220 Palestinian prisoners join mass hunger strike on its 35th day

35th day of hungerstrike

Freedom and Dignity strike: Some of Palestine’s most high-profile prisoners. From left to right: Fouad Shubaki, Nael Barghouthi, Karim Yunis, Ahmad Saadat, Marwan Barghouthi

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian leaders have warned the media to “remain cautious” regarding reports of alleged negotiations between Israeli officials and Palestinians towards reaching an agreement to end a mass prison strike that entered its 35th day on Sunday, as hundreds more joined the some 1,300 Palestinians currently forgoing food in protest of their conditions in Israeli prisons.

Hunger-striking prisoners are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention — imprisonment without charge or trial — among other demands for basic rights.
Alleged Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to end hunger strike
The media committee formed to support the hunger strikers released a statement on Sunday, stressing that the press be careful and “remain cautious” when publishing information on negotiations between prisoners and Israeli authorities, especially when the reports are sourced from Israeli media.
Reports emerged last week in Israeli media that Palestinian security officials and officials of Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, were attempting to reach an agreement that would end the hunger strike.
The Hebrew version of the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sunday that Israel Prison Service (IPS) officials have been speaking with Palestinian hunger strikers in order to reach an agreement to end the strike. The report cited an IPS official as saying that an “understanding with the hunger-striking prisoners could be reached in coming days,” though refused to label the talks as negotiations.
According to the official, a central issue of the alleged talks regarded the prisoners’ demand for increased family visits, with the official reportedly noting that IPS was willing to slightly increase the number of family visits to Palestinian prisoners in order to finalize an agreement.
A spokesperson for IPS told Ma’an that they had no information on such an agreement being made between IPS officials and prisoners.
However, according to the committee, Palestinian hunger strikers have consistently refused to accept negotiations without the presence of the strike’s leadership, most notably imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi who has remained in solitary confinement since the start of the strike in April.
Hunger-striking prisoners have previously stated that attempts by Israeli officials to enter negotiations without the strike’s leadership represented “false and futile negotiations aimed at breaking the hunger strike in exchange for empty promises.”
DFLP-affiliated hunger strikers continue forgoing food, as more join the strike
The committee also reported that Fadwa Barghouthi, wife of Marwan Barghouthi, said that 220 more Palestinian prisoners from various political factions joined the strike on Sunday.
Spokesperson for prisoners aligned with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Jifara Jawda confirmed to Muhammad Dwikat, a member of the DFLP central committee, that the majority of DFLP-affiliated Palestinians in Israeli prisons continued their strike since joining on its first day on April 17.
Dwikat highlighted in a statement that after visiting DFLP-affiliated hunger striker Wajdi Jawda, the prisoner reported that at the beginning of the strike he was immediately transferred to solitary confinement — as numerous hunger strikers have been — in Israel’s Jalama prison. He was then transferred to solitary confinement in Ayalon prison in central Israel, and transferred once again to Eshel prison in Beersheba in southern Israel, where he has remained in solitary confinement.
Dwikat also noted that the health of hunger striker Samer Issawi, who is well-known among Palestinians for previously carrying out one of the longest hunger strikes in history, has been deteriorating since the start of May, as IPS has since transferred him to Israel’s Ramla prison clinic.
An International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) crew was also able to visit the youngest hunger-striking prisoner, 19-year-old Saed Yihya Dwikat from Beita village in Nablus, Jawda conveyed to Dwikat during the visit. Saed has been held in Israeli prisons for three years for his affiliation with the DFLP. The ICRC informed his family that their son’s health has continued to deteriorate, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe said in a statement that the ICRC must “take a comprehensive stance” regarding the health of the hunger strikers, and should “conduct efforts to protect the prisoners and monitor Israeli treatment of the prisoners.”
Qaraqe demanded that the ICRC “work fast” to exert pressure on IPS to force officials to “treat the hunger strikers according to humanitarian standards.”
Solidarity events continue in support of hunger strikers
The committee noted that it had declared a commercial strike on Sunday throughout the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. in solidarity with the hunger strikers, adding that all sectors would be participating, except the education and health sectors.
Meanwhile, a general strike is set to take place on Monday to coincide with US President Donald Trump’s arrival to Israel, with Palestinian leadership also calling for a “Day of Rage” on Tuesday during his planned visit with Abbas in Bethlehem.
Additionally, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Asad Abd al-Rahman declared that he launched a three-day solidarity hunger strike Saturday afternoon in support of the hunger strikers.
He said he would continue the hunger strike for three consecutive days in accordance with his health condition, but noted that “I know that my humble participation cannot match the level of the prisoners’ continued sacrifices.”
(Source / 21.05.2017)

