PA official: Israel using ‘tripwire explosive device’ around settlements

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces have reportedly been implementing a ‘tripwire explosive device’ to prevent Palestinians from approaching areas near illegal Israeli settlements and roads in the occupied West Bank, a PA official said Wednesday.

Issa Ghuneimat, Director of Operations at the PA’s Palestinian Mine Action Center, told Ma’an that the device operates as “a trap targeting Palestinian citizens.” A tripwire attached to the device explodes on impact, producing large amounts of light, according to the official.
“They use this device instead of having a 24-hour-a-day military patrol. When it goes off, military patrols will see the light and rush to the area,” Ghuneimat said.
Though the device is intended to emit light in order to notify Israeli forces that someone is approaching, Ghuneimat said that when detonated, the device “releases shrapnel that could kill if they hit a human body directly.”
The official highlighted what he said was Israel’s potentially fatal use of the device, which is not clearly marked, comparing the tactic to the use of landmines.
According to Ghuneimat, one of the devices was recently found in Salfit district in the central West Bank, as well as in the car park of a stadium in the Bethlehem-area al-Khader town.
A Palestinian intelligence officer last week said a “suspicious object” was found adjacent to al-Khader football stadium. The PA’s military liaison office reportedly contacted its Israeli counterpart, and the device was removed shortly after by Israeli forces.
An Israeli army spokesperson was unable to confirm the reports at the time.
Ghuneimat said the stadium — like many areas where the devices are used — is located in Area C, where Palestinian security forces are unable to enter without coordination with the Israeli military which has full control over the area.
While the explosive devices do not hold the destructive power of landmines, the PA official said the West Bank used to be littered with landmines, used during Israel’s illegal takeover of the area from Jordan in 1967.
Ghuneimat said that the PA’s Palestinian Mine Action Center launched a project in 2014 to clear all landmines in the occupied West Bank, which has so far removed at least 210 mines from the Bethlehem-area town of Husan and Nabi Elias in Qalqilya.
(Source / 25.02.2016)

PM condemns Israel’s ‘deliberate’ destruction of EU-funded structures

Ruins of structure donated by the EU in community of Fasayil, 10 Feb. 2016

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Thursday condemned Israel’s “deliberate” destruction of EU-funded structures in the occupied Palestinian territory, as he called on the international community to take action.”Israel must be held accountable for its deliberate targeting of EU-funded humanitarian aid structures built for the Bedouin communities in Area C,” the prime minister said in a statement.He accused Israel of destroying EU-funded structures “in an apparent retaliation for the EU guidelines on indication of origin products from Israeli settlements.”He called for an “immediate intervention by the international community to put an end to the destruction of Palestinian-owned property in Area C,” referring to more than 60 percent of the occupied West Bank where Israel has full military and civil control.Recent weeks have seen a dramatic surge in home demolitions carried out by Israeli forces, with nearly 500 Palestinians left homeless since the beginning of the year.Among the homes and structures destroyed were a number provided by the EU. Hamdallah’s office drew particular attention to the demolition last week of an elementary school in the Abu Nuwwar Bedouin community east of Jerusalem, which was funded by France.Israeli rights group B’Tselem, meanwhile, has highlighted a number of other cases of structures provided by the EU being torn down, and Israeli media reported earlier this month that the EU may seek compensation from Israel for donated structures demolished in the E1 corridor.In November last year, the EU ruled that settlement goods could no longer be labeled “Made in Israel” and would instead have to indicate their origin in occupied territory.Israel expressed outrage at the ruling, although no officials have publicly linked recent demolitions to the EU regulations.Hamdallah’s spokesperson, Jamal Dajani, said in the statement: “More than 480 Palestinians have lost their homes and were forcefully transferred — equivalent to over half the total number of Palestinians displaced in all of 2015.”The EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah have condemned the recent home demolitions, calling on Israel “to meet its obligations regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian population in Area C.”It reiterated its “strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and actions taken in this context, including demolitions and confiscation, evictions, forced transfers, including of Bedouins, and restrictions of movement and access.”

