Islamic Jihad: PA forces continue detention of ex-detainee member


Islamic Jihad Movement said, in a statement on Friday, that Palestinian Authority (PA) preventive apparatus continued the arrest of the ex-detainee member, Malek Je’ari, from Tulkarem for the fourth day in a row.  No information on his detention conditions were released.

The PA preventive forces stormed the home of the Islamic Jihad leader Je’ari at late night hours and took him to an unknown destination. He was arrested in Israeli jails under illegal administrative detention.

Islamic Jihad charged the PA with waging systematic arrest campaigns against its members especially the ex-detainees along with their families.

A source of the Movement warned of the continuation of arresting Islamic Jihad members, opining that such practices serve the Israeli occupation only.

(Source / 24.02.2017)

Israeli troops clash with Palestinians marking Hebron massacre

Troops and settlers clash with Palestinians protesting on anniversary of massacre of 29 Palestinians at Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs

Israeli soldiers fire tear gas at protesters in Hebron

Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers clashed with Palestinian protesters on Friday in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on the anniversary of a 1994 massacre carried out by a far-right Jewish settler.

Soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the crowd as cannons doused them with stinking water, an AFP correspondent said. Jewish settlers, of whom 500 are entrenched in the centre of the city of around 200,000 Palestinians, hurled stones at the protesters.

There was no immediate report of injuries.

Palestinian protesters also threw shoes at a poster of Donald Trump, the US president, who last week cast doubt on the decades-long process to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and who has refused to condemn Israel’s continued illegal policy of settlement building in the occupied territory.

A Palestinian man hits a poster of Trump with a woman’s sandal in the Hebron protests

The Hebron protests come on the anniversary of the massacre of 29 Palestinians inside Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, holy to Muslims and Jews alike. The attacker, settler Baruch Goldstein, was killed at the scene.

Palestinians have stepped up calls for the Israeli army to reopen Shuhada Street, near the Jewish settler enclave in the heart of the city that has been largely closed off to Palestinians for the past 23 years since the massacre.

Hebron has been at the centre of a wave of deadly unrest since October 2015 that has killed 252 Palestinians, 36 Israelis, two US nationals, a Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count.

(Source / 24.02.2017)

Will Hamas boycott upcoming local elections?

Palestinian women show their inked fingers after voting in the Palestinian legislative election at a UN school that is being used as a polling station, Gaza City, Gaza, Jan. 25, 2006

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Hamas has set three prerequisites for its participation in the Palestinian local elections, scheduled to take place on May 13, after rejecting the call of the Palestinian government Jan. 31 to hold the elections across the Palestinian territories. Hamas considered this invitation as a response to the failed electoral process that was scheduled to take place in October 2016.

Hamas submitted its conditions to the Central Election Commission during a bilateral meeting between the two sides in Gaza City on Feb. 15. Hamas demanded that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas release the security grip on the movement in the West Bank and create a sound environment that would ensure integrity, transparency and respect for the freedom of elections, cancel all the decisions and decrees he issued in relation to the local elections, and finally resort to the Palestinian Local Elections law of 2005.

The presidential decree issued Jan. 10 provided for the formation of a local elections court, after amending the Local Elections law of 2005, authorizing the court to look into electoral appeals instead of the courts of first instance in the governorates, as stated in Article 1 of the law. This decree was rejected by Palestinian factions at the time.

The amendment comes in response to the dispute between Hamas and Fatah when the courts of first instance in the governorates of the Gaza Strip canceled several electoral lists for Fatah on Sept. 8, 2016, as various candidates were accused of some legal offenses. Fatah considered this decision to be an attempt to politicize the judiciary and refused to recognize these courts.

Hisham Kahil, the executive director of the Palestinian Central Election Commission, told Al-Monitor that Hamas squarely rejected the invitation to hold local elections without prior agreement with it. Kahil said that the movement was not satisfied with the suspension of the previous electoral process, not to mention that it rejects any legal amendments to the local elections law without prior consultation with it.

Kahil noted that Hamas expressed its position during the commission’s meeting with the movement’s leaders on Feb. 15. He considered the meeting to be part of the commission’s role to contact all the electoral process participants so as to ensure the elections will be held as called for in all governorates, according to the law. He said that the commission will also meet with other factions in the West Bank this week and that it has relayed Hamas’ position to the Palestinian government, waiting for the latter’s response as to whether or not to hold elections in the West Bank alone or halt them altogether, given Hamas’ rejection.

