Israel lost $16.8m due to halt of gas production during Gaza offensive

Smoke rises after Israeli warplanes carried out airstrikes in Gaza City, Gaza on 5 May 2019. [Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency]

Smoke rises after Israel carried out air strikes in Gaza City, Gaza on 5 May 2019

Israel lost 60 million shekels ($16.8 million) from gas exports as a result of the two-day assault launched against the Gaza Strip earlier this month, a member of  the Knesset revealed yesterday.

Al-Wattan Voice reported the Hebrew newspaper Maariv saying that the loses were a result of Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz’s decision to halt gas production at the from Tamar gas field during the attack on Gaza on 4-5 May.

Israeli Member of the Knesset Orit Farkash-Hacohen revealed that 60 million shekels ($16.8 million) had been lost as a result and this would be recouped from tax funds.

Twenty-seven Palestinians were killed during Israel’s attack on the besieged Gaza Strip, including two toddlers, two expectant mothers and one minor. Four Israelis were also killed.

Experts have said the attack was halted because Israel is hosting the Eurovision Song Contest and it did not want news of the attacks to overshadow the global music event, or to deter participants and concert goers from attending.

READ: Israel army urges forces at Gaza fence to show ‘restraint’ during Eurovision

(Source / 15.05.2019)

Almost 20,000 new settlement housing unit in 10 years under Netanyahu

Jewish settlements near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 10 February 2015 [Nedal Eshtayah/Apaimages]

Jewish settlements near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on 10 February 2015

Israeli authorities have built almost 20,000 settlement housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) during the past decade that Benjamin Netanyahu has been prime minister.

The figure is part of the newly-released annual report by settlement watchdog Peace Now.

In 2018 alone, 2,100 new housing units began construction in the occupied West Bank, nine per cent above the annual average since 2009 (1,935 units per year).

Ten per cent of that construction was in outposts that are technically illegal even under Israeli law, and the majority of new settlement construction in 2018 took place in more isolated colonies.

Peace Now’s new report also surveyed the impact of ten years of Netanyahu as premier, and found that 19,336 new settlement housing units began construction in the period 2009-2018.

READ: Israel approves 940 housing unit in East Jerusalem settlements

The majority of these have again been in more isolated settlements, with only a third of the units located west of the illegal Separation Wall.

According to Peace Now, at least 2,206 of the housing units were constructed illegally even under Israeli law, mostly in so-called unauthorised outposts.

Citing Central Bureau of Statistics figures, Peace Now stated that since the end of 2008 until the end of 2017, 120,518 settlers have been added to the settlements.

Peace Now also noted that “in the decade of Netanyahu’s rule, the various government ministries transferred more than NIS 10 billion ($2.8 billion) as surplus budgets to the settlements,” which does not include “the defence and security expenditures” or “some of the road construction expenses”.

READ: UN calls on Israel to halt demolitions in East Jerusalem

(Source / 15.05.2019)

On Nakba Day, Amnesty International slams Israel’s refusal to allow Palestinian return

Palestinians march during a demonstration marking the 69th anniversary of Nakba in Ramallah, West Bank on May 15, 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians march during a demonstration marking the anniversary of the Nakba in Ramallah, West Bank on 15 May 2017

Israel’s refusal to grant Palestinian refugees the right to return has fuelled seven decades of suffering, international rights group Amnesty International said in a statement released today.

Marking Nakba Day, when Palestinians remember the ethnic cleansing conducted by Israeli forces in 1948, Amnesty urged Israeli authorities to respect the Palestinians’ right of return.

“Israel’s failure to respect the right to return for Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes in 1948 is a flagrant violation of international law that has fuelled decades of suffering on a mass scale for Palestinian refugees across the region,” said Amnesty.

