No end in sight to Israeli occupation

Time is running short for the establishment of an honourable Palestinian State on June 6, 2017, the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War

The surprise partial withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, after restoring the stance of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, has encouraged many to see whether this move would encourage Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do the same. But this momentary hopefulness does not appear to be everlasting since recent events in the Middle East, Europe and the United States have not been encouraging.

All the leading American presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and Donald Trump, a Republican — and their runners-up have pledged allegiance to Israel. Moreover, US Vice-President Joe Biden, who has just returned from a visit to Israel, and other top American lawmakers, will be joining Hillary and Trump at the upcoming annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby, known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in support of Israel. The conference is scheduled to be held on March 22 in Washington, D.C.

Biden was also described by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) as “perhaps the Obama administration’s figure closest to Israel and the pro-Israel lobby” who also served as “the go-to official to calm the waters closest to Israel during the many periods of tension” between President Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister.

Israel was seemingly unappreciative of what the French government has been trying to do to find a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement. Its point was that it was struggling to “understand the logic” of the French peace initiative despite a meeting this week between France’s envoy, Pierre Vimont, and Isarel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold.

However, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has welcomed the French initiative and the international support it would bring, but Netanyahu has voiced opposition and insisted on direct talks between the parties without pre-conditions and wants less international involvement.

An unidentified French diplomat said the initiative was required because of the risk of a “powder keg” exploding. Israel, according to Reuters, was particularly worried by the decision of former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to recognise a Palestinian state automatically if the initiative failed, but this has since been toned down.

Having twice failed to achieve Israel-Palestinian peace, Ori Lewis of Reuters wrote this week that the Obama administration was discussing ways to help preserve the prospects of an increasingly threatened two-state solution. US Secretary of State John Kerry revealed last Sunday that the US was looking for a way to break the deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians, acknowledging that by itself it could not find a solution, and the Obama administration wants to preserve the prospect of a two-state solution.

Time is running short for the establishment of an honourable Palestinian State on June 6, 2017, the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, which ended with Israel conquering the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, a region bordering Syria.

Uri Savir, writing in Al Monitor, said: “The current Palestinian despair is unprecedented and is a function of the unchallenged Israeli [colony] expansion. Palestinians believe that with every day that goes by, reaching statehood becomes a greater challenge, given the ongoing increase in the number of Israelis living east of the Green Line [which separates the West Bank from Israel]. In addition, they are gravely disappointed with the Arab world …

“They have no hope that US President Barack Obama, in his last year in office, will act in any concrete way, and they consider with great criticism and apprehension the American election campaigns … Hillary Clinton is viewed by the Palestinian leadership as someone who will endorse most of Israel’s positions while giving lip service to a two-state solution … It is within this context that they have apparently decided to move on their own towards a unilateral declaration of statehood in June 2017 and to fight Israel for the fulfilment of their cause.”

Savir concluded: “Talking to senior Palestinian officials, one comes away with a sense that a great determination to move alone, both diplomatically and with violence, is currently emerging — 50 years of occupation seems more than they can tolerate.”

(Source / 16.03.2016)

Palestinian political disintegration, culture, and national identity

A Palestinian worker cleans the street in front of war graffiti near the destroyed Al-Saraya Hamas headquarters in Gaza City Nov. 22, 2012

