‘It Has Become A Prison’: The ghettoization of Hebron

Tel Rumeida Checkpoint (Photo: Megan Hanna)

Tel Rumeida Checkpoint

Hebron’s Old City, located in the “H2 area” under full Israeli military control, is subject to dramatic new restrictions introduced last week. Israeli soldiers seized several homes in the Tel Rumedia area and barred the residents from going in or out, declaring the area a military zone and banning access to non-residents, in a move that parallels security restrictions imposed recently upon areas of East Jerusalem.

Since the beginning of last month 22 Palestinians have been killed in Hebron, and nine in the Old City that has been the epicentre of escalating tensions.

Even for the 50 families who live in Tel Rumeida, who had a mere few days to register their name and ID card to the Israeli authorities, the plans will severely restrict their freedom of movement, as they will have to undergo rigorous security searches every time they wish to leave or enter their homes.

According to a resident of Tel Rumeida, “They told me I have the number 36 [on the list with who’s allowed to go in and out], it’s just like in prison. They try to make you a number, you’re not a person”.

Motasem Isied, 28, is a resident of Hebron and spoke to Mondoweiss about recent events: “It’s pretty disturbing what is happening here. As Palestinians we are familiar with these incidents – night raids, tear gas and so on – but everybody is incredibly frustrated and sad about what is happening in Hebron, because it has never been like this”.

“Now areas are controlled by names, so if you’re not on the list you are not allowed in. Some residents aren’t even on the list, so they can’t reach their homes. Those who can are completely socially isolated”.

Israeli soldiers in watchtower overlooking Hebron. (Photo: Megan Hanna)

Israeli soldiers in watchtower overlooking Hebron

Irael rights group B’Tselem claimed that the “immoral” moves are “draconian and not dictated by reality”, and “constitute collective punishment of residents of Hebron who are suspected of nothing and are forced to suffer serious disruptions in their daily lives”.

An IDF official commented claiming the measures are in reaction to the recent rise of violence, and are aimed at separating the Jewish and Palestinian populations of the city.  Dubbed operation “Breathing Closure”, the plans have been enacted for vague “precautionary measures” to “contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well-being of Israelis”.

‘Young Palestinians are constantly a target’

On Oct. 26, Saad al-Atrash, 19, was shot seven times whilst walking in the Old City and left to bleed to death for 40 minutes, in what Amnesty International have called an “especially egregious case” of killings that seem more to resemble extrajudicial executions than acts of self-defense. Three days after al-Atrash was killed, another Palestinian identified as Mahdi al-Muhtasib, 23, was shot dead near the Ibrahimi Mosque.

“It was bad before, but the new order is shoot to kill, and then confirm the killing. They shoot then ask questions”, says Issa Amro, a local activist from Youths Against Settlements. “In the past, soldiers targeted people in the resistance, now there is the feeling among people that they will kill anyone”.

Dania Ersheid’s inert body and blood-soaked headscarf presented a particularly shocking image of the grave situation unfolding in the city. The 17-year old student was fatally shot on Oct. 22nd on her way to school by the Ibrahimi checkpoint by Israeli soldiers. According to a news report “the teen raised her arms and stated “I don’t have a knife” before she was shot with “eight to 10 bullets” before she fell to the ground”.

Also among those killed was 23 year-old Houmam Adnan Isied, Mostaem’s cousin. Speaking of the incident, Mostasem said, “It is all happening to young people, they are being targeted in cold-blooded killings, including my relative. He was killed in an area with a lot of CCTV cameras, and they claimed he was trying to stab a soldier, so we demanded to see them. Of course they refused.”

“We haven’t been able to even bury him yet, he was supposed to be released this week. Then they made a condition that they would release him only at midnight, and we had until 3am to bury him. But they still haven’t given him back.”

When voicing his fear over the unpredictable aggression of the Israeli military, Motasem said, “I can remember what was happening in the 1990s during the first intifada, and I fully lived through the second. Even though it was really dangerous, everybody agrees that we have never felt unsafe in the way we do now. Because you never know when, or where, or what the soldiers are going to do to you. As a young Palestinian, you are targeted at any time and at any place in Hebron.”

