Dispatches: Gaza War’s Harm to Kids

The Gaza report from the United Nations Commission of Inquiry issued this week in Geneva will generate intense debate but one point can’t be disputed: the war had a devastating impact on children.

The death toll alone is jarring. In Gaza, Israeli military operations killed 551 children and injured 3,436. More than 1,500 children were orphaned. In Israel, a child was among the six civilians killed by Palestinian rocket and mortar fire, and dozens more were wounded or suffered trauma.

The overwhelming majority of children killed, wounded, and left homeless were in Gaza but the impact of the fighting on all young people cannot be ignored. As the report states, “Palestinian and Israeli children were savagely affected by the events”.

In Gaza, the trauma is exacerbated by the creeping pace of reconstruction. Israeli attacks damaged or destroyed 18,000 homes and half of all education facilities (261 out of 520 schools, kindergartens, and university buildings, according to the UN), including the only school for children with disabilities. Almost one year since the fighting ended, very few of the seriously damaged homes and schools have been rebuilt due to import restrictions and low donor funds.

To help children recover over the long-term requires several steps.

First, the pace of reconstructing homes, schools, and other civilian infrastructure in Gaza should be accelerated, so children can have some sense of normalcy. Israel’s blockade, enforced also by Egypt, should be eased to facilitate rebuilding efforts in a way that still meets Israel’s security needs.

Second is for international donors to step up. Governments pledged $2.7 billion for reconstruction after the fighting, but only about 25 percent has been delivered. Increased funding for psycho-social support for children in Gaza is sorely needed. As report after report has confirmed, children are suffering from extreme anxiety and depression after three major conflicts there in the past six years.

Finally, those responsible for laws of war violations against children need to be held to account. Looking at last year’s fighting and previous conflicts, the UN commission rightly found that “impunity prevails across the board”.

The legal burden rests with Israel and the Palestinian authorities to investigate and prosecute soldiers, commanders, and senior officials who violated the laws of war, including through policies that led to unnecessary deaths of children and other civilians. But if Israeli and Palestinian authorities continue to reject credible domestic investigations, as they have for many years, the International Criminal Court now has a mandate to step in.

Continued failure to help traumatized children, ensure their education, and end impunity will harm generations to come and increase the chances of having to read yet another grim Gaza report.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Hunger-striking Palestinian detainee’s life in danger: ICRC

Gaza, ALRAY – The International committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) expressed its deep concerns about the deteriorating health and critical condition of Khader Adnan, a Palestinian administrative detainee in Israel, who has been on hunger strike for almost 50 days.

“We are concerned that his life is at immediate risk,” said Jacques de Maio, the head of the ICRC’s delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. “Any solution must, however, take into account the necessity of protecting the detainee’s moral and physical integrity; it should also be kept in mind that under resolutions adopted by the World Medical Association, a detainee is entitled to choose whether to be fed or receive medical treatment. So, it is essential that a detainee’s choice be respected and his or her dignity is preserved.”

De Maio asked the Israeli occupation authorities to allow Adnan’s family to visit him, saying that it is more than two months since he was granted a family visit. He explained that under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 detainees have a right to be visited by their families.

“Given the circumstances, permitting his relatives to visit Mr Adnan, without delay, is the right thing to do,” he noted.

Adnan, who launched on an indefinite hunger strike on April 6, was placed under medical supervision at a clinic in Israel’s Ramla prison earlier this month.

As his health deteriorates, Adnan is refusing to undergo medical tests or take vitamins, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society.

Adnan was arrested last July when soldiers took him from his home in Arrabeh, a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank. For the 10th time in his life, he was placed under administrative detention, a practise in which Israel holds Palestinians on “secret evidence” for renewable six-month intervals without trial or charges.

Since that time, his wife Randa and her four children have applied several times for Israeli permits to visit him in prison, but they have been denied on “security” grounds.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Will the Palestinian leadership be forever divided?

Yossi Mekelberg

Palestinian politics can be cryptic at the best of times, but in recent days it seems to have been launched to a new level in perplexing all of its observers. First, President Abbas announced last Wednesday that the government would resignwithin 24 hours, then there were denials, followed by reports that Prime MinisterRami Hamdallah handed in his resignation only to be ordered by President Abbas to form a new government. A very upset Hamas spokesperson, Sami Abu Zuhri, rejected the one-sided decision claiming the movement’s leadership was not consulted. It was even unclear if the intention in dissolving the government was a cabinet reshuffle, the formation of a new government of national unity with Hamas, or to form a government which would include a wide range of representatives from all political stripes including independents. Still, a week later the mystery of the government’s resignation has not been resolved, and no one knows who is going to be the next prime minister or what political elements will join. According to Ma’an, a Bethlehem based media network, a PA spokesperson Ihab Bseiso stated that “…the national unity government has not yet resigned and will continue for another week until PLO Executive Committee members complete consultations…” This all indicates a political body not only divided geographically and ideologically, but also in complete disarray.