By: Jamil Hilal

Al-Shabaka is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and foster public debate on Palestinian human rights and self-determination within the framework of international law.Al-Shabaka Policy Advisor Jamil Hilal is an independent Palestinian sociologist and writer, and has published many books and numerous articles on Palestinian society, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Middle East issues.The Palestinian political field, dominated by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) since the late 1960s, has been in a state of disintegration since the Palestinian Authority (PA) was established under the Oslo Accords. What has been the impact of PLO dominance and what were the repercussions of its disintegration for the Palestinian body politic? And to what extent has the disintegration of the political field affected the cultural field and its contribution to Palestinian national identity? These are the questions addressed in this commentary.PLO dominance of Palestinian political field began after the battle of Al-Karameh in 1968, which enabled it to establish a centralized relationship with the Palestinian communities in historic Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf, Europe and the Americas. These communities largely accepted the PLO as their sole legitimate representative despite the external influences upon it, including its heavy reliance on foreign aid, the ups and downs of its relationship with the country of residence, and its regional and international relations. As a result, the unique conditions and features of each community were neglected, as were their national, social and organizational responsibilities.From its position of dominance, the PLO was also able to consolidate the practice of elite politics, which was common in the Arab world and internationally but which should not have taken hold amongst the Palestinian people given their dispersal and their struggle for liberation. The fact that the PLO emerged and functioned in a regional and international environment unfriendly to democracy both in theory and practice contributed to this development. The Arab region was dominated by regimes with totalitarian nationalistic ideologies, as well as authoritarian theocratic monarchies and emirates; democracy was seen as an alien and colonialist Western concept. Similarly, the PLO and its factions formed alliances with socialist countries and the countries of the Third World, few of which enjoyed political democracy. The rentier nature of PLO institutions and factions and their reliance on aid and support from non-democratic Arab and socialist countries reinforced the elitist and non-democratic approach to politics.A third feature of PLO hegemony was that its factions underwent formal militarization at an early stage partly due to the PLO’s armed confrontations with host Arab regimes and partly to the fact that it was constantly targeted by Israel. This formal militarization, as opposed to guerrilla warfare, helped to justify the extremely centralized relationship between the political leadership and its constituency.Between the 1970s and the 1990s, PLO factions and institutions suffered many severe shocks as a result of changes in the regional and international situation. These included the expulsion from Jordan following the armed clashes in 1970-71; the civil war that erupted in Lebanon in 1975, Israel’s invasion in 1982, the PLO exodus from the country and the Sabra and Shatila massacres; and the war against the Palestinian camps in Lebanon in 1985-86. The First Intifada (popular uprising) against Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the end of 1987 was also the period in which political Islam first invaded the Palestinian political field (1988). The collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1989, the first Gulf War in 1990-91 and the subsequent financial and political isolation of the PLO greatly eroded its alliances and its sources of revenue.The repercussions of disintegrationDuring the First Intifada, the Palestinian political elite failed to understand the importance of restructuring the Palestinian national movement as well as of rebuilding the relationship between the centralized leadership and various Palestinian communities. Furthermore, the PLO failed to find a way to deal with political Islam when it emerged onto the Palestinian scene as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood and did not integrate Hamas into the national political body. At the same time, Hamas failed to redefine itself as a national movement. The Palestinian political movement, which had previously been defined as a national movement or as a revolution began to be referred to as “the national and Islamic movement.”Indeed, the First Intifada drove the political leadership to further centralize decision-making: It signed the Oslo Accords without consulting the political and social forces within and outside Palestine. Oslo provided the PLO with the political, organizational and ideological rationalization to marginalize those representative Palestinian national institutions that did exist, using the argument that it was building the nucleus of a Palestinian state. The PA was excluded from dealing with Palestinians in Israel, and it lost interest in the Palestinians in Jordan early on. Its dealings with them as well as with Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, the Gulf countries, Europe and America were largely reduced to bureaucratic formalities through its embassies and representative offices in these countries.When the establishment of the PA as a limited self-governing authority on parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip failed to lead to a Palestinian state, the political elites were deprived of a potential sovereign state-based center; this accelerated the disintegration of the national movement. Hamas’ 2006 win in the legislative elections and total control over the Gaza Strip in 2007 contributed to the split of the self-governing authority into two authorities, one remaining in part of the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip. Both “authorities” remained under the occupation and control of a settler colonial state that continues to aggressively colonize land and displace Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.The disintegration of the national political field has had several repercussions. The representative national institutions faded away and local political elites became dominant. The leaders drew their “legitimacy” from their past party or organizational positions and their diplomatic interaction with regional countries and international institutions. The prevailing discourse locally and internationally reduced Palestine to the territories occupied in 1967 and the Palestinian people to those living under Israeli occupation, thus marginalizing the refugees and exiles as well as the Palestinian citizens of Israel. The security apparatus in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip grew considerably in size and allocation in the general budget. The rentier nature of the authorities in the two areas was entrenched through reliance on foreign aid and remittances, and the influence of private capital in their economies increased.There were also significant structural shifts in the social structure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These included the emergence of a relatively large middle class to staff the PA institutions and agencies in areas such as in the education, health, security, finance and administration, as well as the new service and banking sectors and the many NGOs that were established. Meanwhile, the working class shrank in size. The inequalities between different segments grew and unemployment rates remained high, particularly among youth and new graduates. The “office holder” mentality took hold, replacing the mindset of the freedom fighter. Although Fatah and Hamas define themselves as liberation movements, they have been transformed into hierarchal bureaucratic structures and are focused largely on their own