(Source / 25.02.2016)

Jewish settlers organize anti-Arab march south of al-Khalil

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Extremist Jewish settlers on Wednesday afternoon organized a march inciting against the Palestinians in Masafer Yatta area, south of al-Khalil city. Anti-settlement activist Rateb al-Jabour told the Palestinian Information Center (PIC) that dozens of fanatic settlers escorted by police forces marched en masse towards Palestinian homes in al-Fakhit and al-Majaz in Masafer Yatta as they were chanting anti-Arab slurs. The settlers carried Jewish religious flags and chanted slogans calling for killing Arabs and claiming Palestine as Israel’s land, according to Jabour. The activist warned that providing protection for such marches would lead to an increase in settlers’ attacks against the Palestinians and their property.

(Source / 25.02.2016)

IOF carries out raid, arrest campaign across W.B.

NABLUS, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) launched at dawn Thursday a large-scale raid and search campaign across the West Bank. Several arrests were reported during the campaign. Local sources told the PIC reporter that Israeli forces arrested three youths from their houses in Madma town, south of Nablus, after violently breaking into their homes and blowing up their doors. Two ex-prisoners were also arrested in Awarta town southeast of the city, whole another youth was detained in Eynabus town. Along the same line, violent clashes broke out in Tamun town, east of Tubas, after Israeli forces arrested an ex-detainee only one month after his release. In Jenin province, large numbers of IOF soldiers stormed Qabatia, Yabad, and Arqa towns, west and south of Jenin city. Three young men were arrested in Qabatia, while violent raids were carried out in Yabad and Arqa towns. A military checkpoint was also erected between Yabad and Jenin. Three similar arrests were carried out in Tulkarem, while two youths were arrested near Ramallah. Four Jerusalemite youths including two brothers were also arrested at dawn today in occupied Jerusalem, while four others including an ex-detainee were detained in al-Khalil. At least one young man was arrested in Khuder town in Bethlehem. Meanwhile, several Palestinian homes were stormed and violently searched belonging to ex-detainees and suspects of being involved in anti-occupation attacks.

(Source / 25.02.2016)

Why donor countries are giving less to the Palestinians

On Jan. 12, 2010, US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton (L-R) address a joint news conference at the end of an informal meeting regarding donor assistance to the Palestinian Authority in Brussels

When the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994 pursuant to the 1993 Oslo Accord, the international community undertook to provide it with financial and economic support, amounting to $17 billion since its establishment until today. Most of this support was earmarked for bolstering the Palestinian government’s budget that was primarily used to pay the wages of PA employees, whose numbers exceed 180,000 today, more than 20 years following the establishment of the PA.

However, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced Feb. 16 that in 2015, the PA received half the usual aid pledged by donor countries. There has been a sharp decline in foreign assistance, which typically makes up 37% of the Palestinian general budget. Meanwhile, the remaining funds come in through local tax revenues and customs fees to the Israeli side, according to a financial report issued by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute-MAS in January 2016.

Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bishara said in a Feb. 2 statement that foreign support for the PA has been going downhill. Between 2007 and 2012, this aid amounted to approximately $1.2 billion, decreasing by $200 million between 2013 and 2014.

Bishara explained that foreign aid to the PA witnessed another sharp drop to less than $800 million in 2015. He said Saudi Arabia was the most committed donor among Arab countries, providing aid totaling $241.6 million, followed by Algeria with $52.8 million, while the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the United States and the World Bank failed to contribute any funds to the Palestinian budget in 2015.

Al-Monitor reviewed the reports of the Palestinian general budget for 2016, which showed that the PA received no more than $750 million in foreign aid in 2015.

Former Palestinian Minister of Planning and Labor Samir Abdullah told Al-Monitor, “The PA is not facing an international decision to completely halt assistance. The stoppage was gradual, as donor countries reduced their aid by a certain percentage every year. The United States, for example, cut aid from $400 million per year to almost zero, and the $500 million per year that Arab countries previously paid declined to only $150 million, while the European Union donated between 500 and 600 million euros [$550-$660 million], which declined to 300 million euros [$330 million].”