The end of the war left both Israel and the Hamas with a sense of victory but paradoxically also exposed both sides’ vulnerabilities


The announcement of a Palestinian reconciliation government just over a year ago when the Kerry peace initiative flattenedwas criticized by both the United States and Israel. The Israeli prime minister accused President Abbas of saying yes to terrorism, and Secretary Kerry expressed his “deep concerns” about including Hamas in the Palestinian government. A year later, the resignation of the Hamdallah’s government was barely mentioned in the Israeli media and Israeli politicians did not think it merited a response. Washington also remained silent. The major task of this government to facilitate the firstelections since 2006 failed anyway, and last summer’s war in Gaza shuffled the political cards dramatically and tragically. The irony is that one of the major reasons given for the decision to dissolve the government was the fury of thePalestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank over apparent secret negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a long term ceasefire (Hudna). Denial by both the Israeli and Hamas leadership over these alleged negotiations were at best halfhearted. Indirectly, Israel contributed to the breakup of the Palestinian reconciliation government by talking to a sworn enemy, whose participation in the government it objected to in the first place.

Major obstacles

To be sure, the reconciliation government did not achieve almost anything it set out to accomplish, though not necessarily through its own fault. A major obstacle was the refusal of Hamas to allow the PA access to Gaza. Mr. Afif Safieh, a former head of the Palestinian Missions in London, Washington and Moscow, observed that the Hamas leadership is split into two schools of thought. The first insists on maintaining an absolute monopoly on power in Gaza and is reluctant to agree to receive a mandate from the people through elections. The other understands the importance of power sharing and the need for elections within 12 months even if Hamas ends up as a political minority. As long as the first faction in Hamas is in the ascendancy, the Palestinians are not only divided geographically but a united Palestinian polity is impossible. Subsequently, the days of reconciliation are now nothing more than a distant memory.

The war in Gaza, which broke out soon after the reconciliation government was formed, underlined the divisions between the Gaza strip and the West Bank and doomed the new government to fail.

The end of the war left both Israel and the Hamas with a sense of victory but paradoxically also exposed both sides’ vulnerabilities. Israel despite its obvious military superiority could not defeat Hamas, and by using excessive and indiscriminate force added to the ongoing decline in its international standing, not to mention further radicalizing the population. Hamas sustained heavy losses and similar to the Israelis is embroiled in gross violations of human rights. However, the war enhanced its reputation as it survived the Israeli onslaught and still managed to launch rockets deep into Israel for a full seven weeks and build tunnels into Israel. This cannot conceal that the movement’s policies do very little to advance the cause of the Palestinian people, and mainly add to their prolonged suffering.

Relative calm

Since the ceasefire last August, relative calm has been maintained along the border between Israel and Gaza, with a few exceptions of rocket firing by factions that are not controlled by Hamas. Furthermore, the Hamas leadership is quick to disassociate itself from the launch of these odd rockets into Israel by militants from Gaza, and Israel’s response is more measured than before. This reflects a realization on both sides that another round of violence will not benefit either of them. There is a mutual fear on both sides of the border that more radical elements, ISIS style, might take advantage of the misery inflicted by Israel’s harsh blockade and by the oppressive rule of the Hamas government.

If there is truth in the rumors that negotiations are taking place regarding a prolonged ceasefire in exchange for the lifting of the blockade, it indicates a change of heart on both sides about the nature of future relations along the Gaza borders. Increasingly there is an understanding among the security establishment in Israel that without improving economic conditions in Gaza, militancy and violence by even more extreme elements than Hamas are inevitable and are only a matter of time. Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said after last’s summer war: “Of course there’s a need to release the pressure and allow Gazans, and not Hamas, to live in dignity. 120,000 people are homeless because of the operation in the Strip. They paid a heavy price. They need to be allowed to earn a living, and therefore part of our interest is to allow theseprocesses.” He recognizes, as the Hamas leadership probably does, that as long as Egypt blocks the crossing from Gaza, including through the tunnels, the Palestinians are dependent on Israel. Consequently, Hamas might look for an agreement with Israel as its only gateway to the world, and end as the guarantor of Israeli security along the Gaza border.