According to Articles 4 and 5 of the 2005 Local Elections law, the local council elections are to be held in one day. Should this not be possible, the government has the right to hold them at different times or in different locations, which is currently the case of the upcoming elections in May, scheduled to be held in the West Bank and not in Gaza because of the Palestinian division.

For his part, Dhul Fiqar Suergo, a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said it is unlikely for the PFLP to take part in the elections, should they be limited only to a part of the Palestinian territories. He stressed that the PFLP refuses to take part in any electoral process that would promote the Palestinian division and undermine the Palestinian political system.

“Hamas has the right not to take part in the local elections, but has no right to prevent their occurrence in Gaza because it is not the legal authority there — the Palestinian government is. The latter was the product of the decision of all Palestinian factions in June 2014 [to form a unity government],” Suergo told Al-Monitor.

Suergo called upon the factions to move forward with the elections as holding them is a Palestinian right, noting that he does not mind security services overseeing the electoral process in the Gaza Strip.

Akram Atallah, a political analyst and writer for Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, told Al-Monitor that Hamas is right to demand that the security services in the West Bank not meddle in the upcoming local elections. He said that Hamas, however, should also urge security forces in Gaza to do the same.

He noted that Abbas is unlikely to respond to Hamas’ conditions, expecting the elections to take place in the West Bank alone, in light of Hamas’ objection to them in Gaza. This scenario is akin to that of 2012, when the elections were held only in the West Bank because of Hamas’ boycott.

Atallah believes that the best solution under this prevailing mistrust between Fatah and Hamas is for both parties to admit their failure to build a consensual political system and to let the Palestinians decide their own fate and build a political system they deem appropriate.

In the same context, Hussam al-Dajani, a diplomat in the Palestinian Foreign Ministry in Gaza and a political analyst, told Al-Monitor that he agrees with Atallah about the 2012 scenario playing out again, in light of Hamas’ rejection to hold elections in the Gaza Strip. He expects that the elections will be limited to the West Bank, with a large segment of Palestinians boycotting them.

Dajani noted that holding elections before ending the division is far-fetched. He said that Hamas had agreed to the elections that were suspended in 2016 because there was a consensual decision to hold them, which could have been an opportunity for Abbas to recognize Hamas’ institutions in Gaza. He added that Abbas and the Palestinian government, however, paid attention to this point and made sure to suspend them, making amendments to the Local Elections law of 2015.

It appears that the internal Palestinian division will continue to deprive the Palestinians of their right to hold unified elections in the Palestinian territories for the 12th year in a row. In 2005, elections were held across Palestine and Hamas won a majority of 34 local councils out of 68 in the West Bank, and four out of seven in the Gaza Strip.

(Source / 24.02.2017)

How serious is Russia’s commitment to Libya settlement?

A member of east Libyan forces holds his weapon as he stands in front of a destroyed house in Benghazi, Libya, Jan. 28, 2017

A rare attempt to broker a deal last week in Cairo between the rival governments of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Gen. Khalifa Hifter generated a lot of speculation, although the talks failed.

Delegations representing Sarraj’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, and governing bodies supporting Hifter in Tobruk, arrived in Egypt for a number of meetings, including what had promised to be the first face-to-face encounter between the two leaders in their present capacities. The talks were organized and facilitated by the Egyptian government, and were set to be chaired by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi himself.

It is widely believed that bridging the gap between Sarraj and Hifter is the key to national reconciliation for Libya, which has been torn by civil war since Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011.

Hifter, emboldened by his expanding influence in Libya, reportedly rejected a power-sharing deal pitched by Sarraj. Under that proposal, the renegade general would become one of the official commanders of the Libyan military, although the role of commander in chief would be split among representatives of several political factions. To Hifter, Sarraj’s proposal does not match the realities on the ground, where Hifter’s Libyan National Army and loyal forces control between 50% and (according to Hifter’s estimate) 95% of the country.

Following the failed talks, the general told an Egyptian TV channel that his army comprises 60,000 skilled servicemen, including many trained in urban combat — a statement that was surely designed to up the ante for Sarraj.

Egypt and Moscow have been backing Hifter’s political ambitions in Libya and both did their share of lobbying to make the Cairo meeting happen. But, given how much leverage Russian diplomats have with the Tobruk government, the failed talks bring into question Moscow’s real commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Libyan crisis. It also remains unclear to what extent Russia’s and Hifter’s interests are aligned at the moment, if the Libyan leader disregards his ally’s recommendations.

The UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement is the crucial element of national reconciliation in Libya, but Hifter and Moscow also see it as the main obstacle. The agreement rejects Hifter’s ambition to be the sole commander of the Libyan National Army. Per the document, a nine-person Presidential Council should “assume the functions of the supreme commander of the Libyan army.”

That is not acceptable to Moscow, let alone Hifter. To Russia, sharing military responsibilities would open the door for potential infighting. Instead, Russia would prefer to have all defense activities centralized under the country’s leader — essentially another Gadhafi-type rule.

The amended agreement proposed by the Tripoli government (Sarraj) to the Tobruk (Hifter) delegation in Cairo stipulated that the functions of the commander in chief would be divided among the head of the House of Representatives, the head of the State Council (a quasi-Senate) and Sarraj himself — eliminating Hifter from the decision-making process. Given his increasing power in Libya and his strengthening profile internationally, Hifter is unlikely to accept what he sees as a blunt attempt to strip him of his main means of projecting power.

Despite unconfirmed reports that Moscow signed an arms-supply agreement with Hifter after his surprise January meeting with Russian military officials on board the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier — which would be the strongest show of support to date — Moscow is fully committed to restrictions imposed on Libya in 2011. Russia has so far been maneuvering within the UN-established framework and does not seem to feel any urgency to provide its ally with weapons just yet. As long as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are willing to prop up the Libyan National Army through cross-border deliveries of military hardware, Russia does not need to intervene. In fact, Moscow may feel relieved that the UN-imposed arms embargo is still in place, because otherwise it would need to consider Hifter’s numerous requests for military aid, potentially diverting to Libya some of the forces intended for Syria. It’s not clear whether the Kremlin is ready to support Hifter militarily, but that scenario would certainly be a test for the relationship.

While Moscow presently sticks to the rules of the game in Libya, it is profoundly skeptical about the Libyan Political Agreement and international efforts chiefly led by Martin Kobler, the UN envoy to Libya. In late December, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov delivered what appears to be Moscow’s harshest criticism of Kobler’s work so far. Gatilov said Kobler’s backing of the Tripoli government in its confrontation with Hifter stalls the reconciliation process. Gatilov described Kobler’s policies as “efforts to strike separate deals with part of the Libyan political establishment behind the back of other influential players.” Hifter follows the same line and simply does not recognize the envoy’s refusal to meet with him.

Antonio Guterres became UN secretary-general in January, and changes are expected on the Libyan front. Kobler’s contract runs out in the first half of 2017, and the UN will have to pick his replacement by then. Guterres wanted to replace Kobler with former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, but new US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley blocked the move. Russia, however, strongly backs Fayyad’s candidacy, since the Russian Foreign Ministry, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, knows him well from his days as the Palestinian prime minister. It remains to be seen whether Guterres will battle the UN bureaucracy to appoint Fayyad, but Russia is unlikely to push for any serious reconciliation until Kobler is replaced.

In a separate development, Russia’s oil giant Rosneft signed an investment and crude-purchasing agreement this month with Libya’s National Oil Corp. (NOC), indicating revived interest in doing business in the North African country despite the ongoing crisis. Hifter controls the bulk of Libya’s oil resources and after his gains in September, when his forces seized control of most of Libya’s oil crescent ports, oil can once again be shipped out of the largest terminal in Libya’s port of Sidra.

The NOC maintains a very careful balance between the two governments in Libya. The company’s head has defended NOC’s separation from politics, arguing that the company is a vital element of the Libyan economy, which is in ruins. As a result of the Libyan National Army’s gains, oil production surged in the country, from 300,000 barrels a day in September to more than 700,000 barrels in January. This dynamic is attractive enough for international business to take its first steps to return. Other Russian companies are equally eager to explore opportunities in Libya and recover some of the profits lost on deals signed with the Gadhafi government — which signals Russia is in fact invested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict; otherwise large business deals would be out of question for the time being.

(Source / 24.02.2017)

Reports: Israeli Supreme Court rules in favor of punitive demolition of slain Palestinian’s home


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Israeli Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of the punitive demolition of the home of slain Palestinian Fadi Ahmad al-Qunbar in the occupied East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir, Hebrew-language news sites reported.