“More than 70 years after the conflict that followed Israel’s creation, the Palestinian refugees who were forced out of their homes and dispossessed of their land as a result continue to face the devastating consequences,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

READ: This was an election Nakba of their own making for Israel’s frustrated Arab citizens

“This weekend almost 200 million people will tune in to watch the Eurovision song contest in Israel, but, behind the glitz and glamour, few will be thinking of Israel’s role in fuelling seven decades of misery for Palestinian refugees,” he added.

There can be no lasting solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis until Israel respects Palestinian refugees’ right to return.

“In the meantime, Lebanese and Jordanian authorities must do everything in their power to minimize the suffering of Palestinian refugees by repealing discriminatory laws and removing obstacles blocking refugees’ access to employment and essential services.”

Amnesty noted that “there are currently more than 5.2 million registered Palestinian refugees”, the vast majority of whom “live in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)”.

READ: Benny Morris says Nakba was ‘very clean war’

“Israel has failed to recognize their right under international law to return to homes where they or their families once lived in Israel or the OPT. At the same, they have never received compensation for the loss of their land and property,” Amnesty stated.

“Many have been forced to live their entire lives in overcrowded camps in dire conditions and are denied access to essential services.”

“The situation for Palestinian refugees is untenable and grows closer to breaking point with every year that passes. How much longer can Palestinian refugees be expected to be condemned to a life of suffering, deprivation and discrimination simply because of their origin?” said Philip Luther.

(Source / 15.05.2019)

Fares: “Israeli Courts Grant Green Light To Fanatics To Kill More Palestinians

15 May 1:31 AM

Qaddoura Fares, the head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has stated, Tuesday, that the Israeli court that “acquitted the Israeli terrorist, who participated in the firebombing of Dawabsha family home in 2015, killing the father, mother and one of their children, and seriously wounding the only surviving child, is sending a green light to the colonists to commit more crimes against the Palestinian civilians.”

Fares said that, by acquitting the murderer, the Israeli so-called “Legal System,” topped by the “Justice Ministry,” is sending Israeli fanatics clear messages that they can commit horrific crimes against the Palestinian civilians and get away with it.

He added that Israeli courts, and the “Legal System” became the umbrella that shelters criminals from being held accountable for their crimes against the Palestinian people, their homes, lands and even their holy sites.

“The acquittal of this murderer proves, once again, that not only the Israeli police, but all of its departments and ministries, including by the head of the state, the Prime Minister, and its so-called legal system are involved in these ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people,” he said, “There have been hundreds of incidents were soldiers and paramilitary colonialist settlers, have executed Palestinians, burnt their homes and lands, and got away with these crimes unscathed with no accountability for their horrific crimes.”

|Palestinian Organizations Denounce Israeli Court Decision On 2015 Murder Case|

The official also said that whenever the Israeli courts are looking into cases against Palestinian detainees, who are reportedly involved, or believed to be involved, in attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers, and without legal proof, the detainees are largely sentenced to multiple life terms, their homes are always demolished and several members of their families are imprisoned.

Fares called on various international legal and human rights groups to intervene, and put an end to the ongoing and escalating Israeli crimes, including the serious violations by Israel’s own “legal system,” and its politicians.

|Israeli Court Rules to Dismiss Confession of Israeli Charged with Burning Palestinian Family to Death|

On July 31st, 2015, extremist Israeli settlers infiltrated the village of Douma, south of Nablus in the northern part of the West Bank, under cover of darkness, to firebomb the Dawabsha’ home, where the family of four were asleep in their beds.

The father Saad, 32, mother Reham, 27, and 18-month-old Ali were burned to death, while 4-year-old  Ahmad suffered from 3rd degree burns over most of his body.

(Source / 15.05.2019)

Two Palestinian Children Killed By Landmine Near Damascus

15 May 8:20 AM

Two Palestinian children were killed, less than a week ago, after a landmine detonated near the al-Bahdaliya area, in the suburb of Damascus.

The documentation team of the “Actions Group for the Palestinians In Syria” has reported that Omar Mohammad As’ad, 10, and Mohammad Samir Hamamda, 9, from Sayida Zeinab refugee camp, were killed when a landmine detonated near them on May 10th.