Israel might think that a separate agreement with Hamas in Gaza would simultaneously guarantee a quieter border with the Gaza Strip, and would at the same time weaken the overall Palestinian bargaining position. The strategy of divide and rule may be tempting, considering the tensions between the different Palestinian political factions, but this would be a short term approach which in the past only ended in violence and bloodshed. As a first move to make life in Gaza more livable and build a degree of mutual trust, it could be a positive development. Nevertheless, this option would not be a replacement for a just and comprehensive peace with the entire Palestinian people. A new Palestinian government should not necessarily be a unity one, but it should unite the people and be unified in the purpose of improving the lives of ordinary Palestinians, while also doing everything within its power to bring a peaceful end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state. A first and necessary step would be to call for new elections, a move which would give the Palestinian political system renewed legitimacy, both domestically and internationally.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Flotilla ships gather before sailing to break Israel’s siege


As global pressure and regional shifts undermine Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, Palestine supporters from more than 20 countries are preparing for the latest attempt to defy it.


GAZA STRIP — A converted Swedish fishing trawler left the port of Messina in eastern Sicily late Friday evening, sailing into the Mediterranean to meet other vessels before they attempt to break Israel’s nautical blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“The goal is, as always, to challenge and eventually end the inhuman and illegal blockade of Gaza,” David Heap, a spokesperson for the Canadian Boat to Gaza, told MintPress News.

“Whether we reach our destination, as happened five times in 2008, or are stopped by the occupier, as has happened from 2010 to 2012, our course remains the same: the conscience of humanity.”

The Marianne of Gothenburg, which left its home port on May 10, publicized its voyage down the coast of Europe and into the Strait of Gibraltar through the organizations supporting it, Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway.

Other groups in the Freedom Flotilla Coalition have declined to disclose their efforts, including the names and locations of vessels.

“There has been secrecy around details that might be relevant to efforts to obstruct the flotilla, as there usually are,” Robert Naiman, a spokesperson for the U.S. Boat to Gaza, told MintPress.

Heap says the high level of security within “Freedom Flotilla III” stems from past Israeli attempts to prevent similar projects.

“In 2011 some boats were sabotaged, and Greek coast guard authorities stopped some of our boats when Israel outsourced its blockade to European ports,” he told MintPress. “So we have learned to be cautious about what information we release when.”

He added that “more than 50 people from over 20 countries [are] on board or ready to board at least three vessels.”

With the Marianne now at sea, its final departure for Gaza is expected as soon as weather clears.

CGWcZ5VUYAACTjKPalestinian children preparing a huge welcome for the Freedom Flotilla ships

On Sunday, Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, told the Jerusalem Post her ministry was “working around the clock through all possible diplomatic channels” to block the flotilla.

Other Israeli media have reported that the country’s navy was preparing to intercept the flotilla off the coast of Gaza.

But a confrontation at sea would come at a time of heightened global resentment toward Israel as reconstruction of the Gaza Strip remains stalled after a 51-day military operation razed much of the Palestinian enclave last summer.

The blockade must be lifted’

“The bottom line remains that, if Gaza is to recover from the damage wrought by multiple rounds of hostility and a shattered economy, the blockade must be lifted,” United Nations Special Rapporteur Makarim Wibisono told the Human Rights Council on Friday.

“The people deserve help and realization of their human rights, not collective punishment.”

An HRC report on last year’s offensive released Monday morning, as well as complaints against Israel Palestinians expect to file at the International Criminal Court on Thursday, promise renewed attention to the catastrophic toll of the offensive ahead of its one-year anniversary on July 7.

File - In this March 30, 2015 file photo, a Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City. The International Monetary Fund said in a Tuesday, May, 19, 2015 report, that reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is going “far more slowly than expected” after a devastating war between Israel and the Hamas militant group last year. The IMF said that just over a quarter of $3.5 billion pledged for reconstruction has been disbursed and urged donors to fulfill their pledges.  (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

In this March 30, 2015 file photo, a Palestinian girl walks next to destroyed houses, in the Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City.

The International Monetary Fund said in a Tuesday, May, 19, 2015 report, that reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is going “far more slowly than expected” after a devastating bombing campaign by between Israel purportedly targeting Hamas last year. The IMF said that just over a quarter of $3.5 billion pledged for reconstruction has been disbursed and urged donors to fulfill their pledges.

“The impact of the 2014 hostilities on the Gaza strip cannot be assessed separately from the blockade imposed by Israel,” the report says, echoing Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s assessment of it as “a continuing collective penalty against the population in Gaza” and demanding Israel “lift, immediately and unconditionally, the blockade on Gaza.”

Amid these rising pressures, there are some signs that Israel may seek to modify, if not end, the blockade in exchange for a long-term ceasefire with the Hamas movement.

Officials in both camps have disclosed ongoing, indirect negotiations, mediated by regional powers like Turkey and Qatar as well as U.N. and European diplomats.