Palestinian girl dies of wounds after being shot by IOF in March

Fatima Taqatqa

The Palestinian 16-year-old girl Fatima Taqatqa died of her wounds Saturday evening after more than two months of being shot and critically injured by Israeli occupation forces following an alleged car ramming attack.

Taqatqa, from the town of Beit Fajjar in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem, was directly shot by Israeli forces after she drove a car into a group of Israeli soldiers at a junction near the illegal Israeli settlement bloc of Gush Etzion on March 15.

She was taken to Israel’s Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, where she was treated for a critical head injury, and was eventually pronounced dead, Palestinian medical sources said Saturday.

(Source / 21.05.2017)

UN: Gaza suffers from dire humanitarian situation due to power crisis

Gaza humanitarian crisis

UN humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian lands Robert Piper has said that Gaza has been experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis since mid-April after its power plant shut down its Turbines due to lack of fuel supplies.

“Since mid-April, electricity levels have fluctuated between about 100 and 150 Megawatts. In practical terms, this means that most households and services in Gaza receive electricity from the grid for at most, four hours at a time, followed by a 12-hour power cut,” Piper stated in a recent press release.

“Gaza has been chronically deprived of electricity for at least a decade. But we are reaching the end of the fifth week in which a chronic crisis has become acute. These kinds of levels of electricity have a grave impact on the supply of safe drinking water, on the treatment and management of sewerage, on the availability of health services, on businesses, on schools, and much more, the UN official added.

He warned that such electricity situation would deteriorate further next week and urged the Palestinian Authority, Israel as the occupying power, and the Hamas Movement to assume their obligations towards the population in Gaza.

(Source / 21.05.2017)

Abbas meets Livni in Jordan, voices readiness to see Netanyahu

Abbas en Tzipi

Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas met on Saturday with former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum held in Jordan, expressing willingness to resume the peace talks with Israel.

The Hebrew website Walla quoted Abbas as telling Livni (the Zionist Camp party) that he is ready all the time to meet with premier Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the future of the settlement process and work together on restarting the peace talks.

Abbas arrived on Friday evening in the Dead Sea area of Jordan to participate in the two-day World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa.

King Abdullah of Jordan opened the forum on Saturday in the presence of several heads of state as well as political, business, media and civil society figures from around the world.

(Source / 21.05.2017)

Palestinian child hit with teargas canister in the head

Hassan Ahmed Issa

A 7-year-old Palestinian child was hit with a teargas canister in his head that was fired by the Israeli occupation forces in al-Khader town in southern Bethlehem on Sunday.

Eyewitnesses said that IOF soldiers fired teargas bombs at schoolchildren in the village during confrontations in Tel area.

They said that one of the canisters hit Hassan Ahmed Issa, 7, in his head, adding that he was taken to a Beit Jala hospital where his condition was described as “stable”.

(Source / 21.05.2017)

Israeli forces detain 21 Palestinians in overnight raids

Israeli security forces clash with and detains a Palestinian protester during a demonstration to show solidarity with hunger striker Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails at the Ni'lin village in Ramallah, West Bank on May 19, 2017 [Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency]

Israeli security forces clash with and detains a Palestinian protester during a demonstration to show solidarity with hunger striker Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails at the Ni’lin village in Ramallah, West Bank on May 19, 2017

Israeli forces detained at least 21 Palestinians in overnight raids between Saturday and Sunday across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to Palestinian and Israeli sources.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an news agency that two Palestinians were detained in Ramallah, one in al-Khader village and three in Husan village in the Bethlehem district, while two Palestinians were detained in Hebron city in the southern West Bank. Palestinian sources did not provide additional information on these detentions.

