Analysis: A New Mental Health Crisis Is Raging in Gaza

By Yasser Abu Jamei

“Have you ever seen a six-month old baby with exaggerated startle response?” One of my colleagues who works on our telephone counseling service was calling me for advice on how to respond to several distraught mothers asking her how to help their babies who had started showing such distressing symptoms of trauma during the recent bombing. Our telephone service was back and responding to callers on the third day of the attacks on Gaza, though of course with certain difficulties.

The question took me back 20 years to when I was a young resident in the pediatric department at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza’s second biggest city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Then, my plan was to become a pediatrician. The hospital, on the western side of the city was not far from the Israeli settlements. Often in the middle of the night I used to receive mothers arriving in the pediatric emergency department with tiny children who had started screaming with no clear reason. Physical examination mostly revealed nothing abnormal. Perhaps this was the trigger that made me train to become a psychiatrist.

During those nights, you could often hear shooting from inside the Israeli settlement’s high fortifications, with the bullets mostly ending in the walls of the Palestinian homes and other buildings that faced the settlements. That was the common experience we adults were used to, and of course something that children, even the very youngest, also had to live with.

Thinking about those mothers and babies, I then asked myself about the likely psychological consequences of this 11-day offensive on the people of the Gaza Strip, and how it is going to be different from 2014’s Gaza war which lasted for seven weeks through July and August, including a ground invasion into Gaza. There were then 2,251 Palestinians killed and 11,000 wounded.

AFTER THE 2014 WAR

In 2014, we formed in the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP) what we called crisis response teams, that were usually composed of a man and a woman, both psychologists. Their main task was to provide Psychological First Aid: to give some psychological support and detect and refer cases in need of further interventions to our three community centers. Parents often were talking about changes that their children had begun experiencing. Children were having poor concentration, sleeping difficulties and night terrors, bed-wetting and irritability. Younger children were clinging to their parents.

During the four months that followed the attacks in 2014, 51 percent of children visiting our centers were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), another 11 percent were diagnosed with bedwetting. For adults, 31 percent were diagnosed with PTSD while 25 percent were diagnosed with depression. During those months, almost 20 percent of the people that were visited by the crisis teams were referred to our community centers for further assessment and therapy. The U.N. Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reported then that more than 370,000 children were in need of mental health and psychosocial intervention. Would these figures predict anything for after the 2021 offensive?

ELEVEN DAYS

We know now the physical effects: at least 242 people were killed in Gaza, including 66 children, 38 women (four pregnant) and 17 elderly people. The injured are around 1,948 people—an iconic figure for every Palestinian. It includes 610 children and 398 women and 102 elderly people. Moderate-to-severe injuries affect 25 percent of the injured. During the offensive 107,000 people were internally displaced with about two thirds of them seeking shelter at United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools.

We saw six hospitals and 11 clinics damaged, and there are some ironic stories. It was on May 17 that the Rimal primary health care center situated within the Ministry of Health (MoH) compound in Gaza city was attacked. The center included the main laboratory for COVID-19 tests and was partially affected. The MoH had to stop the testing and asked people who were supposed to get their second shot of vaccine to go to Al-Daraj primary health care center across Gaza City. However, that center, too, came under attack, as there was a house in the area that was bombed in an air strike. The Rimal clinic was also the place to get vaccinated in Gaza city. Luckily the damage to both clinics was partial and the Rimal clinic soon resumed service. However, a young physician, Dr Majed Salha was severely injured on his head, and his condition is critical.

ONGOING MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGES

Only weeks ago, COVID was the main concern in Gaza as in any other place in the world. People calling our telephone counseling line at GCMHP or people we were meeting either in the community or at the community centers presented with two main and interlinked complaints or challenges. One was how deeply the economic conditions were affecting their lives. The unemployment rate in Gaza, even before the bombings, was 43.1 percent, and for people under 30 it was 65.5 percent. Even among those working, many are in casual employment, living from hand to mouth. Taxi drivers, or those who sell vegetables at the open markets were badly affected by the COVID-related restrictions on movement and other measures such as social distancing and closing of some of those open markets. Depression and high anxiety were rife as men were unable to provide either sanitizers or simply food for their families.

The second fear was always how to deal with their children under such restrictions and with schools closed. We have on average five children per household, and we live in one of the most crowded areas in the world with more than 13,000 persons in one square mile. Those children, not being allowed to leave their homes because of COVID restrictions, were badly in need of support.