Al-Qunbar was shot dead by Israeli forces last month after he drove into a group of Israeli soldiers in an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem, killing four soldiers.
Al-Qunbar’s relatives, who have repeatedly denied having advanced knowledge of any plans to carry out an attack, were delivered notices shortly after the attack in early January, saying that there Jerusalem residencies were being punitively revoked by the Israeli government.
The court said in Thursday’s order that “based on provided evidences, it was clear that the family was fully aware of their son’s intention to commit the attack and we have reached a decision to allow the demolition of their house as a reasonable punishment.”
Al-Qunbar’s family will be left homeless by Israel’s policy of punitive home demolition, which has been widely condemned as an act of collective punishment and illegal under international law.
Israeli leaders also called for the family to be expelled to the besieged Gaza Strip or exiled to war-torn Syria in the wake of the attack.
The Jerusalem municipality has reportedly approved plans to establish a new settlement in the neighborhood, on the site of al-Qunbar’s home, according to Israel’s Channel 10.
In addition to the pending demolition of al-Qunbar’s home, Israel stepped up demolitions of other homes in the area in the wake of the attack, with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reporting that Israeli authorities had handed 40 demolition notices in Jabal al-Mukabbir between January 8, when the attack took place, and January 11.
Israel has come under harsh condemnation over the past several years for its response to attacks committed by Palestinians on Israelis, which rights groups have said amounted to “collective punishment” and represents a clear violation of international law.
(Source / 24.02.2017)

Six months alone: How Israel’s blockade kept a Gaza mother and her new-born daughter apart

Born two months premature, baby Maryam was clearly very small for her age. When Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP) team met her on a visit to al Mekassed Hospital in East Jerusalem last month, she lay in a tiny cot covered in blankets, one of four babies in a room in the hospital‘s large neonatal intensive care ward.

Ever since she was born in the hospital Maryam has required constant medical care. She needs help breathing, which she currently does with the assistance of an oxygen tube attached to her mouth.

Maryam was in the hospital alone. She had no mother there to hold her in her arms to comfort her, no father to dote at the end of the bed. She was not even visited by grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. Her only carers are the team of doctors and nurses who run the hospital’s neonatal care ward, and a woman from East Jerusalem who visited occasionally.

Maryam was not abandoned by choice or accident. Her family were just 50 miles away, but were prevented from visiting.

Maryam’s mother, Joumana, is from Gaza. When complications with her pregnancy developed, and with limited medical care available in Gaza due to decades of occupation, attacks on its health infrastructure and 10-year blockade, she was referred for care at the relatively well-equipped al Mekassed hospital in East Jerusalem. She received a permit from the Israeli authorities to travel, and on 1 August and only 29 weeks pregnant she gave birth to twins. Her son was stillborn and Maryam weighed just 745g.

Maryam’s mother returned home to Gaza on 5 August to be with her husband and two older daughters, believing she would be able to travel again to East Jerusalem soon. But after applying to the Israeli authorities for a permit to travel on 9 October, the family only received a response of “under review”.

Although Maryam’s physical health became less critical thanks to the care she received from the al Mekassed staff, it was six months from her return to Gaza until Joumana was able to visit her daughter again.

The permit regime

Sadly this story is not unique. The Government of Israel controls the movement of Palestinians between the three areas of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt): the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Any Palestinian who does not have an Israeli-issued Jerusalem ID must apply for a permit to  access hospitals in East Jerusalem where many specialties – including neonatal intensive care – are located.

For Palestinians in Gaza, these restrictions are particularly onerous. According to data collected by MAP and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI) for our recent joint briefing, Health Under Occupation: Access to Healthcare, more than a third of all patients applying to leave Gaza for treatment elsewhere in the oPt or abroad last year were denied or did not receive an answer in time for their appointment. This dropped to a record low in December, when only 42 percent of permits were granted on time.

These restrictions also apply to patients’ companions and carers, with those younger than 55 years old more likely to be refused.

When patients and their families are able to visit East Jerusalem‘s hospitals, they must also cover their accommodation and travel costs; expenses which are prohibitive for many, especially those from Gaza, where the unemployment rate is 43 percent and 80 percent rely on some form of humanitarian aid.

Mother and daughter reunited

After meeting Maryam and speaking to doctors at al Mekassed in January, MAP and PHRI began researching the case. Last Sunday, Maryam’s story was picked up by Israel’s Channel 10 news, and shortly afterwards Joumana learnt that her permit had been granted.

