,” state-run Petra news agency reported.

“If we go ahead with such moves, Jordan will face repercussions that would go beyond our sorrows … It will also affect Jordan’s abilities concerning the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks,” he said.

Nsur did not mention Dakamseh, who is serving a life sentence for the 1997 shooting.

MPs were not immediately available for comment as they were still meeting in parliament.

Israeli troops shot dead 38-year-old Zeiter, a Palestinian-Jordanian, at a border crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan on March 10, saying he had attacked them and tried to take one of their weapons.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights disputed the army’s account, saying one of the soldiers pushed Zeiter after he had disembarked from a bus with other passengers so that Israeli soldiers could search it.

Nsur has held Israel “completely responsible” for Zeiter’s death and demanded an apology for the “hideous” killing.

On Monday, the royal palace said in a statement that Israeli President Shimon Peres had apologised to King Abdullah II for the killing, and that the king had received a “similar” call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Peres issued a statement saying he had called Abdullah to express “deep regret” for the shooting, but the statement did not contain a full apology.

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Livni: Abbas decisions on talks key to prisoner release

Palestinians wave their national flag as they await the release of prisoners in Jerusalem on Dec. 31, 2013
JERUSALEM (AFP) — President Mahmoud Abbas’ decisions on peace talks will play a key role in Israel deciding whether to release a new batch of prisoners, the chief Israeli negotiator said Tuesday.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, speaking at a conference, linked the scheduled March 29 release of 26 veteran prisoners to Palestinian willingness to push forward with peace talks.

“In order to advance serious negotiations, we will all need to take decisions and prove we are determined to reach an agreement and real peace. That burden of proof is also on the Palestinians’ shoulders,” she was quoted on her Facebook page as saying.

“Accordingly, we will examine the issue of the prisoners, meaning that the key to the cells of the Palestinian prisoners is also to be found in the hands of Abu Mazen (Abbas) and the decisions he will take in the coming days.”

Livni’s remarks came after Israeli officials suggested the release might not go ahead unless the Palestinians agree to extend talks beyond a looming April 29 deadline.

Livni denied she was trying to finger point, but said she was raising the issue “before decisions are taken” as the two sides mull whether to move into a second phase of US-led negotiations.

So far, 78 of 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners have been freed in three tranches, with the final group due to be released on March 29, pending approval by the Israeli cabinet.

But senior officials, quoted by the Makor Rishon daily’s diplomatic correspondent on Twitter, said that “without an explicit commitment by Abu Mazen to extend the talks, there will not be a fourth wave” of releases.

Peace talks relaunched last July have made next to no progress, marred by bitter disputes over core issues, and Washington is fighting an uphill battle to get agreement on a framework proposal that would extend the process to the year’s end.

Earlier, a senior cabinet minister also cast doubt on the planned prisoner release, and said if it did go ahead, it would not include any Arab Israelis jailed for nationalist attacks.

“The (original) decision said (the release) should be dependent on progress in the negotiations and now it is clear to everyone that there has been no progress,” Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told army radio.

Bennett, an outspoken hardliner who opposes a Palestinian state, also said Israel had never promised to free Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Palestinians have reportedly named 14 Palestinian-Israelis they want freed, but all names must be approved by Israel.

“The government of Israel never took any decision to release Israeli prisoners,” Bennett said, describing such an idea as “delusional.”

Bennett also accused Abbas of staying in the talks purely to ensure another 26 prisoners were freed.

His remarks were made a day after Abbas told US President Barack Obama that releasing the prisoners would be a good step to demonstrate Israel’s seriousness about the peace process.

Suggestions that Israel may not follow through with the release have further exacerbated tensions, with Washington working hard behind the scenes to head off a crisis that could deal a death blow to the fragile dialogue between the sides.

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Israel serves eviction orders to Palestinians in world heritage city

A child leads a horse in the old city of Akka, where Palestinian residents struggling against gentrification have put up signs saying their homes are not for sale.

Alaa Moussa remembers a time when Akka’s old city looked much different.