Two weeks before the offensive the MoH was dealing with the second wave of COVID with about 35 to 40 percent of the people being tested showing positive. Suddenly those COVID-related concerns were overshadowed by the fears related to the airstrikes, the bombing and survival. How is that going to impact the psychological wellbeing of the population?

AN UNPRECEDENTED EXPERIENCE

In one night, it was reported, 160 warplanes attacked 450 targets in less than 40 minutes in northern areas of the Gaza Strip. The strikes happened at the same time as 500 artillery shells were fired. People from outside Gaza asked us if this experience was similar to what happened in 2008 when the first strike took place. On Saturday, December 27, 2008, at around 11:20 A.M., suddenly people in the whole Gaza strip were overwhelmed with the sounds of bombardment and the view of a huge mushroomlike smoke plume that was all over the place. It was a moment where children were either going to schools (afternoon shift) or returning from schools (morning shift) and everyone really was in a state of shock. At that moment about 60 fighter planes carried the first attack in less than one minute. People asked us whether this felt the same. Perhaps it looks the same, but there is a critical major difference.

In 2008 the bombing was a single minute or two minutes, and it was across the whole Gaza strip (140 square miles). But what happened in these 11 days is entirely different. The strikes continued for about 25 to 30 minutes, or sometimes up to 40 minutes in the same city or geographical area. You could hear continuous bombing in your own city, in your own small geographical area, that continued for about 25 to 40 minutes. In all that time neither you nor your children nor your wife nor any other family member would feel that they could take even a single breath.

The continuous bombardment and shelling that continued in different cities on different nights meant that no one really could feel any moment of safety. All of us had our nervous system at its very highest alarm level for more than 25 and up to 40 minutes. I can say that this is the most fearful experience that I have had throughout four large offensives over the years.

This type of attack caused extreme fear to the two-million population, traumatizing almost everyone.

Another key difference to keep in mind is that most of the areas that were attacked were in the heart of the cities. We witnessed the flattening of 13- or 14-story towers and many other buildings. Some families were just eliminated during those attacks. In Al-Shati camp one family had 10 people killed including eight children and two women. Fourteen families lost more than three members and some of them were killed outright.

The fear and terror that we lived with through the 11 days was something unprecedented. So, do we expect to see more people and with a similar diagnosis to 2014, or 2012, or 2008? Maybe, but definitely the lower number of people who were killed or injured does not indicate a lesser psychological impact on the population. We already see children presented with night terrors, and pains in their knees and abdomen, and parents report clinging sons and daughters. Men and women alike complain of joint pains, low back pain and difficulty in concentration. Many say that they are not sure if they are living a big dream or a reality. And the worst-affected people show severe psychological impact including dissociative symptoms. In any case, we are still in early days and we will need more time to have a better understanding of the impact.

One might think that this will be our only concern, but that is not the case. In the first few days after the ceasefire with COVID testing resumed, only a few hundred tests were made, but on average one third of the results were positive. Tens of thousands of people were displaced and stayed in school classes or at their relatives’ homes, making the whole community inevitably much more mixed and crowded. As you may imagine, COVID measures were not all carried out.

Our hospitals are already full of injured people, the health system is struggling. And it seems that we are on the verge of a third COVID wave. A wave where out of the two million people only 40,000 have been vaccinated. We have just escaped the hell of airstrikes to find the hell of COVID-19 at our doors. We are moving from living under occupation and offensive to life under occupation and blockade, with COVID.

Ours is a life that you will never understand unless you are a resident of Gaza. Outsiders love to call us resilient human beings, rather than see our reality. As the English poet T. S. Eliot wrote in 1936, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Adalah: What happened in the ‘torture room’ at Israel’s police station in Nazareth?

Lawyers from Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel have collected multiple sworn affidavits testifying to rampant, systemic Israeli police attacks and brutal beatings of Palestinian protesters, innocent bystanders, children, and even attorneys inside Nazareth’s police station during the period of protests in the city in May.

The graphic testimonies from victims, attorneys, and paramedics on the scene tell a story of systemic Israeli police brutality and physical, verbal, and psychological abuse of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the northern city, and indicate that Israeli officers ran a “torture room” inside the Nazareth police station – an informal term whose initial use may be traced to the recent detainees and lawyers on the scene.

Adalah submitted a formal complaint to senior Israeli officials today, Monday, 7 June 2021, regarding serious failures on the part of Israeli police and investigators in Nazareth that amount to grave criminal offenses, starting on 9 May 2021 and continuing for a number of days.