On Monday afternoon, she was able to hold her daughter for the first time in half a year. Speaking to journalists, she said: “It’s a very beautiful feeling. Finally I can take her in my arms.”

“Now I just hope that she’ll be happy forever, and in good health forever.”

“Now I just hope that she’ll be happy forever, and in good health forever.”

Maryam is now back with her mother, and when she is well enough they will return to Gaza together.

But staff at al Mekassed told us that hers is not an isolated case. They say that each month between one and three children from Gaza, including new-born babies like Maryam, are hospitalised there away from their parents due to the Israeli permit regime.

The separation of children from their mothers can obviously be a source of unnecessary distress for both. In some cases under-stimulation and sensory deprivation may result and this can severely impact the child’s psychological and emotional development and even their future physical health. Separation also delays and threatens the vital bonding between a child and parents, which in turn increases the risk of mental health problems for the mother in particular.

Demanding health and dignity

The restrictions that the Israeli Government places on the movement of patients and families from Gaza violate Palestinians’ rights to health and dignity.

They are a symptom of Israel’s 50-year-long occupation of Palestinian territory, and its decade-long blockade of Gaza which the UN Secretary General has called “collective punishment”.

Maryam and her family should not be forced to endure such a situation but until these protracted injustices are finally ended many more undoubtedly will.

Amid half a century of man-made crisis and waning international attention, the situation in the oPt this year is perhaps as bleak as ever. In spite of and because of these challenges, Palestinians continue to demand their rights to health and dignity, and UK support for this call is vital.

(Source / 24.02.2017)

Iraqi Forces Push into Western Mosul, Seize Airport from ISIS

Iraqi security forces drive past a destroyed Mosul's airport building after driving out Islamic State's militants south west Mosul, Iraq. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Iraqi security forces drive past a destroyed Mosul’s airport building after driving out ISIS’ militants south west Mosul, Iraq

Elite Iraqi security forces advanced deeper into the first neighborhood in western Mosul on Friday and recaptured the international airport on the city’s southwestern edge from the ISIS group, according to Iraqi officials.

The gains came one day after launching attacks on several fronts towards ISIS’ last main stronghold in the city, as troops entered a west Mosul neighborhood for the first time since the start four months ago of the offensive to retake the city.

Earlier on Friday, spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool said counter-terrorism forces managed to fully control the Ghozlani army base, pushing deeper towards the southwestern districts of Tal al-Rumman and al-Mamoun, a military spokesman said.

Federal police and an elite Interior Ministry unit known as Rapid Response are clearing the airport of roadside bombs and booby traps left by ISIS militants who retreated from their positions there on Thursday.

Iraqi government forces plan to repair the airport and use it as a base from which to drive the militants from Mosul’s western districts. The United Nations estimated that about 750,000 civilians are trapped in western Mosul. The initial numbers of displaced from western Mosul have been low, but Iraqi forces are yet to punch into the city’s dense urban neighborhoods.

Government forces pushed the insurgents out of eastern Mosul last month but the ISIS still holds the western sector of the city, divided by the Tigris River.

“Our forces are fighting Daesh terrorists in Tal al-Rumman and al-Mamoun. We will eliminate them soon and take control over the two districts,” Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) spokesman Sabah al-Numan said.

ISIS militants used suicide car bomb attacks and drones carrying small bombs to disrupt the CTS units from further advancing.

“There is a resistance there. The drones are particularly annoying today,” Major General Sami al-Aridi, a senior CTS commander, told Reuters in the southwestern front of Mosul.

Rapid response forces are trying to advance beyond the airport to breach ISIS defenses around districts on the southern edge of Mosul.

“We are now fighting Daesh at the southern edge of the city. We are trying to breach trenches and high berm they used as defensive line,” Colonel Falah al-Wabdan told Reuters.

Losing Mosul could spell the end of the Iraqi section of the militants’ self-styled caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi commanders expect the battle in western Mosul to be the most trying yet, however, in part because tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through narrow alleyways that crisscross the city’s ancient western districts.

(Source / 24.02.2017)

16-year-old Palestinian shot by Israeli forces in central Gaza Strip


GAZA (Ma’an) — Israeli forces injured a 16-year-old Palestinian with live fire on Friday in the central Gaza Strip near the border between the besieged enclave and Israel.