Over the last decade, he has watched his hometown’s fabric change significantly: new restaurants, bars, hotels and youth hostels are now wedged between the historic stone buildings, homes and cultural landmarks.

Situated on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in present-day Israel, Akka (known as Acre in English and Akko in Hebrew) “is different now,” Moussa, the 30-year-old owner of El-Mursa, a popular Palestinian seafood restaurant, told The Electronic Intifada.

“From the alleys of the old city to the coastal line, everything is changing. There is no comparison to when I was young. Even the history is being changed.”

Much of the city’s architecture dates back to the era when historic Palestine was under control of the Ottoman Empire.

The old city is also home to several mosques, khans (ancient inns), Turkish baths and a citadel, most of which are built atop structures that testify to Akka’s past as a crusader town.

These cultural treasures led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate the old city as a “world heritage site” in 2001.

Yet local Palestinian residents accuse Israel of aiming to push them out of the old city so that it can be Judaized.

State-owned housing management companies are dishing out eviction orders as Israeli and foreign development companies buy up blocks of homes and undertake development projects across the city.

“Too dangerous”

Although Jewish Israelis make up more than 70 percent of Akka’s total population, the old city is almost exclusively home to Palestinians.

Residents told The Electronic Intifada that state-owned housing management companies, such as Amidar and Akko Old City Development Company, regularly deny their applications for housing renovations. During inspections, the homes are subsequently deemed too dangerous to live in and the residents are given eviction orders.

Amidar has been given responsibility for property belonging to Palestinian refugees who were displaced during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that preceded and followed Israel’s establishment in May 1948.

Legal battle

Omar Shannawi, 44, explained that he and his sister recently won a local court case against Amidar. After a nine-year legal battle, the company was forced to pay for renovations in their two-room home in the old city.

“Amidar wouldn’t let us do renovations in our home by ourselves or bring our own contractors,” Shannawi told The Electronic Intifada, adding that the company “charges us unaffordable prices for simple fixes.”

Shannawi, who owns a local coffee shop with his sister, added that his recent success was not the norm: most of Akka’s residents cannot afford to take on Amidar in lengthy court cases or simply give up and search for more accessible housing.

Although Amidar is supposed to foot the bill for home repairs, “the house is falling apart already,” said Shannawi.

His sister Shahro recalled that while their elderly mother was slowly dying of cancer several years ago, Amidar refused to adequately fix several leaks in the apartment that dripped water on her at night throughout the winter season.

Klay Amara, an employee at the local municipality, confirmed that “Amidar rarely approves applications for home renovations and improvements in the old city.”

“Renew the Zionist idea”

Many homes in the al-Mablata area of the old city have been purchased by Ayalim, an Israeli organization, and transformed into housing for Jewish university students.

The organization says its goals are to support Jewish students with “Zionist values” in order to “revive and renew the Zionist idea in the 21st century.”

It seeks to achieve this goal through the “establishment of student and entrepreneur villages” in the Galilee and Naqab (Negev) regions of present-day Israel.

“There are currently 30 students living in five renovated structures in the old city [of Akka],” according to Ayalim’s website.

“The social life in the village aims to take advantage of the diversity found within [Akka] and focuses on activities attractive to both Jews and Arabs alike with the aim of fostering co-existence from the ground up.”

Tensions over plans to push Palestinians out led to week-long riots in 2008, which left 14 Palestinian families displaced from their homes.

Five homes were burned to the ground and dozens of Palestinian homes and shops were damaged (“Recipe for a riot,” Middle East Research and Information Project, 15 November 2008).

Activists and human rights groups warn that the threats of expulsion and gentrification are not limited to Akka.

More than 1.5 million Palestinians are citizens of Israel, constituting some 20 percent of the total population. Spread out in villages, towns and cities across the country, they suffer fromdozens of discriminatory laws that limit their access to land and housing.

“Too difficult to stay”

The state is actively trying to Judaize the remaining Palestinian parts of Israel, according toNadim Nashif, director of Baladna, a Haifa-based advocacy group.

