Report: Situation from bad to worse in Gaza due to Israeli blockade

GAZA, (PIC)– A human rights report released Monday denied Israeli claims on easing restrictions on the blockaded Gaza Strip. A report by the Palestinian Human Rights Center on the situation of Gaza’s border-crossings in January 2016 warned of Israel’s attempts to institutionalize the siege imposed on Gaza for the 10th year running, in a flagrant violation of international and humanitarian laws. The report kept record of ongoing restrictions on the import of basic products and goods, along with reconstruction materials. The center also pointed out Israel’s closure of the Karem Abu Salem commercial crossing for 10 days (amounting to 32.2% of the month). Restrictions on Gaza’s exports to the occupied West Bank and 1948 Occupied Palestine were also documented by the study. Gaza’s exports during the month of January have been estimated at 6% only of the overall export rate before June 2007, when the siege was not yet imposed. The report documented the difficulties in Palestinians’ access out of and into blockaded Gaza via the Beit Hanun border crossing. Such Israeli restrictions blocked the movement of two million Gazans. The center called on the international community and the parties involved in the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to immediately step in and urge the Israeli occupation to lift the siege and open the border crossings before Gaza’s stranded passengers and humanitarian cases.

(Source / 16.02.2016)

Turkey shells Kurdish forces in Syria for 4th successive day

Turkish artillery near the town of Kilis in south-central Turkey fire across the Syrian border on February 16, 2016. © Bulent Kilic

Turkish artillery near the town of Kilis in south-central Turkey fire across the Syrian border on February 16, 2016

Turkey has shelled Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria for the fourth day in a row as Ankara tries to stop the YPG from claiming the town of Azaz, which is just 8km from the Turkish border.

Turkish artillery units in the southeastern province of Kilis fired shells at Kurdish targets on Tuesday morning, in areas that were under the control of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Today’s Zaman daily reports, citing the Dogan news agency. The sound of shelling could be heard from Kilis city center, just kilometers from the Syrian border

Syria aanval op Kurden

A Turkish official said on Tuesday that Ankara will ask its coalition partners, including the US, to take part in a joint ground operation in Syria. “Turkey is not going to have a unilateral ground operation. We are asking coalition partners that there should be a ground operation. We are discussing this with allies,” the official told reporters at a briefing in Istanbul, as cited by Reuters.

“We want a ground operation. If there is a consensus, Turkey will take part. Without a ground operation, it is impossible to stop this war.”

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said on Monday Ankara will not allow the town of Azaz in northern Syria to fall to the YPG forces.

“YPG elements were forced away from around Azaz. If they approach again they will see the harshest reaction. We will not allow Azaz to fall,” Davutoglu told reporters on his plane bound for Ukraine, Reuters reported.

He said the Turkish military would render Syria’s Menagh airbase“unusable” if YPG forces do not retreat from the area, which they previously captured from Islamist militants. He warned the YPG not to move east of its Afrin region or west of the Euphrates River.

Turkey regards the YPG militia as a hostile insurgent force and is worried about the Syrian Kurds seizing more territory along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The United Nations Security Council will discuss Turkey’s shelling of Kurdish targets in Syria on Tuesday following a request from Russia. Moscow is backing the Kurdish militia fighters by offering them air support as they battle anti-government forces and Islamic State.

“It’s an absolutely unacceptable situation – what’s going on there on the Turkish-Syrian border. Syria complained to the Security Council, and provided all the materials on this issue. We will definitely support raising this issue in the Security Council,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told RT on Monday.

“The international community and the global media is so concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria, about accusing Russia of doing this or that and they paid no attention to what’s going on just on the Turkish-Syrian border, what the Turks are doing and the humanitarian situation there – it’s a disaster.”

Washington and Paris have both called on Turkey to cease its massive artillery bombardment against Kurdish targets and de-escalate tensions on all sides.

“We are concerned about the situation north of Aleppo and are working to de-escalate tensions on all sides,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement. “We have also seen reports of artillery fire from the Turkish side of the border and urged Turkey to cease such fire.”