In their letter, Adalah attorneys Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi and Wesam Sharaf highlighted brutal, overt Israeli police violence in Nazareth in breach of the rights of Palestinian citizens grabbed off the street and held in the station, including the rights to liberty, dignity and bodily integrity, as well as the right to counsel and due process.

Israeli “police officers led the detainees to a room located on the left side of the entrance corridor to the station, forcing them to sit on the floor handcuffed, to lower their heads towards the floor, and began to beat them on all parts of their bodies, using kicks and clubs, slamming their heads against walls or doors, and more. Officers wounded the detainees, terrorized them, and whomever dared to lift his head upwards risked more beatings by officers. According to affidavits, the floor of the room was covered in blood from the beatings.”

Most of the violent arrests of and attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel in the city were carried out by Israeli special police forces, including undercover mista’aravim officers posing as Palestinians. Israeli officers would continue beating, shoving, and choking detainees while walking them from the scene of their arrest to the city’s police station.

Additional testimonies indicate Israeli police prevented Palestinian detainees in the Nazareth station from receiving urgent medical care for wounds resulting from beatings and attacks by officers, also another extremely serious criminal offense.

Almost every night during the Nazareth protests, ambulances were summoned to the police station and wounded Palestinian detainees were evacuated to the city’s hospitals. Other detainees appeared in court following their arrests displaying clearly visible signs of abuse and violence, including stitches on their head, facial swelling, scratches, and extensive bruising.

Sworn testimonies collected from attorneys on the scene indicate Israeli police in Nazareth also attacked them and their colleagues, who were seeking to provide legal aid to Palestinian detainees, used force to distance them from the station, seized telephones and even detained a lawyer.

Adalah demands immediate criminal probe of Israeli police torture

“What happened inside the police station in Nazareth amounts to torture and ill-treatment, and requires the immediate opening of a criminal investigation to examine the circumstances and conditions of the protesters’ detention at the station – including the investigation and prosecution of police officers involved in the violence,” Adalah attorneys wrote in the letter.

Faiz Zbedeiat, 21, university student, Nazareth resident

The protesters stood in a circle … and I stood about 6-7 meters away from them. After a while, a police officer approached the scene and announced over the loudspeaker that the gathering was forbidden and demanded that the participants disperse. When I heard this, I stepped back so that it was clear that I was not part of the rally. I was on the phone with a friend, and a second after I hung up, the cops threw a stun grenade into the street. Suddenly, I noticed a Border Police officer running towards me, and when he got to me he punched me in the nose. I immediately said: “I’m standing far away [from the protest], what have I done? I didn’t do anything.” He suddenly started yelling at me, cursing me, hitting me again, and he said, “Don’t talk to me, talk to the interrogator.” I immediately said that I was not resisting… Two more policemen arrived, grabbed me and pushed me towards another Border Police officer who grabbed me, hit me, and tried to slam my head against the wall. I asked why they were hitting me when I’m not resisting. I even I put my hands behind my back even though they didn’t handcuff me. Nevertheless, the same Border Police officer hit me in the nose with the walkie-talkie that he was holding. I raised my hands above my head to protect myself, and this angered him and he started cursing and threatening me.

The cops dragged me, grabbing me by the head and forcing me to look down. I was taken to the police station a few minutes’ walk away. On the way to station, the same cops continued beating me even though I wasn’t resisting at all. On the way, we met a policeman who appeared to be an officer, and he started laughing and said to them: “Did you only arrest him? That’s not enough. We need more.”

[In the Nazareth police station], police brought more detainees into the room, some of them minors who were nevertheless held together with us rather than being separated. At this point, the cops started beating us and kicking us with their feet and batons. [My friend] who was next to me, received a blow that caused a head wound which began to bleed. The blood could be seen on the floor. I told him he should ask for immediate medical attention, but he was afraid that if he asked for help they would beat him again. The cops kept saying “Close the door.” No one was allowed to raise their head; whomever raised his head or spoke was beaten more. I saw one guy who had a broken nose, his face covered in blood, and yet they kept hitting him inside the room. One of the police officers had an M-16 rifle and I saw that he used it to hit detainees. There was a moment when I could take a glance back and see that a police officer who was beating the detainees was masked.