In the village of Abu Dis in the West Bank district of Jerusalem, Israeli forces detained Amjad Rabee and Ali Rabee after raiding their homes, according to the village’s popular resistance spokesperson Hani Halabiya. An Israeli army spokesperson confirmed two detentions in Abu Dis.

Israeli forces also carried out raids in several neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.

Read: Israeli statistics do not give real number of Palestinians in Jerusalem

Member of a follow-up committee in the neighbourhood of Issawiya, Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, said that Israeli forces raided several homes and detained five Palestinians in the neighbourhood, who he identified as Wassim Nayef, Ahmad Kayed Mahmoud, Adam Fadi Mustafa, Yousif Issa Mustafa, and Anas Abu Assab.

Abu al-Hummus underscored that the neighbourhood experiences daily detention raids, while Israeli forces also routinely install checkpoints at the neighbourhoods entrances and deliver demolition orders on homes as part of Israel’s “collective punishment policies against residents.”

In the neighbourhood of Shufat, Israeli forces raided three homes and detained Nasser Abu Khdeir, a former prisoner, Abed Saed Abu Khdeir, and Ameer Abu Khdeir, according to the head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners Amjad Abu Asab.

Fatah spokesperson in the Shufat refugee camp, to the west of Israel’s separation wall, said that Israeli forces raided the home of former prisoner Arafat Fasfous and delivered an order to his family summoning them for interrogations with Israeli authorities when Fasfous was found not be home.

Watch: 164 Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces in West Bank, Gaza Strip

Meanwhile, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israeli forces detained activists Muhammad al-Shlabi and Thaer Abu Sbeih after raiding their homes, according to locals.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Centre, based in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, reported that clashes had erupted in the neighbourhood until late hours on Saturday night, when Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets into the community and detained 20-year-old Muhammad al-Abasi.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The United Nations recorded an average of 95 weekly raids in the occupied West Bank in 2016, while 125 raids were carried out over the past two weeks.

(Source / 21.05.2017)

New French president ‘will not recognise Palestine’

Emmanuel Macron makes a speech after winning the 2017 French election at the Esplanade du Louvre in Paris, France on May 07, 2017 [Mustafa Yalçın/Anadolu Agency]

Emmanuel Macron makes a speech after winning the 2017 French election at the Esplanade du Louvre in Paris, France on May 07, 2017

Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron has reiterated that he will not recognise Palestine as a state as it would hinder good relations between Israel and France

Prior to his election win, Macron said he backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that recognising Palestine would cause instability and he would not risk France’s relationship with Israel to serve the Palestinian agenda. At a political rally Macron said:

Unilateral recognition of Palestine, right now, will undermine stability,

That’s right. France’s new liberal president would rather maintain good relations with Israel than recognize “Palestine.”

French Jews may have voted en masse for Emmanuel Macron in the final round of France’s presidential elections, but that doesn’t make him their dream president.

Like many other supporters of the 39-year-old former investment banker, who became the youngest French president in recent history, Jews voted for Macron mainly to block his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen. The centrist won with 65 percent of the vote, to 34 percent for Le Pen.

(Source / 21.05.2017)

EXCLUSIVE: Abbas to offer large-scale land swap with Israel in Trump talks

Palestinian Authority ready to exchange three times as much territory as previously, official tells MEE ahead of Trump visit to West Bank

Donald Trump meeting Mahmoud Abbas in the White House in early May 2017

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be presenting a plan that involves the Palestinians giving up 6.5 percent of their lands to Israel, three times as much as previously offered, during US President Donald Trump’s visit to the West Bank on Tuesday, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The proposal excludes Jerusalem and appears to cement the vision of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement, a Palestinian official close to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) told Middle East Eye.