It added that the ongoing conflict in Syria has led to the dead of 241 Palestinian children, and that various medical facilities, and ambulances, have been subject to bombing attacks and shelling, while dozens of persons who work in the medical field, including medics, nurses and doctors have been killed. Hundreds were either arrested or abducted.

In February of this year, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has officially launched its 2019 Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal (Syria Appeal).

October 22nd 2018: 3,894 Palestinians Killed in Syria Since 2011

(Source / 15.05.2019)

Health Ministry: “Israeli Soldiers Killed 305 Palestinians Since March 30th, 2018”

15 May 1:35 PM

The Palestinian Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip has reported that Israeli soldiers have killed 305 Palestinians, including 59 children, ten women, three medics and two journalists, since the Great Return March procession started, in the coastal region, on Palestinian Land Day, March 30th, 2018, until May 15, 2019.

The Health Ministry said the soldiers killed 305 Palestinians, and injured 17335 others, since March 30th of 2018, and added that among the slain Palestinians are 59 children, ten women and one elderly.

Among the wounded Palestinians are 3565 children, 1168 women and 104 seniors; 564 of the injured Palestinians suffered serious wounds, 7345 suffered moderate injuries and 9426 sustained mild wounds.

It also said that the soldiers shot 7069 Palestinians with live fire, 942 with rubber-coated steel bullets, 2458 suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation, 1678 were injured by fragments of gas bombs, 2226 were injured by fragments from bullets and other types of Israeli projectiles, while 2962 carious suffered cuts and lacerations.

1685 of the wounded were injured in the head and neck, 2438 in the arms and hands, 797 in the chest and back, 683 in the pelvis and abdomen, 8306 in their lower extremities, and 3426 multiple injuries to several parts of their bodies.

The Ministry also said that there have been 136 cases of amputations; 122 in the lower extremities, and 14 in the arms or hands.

3760 of the wounded were injured in northern Gaza, 5655 in Gaza, 2722 in Central District, 3270 in Khan Younis, and 1928 in Rafah, in the southern parts of the coastal region.

The Israeli army also killed three medics, identified as Mousa Abu Hassanein, Razan Najjar and Abdullah al-Qotati, injured 680 others, in addition to causing damage to 118 ambulances.

Furthermore, the army killed two journalists, identified as Yasser Mortaja and Ahmad Abu Hussein, and injured dozens.

(Source / 15.05.2019)

Updated: “Army Injures Thirteen Palestinians In Gaza”

15 May 3:32 PM

Israeli soldiers shot, Wednesday, at least thirteen Palestinians in the ongoing processions of the Great Return March, on Palestinian lands across the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the soldiers injured thirteen Palestinians, and caused dozens to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, in addition to cuts and bruises.

At least three Palestinians were shot near Al-Awda (The Return) Camp, east of Gaza city, in addition to several injuries east of the al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza.

Injuries were also reported near the Al-Awda camps, east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza, and east of Jabalia, in the northern part of the coastal region.

It is worth mentioning that dozens of Israeli sharpshooters have been deployed in the sniper posts, and on the sand hills across the perimeter fence, as thousands of Palestinians started arriving in the Return camps.

In related news, Israeli navy ships fired live rounds and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian fishing boast in Gaza territorial waters, wounding one fisherman, identified as Morad al-Hassi, 22, from the Shati’ refugee camp, west of Gaza.

Medical sources said the fisherman was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet, and suffered mild-to-moderate wounds.

Also Wednesday, the Health Ministry in Gaza has reported that Israeli soldiers have killed 305 Palestinians, including 59 children, ten women, three medics and two journalists, since the Great Return March procession started, in the coastal region, on Palestinian Land Day, March 30th, 2018.

Updated From:
Israeli Soldiers Eight Palestinians In Gaza

May 15, 2019 @ 14:48

Update: The Health Ministry in Gaza has confirmed that Israeli soldiers injured eight Palestinians, and caused many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, during the ongoing processions, in the Gaza Strip.