Middle East Eye revealed Sunday these negotiations have included two meetings in Doha between Middle East Quartet special envoy Tony Blair and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, an apparent admission that Blair’s attempt to impose Quartet conditions on Hamas as a condition for allowing humanitarian aid to rebuild Gaza had failed.

Other regional shifts — including the resignation of a cabinet appointed last year by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the military-backed Egyptian government’s simultaneous announcements that it would open the Rafah crossing Tuesday for the third time in a month, after extending the last opening, and appoint Egypt’s first ambassador to Tel Aviv in three years — may indicate a realignment of interests that could include a loosening of Israel’s stranglehold on Gaza.

None who know the full significance of these developments will yet explain it publicly. But a deal reportedly under consideration would include Israel allowing the construction and use of a seaport in Gaza, the opening of its checkpoints around the enclave, and a five-year truce.

Whether the Freedom Flotilla reaches the rocky fishermen’s port in Gaza or not, it may help to force Israel’s hand, pushing it to accept a deal that will let Palestinians trade and travel by sea.

Gaza “On life support”

Meanwhile, conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate, according to rights groups.

A briefing released on June 14 by the Jerusalem-based Ma’an Development Center reports that 17,600 families in Gaza remain homeless since the destruction of their houses in last year’s offensive, and at 44 percent, Gaza is home to the world’s highest unemployment rate.

Palestinian children sit next to hanged clothes, on the First day of Eid al-Fitr in a United Nations school where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli airstrikes, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. A U.N. inquiry has found that at least 44 Palestinians were killed and at least 227 injured by “Israeli actions” while sheltering at U.N. locations during last year’s Gaza war. Secretary Ban Ki-moon said Monday, April 27, 2015, he deplores the deaths and calls U.N. locations “inviolable.”

Palestinian children sit next to hanged clothes, on the First day of Eid al-Fitr in a United Nations school where dozens of families have sought refuge after fleeing their homes in fear of Israeli airstrikes, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip. A U.N. inquiry has found that at least 44 Palestinians were killed and at least 227 injured by “Israeli actions” while sheltering at U.N. locations during last year’s Gaza war. Secretary Ban Ki-moon said Monday, April 27, 2015, he deplores the deaths and calls U.N. locations “inviolable.”

Among the enclave’s population, Ma’an reports that 57 percent are food insecure, and almost 80 percent are aid recipients.

A report issued on May 20 by the Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor traces the effects of Israel’s closure of the Strip, including its attacks on farmers near the separation barrier and fishermen at sea, whose economic impacts have been aggravated by waves of military onslaughts.

“[T]he Strip’s gross domestic product plunged 24 percent in the third quarter of 2014,” according to the report. “This, in an economy that already was on life support.”

Speaking to MintPress from Euro-Mediterranean’s regional office in Gaza, chairman Ramy Abdu said, “Gazans are eager to welcome the flotilla.”

“They believe that such activity will make a real shift in the nine-year blockade,” Abdu said. “This shift may not be significant, but they believe it will at least bring the blockade up to the international community.”

He added that Palestinians plan a number of demonstrations supporting the flotilla. “Different entities will carry out welcome activities either in the sea or on the beach.”

Basem Naim, former minister of health in Gaza’s Palestinian cabinet between June 2007 and January 2009 and now head of the Gaza-based Council on International Relations, told MintPress that local activity for the Freedom Flotilla had already begun.

“Preparations are going on day and night from all groups in Gaza, including factions, the Palestinian Legislative Council, NGOs and activists,” Naim said. “For example, today [Tuesday] at 9:00 p.m. a group of activists are going to ignite a flame in the seaport.”

He added that many in Gaza were following events closely, with “media coverage 24 hours a day about the activities of the flotilla.”

Like others that have sailed before it, the latest Freedom Flotilla will contain small amounts of aid intended to partially alleviate a few of Gaza’s most pressing needs.

“There is a solar panel on the Marianne, donated by a Swedish magazine, and it is bound for Al-Shifa hospital,” Awni Farhat, Gaza-based products and endorsements coordinator for Gaza’s Ark, told MintPress.

The group attempted to refurbish a Palestinian fishing boat to challenge the blockade from within Gaza before an Israeli strike demolished the vessel last year.

“There are also some other items of medical equipment: an asthma ventilator and material for injections, as well as midwife equipment donated by the Swedish midwife organization,” Farhat added. “These are bound for Wafa hospital.”

“Lastly, we consider the Marianne to be cargo herself, because she is a fishing trawler, and could be put to use in the Gaza fishing industry.”

Farhat added that other flotilla ships would export Palestinian goods trapped in Gaza by the blockade to purchasers abroad.