An international activist living in Hebron told Mondoweiss: ” I’ve witnessed the Israeli armies continuous crackdown on Palestinians, not only in Tel Rumeida, but everywhere in the H2 area. Seeing body-searches of Palestinians at gunpoint is not a rarity anymore – all while settlers are freely walking the streets and are never stopped or checked at all.”

To date, 80 Palestinians have been killed in the spate of violence across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories that began at the beginning of last month. Of this figure, at least one third of Palestinians fatalities occurred in Hebron; where on average one Palestinian was wounded or killed every 3 hours in the city throughout October.

“It’s a ghost town now”

Empty market (Photo: Megan Hanna)

Empty market

But such statistics have a limited scope in evoking the unsavoury reality of daily life for Palestinians currently living in Hebron. Motsaem spoke of how he is too anxious to go to the Old City now; “I went there only once recently, and there was no one in the streets, it was completely empty apart from soldiers. Shops by the Ibrahimi mosque have been under a direct military order to close for more than a week now, it’s affecting the families whose incomes rely on them”.

Hebron is unique compared to other cities in the West Bank due to the presence of 800 Zionist settlers living throughout the city, alongside double their number of Israeli soldiers who are predominantly based around 18 military checkpoints, which restrict the movement of 30,000 Palestinian inhabitants. Whilst the city is no stranger to violence and harsh military control, such extreme measures have not been imposed since the aftermath of the Goldstein Massacre in 1994, when Israeli authorities sealed access to certain areas and imposed a 24-hour curfew for six months. Residents are praying that these new military restrictions will not be as long-lived.

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Abbas: Security, stability unattainable under Israeli occupation

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday said that security and stability in Palestine and Israel is unattainable unless the Israeli government ends its military occupation of Palestinian land.

In a televised speech commemorating the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death, Abbas said that Palestinians are determined to live with freedom and dignity and condemned Israel’s plans to extend the occupation through settlement expansion, saying they made peace elusive.“This land is ours, we were born here, we lived here, our fathers and grandfathers lived here, we build our present and future and cherish our history and cultural heritage of thousands of years on this holy land,” Abbas said.The president added that settlements, violence, and terrorism by the Israeli government against Palestinians — including executions, holding the bodies of killed Palestinians, arbitrary detentions and home demolitions — would not stop Palestinians from moving forward on the road to freedom, sovereignty and independence.Large rallies were held in Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other West Bank cities to commemorate Arafat’s death in 2004, with crowds of people waving Palestinian flags and carrying portraits of Arafat.Arafat died in France on November 11 2004 at the age of 75, but doctors were unable to specify the cause of death. No autopsy was carried out at the time, in line with his widow’s request.

His remains were exhumed in November 2012 and samples were taken, partly to investigate whether he had been poisoned — a suspicion that grew after the assassination of Russian ex-spy and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
The investigation has yet to announce a concrete cause of death.
(Source / 11.11.2015)

Palestinian teen shot in the face during clashes in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian teenager was shot and injured in clashes with Israeli forces in Aida refugee camp in northern Bethlehem on Tuesday.Locals said the teenager was shot in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet and taken to the Beit Jala governmental hospital for treatment.Since the start of October, clashes between Palestinian youths armed with rocks and Molotov cocktails and Israeli army forces in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have occurred daily.

In October alone, the Red Crescent documented that Israeli forces shot and wounded at least 760 Palestinians with live rounds across the occupied Palestinian territory, while another 1,857 were hit with rubber-coated steel bullets.
In addition, 5,399 Palestinians were treated for excessive tear gas inhalation during the period, while another 246 were injured in other ways, including assault by Israeli soldiers and burns from tear gas canisters.
According to the society’s records, the total number of Palestinians injured last month was around 8,262.
(Source / 11.11.2015)

Report: 78% of Palestinian victims were executed

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The number of Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli gunfire since October 1, has reached 82, Jerusalem Center for Israeli-Palestinian studies revealed. 78% of the reported victims were executed in cold-blood.

The majority of the reported victims were from al-Khalil where 28 youths were executed by Israeli gunfire in the city.

16 children and seven women were also among the victims, the center added.

The Jerusalem Center called on international human rights groups to seriously work on putting an end to the Israeli crimes and violations of international laws.

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Eskafi’s administrative detention renewed

GAZA, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) renewed the administrative detention of the prisoner Suleiman Eskafi, 30, for four months, Palestine Center for Prisoners’ studies reported.