It should be noted that these figures are approximate as they change every year according to the donor’s abilities.

Declining international support to the PA coincided with reduced international interest in the Palestinian cause, as international decision-makers grew more concerned about other issues such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to European countries.

Samir Abdullah, the former minister of planning and of labor, said, “International support for the PA has declined despite the fact that the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict may seem more important, from a strategic point of view, to the great powers of the world.”

On Jan. 18, the PA declared that the 2016 budget amounted to $4.25 billion, and estimated that its total revenues would exceed $2 billion, collected as taxes, revenue transfers from Israel and foreign aid.

Nasr Abdul Kareem, a professor of economics at Birzeit University in the West Bank, told Al-Monitor, “The financial crisis suffered by the PA due to a decline of international aid is not new, but has been ongoing since its inception. The PA is almost entirely reliant on foreign aid, and its budgets have experienced deficits for the past 15 years. But this time around, the decline is linked to the existing confrontation between Palestinians and Israelis, and the lack of any forthcoming solutions thereto, which might lead to a stifling financial liquidity crisis for the PA. It should be noted that the EU has been the PA’s main financier for years, paying 45% of all regular financial assistance.”

The PA is fully aware that international aid is not free, but contingent on maintaining the viability of the peace process between the PA and Israel. European taxpayers must be convinced to continue providing aid to the Palestinians. As such, the aid may be further diminished if the peace process were to come to a complete halt.

Yet this situation may be preceded by European efforts to exhaust all political options between Palestinians and Israelis before announcing a complete halt to the peace process and consequently an end to aid provided to the PA. On Feb. 19, France announced it will host a summit between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in July, in an attempt to revive the peace process and resume negotiations that have been stalled since April 2014.

A European diplomat visiting Gaza told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “The EU may cease its financial aid to the PA in light of the worsening political situation between the Palestinians and Israelis and the lack of a negotiated political process between them. For the EU will not disburse free money in the absence of a peace process that achieves political and security stability in the Palestinian territories, as said peace process is the basis upon which European aid has been predicated since the establishment of the PA.”

The World Bank announced Feb. 12 that the PA’s financial situation was difficult and its economic recovery was slow due to a 60% decline of donor aid, the result of the lack of progress in peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis. On that same date, the International Monetary Fund also announced that foreign aid to the PA had shrunk from $2.7 billion in 2008 to less than $800 million in 2015.

Omar Shaban, the director of Pal-Think for Strategic Studies in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “The EU was no longer desirous of continuing to pay the wages of the PA’s 70,000 employees in Gaza, who, pursuant to instructions by the PA, no longer reported for work in Gaza after Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in mid-2007. These developments came in conjunction with a general reduction of financial aid provided to the PA, particularly by European countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands. [This reduction] was due to the financial pressures faced by the EU caused by the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and Iraq in past months.”

On Sept. 29, the World Bank expressed concern that the continued decline of international assistance to the PA would cause instability and political conflict. If a Palestinian state fails to emerge, stuck in a political dead-end with Israel, then international decision-makers will find it difficult to convince their constituents of the need to continue financing the PA, leading to the latter’s gradual inability to carry out its duties, services and administrative responsibilities to the Palestinian populace and its ultimate collapse.

(Source / 25.02.2016)

Who’s behind vote to label Muslim Brotherhood a terror group?

On June 24, 2012, Egyptian President-elect Mohammed Morsi (R) of the Muslim Brotherhood arrives at the Egyptian Television headquarters for his first televised address to the nation in Cairo

Republicans say their only motivation for designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terror group is to keep Americans safe.

Critics, however, also suspect a trio of outside influences: Egypt. The United Arab Emirates. Donald Trump.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 17-10 along party lines Feb. 24 to require the State Department to take action against the Islamist group or justify its refusal to. The bill, while it has little to no chance of becoming law, is nevertheless sure to be welcomed by US allies such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who have taken flak for their uncompromising stance against the Brotherhood.