survival.The political and economic elites have not been shy about flaunting their privileges and wealth despite the ongoing repressive colonial occupation. The middle class in the West Bank and Gaza Strip knows very well that its standard of living and way of life is linked to the existence of both self-governing authorities. Nevertheless, most of the population remains subject to the oppression and humiliation of Israel’s military forces and armed settlers, and suffers not only from the lack of a decent living and professional future but also the absence of any national solution on the horizon. Israel and Egypt’s draconian siege against Gaza remains as tight as ever, punctuated by destructive Israeli wars, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem continues inexorably, using evictions, withdrawal of permits, and a range of other tactics.These conditions set the stage for an explosive situation in the territories occupied in 1967. However, since the PLO, the political parties, the private sector and most civil society organizations did not or could not mobilize against occupation, the confrontations with Israel’s military occupation forces and settlers in the “wave of anger” underway since October 2015 have for the most part remained individual and localized in nature and lacking a unified vision and national leadership.The disintegration of the Palestinian political field has also led to increasing oppression and discrimination against Palestinian communities elsewhere in historic Palestine as well as in the Diaspora. The Palestinian citizens in the part of Palestine that became Israel in 1948 face a growing raft of discriminatory laws. Palestinian refugees in and from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere also face discrimination and abuse. Overall, the status of the Palestinian cause has experienced a setback in the Arab world and internationally, a situation exacerbated by the internal and external wars in some Arab countries.Yet culture thrives, and nurtures national identityToday, the Palestinian people have neither a sovereign state nor a functioning national liberation movement. Nevertheless, there is considerable strength in the Palestinian national identity due in large part to the role of the cultural field in maintaining and enriching the Palestinian narrative. The role of culture in nurturing Palestinian identity and patriotism is a longstanding one. After the creation of the Israeli state in 1948 and the defeat of the then political elites and the national movement, the Palestinian minority in Israel sustained the national identity through a remarkable flourishing of culture — poetry, fiction, music and films.The Palestinian writer and journalist Ghassan Kanafani captured this in his remarkable book on Palestinian resistance literature (al-adab al-mukawim fi filistin al-muhtala 1948-1966) published in Beirut in 1968. Other key literary figures included the poets Mahmoud Darwish and Samih Al Qasim, Nazareth mayor and poet Tawfik Zayyad, and the writer Emile Habibi, both in his own works, such as The Pessoptimist, as well as through the communist paper he co-founded, Al-Ittihad. In the 1950s and 1960s, when the Israelis kept the Palestinian citizens under military rule, literature, culture and art served to reinforce and protect Arab culture and identity and the Palestinian national narrative. These works were read throughout the Arab world and beyond, and enabled Palestinian refugees and exiles to sustain their identity through the continuous links with the culture and identity of their homeland.The “1948 Palestinians,” as they are often referred to in Palestinian discourse, also played a role in introducing other Palestinians and Arabs to the way in which Zionist ideology shapes Israeli policy and mechanisms of repressive control. Many of the 1948 Palestinian scholars and intellectuals joined Palestinian and Arab research centers in Beirut, Damascus and elsewhere and helped evolve this understanding.Since then, the cultural field has, especially at times of political crisis, offered more possibilities than the political sphere for Palestinians to come together in activities that transcend geopolitical boundaries in cultural forms and genres and all sorts of intellectual production. Literature, film music, and art continues to be produced — indeed is on the rise — ranging from world renown writers, directors and artists to the young artists and writers of today in Gaza and the West Bank and among Palestinians elsewhere. All of this is communicated in a myriad ways, including through social media, fostering and cementing intra-Palestinian and Arab ties and interactions across borders.The vitality of Palestinian patriotism is grounded in the Palestinian historical narrative and draws on the daily experiences of the communities that face dispossession, occupation, discrimination, expulsion and war. It is this vitality that perhaps drives Palestinian youth, largely born after the 1993 Oslo Accords, to confront Israeli soldiers and colonial settlers in all parts of historic Palestine. It also explains the large crowds that take part in the funeral processions of young Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers and in fundraising efforts to rebuild the houses demolished by Israeli bulldozers as collective punishment of the families of those killed in the current youth uprising.However, highlighting the significance and vitality of the cultural field does not compensate for the absence of an effective political movement built on solid democratic foundations. We need to learn from and transcend the shortcomings of the movement’s original institutions rather than wasting effort, time and resources to restore a disintegrated and defunct political field. We also need to move beyond those concepts and practices that experience shows us have failed, such as the very high degree of centralization: Politics must be the concern of the people and of the rank and file.We must also safeguard our national culture from concepts and approaches that enslave the mind, paralyze thinking and free will, promote intolerance, sanctify ignorance, and cherish myths. Rather, we should promote the values of freedom, justice and equality.We need a completely new understanding of political action. Such an understanding can be glimpsed in the language taking shape amongst youth groups and in the relationship between Palestinian political forces within the Green Line. It reflects a deepening awareness of the impossibility of coexisting with Zionism as a racist ideology and a settler colonial regime that criminalizes the Palestinian historical narrative.At the heart of this emerging political awareness lies the need to engage Palestinian communities in the process of discussing, drafting and adopting national inclusive policies: This is both their right and duty. It is equally important to recognize each community’s right to determine its strategy in tackling the specific issues it faces while participating in the self-determination of the entire Palestinian people.Building a new political movement will not be easy because of growing factional interests and the fear of democratic values and practice. Therefore it is necessary to encourage community-based initiatives to form local leaderships, with the widest participation possible from community individuals and institutions, following the promising example of the 1948 Palestinians in organizing the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel to defend their rights and interests, and the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians in the First Intifada. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) is also asuccessful example of this new type of political awareness and organizing. It brings together diverse political factions, civil society organizations, and unions behind a unified vision and strategy.Some may view this discussion as utopian or idealistic, but we are in dire need of idealism amidst the current chaos and destructive factionalism. And we have a rich history of political activism and cultural creativity upon which to draw.