Ekafi has been on hunger strike for 38 days in protest against his renewed administrative detention according to which he is held in Israeli jails without charge or trial.

During his hunger strike, Eskafi suffered very sharp health deterioration and substantial weight loss.

Eskafi has suspended his hunger strike after he received a promise to renew his detention for one last time for four months starting from November to be then released in February 2016, the Center explained.

Eskafi was arrested in November 2014 after spending six years in Israeli jails in previous arrests.

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Israel warplanes strike near Syria airport: Report

A file photo of Israeli warplanes

A file photo of Israeli warplanes

Israeli warplanes have struck targets near the international airport in the Syrian capital, Damascus, Syrian media says.

The reports said the attack happened Wednesday morning.

There were no immediate comments from the Syrian government on the issue.

In October, the Israeli military launched a number of artillery attacks against Syrian army posts in the Golan Heights.

Syria says Israel and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri militant groups operating inside the Arab country.

The Syrian army has repeatedly seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria.

The Tel Aviv regime has a long history of supporting militant groups against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the past few years of turmoil in the Arab country.

Reports say Israel has set up field hospitals in the occupied Syrian territory of the Golan Heights for the treatment of injured militants.

Back in June, locals in the Golan intercepted an Israeli vehicle transporting two members of the al-Nusra Front terrorist group on the road between al-Sheikh Mountain and the village of Majdal Shams.

The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which flared in March 2011, has thus far claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and left over one million injured, according to the United Nations.

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Egyptians protest poor economy

Egyptians expressed dissatisfaction with ongoing power outages. (AFP/File)

Egyptians expressed dissatisfaction with ongoing power outages

Egyptians from all walks of life have held demonstrations across Egypt to protest against the incumbent military-backed government’s economic policies and its crackdown on dissent, Press TV reports.

On Tuesday, protesters took to the streets in many Egyptian cities to express their resentment of the fast deteriorating living conditions for millions of people, and the continuous breach of the human dignity in the country.

The rallies were organized by a new Egyptian youth movement called “We’re fed up.” The movement denounces what they call the dominion of corrupt, powerful and rich elite on Egyptians.

For weeks, the movement has been calling for anti-government protests to highlight the cause of the alienated workers in Egypt, and unprecedented government failures in various spheres.

“Kids died in hospitals because of power outages that hit Egypt recently. Most provinces have no clean drinking water. We are fed up. I hope it won’t be too late for every Egyptian to realize that we are drowning,” Ragayi Ali, an Egyptian worker, told Press TV.

Egypt’s anti-coup alliance, the National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy (NCSL), also joined the Tuesday protests, condemning what it calls the Cairo government’s security and legal crackdown on opposition and its failure to curb terrorism.

The Egyptian government has admitted its failure in facing up to critical problems in energy and health sectors as well as the quality of education, where the Arab country recently ranked last among 146 nations in an international report.

Egypt has been the scene of anti-government protests with continuous clashes between security forces and the supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi since his overthrow in July last year.

Rights groups say the army’s crackdown on the supporters of Morsi has left over 1,400 people dead and 22,000 arrested, while some 200 people have been sentenced to death in mass trials.

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Red Cross: Saudi-Led Coalition ‘Deliberately’ Targeting Hospitals In Yemen

With a stockpile of Western arms, the Saudi siege of Yemen has hit nearly 100 healthcare facilities in war-torn country since March.

Afghan MSF medical personnel treat civilians injured following an offensive against Taliban militants by Afghan and coalition forces at the MSF hospital in Kunduz.

Afghan MSF medical personnel treat civilians injured following an offensive against Taliban militants by Afghan and coalition forces at the MSF hospital in Kunduz

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen has repeatedly targeted and attacked hospitals and clinics, an appalling trend that “disrespects the neutrality of health facilities” in war, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Tuesday.

The U.S.-backed coalition has bombed nearly 100 hospitals throughout Yemen since March, with the most recent airstrike hitting a clinic on Sunday in the southern city of Taiz—one the country’s most populous regions, which has been under heavy fire for months. The shelling of Al-Thawra hospital in the south came just weeks after a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic was hit in Haydan, in the north.