“Between June 6 and 8, Gaza’s Ark organized an exhibition of products from all of Palestine,” he said. “These products were supposed to sail with Gaza’s Ark from Gaza, but it was attacked and totally destroyed in the Israeli war last summer.”

‘No amount of humanitarian aid can “fix” the blockade’

Supplies brought to Gaza by the Freedom Flotilla were meant to augment its mission of public awareness and political action, Robert Naiman, of U.S. Boat to Gaza, says. He explained:

“The aid carried by these boats is symbolic of international solidarity. The point is to publicize and challenge the fact that the port of Gaza is completely closed to civilian cargo and passenger traffic, and to engage international public opinion to pressure governments to act to end the blockade.”

Canadian Boat to Gaza’s David Heap added that supplies alone could not remedy the damage of the Gaza closure.

“No amount of humanitarian aid can ‘fix’ the blockade,” Heap said, adding:

“Our main cargo is always human solidarity, as on previous voyages. Some medical supplies, some solar panels: these will help with immediate problems, but the real goal must always be drawing the world’s attention to the human rights of Palestinians of Gaza, in particular their right to freedom of movement.”

“We are all eager to see it”

Although Freedom Flotilla organizations have not yet announced all participants, those revealed by Wednesday included former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, former Ardoch Algonquin First Nation chief Robert Lovelace, survivor of Israel’s 1967 attack on the USS Liberty Joe Meadors, and members of both the European and Israeli parliaments.

Marianne departure from SwedenBasel Ghattas, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and Balad party member elected to the Knesset this year from the Joint List, announced his participation Sunday in an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I request that you command the Israeli security forces to stay away and allow the flotilla to arrive at its destination,” Ghattas wrote. “Any form of takeover to prevent this will only involve Israel in yet another difficult international scandal that you and your government will be responsible for.”

As howls of outrage emanated from the Knesset and threatening rumbles continued from the cabinet, Gaza’s Ark’s Awni Farhat says many in Gaza hope to greet their visitors soon.

“Palestinian fishermen and youth will welcome the flotilla with fishing boats,” Farhat told MintPress. “We are all eager to see it

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Morocco deports Syrian refugee and son

Bashar Jalabi and his son will have no local currency or telephones when they touch down in Istanbul

Bashar Jalabi and his 10-year-old son were stranded in Casablanca Airport for two days trying to get papers

Morocco deported a Syrian refugee and his young son to Istanbul on Wednesday, after they were stranded in Casablanca Airport for over 24 hours.

Bashar Jalabi and his 10-year-old son Haider are scheduled to arrive at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Wednesday evening after boarding Air Arabia Maroc flight 437 from Casablanca.

A picture taken on the plane shows 38-year-old Bashar wearing a green T-shirt, unshaven and with red-ringed eyes.

Bashar’s brother, Harle, told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that the pair had no Turkish money, no passport or mobile phone, and did not speak any Turkish.

Bashar is married to a Moroccan national, and has legal residence in the country.

However, his son Haider, from a previous marriage, had been living in Turkey with relatives.

Haider’s mother died years ago and the boy was being looked after by his aunt, who died 15 days ago.

Bashar, who had previously made two failed attempts to get a Moroccan residency permit for his son, flew to Turkey aiming to collect Haider and bring him to the family home in Casablanca.

“Haider was totally alone in Turkey after his aunt died,” Bashar’s nephew Harle Mar told Middle East Eye on Wednesday.

“He was very upset when I last spoke to him – he just wants to be with his father.”

Bashar’s other three-year-old son has lived in Morocco his entire life and has Moroccan residency.

A picture taken on Wednesday shows Bashar aboard the flight to Turkey 

When Middle East Eye spoke to Bashar on Tuesday, his impending deportation to Turkey had left him terrified that he and his son would eventually be flown back to Syria.

Haider’s Turkish residency permit has expired and, according to local laws, the boy will not be allowed back into the country for five years, leading his father to fear that they could be deported to Syria where he is wanted by the government after defecting from President Assad’s armed forces to the rebel Free Syrian Army.

“How can I go back to Syria, me and my 10-year-old son? I am wanted by the regime,” he said. “They will kill me.”

It is unlikely that Turkey, which currently hosts an estimated one million Syrian refugees, will deport the pair although both Lebanon and Jordan have been known to take the step.

Morocco, meanwhile, hosts just over 3,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to UN figures.

“Morocco has very harsh laws around refugees and asylum seekers,” Harle Mar told MEE.

While Syria’s neighbours have been far more hospitable to Syrians than has Europe, which has as yet accepted only small numbers of refugees, the ongoing crisis is putting an increasing strain on services and community relations in countries like Turkey and Lebanon.