(Source / 16.03.2016)

IOA allegedly discovers a weapons manufacturing lab in O.J’lem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) claimed Wednesday the discovery of a weapons manufacturing lab in Sawahra town in occupied Jerusalem. Equipment used in the production of weapons was allegedly discovered after Israeli police forces and border cops stormed Sawahra town late Tuesday, Israeli police claimed. According to the police’s allegations, three suspects were arrested and multiple makeshift weapons, cartridges and ammunition from the scene were seized during the search.

(Source / 16.03.2016)

Morocco Has Never Annexed the Sahara (Part IV)

For centuries, Morocco’s sovereignty was extended over the Sahara. Its sovereignty over the territory was only terminated when the Spanish and French divided the Kingdom into zones of influence.

Following the dissociation of the question of the Spanish controlled territories of the Sahara and Sidi Ifni in the late 1960s, the discourse over the contested region has largely overlooked this historical fact. Accusing Morocco of occupying or annexing the Sahara is all the more mistaken because  there is tangible evidence that  historical ties existed between the tribes of the region and the Moroccan Sultans for centuries even before the advent of the national state.

Even the much-politicized phrase “Western Sahara” had never been used before 1962. Since Spain started colonizing the Sahara in 1884, this territory was referred to in international literature as the “Spanish Protectorate of the African Coast” of Rio de Oro. And the process of the drawing of Spanish-controlled Sahara was not achieved until the signing of the Franco-Spanish Convention of 1912, which was signed after the Treaty of March 1912, the consequence of which also made Morocco a French Protectorate.

By virtue of the French-Spanish Convention, signed in Paris, the northern and southern parts of the Kingdom, including the Saharan territories were delegated to Spain. In 1946, Spain detached Sidi Ifni and the Sahara from the other parts of its de facto protectorate in Morocco, and created a centralized administrative territory, known as Spanish West Africa.