“We don’t know exactly who is behind this,” said Mongi Dhaouadi of the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a Washington think tank that supports working with nonviolent political Islamist groups. “But we definitely think that Sisi’s lobbying [for] it, possibly the UAE is behind it.”

The tone of the presidential campaign also surely played a role, said Dhaouadi, who attended the markup and thanked Democrats afterward. Republican candidate Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has introduced identical legislation in the Senate.

Donald Trump’s electoral success in the Republican presidential primary following his December call to ban Muslims until the government “can figure out what’s going on” has revealed many voters’ concerns that authorities are in the dark about potential terrorists. A similar anti-Brotherhood bill from now-retired hard-right Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.,went nowhere two years ago, but the committee vote suggests it is now a mainstream Republican position.

“The Muslim Brotherhood’s embrace of terrorism and the very real threat it poses to American lives and the national security of the United States make it long overdue for designation,” Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said in a statement after the vote. “This will make it less likely that members of the Muslim Brotherhood will be able to enter the United States.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told Al-Monitor that he wasn’t directly lobbied by either the UAE or Egypt on the issue. He said the group’s record since its founding in Egypt in 1928 was well known and that the Obama administration has had an “overly rosy picture” of the group.

“This is an issue to me that, just knowing their history, seems like a no-brainer,” Diaz-Balart said.

The Egyptian and UAE embassies in Washington did not respond to a call for comment. Both governments, however, have made no mystery of their distaste for the US government’s relationship with the group in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts against the region’s authoritarian rulers.

UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba is said to have been dismayed by the administration’s decision to abandon longtime ally Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, which he sees as an existential threat to the Gulf monarchies, according to a lengthy profile in the Huffington Post. The UAE designated the organization as a terrorist group in late 2014.

Sisi likewise has been going after the group in full force since he deposed Egypt’s democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013 and declared it a terrorist organization later that year. Hundreds of members have been killed and sentenced to death since then.

Dhaouadi said the committee’s vote amounts to a “green light” for continued government repression in Egypt.

While Diaz-Balart denied the bill was aimed directly at the situation in Egypt, his office has been in close contact with lobbyists for the Sisi government, emailing and meeting with them at least nine times in the months before he introduced his bill, according to a review of lobbying records by Al-Monitor. The plain text of his bill, whose last six findings all relate to recent Muslim Brotherhood actions in Egypt, also shows that his office was well aware of the Sisi government’s concerns and accusations.

The original bill also pointed to terrorist designations by Syria, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain to support the United States following suit. The Judiciary Committee stripped out those findings in the version it adopted Feb. 24.

“I’m glad the majority will no longer be citing these countries as a source of our foreign policy approach,” said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the committee. “But we still have a bill that … plays into [the Islamic State’s] hands, picks a fight we don’t need and makes us less safe.”

(Source / 25.02.2016)

Israel issues 9 home demolition orders in Jerusalem-area village

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces on Wednesday issued nine home demolition orders to residents in the occupied East Jerusalem village of al-Issawiya, a local follow-up committee member said.Muhammad Abu al-Hummus told Ma’an that Israeli forces issued the home demolitions in the Abu Riyala area of the village, telling residents their homes would be demolished due to lack of permits.Abu al-Hummus said some of the homes issued demolition orders were built more than 40 years ago, and accused Israeli authorities of using permit laws to dole out “collective punishment” on Palestinians in Jerusalem.According to Abu al-Hummus, Israeli forces arrived in the area earlier that day and took the names and identity numbers from a number of residents in the village without providing a clear reason.Last week, the Coordinator for Humanitarian and UN Development Activities for the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, said the number of Palestinians displaced in 2016 so far was already equivalent to over half the total displaced in all of 2015.In the occupied West Bank, the UN documented 283 homes and other structures destroyed, dismantled, or confiscated between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15.The measures displaced 404 Palestinians, including 219 children. Another 1,150 Palestinians were also affected after losing structures related to their source of income, according to the UN.Repeated calls by international bodies for Israel to cease the displacement of Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territory have done little in the past to stop ongoing demolitions or illegal settlement expansion onto Palestinian land.The EU earlier that week condemned Israeli policy regarding demolition and settlement expansion, which the body said made the establishment of an independent Palestinian state impossible.