Lebanon took the unprecedented step in early 2015 of requiring refugees from over the border to secure a visa before crossing the border, while in Turkey large numbers of Syrian families, including small children are now living on the streets.

Further afield in the Middle East, Syrian refugees have frequently struggled with visa restrictions when attempting to flee to safety.

In May, MEE reported the story about Wael al-Sahlee and his son; Palestinians living in Syria who were eventually deported to Jordan, after being stuck at an airport in the UAE for over two weeks.

The pair had been denied entry by a number of Arab states before eventually being denied entry by the UAE.

Once Bashar and Haider touch down in Istanbul on Wednesday evening, family member Harle Mar says he is not sure what they will do next.

“It’s a very hard situation, and it makes Morocco look bad.”

Bashar is the main breadwinner for his family in Morocco where his wife is currently expecting their second child.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Israeli Occupation Arrests Seven Minors In Jerusalem Following Ramadan Night Prayers

JERUSALEM, June 24, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli police last night arrested seven Palestinian minors while they were leaving al-Aqsa Mosque compound following Taraweeh (Ramadan night prayers), according to local sources.

The children were identified as Noor-Eddin Abu Hadwan, 15, Omar al-Tawil, 15, Morad Alkam, 14, Mohammad Jaber, 13, Omar Yasin, 14, Mohammad Tayeh, 16, and Saleh Ishti, 15.

A total of 1,545 Palestinians, including minors, women and elderly were detained since the beginning of 2015, reported Abdel Nasser Ferwana, the director of the Bureau of Statistics in the commission of detainees’ affairs.

The rate of arrests has reached 9.6% from January till April, which exceeded the rate documented for the same period in 2014, said Ferwana.

About 258 Palestinians under the age of 18 are among the detainees in Israeli jails, in addition to 77 women, the statement reported.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Rebuilding of Gaza’s destroyed homes set to begin

A Palestinian boy walks over the rubble of his family’s former house in Gaza City’s Shujaiyeh neighborhood on May 11, 2015

AZA CITY (AFP) — The rebuilding of thousands of homes destroyed by Israel in last summer’s Gaza war is to begin in the coming days, almost a year after the conflict began, the Palestinian housing minister said Wednesday.The July-August war in the besieged Gaza Strip destroyed or partially damaged tens of thousands of homes, leaving 100,000 Gazans homeless.”Some 90,000 partially-damaged homes have already been repaired in coordination with the United Nations,” Mufid Hasayneh told journalists in Gaza City.”In the coming days, the operation of reconstructing those totally destroyed will begin,” he said.Some 18,000 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, according to UN figures, and reconstruction of the war-wracked coastal territory has been slow.Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza, now in its ninth year, has been blamed, as well as the lack of international donor support to the territory, which is ruled by Hamas.Hasayneh said that Israel had allowed only 128,000 tonnes of cement into the Strip since the war ended.Israel says more than 1.1 million tonnes of construction material have been allowed in since October 2014 through the Kerem Shalom goods crossing, which it controls.”We (the Palestinians, the UN and Israel) have come to an agreement about the mechanism to allow construction materials to enter from the Israeli side,” Hasayneh said.The mechanism, he said, would stipulate that owners of destroyed houses be vetted in order to receive building materials.Homeowners would register with local authorities to obtain a building permit, after which their details would be passed onto the housing ministry, headquartered in Ramallah — the seat of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.The ministry would then work with Israeli authorities to get the final go-ahead for Gazans to rebuild their houses.Hasayneh did not elaborate on why there was a need for a vetting process.But Israel limits the amount of building materials allowed into Gaza, fearing that metal and concrete could be used by Palestinian militants to make weapons such as rockets, and to build tunnels.Critics of the blockade have called for it to be fully lifted to allow reconstruction, warning that an ongoing humanitarian crisis could fuel further conflict.The war killed 2,200 Palestinians, the majority civilians, and 73 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Soldiers enter 20 Palestinian homes near Nablus late at night, unjustifiably intimidating the families and disrupting their lives

Testimonies gathered by B’Tselem indicate that in April and May 2015 the military entered the homes of twenty Palestinian families at night: sixteen in the village of ‘Awarta and four in the village of Madama, both near the city of Nablus in the West Bank. B’Tselem’s field researcher in the Nablus area, Salma a-Deb’i, found the soldiers’ actions followed the same pattern. Upon entering the house, they demanded that the entire family be woken, including children; they wrote down the names, ages and ID numbers of all the occupants. They went through the house, surveying the house, writing down the number and size of the rooms and listing the furniture. They also took photographs inside and outside the house, including the fa?ade and entrances. In most of the cases, some of the soldiers were masked. B’Tselem does not know of any arrests made in the villages during or following these incursions.