(Source / 16.02.2016)

Israel nabs Washington Post journalist reporting in Quds

The file photo shows Israeli forces in the city of al-Quds (Jerusalem). (AFP photo)

The file photo shows Israeli forces in the city of al-Quds (Jerusalem)

Israel on Tuesday briefly nabbed a journalist reporting on the conflict in the occupied East al-Quds (Jerusalem) for the Washington Post.

William Booth said he and his translator were nabbed when they were interviewing Palestinians at Damascus Gate, an entrance to the Old City in Quds.

The journalist said Israeli forces took him and his colleague to a police station after he presented press credentials. He was reportedly held for half an hour and then released.

The two were arrested on suspicion of incitement, as an officer had told them, Booth said.

Micky Rosenfeld, the spokesman for the Israeli police, said the questioning of the two journalists was in connection with an unspecified “incident” and that they were released after it was made clear that they were not involved.

The detention came amid tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories where Israeli forces have been engaged in attacks on Palestinians since early October 2015.

More than 175 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds have been injured since the unrest began.

The violence erupted over an Israeli plan to change the status quo of the al-Aqsa Mosque, a highly revered place for the Muslims across the world, while Palestinians are also demanding an end to settler attacks on their houses and properties.

Imposing a blackout on the unfolding situation has been a main policy of the regime in Tel Aviv as journalists have repeatedly regretted that their access to scenes of the conflict has been blocked by the Israeli military.

(Source / 16.02.2016)

IOF arrests Palestinian youngster for alleged stabbing attack

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)–The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested Tuesday morning a Palestinian young man in occupied Jerusalem for allegedly finding a knife in his possession. Quds Press quoted eyewitnesses as saying that Israeli police forces arrested a young man near Damascus Gate in occupied Jerusalem. He was then taken handcuffed to a nearby police station for investigation, the sources added. Israeli police said that a 26-year-old Palestinian, from the West Bank city of Jenin, was arrested near Damascus Gate for carrying a knife. A 15-year-old girl was earlier arrested near Damascus gate for allegedly trying to carry out a stabbing attack. Since early October 2015, Amnesty International released a report that called into question a number of accounts in which Palestinians were killed or arrested after alleged stabbing incidents. The group found that many of the killings were extrajudicial executions. “There is mounting evidence that, as tensions have risen dramatically, in some cases Israeli forces appear to have ripped up the rulebook and resorted to extreme and unlawful measures,” Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty said. “They seem increasingly prone to using lethal force against anyone they perceive as posing a threat, without ensuring that the threat is real,” he added.

(Source / 16.02.2016)

Issawi goes on hunger strike in solidarity with journalist Qeiq

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Palestinian prisoner Samer al-Issawi, from Occupied Jerusalem, has started an open-ended hunger strike in solidarity with hunger-striking journalist Mohamed al-Qeiq, whose health condition reached a life-threatening stage. Quds Press quoted the father of Issawi as saying that his son had told him about his solidarity step during a recent prison visit. “Samer has gone through the same ordeal before and knows full well what it is like to have your freedom taken from you without any guilt,” the father added. The Israeli military court in Ofer in May last year had reinstated Issawi’s previous 30-year prison term on a charge of his affiliation with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was one of the prisoners released in Wafa al-Ahrar prisoners swap deal. Issawi has become world famous because of his legendary record-breaking hunger strike during his previous detention.

(Source / 16.02.2016)

IOF opens fire at Gazan farmers, searches for tunnels

GAZA, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday morning opened machinegun fire at Palestinian citizens in the Gaza Strip and carried out diggings in a border area. According to Quds Press, Israeli border soldiers opened fire from their military posts and vehicles at Palestinian farmers and homes to the east of Khuza’a town in Khan Younis, south of Gaza. The farmers escaped unhurt from their fields, Quds Press noted. During the shooting, Israeli military bulldozers embarked on carrying out diggings near the border fence in search for tunnels. The Israeli army has been committing ceasefire violations in Gaza almost every day since it accepted an Egyptian-brokered truce agreement on August 26, 2014.