It said the soldiers fired dozens of live rounds, and high-velocity gas bombs at the protesters, wounding eight.

Updated From:
Israeli Soldiers injure Many Palestinians In Gaza
May 15, 2019 @ 14:12

Israeli soldiers injured, Wednesday, many Palestinians during processions on their lands near the perimeter fence, along the eastern parts of the Gaza Strip, causing many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, while thousands of Palestinians prepare to mark the Palestinian Nakba.

At the time of this report, three Palestinians were shot with live fire, east of Gaza city and east of the al-Boreij refugee camp in central Gaza.

Dozens of Palestinians suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, in several parts of the coastal region.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers, stationed in their fortified posts and behind sand hills across the fence, fired live rounds and a barrage of gas bombs at hundreds of Palestinians.

They added that the army is still bringing more soldiers to the area, in addition to using trucks to spray the protesters with wastewater mixed with chemicals.

(Source / 15.05.2019)

After 71 years, Abu Ibrahim still hopes to return to his home

“If anyone had a bullet, he might have been sent to prison for years.” Immigrant Jews, however, were allowed to buy, carry and store weapons

By Motasem A Dalloul

While the leaders of the Zionist movement said that the old would die and the young would forget, Abu-Ibrahim insists that the old die, but the young will not forget, but will fight to go home.

Ever since 1948, Abu Ibrahim has been waiting to return to the simple house that he and his father built in their village which was occupied by nascent Israeli occupation forces and turned into a moshav agricultural settlement. Although he has lost most of his relatives and friends who fled the village with him, he still has hope that one day he will go back.

“If I do not go back alive in order to live in my house,” he told MEMO on the eve of the 71st anniversary of his personal Nakba, “I hope to go back dead and be buried in the village cemetery.”

Mohammad Ibrahim Al-Najjar — known by his kunya Abu Ibrahim — is now 88 years old. His memories of his village, Yasur, include how he and his relatives and friends were ethnically cleansed under heavy fire by Jewish terror gangs.

According to Abu Ibrahim, all the Palestinians at the time lived a “simple” and “stable” life in their villages and cities across historic Palestine. “Like most of the other villages,” he explained, “in Yasur we lived on farming and our animals. Those living in the cities used to work in factories and transportation.”

Yasur was a Palestinian village 40 kilometres north-east of the Gaza Strip. The Zionists drove out its residents — over 1,000 of them — at gunpoint in June 1948 and built the moshav called Talmei Yechi. Its residents fled to other villages and passed through Al-Majdal, now Ashkelon, before reaching Gaza where they stayed. Today, they and their descendants living as refugees in Gaza and the wider diaspora are estimated to total more than 7,000 people.

When Abu Ibrahim was old enough to understand that British occupation of Palestine, he asked his father about the military presence on three sides of his village. “In the west,” he recalled, “there was an airport. In the south, there was an army camp. In the north, there was a barracks.”

During the British Mandate era, the old man said, the villagers of Yasur did not experience much suffering, but they were prevented from owning any kind of arms, even if it was a single bullet.

“If anyone had a bullet, he might have been sent to prison for years.” Immigrant Jews, however, were allowed to buy, carry and store weapons.

“The residents of our village were peaceful. Many of them, including my father, worked in the British camps along with the occupiers and Jewish migrants and at the end of the day, the villagers went to work in their farms and the Jews went to military training camps run by the British occupation authorities.”

Abu Ibrahim was too young to remember much about the disturbances in Palestine during the 1930s, but in the 1940s, he said, he was old enough to observe and remember. “The Jewish gangs started to carry out sporadic attacks here and there across Palestine. In 1948, the British handed over Palestine to the Jews and left most of their arms for them to carry out massacres of the Palestinians.”