Maha Qawariq, her husband and two of their daughters. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B'Tselem, 26 April 2015
Maha Qawariq, her husband and two of their daughters. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 26 April 2015

B’Tselem found that soldiers came to the village of ‘Awarta several times between 8 and 25 April, entering the homes of 16 families in total.

Maha Qawariq, 26, lives in ‘Awarta with her husband and three daughters. She related how soldiers entered their home on the night of 8 April 2015:

At around 1:30 A.M. I woke up because of loud banging at the door. Two of my daughters – Jinan, 4, and Hala, one-and-a-half years old – woke up startled and began crying. I went to their room and found them by the door. I took them in my arms to calm them. In the meantime, my husband opened the front door and several soldiers came in. One soldier whose face was covered in a mask made of black material ordered us to bring out all the chidlren. My husband told him we only have three little girls. The soldier insisted and said, “Everyone has to come and sit here”.

One of the soldiers wanted to us to go out to the yard, but my husband refused and asked him: “Why do you want to send us out of the house in this cold weather, can’t you see our girls are little?”. The soldiers told us to sit on the floor in the living room and asked for our identity cards. My husband gave them his card but couldn’t find mine. He asked if they would make do with my ID number, which is listed on his card, but they refused and insisted that we get mine. The girls clung to me and wouldn’t let me get up. In the end the soldier gave in, I guess because the girls were crying.

One of the soldiers started questioning my husband, reading from a list in Hebrew. He asked my husband for his name, occupation and phone number, and asked how many children we have and for their dates of birth. He also wanted to know the square footage of the house and the number of rooms. Meanwhile the other soldiers walked around the house and went into all the rooms.

The village of ‘Awarta. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B'Tselem, 26 April 2015
The village of ‘Awarta. Photo: Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 26 April 2015

B’Tselem found that on Saturday night, 25 April 2015, soldiers entered the homes of four families in ‘Awarta. On 28 April they returned to one of the homes, since they had not been able to communicate with the women in the house, who do not speak Hebrew.Sham’ah ‘Awad, 57, told B’Tselem how the soldiers came twice to her home, where she lives with her husband and one of their daughters:

On Tuesday, 28 April, at around 1:00 A.M., I woke up from very loud banging on the door. My husband woke up and went to see who it was, and I went to wake my daughter Iman, 23. It was odd, because soldiers had already come to our house on Saturday, when my husband was out working a night shift. When they came on Saturday, my daughter and I were very frightened because we were home alone and couldn’t understand what the soldiers were saying, because none of them spoke Arabic.

When they came back on Tuesday night, my husband went down to the ground floor to open the front door and then came back up to the second floor, which has the bedrooms, living room, and kitchen. Five masked soldiers came up with him. They pointed their guns at us. My husband spoke to them in Hebrew. They asked for our identity cards and for my phone number and Iman’s phone number. They took photographs of all the rooms, sketched the layout of the house on a piece of paper, and then left.

B’Tselem also documented incursions into homes in Madama on the night of 13 May 2015. B’Tselem found that sometime after midnight, soldiers came to the village and entered the four homes of the extended Nassar family, one of which is still under construction. The soldiers’ actions in each house matched the pattern reported in ‘Awarta: they wrote down the names of all the occupants and copied details from their identity cards, ordered the parents to wake their children, went through the house, photographed it, and documented its size and contents. The soldiers also documented the entrances to each house and various structures in their backyards. In Madama, however, the soldiers also questioned the residents about stone-throwing incidents. The village is located by a road leading to the settlement of Yizhar and the houses in question are close to the road, as well as to a girls’ school that at the time was also temporarily hosting the boys’ school in the afternoon while the boys’ school was undergoing renovation. ‘Abir Shtiyeh, 33, described how the soldiers entered her home, where she lives with her husband, Basel Nassar, and their five children:

Six or seven soldiers came inside. They asked for our identity cards. We gave them the cards and they wrote our details down on a piece of paper and told us to get the kids. My husband said they were asleep and would be very frightened if we woke them. The soldier said he didn’t care and that he wanted to see the whole family. After we woke the children, the soldiers searched the house and took pictures of it. Then they went outside, walked around the house and called for my husband. After they left, Basel told me that they had taken him to the sheep pen and taken photographs of the whole area around the house. When the soldiers left, they told him that if the pupils in the village school continue to throw stones at the road leading to Yizhar, they would come to disturb the villagers every night.