“Al-Thawra hospital, one of the main health care facilities in Taiz which is providing treatment for about 50 injured people every day was reportedly shelled several times on Sunday. The shelling endangered the lives of patients and staff on site,” Kedir Awol Omar, the deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, said on Tuesday. “The neutrality of healthcare facilities and staff is not being respected. Health facilities are deliberately attacked and surgical and medical supplies are also being blocked from reaching hospitals in areas under siege.”

Airstrikes on medical clinics are “a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” ICRC said.

MSF also said on Tuesday that it has been unable to deliver essential medical aid to two hospitals stationed in a particular volatile corner of Taiz, where almost half of health facilities face an influx of wounded patients along with a scarcity in supplies.

“A large part of the population of Taiz is displaced within the city,” said Karline Kleijer, MSF’s emergency manager for Yemen. “They are battling for their survival on a daily basis, and fighting to get hold of sufficient food and water, due to the steep cost of basic necessities and the prevailing insecurity.”

“The situation in Taiz is dramatic and will only get worse in the coming weeks if no efforts are made to spare civilians from the violence and allow them to access basic services, including health facilities,” Kleijer said.

Saudi officials have not responded to the most recent bombing, but they denied being aware that the October airstrikes in Haydan had targeted a clinic.

“Saudi authorities are denying the evident truth of having destroyed a hospital,” said Laurent Sury, head of MSF emergency operations. “This is an alarming sign for the Yemeni people and for those trying to assist them. How are we to draw lessons from what happened when all we face are denials? How can we continue to work without any form of commitment that civilian structures will be spared?”

Amnesty International in October demanded an independent investigation of the bombing in Haydan, which it said could amount to a war crime. Further, the humanitarian aid group noted that while the planes that dropped the shells were Saudi, the bombs themselves were American.

“The USA and other states exporting weapons to any of the parties to the Yemen conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the arms transfers they authorize are not facilitating serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser. “Lack of accountability has contributed to the worsening crisis and unless perpetrators believe they will be brought to justice for their crimes, civilians will continue to suffer the consequences.”

“The world’s indifference to the suffering of Yemeni civilians in this conflict is shocking,” Rovera said.

Meanwhile, MSF’s Kleijer on Sunday published testimony from her most recent visit to Taiz, describing the devastating impacts of the siege by warring factions and the unrelenting intervention of military forces.

“A lot of airstrikes happen at night,” Kleijer wrote. “Lying in your bed, you hear the planes circling above the city, then you hear the whistle of a bomb falling, and then you brace yourself for the impact. You hope it’s not your building that going to be hit. And then it hits another building, not your house, so as well as being frightened, you’re also relieved.”

“The noise of the airstrikes is so loud and intense that you can actually feel it in your bones,” Kleijer wrote. “This is what people have been going through every night, for months on end…everything is touched by the war: the children have a game called ‘One two three airstrike’ in which they all fling themselves to the ground.”

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Israel gets to use violence. Palestinians don’t. That’s the rule

Obama in Cairo

Obama in Cairo

Why is anyone surprised by Obama’s one-sided statement standing with Netanyahu in the White House Monday?

Obama’s position on the Israel Palestine conflict was flawed from the beginning and people cut him way too much slack on this. He’s always talked about settlements being a problem and he talked about Palestinian “aspirations” two days ago, but he has never condemned Israeli violence against Palestinians the way he condemns Palestinian terror. This is the safe, acceptable mainstream way of saying you favor a two state solution without crossing a line. The line is this–Israel gets to use violence and Palestinians don’t, that’s the unspoken rule, and that explains why Obama says Israel has a “right, even an obligation to defend itself” when he would never use such words about Palestinians.

He is saying that Israel has human rights that must be respected right now without qualification, while Palestinians have aspirations that need to be negotiated. This is also how the New York Times editors think.