“There is basically the same pattern in Akka that the Israeli establishment is using in Haifa or even Jerusalem,” he said, adding that the goal “is to make it too difficult for people to stay.”

In Akka, however, it is much more difficult for Palestinian residents because their population center is concentrated in the old city, Nashif explained.

In the nearby city of Haifa, at least two neighborhoods that predate Israel’s establishment are facing impending evacuation and demolition.

In Wadi al-Siyah, over sixty people live in eight homes that the Haifa municipality plans to raze in order to make way for a nature reserve.

The al-Mahatta neighborhood, home to around 150 persons from 33 families, may also be removed and replaced by nightclubs, bars and cafes designed to bring in increased tourist revenue.

A similar process has sent living costs sky-high in Jaffa in recent years, pushing indigenous Palestinian residents out and forcing them to search for affordable alternatives.

Abdel Hakim Mufeed is a spokesperson for the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in present-day Israel.

“There is a continuous plan that comes from the government, Amidar, and Akko Old City Development Company to kick Palestinians out of their homes,” he explained to The Electronic Intifada.

“They want to change the face of cities like Akka,” Mufeed added.

“Not for sale”

Plastered on the stone walls of dozens of homes are signs warning that the old city’s Palestinian homes are “not for sale.” Dozens of Akka-based activists have also rallied to preserve the city’s cultural heritage and support local residency rights.

After the municipality tried to auction off the Khan al-Umdan (Arabic for “Caravanserai of the Pillars”) — a historic inn built in 1874 under the rule of Ahmed Jazzar Pasha — to be transformed into a 200-room boutique hotel, residency rights campaigners waged a long legal battle that resulted in the plan being halted.

Mufeed stated that Akka is an integral to Palestinian identity in present-day Israel: “We do not need to keep residents in their homes here to protect Akka. It is this city protects our history on this land.”

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Hamas says Egypt closing Gaza border ‘crime against humanity’

Palestinians pray near the gate of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on February 28, 2014, during a protest to demand that Egypt lift border crossing restrictions.
GAZA CITY (AFP) — Hamas on Tuesday sharply criticized Egypt’s closure of the Rafah border crossing, saying Cairo’s tightening of restrictions on the Palestinian territory was a “crime against humanity.”

“The Egyptian authorities’ insistence on closing the Rafah crossing and tightening the Gaza blockade… is a crime against humanity by all standards and a crime against the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement.

He condemned “the continuation of this blockade and closing the crossing, all whilst Israel escalates and (increases) aggression”.

“We hold all parties to the blockade of Gaza completely responsible for the consequences of this crime,” he said.

Egypt has severely restricted access through the border city of Rafah — Gaza’s only gateway to the world that is not controlled by Israel — ostensibly for security reasons.

The Hamas interior ministry says Rafah, for many Gazans the only passage in and out of the territory and a crucial crossing for supplies, has now been closed for 39 straight days.

The UN slammed closures to Gaza’s border crossings, expressing concern for Gazans in need of medical treatment.

“Extremely limited movement in and out of Gaza from (Israeli-controlled) Erez and Rafah crossings continues to afflict the civilian population, including patients awaiting medical treatment,” UN under-secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said in a Tuesday briefing to the Security Council.

“Recurrent drug and medical equipment shortages are affecting the Gaza medical system, further increasing the number of patients seeking referral outside for medical conditions that could have been treated inside Gaza, were supplies available.”

Rafah is located in north Sinai, where militants have killed scores of Egyptian police and soldiers since the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

Egypt’s military said on Wednesday that it had destroyed 1,370 smuggling tunnels under its border with the Gaza Strip, as ties with Hamas have soured.

Hamas is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, to which the ousted Egyptian president belongs.

The military-installed government in Cairo has accused Hamas of colluding with militants in Egypt, a charge Hamas has denied.

The tunnels, under the town of Rafah, are used to transfer food, fuel and consumer products into the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

But Hamas and other militant groups reportedly use their own more secret tunnels to bring in arms and money.