The cops hit us in the back, slapped us in the face. I personally was hit in the back. They tried to hit me in the head but I dodged the blow, so they hit me in the stomach and slapped me in the face. I remained calm and composed the whole the time, but those who resisted or reacted were beaten more. The cops kept trying to provoke us, they cursed and threatened us. For example, during the adhan (Muslim prayer), they started laughing and saying “Pray that God will get you out of here.” After awhile, a police officer approached me and whispered in my ear, threatening me. He cursed my mother, my sister, and my wife. He then asked, “Did you understand?” I didn’t answer, and he immediately slapped me in the face. He asked me again: “Do you understand?” I still didn’t answer and he slapped me again in the face. Finally, he said “Go explain to your friends”. He pushed me back down to the floor and hit me again.

I saw deliberate humiliation of the detainees. I saw one of the cops kicking a detainee in the leg. Another officer came over and said to him “That’s not how you beat someone,” and kicked the detainee harder. The two cops started laughing.

Omaiyer Lawabne, Nazareth resident

On the eve of Eid el-Fitr and the last day of Ramadan, my brother and I and two other friends decided to go out and celebrate with two friends. We left the house around 21:00, and went to the “Checkers” store near the parking lot on Hagalil Street in Nazareth. I parked the car there, and we went to withdraw money from an ATM. I immediately noticed many police forces in the area, some of whom were well-equipped and looked like special units, as well as a demonstration that was taking place nearby. When I saw this, I started to walk away slowly in order to distance myself a bit. At one point, I looked to my right and saw a police officer in full gear running towards me with his fist raised in the air. The officer hadn’t appealed to us, hadn’t called out to us, hadn’t demand that we identify ourselves or stop. As soon as he saw us, he came running towards me with his fist raised in the air. But the thing is, we were just standing there, away from the demonstration, in a place where no one was gathering.

When I saw the police officer running towards me, I was scared, and I knew he was going to hit me. Out of fear, I started running. I wanted to stop and explain to him that I hadn’t done anything, but when I looked back I heard someone call out “Throw it, throw it,” and I realized that they were referring to stun grenades. The cops started throwing grenades at me, and I kept running because I knew that if I stood still I could be badly wounded by the grenades… While I was still running, one of the policemen raised his hand and hit me in the left eye, and I fell to the ground.

I covered my face while begging the cops who surrounded me to release me because I hadn’t done anything. Suddenly, one of the cops started kicking me in the face and head, stepping with his boot on my head and then on my shoulder. Several cops gathered around me as I lay on the ground. They began to hit me, both kicking and punching. I felt intense pain all over my body, from my head to my legs. One of them started kicking me in the artery behind the ear. At that moment, I thought I was going to die.

After a few minutes, two of the cops dragged me to the city police station. I tried to explain to them that I hadn’t done anything, but when I tried to speak they started punching me in the stomach… I saw that every detainee they brought into the station, they would slam his head against the door. I tried to keep my head away from the door as I didn’t want a scar that would stay with me for life but they still tried to slam my head against the door.

When we entered the station, we continued straight and turned left through a doorway. One of the officers immediately started cursing me and my family, and another slapped my face. There were a lot of detainees in the room, and I was shocked to see that they looked like prisoners of war: They were forced to sit on the floor, with their legs folded under their bodies and their heads held down. One masked officer was walking around the room with an object in his hand – I couldn’t tell if it was a club or something else – but everyone who raised his head was hit on the head with this object. They pushed me down into a corner and I lowered my head and curled up. Nevertheless, the same police officer hit me hard on the head with that object.

Seconds later I felt a great pain in my head, I saw that there was a large amount of blood coming down from a head wound, and I felt very dizzy… When they saw this, the police dragged me out, and ordered me to put my head under a tap of water. I told them I wouldn’t put my head under the tap because it would aggravate the pain and aggravate the bleeding, that they are also not doctors, and I didn’t need diagnosis by cops but rather professional medical treatment. One of the cops told me to shut up and hit me on the stomach. I felt threatened so I followed his orders and put just part of my head under the tap, so that it wouldn’t harm the wound. The officer then told me to “put my whole head under the faucet”, held me by the neck, and forced me to put the wound under the faucet.

A few minutes later two paramedics came to me. As soon as they saw me, they immediately decided to take me to the hospital… When the ambulance arrived, the officer who hit me in the head demanded to explain to the paramedics what had happened. I replied that the officer had beaten me with some object, but the officer – in an attempt to cover up my accusation – rejected my explanation and said, “Wrong. You were hit by a rock” [thrown during the demonstration]. I replied that I was not at the demonstration at all, and that police had in fact photographed me at the entrance to the station without any wounds and without bleeding, so it could be seen that I was therefore wounded only after being brought into the station.