(Source / 25.02.2016)

Palestinian child injured in Israeli hit-and-run crash

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– A Palestinian child on Wednesday evening suffered injuries when an Israeli driver deliberately hit her in occupied Jerusalem.  Jerusalemite sources said that a Jewish female settler deliberately rammed her car into the Palestinian girl Raghad Ezzat near Shufat refugee camp in the occupied city and badly injured her.  The settler escaped the scene, while the kid was rushed to Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital for urgent medical assistance.

(Source / 25.02.2016)

G4S loses major contract in Colombia after BDS campaign


British security giant G4S has lost a major contract in Colombia, following a year-long campaign by Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists.

Crepes & Waffles, a restaurant chain with branches across South America and Spain, has decided to end a contract with G4S for securing the transit of cash and valuables.

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BDS Colombia had argued that contracting G4S ran counter to the chain’s ethical principles and offended many of its loyal clients. More than 1,400 people signed a petition and hundreds of the chain’s clients delivered it by hand to the managers of the chain’s restaurants in various locations.

G4S provides equipment and services to Israeli prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to torture. G4S also has contracts to provide equipment and services to checkpoints and the apartheid wall, as well as crossings that enforce the siege of Gaza.

Abdulrahman Abu Nahel, Gaza coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), described the news as “a welcome contribution to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

G4S is involved in gross violations of human rights through its involvement in and profiting from mass incarceration of Palestinians, blacks and migrants in the US and other oppressed communities around the world. The cross-movement boycott campaigns against G4S are growing fast to hold the company accountable for this complicity.

According to Zoe Pepper-Cunningham, a member of the Colombian BDS campaign, while the campaign targeting Crepes & Waffles has ended, there is plenty more to do.

Aside from other G4S contracts that we shall continue to campaign against, we are also mobilizing pressure to derail the ratification of Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement with Israel as well as the military links. For decades, Israel has supported Latin American dictatorships and trained death squads; we should impose a military embargo on it, as was done against apartheid South Africa.

(Source / 25.02.2016)

Syrian Coalition Urges UNSC to Condemn Escalation of Bombing on Aleppo

The Syrian Coalition called upon the UN Security Council to condemn the recent escalation of aerial bombardment on Aleppo; break the sieges across Syria; protect civilians from indiscriminate aerial bombardment; and ensure accountability for war crimes.

The Coalition’s calls were made in a letter submitted to the UN Security Council on Wednesday by the Special Representative of the Syrian Coalition to the United Nations Dr. Najib Ghadbian. The letter was submitted ahead of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien’s briefing to the UN Security Council on the situation in Syria.

Ghadbian called upon the UN Security Council’s Member States to “condemn the recent escalation of aerial bombardment on Aleppo by the Syrian regime and Russia, in addition to all indiscriminate aerial bombardment and attacks against civilians, civilian targets, and vital facilities.”

The letter also called for breaking the sieges across Syria, not only in the areas reached on 17 February, but across all of the areas currently being starved into submission. “If the achievement of humanitarian corridors is not possible because of Syrian regime intransigence, then it is imperative that Member States airdrop aid to Syria’s 46 besieged communities,” the letter added.

The Syrian Coalition’s UN Special Representative urged the UNSC member states to “protect civilians from indiscriminate aerial bombardment, including by enforcing a no-bombing zone to stop the indiscriminate airstrikes across Syria.”

Moreover, Ghadbian stressed the need for “ensuring accountability for war crimes, including those perpetrated by the Russian Federation, and take steps to establish a special international tribunal for Syria, should Security Council paralysis prevent the referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.”

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 25.02.2016)