In another attempt by Spain to preempt any Moroccan claim to the Saharan territory, Madrid promulgated a decree on 10 January 1958, which stipulated that the Sahara would be administered as a province equal in status to other parts of Spain proper. Morocco’s reaction to this decree was not late in coming. On 25 February 1958, the late King Mohamed V delivered a speech to the Saharawi population in the oasis of M’hamid el-Ghizlane in the Sahara and recalled the historical ties of allegiance between them and the monarchs of Morocco. He promised a total mobilization on the part of the Kingdom for the return of the Sahara to the country’s sovereignty.

Elaborating on the often-dismissed ties between Morocco and the Sahara, Abdeslam Maghraoui, a professor of comparative politics at Duke University, acknowledges that although the authority of Moroccan Sultans “did not extend evenly and consistently to all territories they considered to be under their sovereignty”, official representatives appointed through royal decrees operated throughout the distant Saharan territories within the framework of the sultan’s administrative apparatus. Maghraoui goes on to say that the recovering of the Sahara by Morocco is framed by the belief of Moroccans in their right to reconstitute “an empire that it had lost at the time of the Spanish colonization of its territory and thus vindicate its historic title to the territory”.

The protracted Sahara conflict has been forgotten in the context of the legacy of colonialism that divided up the historical Kingdom of Morocco in the late 19th century, and this history was lost in the geopolitical rivalries of the early 1970s.

The Moroccan people have been not only victims of Spanish and French colonialism, which were deleterious to their country, but they have been also victims of the international community’s decision to apply in the Sahara, since the emergence of the Polisario in the 1970s, a “one-size-fits-all” solution for European decolonization. This has meant establishing new states based on colonial borders. The policy was followed to facilitate the decolonization process, a legacy which is often blamed for interethnic conflicts plaguing the African continent up to nowadays.

In its report about the Sahara, the International Crisis Group recognizes “that self-determination is anything but a panacea for the resolution of conflicting sovereignty claims, as it offers a one-size-fits-all solution that may not be appropriate in the case of some present-day conflicts, including Western Sahara.” In Morocco’s case, this simplistic approach ignores the historical legitimacy and reasons for Morocco’s claims to the territory, and the colonial era in which Morocco was divided up between France, Spain and the the International zone in Tangiers.

The international Crisis Group goes on even further to say that the continuing focus of the United Nations to address the Sahara exclusively from a self-determination standpoint, is one of the main hindrances to the settlement of this conflict. “By continuing to define the issue as self-determination, the U.N. has encouraged the Polisario Front and Algeria to continue to invest all their energy in seeking the realization of this principle and at the same time has pressured the Moroccan government to pay lip service to self-determination, when in reality Rabat has never sincerely subscribed to it. The U.N. thereby has inhibited the parties to the dispute from exploring the possibility of a resolution based on a different principle or set of principles”.

By persisting to define the dispute through the lens of self-determination, without considering that Saharawi nationalism was created by Spanish and Algerian leaders, and at the same time urging the parties to reach a consensual and mutually acceptable solution, the United Nations is following an unclear path that does not create the conditions conducive to putting an end to this issue. Self-determination and a consensual solution are like two parallels that will never meet. The United Nations needs to move away from its rigid approach regarding self-determination and take into account the facts on the ground. And the reality suggests that the current approach will not lead to an acceptable solution.

The past two decades have proven that an agreement between Morocco and the Polisario to hold a potential referendum is impossible in light of the diametrical opposition in the views of both parties on defining the electorate. This is what prompted the former United Nations Secretary General’s Personal Envoy to the Sahara, Peter Van Walsum to state in an interview with the Spanish daily el Pais in August 2008 that the option of an independent State in the Sahara is not an accessible objective.

Rather than helping to find a lasting solution to the Sahara conflict, the concept of self-determination as strictly interpreted by the Polisario and Algeria constitutes an obstacle to ridding the Maghreb region of one of the protracted inheritances of European colonialism in the Maghreb. Hence the need for the United Nations to find a new way forward through negotiations.

But for these negotiations to “offer any serious prospect of securing a sustainable agreement that might resolve the conflict … it is essential that negotiations not be prejudiced at the outset by the stipulation that their objective is to secure the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. Their objective should be to resolve the conflict between the parties through an agreement to which they all genuinely adhere, whatever principles that agreement may be based on.”