(Source / 16.02.2016)

Palestinian prisoner moved to hospital after entering coma

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — The Israel Prison Service on Tuesday moved a Palestinian prisoner to an Israeli hospital after the man entered a coma on his sixth day of hunger strike, the Palestinian Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Committee said.The committee said Rabie Atta Muhammad Jibril was moved from Negev prison to the Soroka Hospital in southern Israel.Jibril, who has been in Israeli custody since Aug. 19, went on hunger strike in protest of his administrative detention — an Israeli policy that allows Palestinians to be held without charge or trial, indefinitely.The committee said it had warned Israeli authorities days ago, that Jibril’s health was rapidly deteriorating, adding that the man shows signs of cirrhosis and cancer.Before Jibril fell into a coma, the committee said he had lost the ability to stand on his own or relieve his bowels, and was “constantly vomiting.”Palestinian journalist Muhammad al-Qiq has been on hunger strike for for 84 days and counting, as an Israeli court on Tuesday refused his appeal to be transferred to a hospital in the occupied West Bank.Israel has negotiated in cases of hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past out of fear that prisoners’ death could spark unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory, but upheaval has already laid into the territory for months.Palestinian Prisoners’ Society head Qadura Fares said earlier this month that the Israeli security establishment now believes it has “nothing to lose.”

(Source / 16.02.2016)

After Facebook, Israeli army censor discovers WhatsApp

A few weeks after it began expanding its reach into ‘new media’ outlets, the IDF Censor is now demanding that police and first responders allow it to supervise information they pass on to journalists through WhatsApp. The move represents a new, secondary layer of prior restraint.

IDF soldiers train in the Golan Heights. (photo: Matan Portnoy/IDF Spokesperson Unit)

Illustrative photo of an Israeli soldier looking through high powered binoculars, by IDF Spokesperson.

The IDF Censor is demanding that spokespeople for the Israel Police and other first responders allow it to supervise information they pass along to journalists via mobile messaging app WhatsApp, according to a report by Army Radio Tuesday. The demand appears to be yet another step in the new chief IDF Censor’s attempts to broaden the online reach of her office.

Spokespeople in Israel, from the police to the army to first responders, often communicate with journalists via WhatsApp. The app has largely replaced beepers and police scanners as sources of preliminary information for reporters in recent years.

+972 reported on Monday about the IDF Censor’s attempts to expand its reach into what is often referred to as the “new media,” including private blogs, Facebook pages that deal with current events, and independent news and analysis sites like +972 Magazine.

As I wrote in that report, although the state can have legitimate secrets, its reasons for keeping information from the public are not always necessarily aligned with the public’s own interest. That’s where journalists and editors come in, weighing the public interest against any potential harm, and playing an often crucial role as watchdogs over the government and those in power.

The problem with prior restraint and state censorship is that the state removes the independent press from that equation, giving itself — and only itself — the right to decide what is in the public interest. That is dangerous. It is also, apparently, exactly what is happening.

A letter the military censor’s office sent to the spokespeople operating WhatsApp groups for journalists, which was obtained by Army Radio, all but confirms that the IDF Censor views itself, and not the press, as the authority on what the public has the right to know.

“The censorship unit is entrusted with preserving the balance between the right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to know in Israel, and for that purpose we need to know what is happening in the country,” the letter to spokespeople read, according to Army Radio.

Read: On censorship — a letter to our readers

However, by seeking to monitor not only information actually published by news outlets but also the preliminary information journalists receive before any reporting begins, the IDF Censor is actual creating a secondary layer of prior restraint to the existing prior restraint. How many journalists will follow up on a story they believe they can never publish? And if the Censor tells the press certain information cannot be reported even before reporters and editors can weigh the public’s interest to know, there is a good chance the debate itself will never take place.

The spokesperson for United Hatzalah, a non-profit and independent first responder service, told Army Radio that he refused to add the censor to the WhatsApp groups he manages for journalists.

“On the one hand I am the spokesperson of an emergency [services] organization and a citizen who wants to contribute to hasbara and other national [interests],” Moti Elmaliach told Army Radio. “But on the other hand my job is to maintain a functioning working relationship with journalists, and part of that means letting them be part of a private [messaging] group, with only journalists in it, where discussions can be had and questions answered.”

