Israeli court okays Jewish prayer at Muslims’ 3rd holiest site


A Palestinian official warned on Tuesday that an Israeli court ruling allowing Jews to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Occupied Jerusalem, would fan the flames of religious strife.

A ruling by the Israeli Magistrate Court in Occupied Jerusalem declared al-Aqsa Mosque a holy site and a sacred place of worship to Jews.

Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Endowment) and Religious Affairs Yousef Id’eis warned that such a ruling “will lead to a religious war that can affect the entire region.”

He dubbed the move “a dangerous escalation” in Israel’s violations of the sanctity of Muslim holy sites in Occupied Jerusalem, defying all international resolutions that categorize al-Aqsa as an exclusively Islamic site.

The minister added that the court rule makes part of Israel’s attempts to confer a legal cover upon its incessant crimes against the Palestinian land and people.

Id’eis called on the concerned bodies to take urgent action as regards the Israeli court rule and work on ceasing the Israeli violations against Muslims’ third holiest site.

(Source / 28.02.2017)

Libya’s Serraj Warns against Attempts on Reinstating a Military Junta


Libyan Prime Minister is greeted upon arrival in Tripoli, Libya March 30, 2016

Cairo – Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj leading the internationally-backed government of national accord in Tripoli warned on agendas desperately working to reestablish a military dictatorship in Libya.

Serraj is scheduled to visit Russian capital, Moscow, later this week. The Libyan Prime Minister of the UN-backed government in Tripoli is scheduled to arrive in Moscow within days, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

The visit is seen as a step towards overcoming a deadlock in the country between the Tripoli government and Khalifa Haftar, a military commander who is supported by factions based in the east of the oil-rich country.

Serraj, speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, said that it was critical to bolster efforts to stop armed groups and prevent human-trafficking gangs.

“This is a reason for grave concern” he said, “We have done our utmost to find a comprehensive political solution to end these violations. Serraj warned against the different efforts being spent on reinstating a dictatorship that reigns over Libya with gun power.

ISIS, the terror group which exercised heinous crimes against humanity, has been officially driven out of the city of Sirte, Serraj said. He added that displaced families have resumed returning to their homes.

Nonetheless, Serraj asked for greater funding from the “states able to provide assistance” to help his government carry out its policies.

More so, Serraj urged countries to provide assistance and information on assets accounted for in Libya so that they are tracked and recovered.

(Source / 28.02.2017)

Bloggers Kidnapped in Pakistan…Fingers Pointed at Security Agencies

An activist holding an image of Salman Haider during a protest to condemn the disappearances of social activists, in Karachi, Pakistan, this month. Credit Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

An activist holding an image of Salman Haider during a protest to condemn the disappearances of social activists, in Karachi, Pakistan, this month

Islamabad- In the three past weeks, Pakistani media reported extensively on the disappearance of four bloggers in different regions of Pakistan. Many media outlets and civil society organizations have accused international intelligence bodies of standing behind the kidnap of these bloggers. However, a TV host took a different position by accusing all media outlets and the abducted bloggers of being atheists working against the interest of Pakistan. He also accused media outlets and The Research and Analysis Wing, a primary foreign Intelligence agency of India, of being a part of a plot aiming to distort of the reputation of Pakistani intelligence.

This rebellion host, Aamir Liaquat Hussain appeared on BOL TV in a daily show. During his program, he focused on attacking activists and journalists who call for releasing the abducted bloggers.

Among people accused by Liaquat was a lawyer who filed a complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) against the TV host. PEMRA banned Liaquat from appearing on TV. In his complaint, the lawyer said that the TV host deceptively accused him of being an atheist and partaking in plans opposing Pakistan and Islam.

For its part, PEMRA said it received several complaints concerning the hate speech delivered by Liaquat. Therefore, the Research and Analysis Wing ordered Bol New to cease the airing of all hateful content, specifically Liaquat’s show.

The agency stated it has banned Liaquat from appearing on any other channel, promoting hate speech or accusing anyone of non-belief.