He heard about massacres in Palestine’s cities, towns and villages. “We continued our normal life, though. Yes, we were afraid, but it was very necessary to care for our farms and animals. Then on 9 June, 1948, we woke up to the noise of Jewish bullets fired at our homes. We could do nothing except flee.”

He was just 16, and had to take care of his mother, brother, sister and father, who was by then blind. “We persuaded ourselves that it was normal, but we had packed our luggage from the moment that we heard about massacres in other villages.” He and the other villagers from Yasur first headed for Beit Jibrin, 21km north-west of Hebron, before going to Gaza via Al-Majdal.

“Only three of the villagers were killed and four were wounded. We went to Al-Majdal and stayed for a couple of days, hoping that we would be able to return to our home, but the attacks continued and thousands of people walked south along the Mediterranean coast to Gaza.”

Some of the Palestinian refugees in Gaza looked for a chance to resettle somewhere else. Abu Ibrahim’s family, along with around 5,000 others, continued their walk along the coast to El-Arish in Egypt. There they lived in a refugee camp in an old British army barracks. In 1951, they went back to Gaza and lived in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp. They still hoped to return to their village, but that time has still not come.

“The UN created the ‘Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ — UNRWA — to take care of our urgent needs,” Abu Ibrahim pointed out. “At first, it gave us tents, then built clay rooms and then very small makeshift homes which were later turned into strong concrete buildings by the refugees.”

At 88, Abu Ibrahim has lived under the British occupation, Egyptian rule and Israeli occupation. Despite it being 71 years since he fled his village and it was turned into an Israeli farming community, he still feels homesick for Yasur, its primary school and its mosque.

He told MEMO that he teaches his sons and grandsons about his village and its exact location in order not to miss it when they exercise their legitimate right of return. “I am almost 90 years old now,” he noted. “I still have a lot of hope that I will go home, but in case I don’t, I teach my sons and grandsons about the village, its people, its farms and its exact location in order to go straight to it when the time comes and I am not with them.”

Yasur is just one of more than 550 Palestinian towns and villages from which the residents were driven out and replaced by immigrant Jews. Most of the places have been wiped off the map by the Israelis. Abu Ibrahim himself was among more than 750,000 Palestinian refugees who now number 12 million men, women and children still living in refugee camps or scattered around the world.

The international community and the UN have been unable or unwilling to ensure that justice has been served for Palestine and the Palestinians. Nevertheless, the Palestinians themselves have not given up hope of returning to their homes no matter what their current conditions happen to be.

“If I pass away before we return,” concluded Abu Ibrahim, “my sons and grandsons will continue fighting for their right of return. The old die and the young live on and remember.”

The world should not forget that simple fact. The people of Palestine are not simply going to go away just because Israel and its allies want them to. They have a legitimate right under international law to return to the land from which they were ethnically cleansed, and Abu Ibrahim is not alone in believing that, one day, they will exercise that right.

(Source / 15.05.2019)

The return of Palestinian refugees is quite possible

…despite what Israel may claim

Some 800,000 Palestinians were forcefully expelled from their homes and land when Israel was founded in 1948 [File: Reuters/Ali Hashisho]

Some 800,000 Palestinians were forcefully expelled from their homes and land when Israel was founded in 1948

Еvery year, a day after Israel marks its independence day on May 14, we commemorate with sadness and nostalgia the Nakba of 1948. The events of that year changed the Palestinian lot for generations to come, transforming them from a people living peacefully and comfortably off of the fruits of their land to refugees struggling in misery in overcrowded camps, forced to depend on charity for their daily bread.

Every year, in our communities we count how many elderly Palestinians who witnessed the Nakba are left. Although their numbers shrink with every passing Nakba day, the memory of what happened seven decades ago is kept alive. The keys to the homes from which they were forcefully expelled are passed on to us, the younger generation, as we continue the struggle for the return of all Palestinian refugees.

Meanwhile, Israel continues to do everything it can not to abide by international law and implement the United Nations resolution 194 of 1948, which stipulates the rightful return of all Palestinians to their homes. It continues to imprison millions of Palestinians behind walls in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and keep the Palestinian minority within its borders under an apartheid regime.