The testimonies given to B’Tselem, coupled with the fact that the soldiers did not carry out arrests during these incursions or detain for interrogation anyone from these households, indicate that the night raids in Madama were designed to scare the families and motivate them to take action to prevent stone-throwing at the road to Yizhar. B’Tselem is familiar with this type of activity, which is part of what the military terms “mapping” and has been documented throughout the West Bank, including in Hebron anda-Nabi Saleh. In this procedure, soldiers enter Palestinian homes and document the family members and the house itself, including size, number of rooms, and entrances. They sometimes also take photographs. Soldiers have described this modus operandi in detail in testimonies they gave to Israeli organization Breaking the Silence. The testimonies appear to indicate that the goal is to gather information about Palestinians who are not suspected of committing any offense.

On Wednesday, 20 May 2015, Israeli military radio station Galey Tzahal reported that reservists had been sent on a drill the night before to the village of ‘Awarta. According to the report, the soldiers came to the village after a week’s training “to test their readiness”, searched the village for the objectives they had been given, and entered homes to gather intelligence. Lieut. Col. (Res.) Eliezer Gittelman told the radio station that “a force carrying out a real mapping procedure goes into one of the houses and searches it – checks entrances, who lives there and who doesn’t – as part of a broader plan”. The reporter quoted an officer who had gone on the mission in the capacity of “population officer”. When asked about the impact on residents of the village, he said: “With time, they [the soldiers] have come to understand the need to address the civilian element in fighting, that at the end of the day there are also civilians in the area. They take that into consideration and very much take into account the need not to cause them any unnecessary damage.”

Contrary to this claim of military efforts to prevent harm to locals, incursions into family homes late at night are an unreasonable form of intimidation and harassment, with no justification. This is especially grave when it involves masked soldiers aiming weapons at family members. B’Tselem was unable to verify that such incursions took place on the day of the radio report or the day before. However, the striking resemblance between the activity described by the reporter and the pattern related in testimonies to B’Tselem indicates that in the latter instances, too, soldiers were sent into residents’ homes as part of training or to map the houses for reasons that remain unclear. B’Tselem asked the IDF Spokesperson regarding the matter, but has received no answer to date.

While B’Tselem cannot be sure what goal these incursions are meant to serve, it stands to reason that they are aimed at achieving at least one of three illegitimate goals: gathering intelligence on the Palestinian population in general, including violating the privacy of people who are suspected of no wrongdoing; training, in which the villages and homes of Palestinians become a backdrop and the dehumanized residents are unwillingly cast as extras; or intimidating residents with the hope that they will then pressure local youths to stop throwing stones.

The incidents described above demonstrate how the military abuses its power to disrupt the daily routines of entire families, including children, violating their privacy and intimidating people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. This serves to entrench the reality in the West Bank in which Palestinian homes can be subjected to a military raid at any moment, for any amount of time, even when there is no reason to do so. Testimonies indicating four separate yet similar incidents of this kind in the space of a single month, in which soldiers entered twenty homes, show that this a military policy. A policy that involves such blatant disrespect for Palestinians and for their right to live their lives undisturbed by the military is unacceptable and cannot be justified on the grounds of security.

(Source / 24.06.2015)

Syrian Coalition Attends a Human Rights Council Meeting

Vice-president Hisham Marwa will attend a UN Human Rights Council session on the sidelines of the Council’s 29th meeting in Geneva. The session, titled “Post-despotism Syria,” will discuss the future of the transitional process in Syria, accountability for war crimes, restoring civilian life, ensuring the rights of victims and the dismantling of terrorism.

Marwa will meet a number of international and humanitarian organizations, including the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria which released the latest update to its reports on Tuesday.

He will also meet with officials of the International Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria and the need to secure the delivery of aid to the affected and besieged areas.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 24.06.2015)

Israel seeks confiscation of Palestinian lands for settlements

illegal construction of Israeli settlements

Israel is seeking to confiscate Palestinian lands for an illegal settlement near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, a statement by NGO Peace Now said yesterday.

The statement said that the Israeli Supreme Court would hold a hearing session regarding the petition jointly filed by the organisation and the Palestinian owners of the land, where 17 residential units were built as part of the illegal Israeli settlement of Derech Ha’Avot.

According to the statement, “the [Israeli] Minister of Defence is pushing the Attorney General (despite his legal opinion) to ask the court to allow a de-facto confiscation of the Palestinian lands in order to avoid the demolition” of the housing units.

Peace Now said the Israeli government uses legal trick to confiscate Palestinian lands in favour of the illegal settlement of Derech Ha’Avot which was established in 2001 on private Palestinian land. It started with 60 settlement units.

After a legal battle, Peace Now said, the Israeli authorities announced last year that the land, where the settlement is built, is state property.

(Source / 24.06.2015)