No other spokesperson publicly rejected the IDF Censor’s demands.

Asked by +972 whether police spokespeople have complied by adding representatives of the military censor to their WhatsApp groups, Israel Police spokeswoman Luba Samri declined to comment. Spokesperson for Magen David Adom, Israel’s official ambulance service, refused to confirm to Army Radio whether he had complied with the Censor’s request but qualified that he sees no problem with doing so.

The IDF Censor is supposed to be an independent body but it is nevertheless headed by a uniformed military officer, appointed by the political echelon, and its chief officers (including the current chief censor) traditionally come from the ranks of the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to question whether the office’s strategic priorities are affected by political considerations, although its day-to-day decision making is supposed to be apolitical.

Asked by +972 whether attempts to bring bloggers and citizen journalists into compliance with the censorship law represented a change in policy, a representative of the IDF Censor’s office said no.

[Editor’s note: In accordance with our legal obligation, this article was sent to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. We are not allowed to tell you if (and if, then where) it was indeed censored.]

(Source / 16.02.2016)

Marwa: Assad’s Latest Remarks Render Political Process Meaningless

Vice-President of the Syrian Coalition Hisham Marwa today said that Bashar al-Assad’s latest remarks have emptied the political process of its meaning. He described Assad’s vision of a political solution as “flatly rejects forming a transitional government body with full powers as was set out by the Geneva Communique of 2012.”

“Assad’s remarks reveal the regime’s position on a political solution. They denote clear contempt for the principle of a political solution. His remarks on the difficulty of observing a ceasefire is a de facto denunciation of the Munich ceasefire agreement,” Marwa added.

Marwa pointed out that Assad implied that he would continue to violate the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and suggested he would continue with brutal war on the Syrian people, taking advantage of the Russian intervention on his side.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 16.02.2016)

Israeli court denies al-Qiq’s appeal for West Bank hospital transfer

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israel’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected hunger-striking prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq’s demand to be moved to a hospital in the occupied West Bank, the head of the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said.Issa Qaraqe said the Israeli court’s decision showed its “deliberate persistence to kill” al-Qiq, a Palestinian journalist on his 84th day of hunger strike against his administration detention.Qaraqe called the Israel’s Supreme Court an Israeli “killing tool,” that “realized” al-Qiq was on the brink of death, but refused to make a decision to “save his life.”The medical committee at HaEmek Hospital in Affula reportedly said the committee was considering force-treating the Palestinian journalist in the coming hours or days, Qaraqe said.
Doctors had already reportedly force-treated al-Qiq last month for four days, but ended the treatment after Physicians for Human Rights Israel condemned their actions and called on doctors to stop the force-treatment.Before the court’s decision was released, a video of al-Qiq made rounds on social media, showing the journalist writhing and screaming in pain. The exact date the video was taken is unknown.

On Monday, al-Qiq refused an Israeli court’s offer to transfer him to Makassid hospital in occupied East Jerusalem. Al-Qiq maintained that he would not end his strike until released and brought to a Palestinian hospital in the occupied West Bank.Ahmad Abu Muhammad of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society said on Monday “there is no difference between Afula and al-Makassid hospital for al-Qiq.”The offer was the second made by Israeli courts to al-Qiq in an attempt to get the Palestinian to end his strike.On Feb. 4, Israel technically “suspended” al-Qiq’s administrative detention, or internment without charge or trial, but was clear that al-Qiq was not free to leave the Israeli hospital where he was being treated.Amnesty International criticized the court ruling, saying that the “suspension” appeared to be “a mere gesture, designed to offer the illusion of freedom to prompt al-Qiq to end his hunger strike.”Israel has negotiated in cases of hunger strikes launched by Palestinian prisoners in the past out of fear that prisoners’ death could spark unrest in the occupied Palestinian territory, but upheaval has already laid into the territory for months.Palestinian Prisoners’ Society head Qadura Fares said earlier this month that the Israeli security establishment now believes it has “nothing to lose” by failing to release al-Qiq before his death.

(Source / 16.02.2016)