That night I was released from hospital directly home rather than back to the police station. I couldn’t sleep for two nights because of the pain and dizziness. I couldn’t eat because of pain from the blows to my stomach. If I tried to eat, I would start vomiting. My chin hurt and I couldn’t speak well. It was the first time I had been arrested, an arrest that I believe was illegal, pointless, and very violent. Since then, I have not been summoned to the police station for any questioning or to provide testimony.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Army Demolishes Two Agricultural Pools, Bulldozes Road, In Northern Plains

Israeli soldiers demolished, Tuesday, two agricultural pools and an agricultural road in Bardala village, in the Northern Plains of the occupied West Bank.

The soldiers surrounded the village before invading it, and proceeded to bulldoze and destroy an agricultural road, in addition to demolishing a 250 cubic/meter agricultural pool.

The soldiers also demolished a 1000 square/meter agricultural pool, owned by Mohammad Hosni Sawafta. The pool was granted to the Sawafta by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture.

It is worth mentioning that the army invaded the village a week ago, and ordered the Palestinians to demolish the pools within 96 hours.

The Palestinians were trying to appeal the decision, but the army went ahead and demolished the pools.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Israeli Army Demolishes A Barn And A Shed, Near Hebron

Israeli soldiers invaded, Tuesday, the Masafer Yatta, in the Hebron governorate, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank, before demolishing a barn and a shed.

Rateb Jabour, the coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committees in southern Hebron Hills, said the soldiers surrounded the ar-Rakeez area, east of Yatta town, south of Hebron, and invaded it.

He added that the soldiers demolished a barn, owned by Mohammad Issa Rib’ey, in the Tiwani village, and a shed, owned by Fadel Rabba’ al-Amour in the ar-Rakeez area.

Jabour stated the attack is part of ongoing violations carried out by Israeli soldiers and colonialist settlers in the area, targeting the residents, their homes and structures, as well as their livelihood amidst the illegal Israeli policies of building and expanding the colonies on stolen Palestinian lands.

In related news, the soldiers demolished two agricultural pools and an agricultural road in Bardala village, in the Northern Plains of the occupied West Bank.

On Monday, the soldiers demolished ten structures in the al-Mo’arrajat area, north of Jericho, in northeastern West Bank.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Three Palestinian Detainees Injured During Israeli Assault In Megiddo Prison

RAMALLAH, Tuesday, June 08, 2021 (WAFA) – Three Palestinian prisoners were injured with rubber-coated metal bullets when the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) stormed Section (7) of the Israeli Megiddo prison, according to sources.

The Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported that the IPS stormed Section 7 in the Megiddo Prison, and carried out a massive violent operation, during which they fired rubber-coated metal bullets at the prisoners, sprayed them with gas, and assaulted them before transferring a number of them to solitary confinement cells.

The Commission and the PPS confirmed that, according to the families of the prisoners, who were able to visit them today, the signs of the barbaric assault they were subjected to, were clear to them.

The authority explained that the IPS has transferred the general director of Fatah prisoners, Ezz El-Din Al-Attar, to Megiddo’s cells.

The PPS confirmed that this operation was the most violent in 10 years, as the IPS escalated the process of repression and incursions, which constitute the most prominent systematic abusive methods it uses with the aim of imposing more control over the prisoners and torturing them.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Army Abducts Eleven Palestinians, Injures Many, In West Bank

Israeli soldiers abducted, on Tuesday at dawn, at least eleven Palestinians, including former political prisoners, and injured several, in many parts of the occupied West Bank, including the occupied capital, Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, the soldiers invaded and searched many homes in Husan village, west of the city, and the Deheishe refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, and abducted five Palestinians.

The Bethlehem office of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said the soldiers abducted Mohammad Rauf Abu Yabis, 22, and Qussai Adli Hamamra, 22, from Husan, in addition to Ali Mohammad Musleh, 48, Ahmad Izzat Abu Dayya, 23, and a former political prisoner, identified as Ghassan Ibrahim Zawahra, 33, from the Deheishe refugee camp.

Protests took place after the soldiers invaded the Deheishe refugee camp before the soldiers shot and moderately injured a young man with a live round in the leg, in addition to causing many Palestinians to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation.

In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers invaded Beit Rima town, northwest of the city, and abducted a former political prisoner, identified as Mohammad Huda al-Asmar, after storming and searching his home.

The soldiers also abducted a former political prisoner, identified as Yousef Odah, from his home in Deir Ammar village, west of Ramallah.