These accusations and offenses have become a trend on the Pakistani media. Journalists and TV channels have wrongly exploited their influence to distort one another’s reputation, by using provocative, insulting speeches. Accusations of betrayal have also spread among competing TV hosts.

An eminent journalist told Asharq Al-Awsat that verbal clashes among Pakistani journalists and media figures have always happened in the country. The ideological discords between media influencers were the reasons behind the battles on Pakistan in the seventies and eighties, he added.

However, the current tension has extended to Pakistani outlets working abroad. ARY Network had falsely accused Editor-in-Chief Jang and Geo group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman of being a traitor and enemy of the state who deceived the nation and conspired with other countries against Pakistan. ARY failed to prove these allegations in court and admitted that it has no evidence to back its vile claims. The court ordered ARY to pay £3 million in damages and costs.

(Source / 28.02.2017)

Former prisoner Ihsan Dababseh seized once more by Israeli occupation forces

Former Palestinian prisoner Ihsan Dababseh was seized by Israeli occupation forces in a pre-dawn raid on her home in the town of Nuba south of al-Khalil on Monday, 27 February; they took her to the Etzion interrogation center, reported Asra Voice.

The home of Dababseh, 30, has been raided on multiple occasions over the last weeks with demands that she report for interrogation. During these raids, her family home was ransacked and belongings torn apart.

Dababseh is one of ten Palestinian women prisoners whose story is featured in “For the Love of Palestine: Stories of Women, Imprisonment and Resistance,” created by members of the Prison, Labor and Academic Delegation to Palestine.

Dababseh was released after 21 months in Israeli prison on 10 July 2016; she had been imprisoned since 13 October 2014 on charges of membership in a prohibited organization, in her case the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement. She previously spent two years in Israeli prison from 2007 to 2009 on similar charges. All major Palestinian political parties are labeled prohibited organizations by the Israeli occupation. During her imprisonment she had been isolated with four other Palestinian women as punishment for raising the Palestinian flag on the anniversary of the Nakba.

In 2014, Reham Alhelsi reported, “Israeli occupation soldiers raided her house several times, sent her 4 summons and threatened to blow up her house of she didn’t come to interrogation center. She went with her mother to detention center and was detained and her personal computer was confiscated, while her mother told to leave.”

During her prior arrest from 2007 to 2009, the Israeli occupation soldiers who had arrested and blindfolded her made a video of themselves dancing around her as she was blindfolded and held against the wall, which they distributed.

(Source / 28.02.2017)

Palestinian teen shot by Israeli forces remains handcuffed to hospital bed in ICU


JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian child Abdullah Haroun al-Anati from the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem was shot by Israeli forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the chest during a violent raid in the camp Monday afternoon, and has since remained chained to his hospital bed at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem despite being in the intensive care unit.Al-Anati’s mother Abir told Ma’an Tuesday that her 14-year-old son was being held in Israeli custody while receiving medical treatment, as Israeli forces accused the boy of throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles during Monday’s raid, which also left a 9-year-old girl with a rubber-coated steel bullet injury to the foot.