As a matter of fact, the proponents of the Polisario have been so vocal in not envisaging any option other than self-determination.  As the International Crisis Group put it in its 2007 report about the Sahara, “the protracted attempt to resolve the Western Sahara question on the basis of the principle of self-determination has led most actors and observers alike to become fixated on this principle as if is the only one at issue.”

Through its fixation on the principle of self-determination, the international community at large overlooks the interests and principles that lie at the heart of the territorial dispute over the Sahara.

Finding a lasting and mutually acceptable solution is contingent on taking into account the historical rights and the strategic interests of the parties involved in the conflict, including Algeria. The first step in this direction is to understand the fact that Morocco has always had historical ties and claims over the Sahara and that this issue falls within the framework of its efforts to preserve its territorial integrity. On the other hand, the concerns of the Polisario and the Saharawi population to preserve their identity are also to be taken into account. The concerns of Algeria regarding the intangibility of frontiers inherited from the colonial era, needs also to be addressed.

The proposal made by Morocco in April 2007 for broad autonomy to the Sahara, which has been hailed by the international community as a “credible and serious offer”, does not only offer the preservation of the Sahrawi people’s interests but will also allow them to fully partake in the political and economic life of their region. However imperfect it may be now, this proposal should be used as a platform for negotiations with a view to reach a final and fair solution to the conflict.

On the other hand, as regards Algeria, Morocco has long dropped any intention to lay claim to parts of the Algerian territory, previously deemed part of Morocco before the colonial era. Morocco has also been keen on working together with Algeria towards laying the foundations of the Maghreb Arab Union.

The activation of the lethargic Arab Maghreb Union will not only result in broader economic and political cooperation between countries of the Maghreb, but also in creating equilibrium in the region. As demonstrated by the International Crisis Group, “these are all matters of genuine principle for the concerned parties. A negotiation which took them into account might possibly yield an agreement. And an agreement based on them would deserve the international community’s respect.”

Based on the forgoing, it seems clear that the only option to put an end to this protracted conflict is that the parties negotiate a mutually acceptable solution, away from any insistence that a referendum of self-determination is the only path towards attaining a possible settlement. Those who criticize Morocco for not accepting the option of a referendum overlook the fact that thousands of Moroccans of Saharawi descent who relocated to other parts of Morocco in the late 1950’s cannot take part in a possible referendum.

Many also forget the fact that these Moroccans left their homes as result of the scorched earth policy of Spain and France during peration “Ecouvillon”, conducted jointly in 1958 by these two former colonizers in order to quell the insurgency movement in the Sahara. This campaign led to a mass exodus of the Saharawi population, who relocated in other parts of Morocco. The number of people who fled ranged between 20,000 and 30,000. The Polisario and its supporters refuse adamantly that these people be counted in a possible referendum.

Since the referendum cannot be conducted owing to the diametrical differences between Morocco and the Polisario over who is eligible to vote in a popular consultation, the Polisario and its supporters have to come to terms with the idea that the referendum cannot be an option. Thus, the need to start in earnest a process of real and result-oriented negotiations with the goal of achieving a long lasting solution to the conflict, which should take into account both the historical rights of Morocco over the Sahara and the interest of the entire Saharawi population.

(Source / 16.03.2016)

Saudi Arabia donates $31.8 million for the rehabilitation of Palestinian homes in Gaza


The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) announced on Tuesday that it has received $31.8 million in financial assistance from Saudi Arabia for rebuilding Palestinian homes destroyed in the 2014 Israeli war on Gaza.

UNRWA said in a statement that it signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) worth $31.8 million, which has been provided by the Saudi government’s Saudi Development Fund.

The Saudi-funded project will include the rehabilitation of more than 5,000 houses for Palestinian non-refugees affected by the 2014 hostilities in the Gaza Strip, in addition to the maintenance, furnishing and equipping of three schools, UNRWA said in its statement.

UNRWA noted that the project will give priority to female-headed households and will take into account the number of family members and the socioeconomic status of the inhabitants.

In July 2014, the Israeli army launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip. The operation, which lasted for 51 days, resulted in the destruction of over 18,000 housing units, leaving approximately 100,000 people homeless.