“The Palestinian side will be presenting [during the meeting with Trump] a new vision which is quite detached from that of the majority of the Palestinian people,” the source told MEE. “This vision is based on exchanging a lot of Palestinian lands.”

“Previous discussions about a Palestinian-Israeli settlement revolved around the exchange of only 1.9 percent of the lands, but now we are talking about more than triple that amount,” said the source.

Palestinian worshippers pray near the Dome of Rock shrine at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound before the Friday prayer in Jerusalem’s Old City (AFP)

Abbas had reportedly rejected an offer from Israel’s Olmert during the failed 2008 peace talks for a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, proposing that Israel retain 6.3 percent of the territory in order to keep control of major Jewish settlements, reported the Times of Israel in 2015.

Previous discussions revolved around the exchange of only 1.9 percent of the lands. Now we are talking about more than triple that amount

– Palestinian official close to PLO

Abbas met Trump in Washington in early May for their first face-to-face talks. According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Abbas urged Trump at the time to restart peace talks under the 2008 offer made by then-prime minister Olmert.

The news comes ahead of Trump’s first foreign visit which includes stops in Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. He is due to convene Arab leaders from across the region alongside Saudi royal family members in Riyadh and is expected to offer details for the first time on his vision for peace between Israelis and Palestinians in a press conference in Jerusalem.

Read more: Trump-Abbas meeting: A celebration of egos

According to a source in the Palestinian ministry of foreign affairs, the peace talks had failed in 2008 because the Palestinian delegation agreed only to exchange a much smaller percentage of its lands.

“We’ve been discussing this issue of land exchange since the negotiations with Olmert,” said the foreign ministry source. “But at the time of the 2008 peace talks, Palestinians only agreed to exchange between 1-2 percent of Palestinian lands while Olmert was pushing for approximately 6.5 percent instead.”

According to the Times of Israel report, Olmert had offered to compensate the Palestinians with Israeli land equivalent to 5.8 percent of the West Bank, along with a link to the Gaza Strip, another territory meant to be part of a Palestinian state. The rejected offer also included placing Jerusalem’s Old City under international control.

A handicapped Palestinian protester waves the national flag during clashes with Israeli soldiers following a protest against the blockade on Gaza on 19 May (AFP)

This time around however, Jerusalem, the most controversial aspect of previous discussions, is not mentioned in the proposal that Abbas is allegedly meant to discuss with Trump during his visit, the Palestinian official close to the PLO told MEE.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, as the capital of any future Palestinian state. Israel, which later annexed East Jerusalem, has unilaterally declared “reunited” Jerusalem as its capital since 1980. Neither move has been ever been recognised by the international community.

Read more: ANALYSIS: Trump looks to deal, but Abbas holds weak Palestinian hand

More recently, Trump’s promise during his presidential campaign to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has further complicated discussions around Jerusalem in the case of a Palestinian-Israeli resolution. Following Trump’s inauguration, Abbas warned him that moving the embassy would have a “disastrous impact on the peace process, on the two-state solution and on the stability and security of the entire region”.

The peace process

Palestinians have vied for a negotiated settlement that would meet the terms laid out in the Arab Peace Initiative, a 2002 proposal endorsed by the Arab League, which called for the withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

But members of the Palestinian leadership believe Trump’s visit will do little to achieve that.

The issue is not about Trump or Obama or Abu Mazen, the issue is that Israel does not want to withdraw from the West Bank or from Gaza

– Awni al-Mashni, member of Fatah

“The issue is not about Trump or Obama or [Palestinian National Authority President] Abu Mazen, the issue is that Israel does not want to withdraw from the West Bank or from Gaza nor does it want to end the occupation,” Awni al-Mashni, a member of the Fatah movement, the dominant element of the PNA, told MEE.

Mashni explained that regardless of the details of this new proposal, any initiative to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza would ultimately fail since the Israeli leadership had refused to take this step.