It also continues to propagate myths and false claims in order to justify flaunting international law and continuing the victimisation of Palestinians.

Israel says Palestine was a land without people.

But the census the British conducted shortly after they took control of Palestine in 1920 showed that it had a population of more than 750,000, only 11 percent of whom were Jewish.

Paradoxically, Israel also says that Palestinians left “voluntarily” in 1948 (meaning there must have been a native population that had to “leave”).

Yet, as Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe have demonstrated in their research, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was very well planned and executed by Zionist leaders. Clear instructions were given to Jewish militias to use terror, bombardment of villages, burning and demolishing residential areas, and booby-trapping evacuated homes to force people out and prevent their return.

The campaign of mass ethnic cleansing continued over seven months and resulted in the expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians to nearby countries, the destruction of 531 villages and the depopulation of 11 urban neighbourhoods. In the words of Pappe, it was a crime against humanity.

Israel also claims that there is a new reality today and that the ownership rights of Palestinian refugees to their homes and their land have disappeared after 70 years.

But the passing of time does not and cannot cancel liability for a crime against humanity and absolve its perpetrators. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. And just like the Israeli state is a fait accompli, so is the right of more than six million Palestinian refugees to return, based on official legal documents produced by the UN under whose legal framework and recognition the Israeli state was created in the first place.

Israel also claims that it was created to provide “safe haven” to Jews and the return of Palestinian refugees would endanger them and result in a massacre.

We do not deny that Jews have the right to live in safety, but why should the solution to a tragedy they faced produce a tragedy for another people? The establishing of this “safe haven”, the way it was done in 1948 and ever since, has resulted in mass ethnic cleansing and incremental genocide of Palestinians. The Palestinian people have faced one massacre after another over the past seven decades and as a result, they have no “safe haven” of their own.

And with all Palestinians that Israel has killed over time, with all weapons it has accumulated, all walls it has built, and all repressive policies it has implemented, has it become more safe and secure? Security built on death and oppression is an illusion; true security for Israeli Jews will not be achieved until there is justice for Palestinians.

Our struggle is against occupation and apartheid, and not for the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Israeli Jews. As we continue to resist Israeli attempts to wipe us all out of our homeland, we do not wish to see Israeli Jews being wiped out either.

Israel also claims that Palestinians do not want peace.

Yet its leadership has officially declared its intention to seize all Palestinian land west of the Jordan River and has repeatedly demonstrated that it is using peace negotiations only to further entrench the occupation and make the return of Palestinians impossible. This strategy is not an aberration or a policy of the Israeli right only, but rather the direct continuation of the path taken by the Zionist movement since it was established – it is the path of ethnic cleansing of the native population and expansion of settler colonialism.

At this point, the only viable way forward that does not involve further violence and ethnic cleansing on either side is to re-arrange the current relationship between Palestinians and Israeli Jews on the basis of justice and equality as opposed to discrimination and dispossession.

Part of this solution has to be the return of Palestinian refugees, which is neither an outlandish idea nor a dangerous one. In fact, it is quite realistic. Demographic studies indicate that more than 80 percent of the land Palestinian refugees were ethnically cleansed from is either empty or has very low population density, as the majority of the Israeli population is concentrated in large cities.

There is enough land for all and with the cancellation of discriminatory policies that favour Jewish settlers, equal distribution of resources can be achieved.

Israel already has in place a law that allows Jews to immigrate and settle on its territory. It only makes sense that it would extend that policy to all Palestinian refugees to come back to their homes. 

All this comes down to a choice Israeli Jews have to make – to continue living in unstable and insecure apartheid state or to embrace real stability and security by ending injustice and establishing equality and peace for all. We, Palestinians, have already made ours: We will continue to struggle for our rights and our freedom until the day we are able to stand at the doorstep of our ancestral homes with a key in hand. 