(Source / 16.03.2016)

Gazans unable to travel for Umrah for the second year

GAZA, (PIC)– Inhabitants of Gaza are unable to travel to Saudi Arabia for Umrah for the second year due to the continuous closure of Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Awad Abu Mathkour, the head of a group of Haj and Umrah companies, said in a press conference held in Gaza on Tuesday that the closure of Rafah crossing prevented travel agents from arranging Umrah journeys for two years.  He pointed out that the loss of 79 Haj and Umra firms in Gaza due to the closure is increasing and the annual losses are estimated at one million American dollars. As a result to the crossing closure, 237 Palestinian workers in those companies have been deprived of work. Each worker is responsible for four family members in average, he added.  Regarding the idea of using Beit Hanoun (Erez crossing) in order to travel to Saudi Arabia, Abu Mathkour said it is a semi impossible risky mission and entails double costs.  Palestinian activists and officials in human rights organizations demanded the UN human rights committee to put pressure on the Egyptian authorities to guarantee the right of travel for Gazan people so that they can travel to Makkah to perform  Haj and Umrah. They also called for forming a committee to supervise the travel of Gazan people via Rafah crossing.

(Source / 16.03.2016

Top Palestinian activist from Zionist prison: Arab Anti-Hezbollah resolutions Valueless; We Proud Resistance

“The entire world knows Hezbollah that asserts that the Palestinian cause is his priority, unlike the ruling junta.”

Top Palestinian activist from Zionist prison: Arab Anti-Hezbollah resolutions Valueless; We Proud Resistance

The secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat, stated from the Zionist prison that the Front is proud of Hezbollah and his resistance against the Israeli occupation and against the Western schemes along with the Palestinian factions.

In a letter, Saadat said that the Popular Front considers that the GCC as well as the Arab Interior and Foreign Ministers resolutions which blacklisted Hezbollah as a terrorist group are valueless and serve the Zionist entity.

“The entire world knows Hezbollah that asserts that the Palestinian cause is his priority, unlike the ruling junta.”

(Source / 16.03.2016)

Syrian Kurds Report Daesh Attacks in Country’s North

A Kurdish fighter from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) is pictured in the majority-Kurdish Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 21, 2013.

Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) checkpoints on Tishrin dam on the Euphrates river in northern Syria were twice attacked by the Daesh units with heavy weapons, according to the YPG.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) came under new attacks from the Islamic State (ISIL or Daesh) militants, the YPG said on Wednesday.

“In the evening of March 15 and early on March 16, YPG checkpoints on Tishrin dam [on the Euphrates river in northern Syria] were twice attacked by the IS units with heavy weapons,” the YPG said in a statement obtained by RIA Novosti.

Daesh militants also blew up a car at the entrance to a village located close to the dam.According to the statement, the attacks were repelled. No information on the number of dead or injured has been revealed.

The ceasefire in Syria worked out by Russia and the United States, took effect on February 27. The cessation of hostilities does not apply to groups designated by the United Nations to be terrorist organizations, such as Daesh and the Nusra Front, outlawed in a number of countries worldwide including Russia.

(Source / 16.03.2016)

14 Palestinian female journalists injured by IOF since October

GAZA, (PIC)– The Islamic Radio Stations and Televisions’ Union said on Tuesday that Israeli occupation forces (IOF) had attacked and injured at least 14 Palestinian female journalists since the start of the anti-occupation uprising in October until the month of February. The union said in a report marking the Arab Female Journalist’s Day that three of the journalists were from Occupied Jerusalem, four from Ramallah, four from al-Khalil, two from Bethlehem, and one from the blockaded Gaza Strip. Each of the 14 journalists were either hit with live or rubber-coated steel bullets, or other Israeli crowd dispersal means such as teargas canisters and stun grenades. A number of female journalists sustained critical injuries in their heads, stomachs, and faces while others were used as human shields. News correspondent Faten Aref Ulwan, working for the al-Hurra TV Channel, was reportedly used as a human shield by the Israeli occupation soldiers while she was covering clashes in al-Bireh city. 31-year-old reporter Sayraa Ghassen Sarhan, working for the Filastin al-Yawm TV Channel, was also used as a human shield for three hours and was hit with teargas grenades while she was covering a rally in Ramallah.

(Source / 16.03.2016)