“The bullet ripped through his left hand and his lung and has caused internal bleeding,” Abir said, “soldiers are present in the room and they don’t allow me to talk to my son or come close to him.”
She added that an Israeli interrogator questioned al-Anati on Monday evening for approximately two hours. The interrogator, she added, took away the boy’s shoes and clothes.Abir denied claims that her son was throwing rocks, saying that she was walking him and her daughters home from school when he was shot.”I was with Abdullah and the girls on Monday afternoon escorting them from school in Kafr Aqab to our home in the camp,” she said, adding that that when she and her children entered the camp, there were clashes near the Israeli military checkpoint at the entrance to Shufat.
According to Abir, she managed to cross the checkpoint into the camp along with her children and walked away from the area where clashes were taking place.
Abdullah, she said, walked at a faster pace ahead of his mother and sisters, causing her to lose sight of him. Moments later, she learned from local youth that her son was shot.She added that she took her son to a local medical center before he was taken in an ambulance to the hospital. “Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint allowed the ambulance to pass after holding it for more than half an hour.” The soldiers, she said, insisted on following the ambulance with a military vehicle and demanded the driver to go to Hadassah hospital.
On Monday, Thaer al-Fasfous, a Fatah spokesman in the camp, told Ma’an about al-Anati — who at that time was still unidentified — saying that soldiers “detained the injured boy for more than half an hour at a checkpoint in Shufat before an ambulance, followed by a military jeep, was able to take him to a hospital.”
According to al-Fasfous, Israeli forces “showered the camp” in tear gas and fired rubber-coated steel bullets “haphazardly,” resulting in al-Anati’s injury.
An Israeli police spokesperson was not available for comment on Monday regarding initial reports, and was not immediately available on Tuesday to comment on Abdullah al-Anati’s condition or detention.
Shufat refugee camp is located in northeastern Jerusalem within Israel’s municipal boundaries of the city, but is encircled on three sides by Israel’s separation wall, forcing residents to pass through a congested military checkpoint to access the rest of Jerusalem where most claim residency status.
The camp is routinely the site of violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth as a result of raids such as Monday’s.
Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Due to the typically aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries.
Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, including minors, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response.
Israeli authorities have also dramatically escalated their crackdown on Palestinian youth who are caught throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, detaining hundreds of Palestinians for alleged stone throwing every year. Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported that from 2005 to 2010, “93 percent of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months.”
However, Palestinians have claimed that rock throwing by teenagers represents a natural reaction to the frustrations caused by the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has been shaped by everyday forms of violence, such as nightly military raids into Palestinian communities, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, and frequent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
(Source / 28.02.2017)

IOA approves administrative detention order against Qiq


Palestinian human rights sources revealed that Israeli Occupation Authority (IOA) approved an order confirming administrative detention for three months, which can be renewed indefinitely, against Muhammed al-Qiq, who has been on hunger strike for 23 consecutive days in protest at his detention.

The wife of captive Qiq, Faiha Shalash, said the order which was approved by the judge of Ofer military court followed a secret session held by the court’s judge and the Israeli military prosecutor who discussed the so called “The Secret File” which is usually submitted to court by Israeli intelligence.

Faiha said that her husband’s health sharply declined and he has started to feel difficulty in speech and suffer from other complications resulted from deterioration of his health condition.

She pointed out that he came under pressure by Israeli doctors of Ramleh prison clinic, where he is held captive, in order to make him undergo medical examinations, but he refused.

Muhammed al-Qiq was arrested by Israeli security forces on 15 January 2017 at a checkpoint near Ramallah while he was on his way home from a demonstration.

This is not the first time Muhammed al-Qiq has been held under an administrative detention order.  He was arrested in November 2015 and held for seven months without charge or trial. He spent 94 days on hunger strike protesting his detention.

(Source / 28.02.2017)

Ceasefire declared in Ain al-Hilweh, after 2 young Palestinians confirmed dead


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — An 18-year-old Palestinian was pronounced dead Tuesday afternoon after a 12-year-old boy succumbed to injuries earlier that morning, while at least four others have been injured — including a pregnant woman — amid armed clashes between Fatah members and Islamic factions in the Palestinian refugee camp Ain al-Hilweh in Lebanon, which began overnight Monday night and continued into Tuesday afternoon.

Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported after 4 p.m. Tuesday that a ceasefire agreement was brokered during a meeting between PLO factions and nationalist and Islamist forces at the Palestine Embassy.
However, shortly after the ceasefire was declared, NNA reported that a pregnant woman, identified as Mariam Aweid, was wounded as a result of the clashes, raising the casualty toll to one dead and three wounded over the course of the day, in addition to one dead and one wounded in the early morning.