And in this struggle we are not alone. We are backed by all those who believe in and advocate justice and humanity across the world. 

(Source / 15.05.2019)

Israel’s Eurovision webcast hacked as protests continue

Public broadcaster Kan blames Hamas after its online coverage of semi-finals cuts to animated blast images in Tel Aviv

The popular Eurovision competition features musicians from more than 40 nations

Jerusalem, – Israel’s webcast of the Eurovision Song Contest was hacked with animated images of explosions in the host city, Tel Aviv, amid growing calls by pro-Palestinian activists to boycott the event.

Read also: Tehran calls for Palestine ‘referendum’

After the 41-country competition kicked off in the coastal city on Tuesday with a first semi-final, national broadcaster Kan’s webcast cut to animated satellite footage showing explosions in Tel Aviv set to a menacing soundtrack.

The hacking of Kan’s website did not affect the regular television relay of the show on Tuesday night in Israel or abroad.

Kan played down the incident, noting that the evening ended without any other incident as Greece, Belarus, Serbia, Cyprus, Estonia, Czech Republic, Australia, Iceland, San Marino and Slovenia made it through to Saturday’s finals.

Read also: Nakba Day: Palestinians mark 71st anniversary of ‘catastrophe’

“We know that at a certain stage there was an attempt, apparently by Hamas, to commandeer our digital broadcast,” Kan CEO Eldad Koblenz told Israel’s Army Radio.

“But I am happy to say that within a few minutes we managed to assume control over this phenomenon.”

Hamas, a Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, had no immediate comment.

Earlier this month, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with air raids, artillery and gunboat shooting as armed factions in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets at towns and settlements in southern Israel.

Read also: Extremist Jewish stormed Al-Aqsa

At least 25 Palestinians and four Israelis were killed before a ceasefire agreement was signed between Gaza and Israel.

Calls for boycott

Israel is hosting the Eurovision contest after local singer Netta Barzilai won last year. The winning country customarily hosts the following year.

Palestinians and their foreign supporters have called on, so far fruitlessly, countries to shun the Tel Aviv songfest as part of wider efforts to isolate Israel internationally.

Many boycott calls have targeted Madonna, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday, in the run-up to the American pop star’s guest performance at the Eurovision final. The second semi-final is on Thursday.

People protest against the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv

Rebuffing the pressure, Madonna said she would “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda”.

Read also: Israel approves new settlement plans in Jerusalem

On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters marched in Tel Aviv before the first semi-finals.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from the rally, said: “For the activists here, it [the protest] coincides with the first anniversary of the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem and the border protest that took place in Gaza on the same day when more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli sniper fire.”

“The protesters are concerned that whole of Israel needs to be seen as an occupying force and it should be boycotted in its entirety,” he added.

Israel has been accused of building settlements on occupied Palestinian lands that are considered illegal under international law.

According to official data obtained by the AP news agency, Israel’s government went on a spending spree in its occupied West Bank settlements following the election of President Donald Trump.

The government statistics, released by Israel’s finance ministry, showed Israeli spending in the West Bank in 2017, Trump’s first year in office, rose to about $459m, from about $330m in 2016.

Israel’s government has tried to clamp down on opposition by launching a PR campaign using Google Ads which refers to the words “boycott” and “Eurovision”, but leads to a glossy website extolling Israel as “Beautiful, Diverse, Sensational” – in a play on the BDS initials for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The BDS – modelled after the South African anti-apartheid movement – was formed in 2005 by more than 200 Palestinian civil society organisations, urging non-violent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law.

Demonstrators have vowed to continue their protests throughout the week’s event.

“It’s an opportunity for propaganda and to market Israel as this cool, hip, multi-cultural European place, but actually it’s an apartheid state and hosting it here is a political decision to overwrite the rights of the Palestinians,” Shahaf Weisbein, the project coordinator for the Coalition of Women for Peace, told Al Jazeera.

(Source / 15.05.2019)