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qadra said that the Palestinian was shot by Israeli forces and injured in his right leg. His wounds were described as medium.
Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli forces stationed at the border fence east of Maghazi refugee camp opened live ammunition on a group of Palestinian youth in the area, causing the injury to the minor.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the incident.
The borders between Gaza and Israel are often the site of violent clashes as Palestinians in Gaza have continued to protest the nearly decade-long Israeli-imposed siege on the small territory. Rights groups have pointed out that the siege has crippled Gaza’s economy, while the UN has warned that the enclave would become uninhabitable by 2020 if Israeli authorities continue their refusal to lift the blockade.
According to UN documentation, at least 178 Palestinians in Gaza were injured by Israeli forces in 2016, while eight Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during this period, mainly during clashes with Israeli forces along the security barrier between the territory and Israel.
(Source / 24.02.2017)

Israel denies work permit for Human Rights Watch director

The group said that Israel has previously accused Israeli advocacy groups of ‘slander’ and discrediting the state or army

The Israeli occupation authorities have denied a work permit for the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and Palestinian territories, a statement said on Friday.

HRW pointed out that the Israeli occupation authorities have been refusing its staff entry to the Gaza Strip since 2010, apart for one visit in 2016

The Israeli occupation authorities have denied a work permit for the director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Israel and Palestinian territories, a statement said on Friday.

Israel accused the organisation of “engaging in politics in the service of Palestinian propaganda, while falsely raising the banner of ‘human rights’.”

In response, HRW said that this comes as the Israelis seek to limit the space for local and international human rights groups to operate in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“This decision and the spurious rationale should worry anyone concerned about Israel’s commitment to basic democratic values,” commented Deputy Executive Director of Programmes at HRW, Lain Levine.

“It is disappointing that the Israeli government seems unable or unwilling to distinguish between justified criticisms of its actions and hostile political propaganda.”

The denial of the work permit was a surprise. “Last year, the [Israeli] foreign ministry asked Human Rights Watch to intervene in a case involving Israeli victims of human rights abuses.

The decision marks an ominous turn after nearly three decades during which Human Rights Watch staff have had regular access without impediments to Israel and the West Bank.”

HRW pointed out that the Israeli occupation authorities have been refusing its staff entry to the Gaza Strip since 2010, apart for one visit in 2016.

Noting that the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed a law last July that targeted human rights groups and imposed onerous reporting requirements which burden their advocacy, the organisation suggested that the permit denial comes amid increasing pressure on human rights defenders operating in Israel and Palestine.

“Israeli officials have directly accused Israeli advocacy groups of ‘slander’ and discrediting the state or army.” Moreover, Palestinian rights defenders have received anonymous death threats and have been subject to travel restrictions and even arrests and criminal charges.

“Human Rights Watch is an independent, international, nongovernmental organisation,” the group stressed. “It promotes respect for human rights and international law, and monitors rights violations in more than 90 countries across the world.”

It also has staff who work legally in its registered offices in some 24 countries around the world, including LebanonJordan and Tunisia.

“While the Israeli government is hardly the only one to disagree with our well-researched findings,” concluded Levine, “its efforts to stifle the messenger signal that it has no appetite for serious scrutiny of its human rights record.”

(Source / 24.02.2017)

Coalition’s Vice-president: We Will Focus on Political Transition in Geneva Talks

Vice-president of the Syrian Coalition Abdul Hakim Bashar stressed that the opposition will seek to make political transition in accordance with international resolutions the main focus of the current round of negotiations in Geneva.

Speaking from Geneva on Friday, Bashar said that the opposition’s delegation will meet with the UN envoy to Staffan de Mistura later on Friday to discuss the agenda of the current round of the talks.

Bashar said the opposition delegation will call on de Mistura to press the Assad regime to commit to the basis of the political process as well as to put political transition as set out in international resolutions, particularly the Geneva Communiqué of 2012 and the UNSCR 2118 and 2254, on top of the agenda of the talks.

Bashar, who is also a member of the opposition’s High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said that de Mistura and his team should take into account the latest reports by the UN and human rights groups condemning the Assad regime’s the use of chemical weapons and the mass executions against thousands of detainees in the Saydnaya Prison and other detention centers.

In response to remarks by the UN mediator on the drafting of a new constitution during the opening ceremony on Thursday, Bashar said that such issues could be discussed after a political process has been initiated and a genuine political transition put in place.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 24.02.2017)