I’m starting to think this is the fundamental issue–who gets to use violence, or alternatively, whose violence gets condemned? I hate to put it that way because I don’t want the Palestinians to use violence either, but as a matter of principle that’s what the issue is. There is always going to be violence until a true solution is reached–Palestinians live with it on various levels, up to and including the occasional killing by an IDF soldier or settler during periods of “calm,” and this causes no outrage with the Obama/New York Times type of liberal, but when Palestinians use violence, whether against civilians or police or soldiers, it is terrorism and Israel has the right to do whatever it chooses to stop it. When you take that attitude then the “settlement” issue is more of a long-term abstract sort of thing, something to be negotiated. Aspirational. Even when Obama wanted a freeze it didn’t mean much, because he wasn’t going to do anything about it. For him, the freeze was also aspirational. Because, gosh, without a cessation in settlements someday in the future Israel might cease to be a Jewish democracy. But it’s a future problem and it is concern on behalf of Israel more than on behalf of Palestinians, though to be fair Obama does mention the hopes of Palestinians sometimes. That Palestinian rights are violated right now–well, he doesn’t see any urgency.

Only when Israelis get hurt should something forceful (literally) be undertaken and then it doesn’t matter how many Palestinians get hurt in the process.

I know what some will say. That in 2008, in Iowa, Obama said that Palestinians are suffering the most, and got taken to the woodshed. That in 2009, in Cairo, he spoke of Palestinian humiliation and occupation, and did not go to speak in Israel– and now even George Mitchell says he should have done so. The lobby came down on him for these statements, and he changed.

But I include the words like “occupation” and “humiliation” in the weak sauce category, unless there is an explicit acknowledgement of the actual brutality and viciousness that goes along with the occupation.  Yes, Palestinians might use those words too, but they know the full meaning.  Most Americans don’t.  These are not strong appealing-to-the-gut emotional words like “terrorism”.  If you are “humiliated” do you have the right to shoot a soldier?  By the rhetoric of Obama and likeminded semi-liberal Zionists, no.  But Israelis have the right to defend themselves, which means they can shoot any damn person they please, so long as they pretend the innocent civilian deaths were accidental or the fault of some terrorist using them as a human shield.  Or so long as they can say the victim was himself or herself a terrorist.

If you go back and look at Obama’s first reply to Jeremiah Wright, he was already bowing to the lobby. It might be his second reply where he broke ties, but I think it was his first. And of course he also distanced himself from Rashid Khalidi. Yes, Obama has folded, but his position was never as strong as some wanted to think.  I could see that in the Jeremiah Wright affair.  I had a few weeks (literally a few weeks) where I was enthused about him.  Then it became clear people were imagining things.

(Source / 11.11.2015)

Hamas hands Yasser Arafat’s Gaza house to Fatah

Both parties describe the handover as a positive step for government unity

Palestinian politicians gather at the house of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City on Tuesday

On the eve of the 11th anniversary of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death, Hamas handed over his Gaza residence and personal effects to the Palestine Liberation Organisation on Tuesday evening.

Officials in attendance said that the ceremonial transfer was as conciliatory gesture by Hamas, which does not belong to the PLO and rejects its policy of seeking peace with Israel.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 when the group forced out Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which dominates the PLO, after the latter’s failed coup attempt.

“Today our brothers in Hamas gave us the home of the symbol of the Palestinian people Yasser Arafat and we hope it will be a step towards ending the division” between the groups, said Zakaria al-Agha, an influential member of the Fatah Central Committee.

Among personal belongings also ceded to the PLO were Arafat’s gun, items of clothing and photographs.

The house, near the Gaza City fishing port, is where Arafat, popularly known as Abu Ammar, settled with his family after years in exile on their return to the Palestinian territories in 1994, under interim peace accords with Israel.

“Abu Ammar was the symbol of national unity, the only weapon we have with which to confront the (Israeli) occupier,” Agha told AFP.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said that his party handed the house over to the Yasser Arafat Foundation following the official approval of Arafat’s widow, Suha. The house will reportedly be turned into a museum of Arafat’s life.

Abu Zuhri called the move a “national and positive signal that should be built on to achieve the national unity, which the Palestinian people need the most in this time”.

In the past, Hamas has prevented Fatah from holding commemorative events in Gaza to mark Arafat’s mysterious death at a hospital near Paris in 2004. Arafat was 75.

Last year, at least 10 explosions hit houses and cars belonging to senior Fatah members in Gaza days ahead of planned memorial ceremonies.

Fatah cancelled the events, with Abbas accusing Hamas of seeking to destroy reconciliation attempts with the blasts, which caused no injuries.

“This is a milestone on the road to the unity of our people,” said senior Hamas official Ghazi Hammad of Tuesday’s house handover.

(Source / 11.11.2015)