Clashes began Monday evening, when a bomb detonated in front of a call center inside camp, breaking a “cautious calm” that had prevailed after Palestinian factions reached a ceasefire agreement Sunday night to halt violent clashes that erupted over the weekend.
Tensions continued to rise, with NNA reporting intermittent hand grenades, shooting, and sniper fire overnight.
The agency said at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday that one was wounded by a sniper bullet inside the camp, and shortly after that, a child was critically wounded and transferred to al-Rai hospital following reports of a missile explosion and an intensification of sniper fire.
At around 10:44 a.m., NNA confirmed that the child had succumbed to his injuries.
The local Arabic-language Facebook page “Friends of Ain al-Hilweh Refugee Camp” identified the boy as 12-year-old Arafat Mustafa. The group quoted a statement by regional organization the Arab Network for Children’s Rights, saying that Arafat was a student at the UNRWA-run Safad school. Activists on the page also said the boy was the son of a Fatah militant within the Palestinian national security forces in the camp.
12-year-old Arafat Mustafa
NNA also confirmed on Tuesday morning the injury of another man by a sniper bullet, who was identified by Friends of Ain al-Hilweh as UNRWA employee Ziyad al-Ali.
The clashes mid-morning caused a fire at al-Farouq mosque in the camp, driving a number of families to leave their houses and forcing schools to close for the day.
By midday, NNA reported continuing missile fire as residents of the camp were being forcibly displaced from areas of the camp — along al-Fawqani street in the al-Safsaf neighborhood in particular — due to the clashes.
After 2 p.m. the Lebanese army carried out “security measures” at the entrance to the camp, closing off the eastern highway running beside it after sniper bullets were reported there, which resulted in the injury of one Palestinian, while a shop also was set on fire.
NNA said by 2:15 pm that the number of injuries since morning had risen to three, one of which which succumbed to his wounds at Hamshari hospital in Sidon shortly after.
The slain Palestinian was identified as 18-year-old Maher Ahmad Dahsheh.
An hour later, NNA reported that clashes between Islamic groups and Fatah members were increasing, as rockets were heard in the Sidon area, adding that a meeting was taking place at the Palestinian Embassy among factions to stop the clashes, which resulted in the ceasefire. Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabbour notably attended the meeting.
However, shortly after the ceasefire was declared, NNA reported that a pregnant woman, identified as Mariam Aweid, was wounded.
In a statement released after the ceasefire was announced, conferees of the meeting stressed that “(refugee) camps shall not be a base or a hub for any individual or group which wants to tamper with the Lebanese and Palestinian security.”
A delegation from the Embassy is scheduled to head to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh to put ceasefire into effect.
Last month, UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for providing services to Palestinian refugees, condemned armed violence in the Palestinian refugee camp, after a number of civilians were killed by live fire during clashes.
A spike in armed violence between Fatah supporters and Islamist groups in Ain al-Hilweh in December left two dead and at least five injured, with UNRWA suspending its operations in the camp as a result.
The largest and most crowded refugee camp in Lebanon, Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 54,116 registered refugees who fled their villages during the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, according to the UN.
However, the population significantly increased since 2011 as a result of the Syrian war, as Palestinians have been displaced a second time from refugee camps across Syria, with development nonprofit organization Anera estimating the camp’s population to be closer to 120,000.
According to UNRWA, Ain al-Hilweh suffers from high rates of poverty and poor housing conditions, which have been further stressed as a result of overcrowding in recent years.
Palestinians in Lebanon have the highest percentage of their population living in abject poverty from among the other countries the organization serves, according to UNRWA.
Facing discriminatory employment policies, Palestinians in Lebanon are restricted from working in over 20 professions or claiming the same rights as other non-citizens in Lebanon, while all the refugee camps suffer from overcrowding, poor housing conditions, and a lack of infrastructure.
(Source / 28.02.2017)

PA to hold local elections in West Bank only, after Hamas refuses to participate in Gaza


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided to hold local elections in the occupied West Bank on May 13 as scheduled, while excluding Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip from taking part.