(Source / 18.03.2014)

Eight, Including Minors, Kidnapped Across West Bank

Israeli occupation forces, on Tuesday, abducted five Palestinians, including three teenagers, from Bethlehem province.

bethpnn_1.jpg

A security source said that Israeli forces raided the city of Bethlehem, taking Mohammed Jamal Abu Jalgheef, 26, from Wadi Shaheen area, and Mohammed Issa al-Heraimi, 22, from as-Saf Street, according to a PNN report.

The same source stated that Israeli forces also took 17-year-old Mohammed Jamal al-Azzeh from al-Azzeh refugee camp, north of Bethlehem.

Two other teenagers were also kidnapped. They have been identified as Hussam Rebhi Thawabteh, 15, and Khaled Mohammed Thawabteh, 14, from Beit Fajjar village, south of Bethlehem.

Ma’an reports that, n Hebron, Israeli forces detained three Palestinians — Nouh Robin Hashlmoun and Maamoun Khadir Abi Snineh, both 25, and a third unidentified man.

(Source / 18.03.2014)

No change in Syria policy: No strings attached to $1.5b Saudi gift, says Sartaj

 

Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Aziz said that Pakistan supports dialogue in Syria, which is the only way to resolve the fratricidal civil strife there.

The prime minister’s top aide on foreign affairs has reassured a parliamentary panel that Pakistan has not made a U-turn on its Syria policy nor Pakistan-made arms will be used in any civil war.

A recent $1.5 billion cash ‘gift’ from a ‘friendly Muslim country’ triggered media speculation that Islamabad could have cut a secret deal on Syria in return for the money.

But Sartaj Aziz, the prime minister’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, said on Monday that the money was ‘gifted’ by Saudi Arabia through the account of Friends of Democratic Pakistan.

Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Aziz said that Pakistan supports dialogue in Syria, which is the only way to resolve the fratricidal civil strife there. He added that Pakistan calls for immediate withdrawal of all foreign armed forces and groups from Syria.

“We support international efforts to find a peaceful Syria-led and inclusive solution being pursued under the Geneva peace process through a comprehensive political dialogue involving the entire spectrum of the Syria polity,” Aziz added.

“Pakistan favours rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners to the victims of the conflict, lifting of the siege of Syria towns and villages as well as establishment of a ‘transitional governing body’ with full executive powers.”

The senators expressed satisfaction over the clarification offered by Aziz. “The prime minister’s adviser has made it clear that Pakistan has not and will not change its policy [on Syria],” said ANP Senator Haji Adeel, who is also the chairperson of the Senate committee.

“We have also been assured that Pakistan will not supply arms and ammunition [to rebels] in Syrian civil war.”

Quoting Aziz, Senator Adeel said the $1.5 billion cash received from Saudi Arabia was a ‘gift’ which has been received through the account of Friends of Democratic Pakistan. “We have also been told that this grant has nothing to do with any policy shift on Syria or supply of weapons [to rebels],” he added.

PML-Q Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said the committee members had expressed concern over the reports of some underhand deal with Saudi Arabia on the Syria imbroglio. Pakistan should stay away from regime-change efforts in Syria, he said.

PPP Senator Sughra Imam said that the ‘clandestine deal’ for $1.5 billion should not land the country in trouble because former military ruler Pervez Musharraf received $18 billion from the US for fighting the ‘war on terror’ in which the country suffered losses worth $78 billion.

The Senate committee also condemned the statement of a Uighur militant leader Abdullah Mansour, who is allegedly hiding somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders.

Mansour, leader of the Turkestan Islamic Party, said in a rare and brief interview that his group was gearing up for retribution against China to avenge the deaths of comrades in Beijing’s crackdown on the separatist movement.

Senator Mushahid tabled a resolution in the committee which expressed solidarity with China. The resolution urged the Pakistan government to not allow its territory under any circumstances to be used against any country.

The committee also asked the Foreign Office to officially clarify its position and condemn the statement of the militant leader.

(Source / 18.03.2014)