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House on 15 February 2017 in Washington

“The current political climate won’t allow for a solution. The Israeli government is more radical than ever before and will not be responsive to any initiative,” said Mashni.

During a major policy speech in December 2016, the then US secretary of state, John Kerry, criticised the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, describing his coalition government as the “most right-wing in Israeli history”.

While Netanyahu has said he is committed to a two-state solution, international observers including Kerry said the Israeli government’s agenda had appeared geared towards a one-state solution that aimed at creating a “greater Israel”.

Kerry’s remarks came as a batch of Israeli settlements were being built in the occupied West Bank in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution that was passed in December 2016.

Jerusalem-based journalist and political analyst Rasim Abedat told MEE that he had little expectation of Trump pushing for a satisfactory settlement for the Palestinians, saying that US and Israeli interests in the region overlap now more than ever.

“Looking at the meeting between Trump and Netanyahu earlier this year, there was no discussion of a two-state solution, and that is exactly Netanyahu’s goal – to end any talk of the matter,” said Abedat.

The goal of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank was thrown into confusion when Trump said during Netanyahu’s visit to the White House on 15 February that while he was committed to a “really great” peace deal he was neither committed to its existence nor against a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the same time, several Palestinian leaders believe that Abbas’ adoption of a one-man approach has increasingly distanced him from the Palestinian people, making him no longer representative of the Palestinian people.

“The PA is battling an internal crisis and is suffering low levels of trust among the Palestinian people. The only thing that has kept it going is that it pays the salaries of tens of thousands of employees,” Abedat told MEE.

Even if Abu Mazen agrees to a settlement, the Palestinian people will not give up Jerusalem

– Palestinian journalist Rasim Abedat

According to Fatah member Mashni, this lack of representation will make any move Abbas makes unimportant.

“I doubt Abu Mazen will agree to a settlement, and even if he does the Palestinian people will not give up Jerusalem or agree to the continuity of the occupation,” he told MEE.

An Arab coalition

Instead of reaching a settlement regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, many observers believe that at the top of the agenda on Trump’s regional visit is the establishment of an Arab coalition that would help normalise relations between Israel and its neighbours.

“Trump is coming with a plan for the whole region which aims to normalise relations between the Palestinians and Israelis on the one hand and the Israelis and the rest of the Arabs on the other hand,” said the Palestinian official.

A Palestinian protester hurls stones towards Israeli soldiers during clashes in Bethlehem on 17 March (AFP)

“The main aim [of this visit] is to establish an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia to fight Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.”

Numerous Gulf states have offered a deal to normalise relations with Israel if it takes steps to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, according to reports last week.

The Wall Street Journal said numerous Gulf states were prepared to set up telecommunication lines between the countries, open trade negotiations and allow planes to fly over their airspace.

In exchange, Israel would have to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and relax trade restrictions with the Gaza Strip.

Even if Abbas has agreed to give up Jerusalem, no one can impose anything on the Palestinian people

– Fatah member Awni al-Mashni

The proposals to normalise relations with Israel were outlined in an unreleased discussion paper shared among several Arab states and obtained by the WSJ.

The paper, according to WSJ, was intended to demonstrate the Gulf states’ commitment to align itself to Trump’s foreign policy, which has stressed a desire to work with Arab states to forge a Middle East peace agreement.

MEE approached the Minister for the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) and member the Fatah central committee Muhammed Shtayye, but he refused to comment on the topic.

Journalist and political analyst Abedat said that Israel and Trump might also use this coalition to “pressure the Palestinian leadership into accepting a settlement that is not inclusive of a two-state solution”.

Mashni agreed: “Many Arab governments believe that the Palestinian cause has been an obstacle in the way of forming this coalition and so they [the Arab countries] will try to find a way to get around it.”

In the voice of the majority of Palestinians, however, Mashni insisted that “even if Abbas has agreed to give up Jerusalem, no one can impose anything on the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people won’t allow that to happen”.

“Abbas is pursuing a losing battle. I hope he doesn’t commit to anything in front of Trump,” said the official.

(Source / 21.05.2017)