During the PA’s weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday in Bethlehem, it was decided that elections in Gaza would be postponed “indefinitely.” It remained unclear whether occupied East Jerusalem would be included in the municipal electoral process.
After the PA announced at the end of last month that local elections would be scheduled in both the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas, the de facto ruling party of Gaza, along with the Islamic Jihad movement, promptly rejected the plan, saying that elections should only take place after the more than decade-long rivalry between Hamas and Fatah comes to an end and reconciliation is achieved.
Spokesperson of Hamas Abd al-Latif al-Qanu reacted to the outcome of the PA’s cabinet meeting, saying the decision to carry on with elections without the Gaza Strip “entrenches political divisions and asserts Fatah’s supremacy in decision making.”
Al-Qanu argued that the decision worked counter to building foundations for social partnerships, explaining that “when it became clear that there was no longer a goal toward establishing national unity, the Hamas movement decided not to take part in elections in this context of persisting divisions.”
He added that the consensus government should have considered the interests of all the Palestinian people instead, saying he held the Fatah movement responsible for the failure to hold elections in the Gaza Strip.
Al-Qanu pointed out that Hamas had informed Hanna Nasser, the head of the Central Elections Commission (CEC), of its stance.

The PA said in its statement that it would continue to seek dialogue with Hamas in hopes that the group would agree to allow elections in Gaza.

Meanwhile, a PA statement released at the conclusion of the cabinet meeting quoted Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as applauding the decision to hold the meeting near Solomon’s Pools in Bethlehem, “in defiance of the repeated attempts by Israeli settlers to storm the site under Israeli military protection,” giving a detailed description of the historical significance of the water system that was established in the Roman era.
The end of his statement did mention that his government decided to uphold the Jan. 31 cabinet decision to hold elections on May 13, adding that elections in the Gaza Strip “won’t be doable” as a result of Hamas’ refusal.
Hamdallah had previously said that if Hamas objected to the elections, they would carry on exclusively in the West Bank.
The PA statement added that the CEC had met with Hamas officials and failed to convince the movement to allow elections in the besieged coastal enclave.
Hamdallah has reportedly encouraged Hamas to participate in the elections, and urged Hamas to accept PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiative to form a national unity government in order to pave the way toward future presidential and legislative elections.
Municipal elections set to be held last October were postponed with the intent of holding them in the entire occupied Palestinian territory, following backlash over a PA Supreme Court ruling to exclude the Gaza Strip from the elections altogether.
Prior to their cancellation, the municipal elections were set to be the first in the Gaza Strip in a decade, after Hamas’ victory in the 2006 vote erupted into a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah, as both groups attempted to take control of the besieged coastal enclave.
A poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) at the time found that 61 percent of respondents were displeased by the Supreme Court’s initial decision to postpone the municipal elections, with 60 percent believing that the decision was politically motivated.
Fatah and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas’ election victory in 2006 elections in the Gaza Strip, which erupted into a violent conflict between the two movements as both attempted to consolidate control over the territory.
Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.
Officials from the Fatah-led PA have criticized Hamas for creating a shadow government in the Gaza Strip and blocking efforts to reach political unity.
Hamas has in turn accused the PA of executing a plan to “eradicate” the movement from the West Bank, accusing Fatah of “escalating security collaboration” with the Israeli authorities through politically-motivated arrests and “adopting a revolving door policy” funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.
(Source / 28.02.2017)

In Palestine, no job means no health insurance

A Palestinian doctor examines the eyes of a patient at Shams medical center in Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem, West Bank, May 7, 2012

GAZA, Gaza Strip — According to official figures published by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics on Feb. 16, the unemployment rate in Palestine climbed to 26.9%, with 360,500 unemployed out of a total workforce of 1.3 million in Palestine, while the poverty rate in the Gaza Strip exceeded 80%, according to the Zakat Department affiliated with the Palestinian Ministry of Religious Endowments.

Despite these staggering figures, the Palestinian Cabinet announced Feb. 15 the cancellation of all health insurance benefits granted to unemployed citizens starting March 1.

The Cabinet decision irked and outraged civil society organizations. On Feb. 15, the coalition of economic and social rights (a coalition of more than 55 Palestinian civil society organizations and trade unions) called on the Council of Ministers to renounce its halt of health insurance benefits for the unemployed, saying the government’s decision is a violation of the Palestinian Basic Law.

Suheil al-Hindi, the Field Research Department coordinator at Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “The government’s decision is unjust to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian families who cannot afford health service costs, which would put their lives at risk. The government should have held prior discussions with civil society organizations on this unjust decision instead of making up false justifications.”

The head of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Sami al-Amsi, told Al-Monitor, “The Palestinian government’s decision to cancel free health insurance for Palestinian unemployed citizens crossed all red lines and we will resort to all means and tools to prevent its execution. We will stage protests and sit-ins until the Cabinet renounces its unjust decision. Palestinian citizens expected the government of national consensus to establish programs that would lead to their employment or ensure their children’s employment to allow them to have a stable life. Instead they saw the level of the services provided to them downgraded.”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) had granted unemployed citizens free health insurance by virtue of a decision by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in 2000 in light of the deterioration of the economic and social situation in the Palestinian territories with the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in the same year.

In 2000, 39,000 unemployed citizens benefited from free health insurance. According to estimates of the Palestinian Health Ministry, the number of beneficiaries of this free insurance reached around 250,000 in 2016.

In turn, Youssef Abu al-Rish, the director general of the Hospitals Department at the Health Ministry in Gaza, told Al-Monitor, “Until the end of 2016, 235,000 families benefited from free health insurance granted by the Health Ministry in Gaza, including 95,000 beneficiaries who have access to free health insurance from among the category of unemployed, families of martyrs and wounded, prisoners and beneficiaries of Social Affairs Ministry programs.”

He added, “The Ministry of Health in Gaza will not abide by the Palestinian Cabinet’s recent decision and vows to maintain the free health insurance benefits for those who meet the conditions,” noting that the ministry will add a new category of beneficiaries from the free health insurance consisting of citizens earning less than the minimum wage, which currently stands at 1,450 shekels (around $396) a month.

Health insurance in Palestine is divided into two schemes. The first is mandatory health insurance, where individual participants pay a monthly contribution ranging between 50-75 shekels ($14-$21) while public or retired employees have 5% deducted from their basic salary or pension.

The Social Security Law guarantees this to any person. Until the end of 2014, 150,464 families benefited from this insurance scheme in the West Bank.

The second insurance scheme is free health insurance granted to unemployed citizens, families of martyrs and wounded, prisoners, and beneficiaries of the Ministry of Social Affairs programs.

It should be noted that after the Palestinian division and Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued on June 14, 2007, Decree No. 18 of 2007 that exempts Gaza Strip citizens from paying any fees or taxes on all services provided by PA departments, including health insurance; the decision includes all citizens, including employees and retirees.

Atef Adwan, a Hamas parliamentarian and the head of the Economic Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Al-Monitor, “The Ramallah government shall bear the consequences of the decision to halt free health insurance for the unemployed since it is exploiting the state of political vacuum and the disruption of the Legislative Council since the Fatah-Hamas division in 2007 to pass decisions aimed at fragmenting the social fabric and that serve Israel.”

He added, “The free health insurance granted to unemployed citizens costs the Health Ministry in Gaza up to 81 million shekels [$22.1 million] every year, in the absence of any financial assistance from the PA in the last 10 years.”

The Palestinian Legislative Council has been holding extraordinary sessions since the outbreak of the Palestinian division in 2007, and the last session in Gaza was held on Jan. 26.

Youssef Mahmoud, the spokesman for the consensus government, told Al-Monitor, “Many have misunderstood the Council of Ministers’ decision, which provides for the suspension of the free health insurance scheme as of the beginning of March to allow workforce-related data to be updated. The decision does not provide for the definitive halt of this insurance as some have alleged.”

The dean of the Faculty of Law at Umma University, Abbas Noureddine, is not convinced by Mahmoud’s argument. He told Al-Monitor, “According to the applicable legislative regulations in force in Palestine, the Cabinet decisions shall be published in the Palestinian Official Gazette (al-Waqa’eh) to enter into force and become legally binding.

He noted that any governmental explanation about any legislation in force should be published in the Palestinian official gazette and not made public through press statements. “Did the government take back its decision to halt free health insurance benefits?” he asked.

One cannot predict what will happen if the government of consensus decides to execute its decision to stop free health insurance for the unemployed as of the beginning of March. However, it is likely that this step would lead to protests and sit-ins against the government by unemployed citizens in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, demanding back their right to free health insurance.

(Source / 28.02.2017)

Israeli army hits Gaza with multiple airstrikes, injuring 4 Palestinians


Airstrikes target the central Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli army targeted multiple sites across the besieged Gaza Strip with airstrikes and artillery fire midday Monday leaving at least four Palestinians injured, hours after an Israeli army spokesperson said that a rocket fired from Gaza landed in an open area in southern Israel that caused no injuries or damages.

Witnesses said Israeli fighter jets launched two missiles at a Hamas military site known as the Shuhada (“martyrs” in Arabic) post just after 1 p.m. in the central Gaza Strip, near the coast and west of Nuseirat refugee camp. Other local Palestinian news sites said five missiles were fired in the area.
Shortly after, an Israeli reconnaissance plane fired a missile at a monitoring post east of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip, as Israeli fighter jets fired three missiles at the Hittin post in Beit Lahiya in the northern region of the small Palestinian territory.
A separate strike in the Nahda neighborhood of Rafah left three Palestinians moderately injured, according to local sources. Gaza’s Ministry of Health later reported that a total of four people were injured in the strikes.
Before 2 p.m., two artillery shells fired by the Israeli army hit an agricultural area east of Gaza City, locals said.
The Hamas movement said in an official statement that they held Israel responsible for “this continuous dangerous escalation that targets the Palestinian resistance and the people of the Gaza Strip,” adding that “the ongoing targeting of resistance sites and the escalating situation in Gaza would neither be allowed nor accepted.”
Nearly two hours after the first airstrike was launched, the Israeli army confirmed in a statement that the air force hit five Hamas positions throughout the Gaza Strip, “In response to a rocket fired from Gaza that hit Israeli territory last night,” adding that the army holds Hamas “accountable for all attacks from the Gaza Strip that threaten Israel and her citizens.”
However, Hamas has not claimed responsibility for any rocket attacks since a ceasefire was declared after Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in 2014, and the movement has attempted to clamp down on armed activity by smaller political groups that do launch rockets from the territory.
The Islamic Jihad also responded to Monday’s bombardment, with the official spokesman Daoud Shihab accusing the Israeli “occupation government” of stoking tensions in Gaza by “translating its threats against the Palestinian people into action.”
He added that the Palestinian resistance movement has the right to respond to Israeli attacks if they continue. “The resistance will not accept this ongoing aggression, regardless of the cost and the challenges ahead.”
The secular leftist PLO faction the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also denounced the Israeli attacks across the Gaza Strip and called on all Palestinian factions to close the ranks and present a unified response to “the occupation and its crimes.”
The National Resistance Brigades, a military wing affiliated to another leftist group, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that one of the group’s military posts was attacked in the northern Gaza Strip amid the airstrikes on Monday.
Their statement affirmed the group’s commitment to resist the Israeli occupation “by all possible means,” and urged other factions to create a “joint operation room” to discuss how to respond to the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people.
The cross-border fire came after the Israeli army targeted the besieged coastal enclave with multiple airstrikes in two instances this month, which the army said came in response to rocket fire from Gaza that caused no injuries to Israelis.
On Feb. 9, Gaza’s Ministry of Health said that two Palestinians were killed and five were injured as a result of an airstrike on a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza, though an Israeli army spokesperson denied involvement in the incident.
Meanwhile, last week, two rockets launched from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula hit an open area in southern Israel, according to the Israeli army.
The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights expressed concern earlier this month in response to Israeli airstrikes that Israel could be leading up to a wide-scale military offensive.
The rights group called on the international community to “act promptly against Israel’s military escalation, to fulfill their obligations to protect civilians, and ensure respect for the rules of international law,” stressing that “acting before a full-scale military bombardment is launched is crucial to ensuring the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
Israeli officials have also accused Hamas, Gaza’s de facto leaders, of “preparing” for another war with Israel and have threatened retaliatory measures against the Gaza Strip as a whole, while Israeli authorities hold Hamas responsible for all attacks against Israeli targets coming from the Gaza Strip.
(Source / 28.02.2017)