In Nablus, in northern West Bank, the soldiers invaded Beit Iba town, west of the city, and abducted Anas al-Khanfa from his home, in addition to storming and ransacking the home of a political prisoner, identified as Ahmad Awwad, in Nablus city.

Furthermore, the soldiers invaded and ransacked several homes in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem, before abducting Oraib Mohsin Abu Khdeir, Mohammad Walid Abu Khdeir, and Saif Abu Khdeir.

The soldiers also invaded Qarawat Bani Hassan village, west of the central West Bank city of Salfit, before storming and ransacking many homes, causing damage, in addition to removing and confiscating Palestinian flags and pictures of the late president Yasser Arafat.

Owners of some of the invaded homes have been identified as Adeeb Rayyan, Sa’id Mer’ey, Sa’ad Mer’ey, Othman Ribhi ‘Aassi, Ahmad ‘Aassi, Hammam Salloum, and Hotheifa Awad.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Palestinian Family Forced to Demolish Home in Jerusalem

The Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem ordered the demolition of a Palestinian-owned home in occupied East Jerusalem, leaving a family of five people displaced, the Palestinian WAFA News Agency reported.

Mohannad Basheer, a Palestinian resident of the Jabal al-Mukaber neighborhood in East Jerusalem was forced, on Tuesday, to demolish his family’s home in order to avoid unreasonable fines of more than $18,000 if the Israeli municipality were to demolish the house.

Basheer began to tear down his 150-square-meter home with light tools and his own hands in an effort to knock down the retaining walls.


According to Article 17 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.


In related news, Israeli forces stormed, on Tuesday, Masafer Yatta, in the Hebron governorate, in the southern occupied West Bank, before demolishing a barn and a shed.

Furthermore, on Monday, soldiers demolished ten structures in the al-Mo’arrajat area, north of Jericho, in northeastern West Bank.

The army demolished, Tuesday, two agricultural pools and a road in Bardala village, in the Northern Plains of the occupied West Bank.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Israel’s Attacks on Journalists in Jerusalem on Rise

June 8, 2021 (Anadolu Agency) – Recent months have seen more and more attacks by Israeli forces on journalists covering events in occupied East Jerusalem.

Most recently, Israeli police arrested Givara al-Budeiri of Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera and Palestinian activist Muna al-Kurd.

The tension began in the region at the end of April with Israeli forces’ raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The tension escalated into violence in the occupied West Bank and the areas inhabited by Israeli Arabs, and soon turned into an Israeli military operation against the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Journalists who have long been closely monitoring the violent events in the region have been targeted by Israeli forces. Media workers were hit with plastic bullets, tear-gassed, and even detained.

Israeli attacks targeting Gaza for 11 days ended with a cease-fire on May 21.

A statement by Palestine’s Information Ministry said journalists in Jerusalem were subjected to violence 35 times this May alone.

April 23

Rajai al-Khatib, a Palestinian cameraman working for a Jordanian TV channel, was shot in the foot with a rubber bullet while covering events around Damascus Gate in the Old City of occupied Jerusalem.

May 7

Four freelance photojournalists – Ata Awaisat, Salih az-Zegari, Bera Ebu Rauz, and Abdulgafur Zagir – were injured when Israeli forces attacked worshipers in the courtyard of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

May 8

Anadolu Agency Middle East News Editor Turgut Alp Boyraz, Anadolu Agency’s photojournalist Mustafa AlKharouf, and the agency’s cameraman Fayez Abu Rumaila were injured in an Israeli police raid on Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.

May 10

Rubber bullets and sound bombs used by Israeli forces hit journalists covering fanatical Jewish groups’ attempt to raid Al-Aqsa Mosque.

On May 10, when Anadolu Agency photojournalist Mustafa AlKharouf was shot in the chest for the second time with a rubber bullet, other journalists suffering Israeli attacks included freelance photojournalist Iyad at-Tawil, Rami al-Khatib from Jordan’s state TV, local Mean TV’s Misa Abu Ghazale, and journalists from other local media outlets Hiba Makkiye, Amir al-Khatib, Ali ad-Devani, Liva Abu Armile, Esid Amarine, and Muhammad Samrin.

May 18

When Latifah Abdul Latiff, a Palestinian journalist working for Al Jazeera, was trying to record the detention of a child and a young person during protests in occupied East Jerusalem, the Israeli police attacked her and took her headscarf off.

Journalist Rama Yousef, working for the Jordan’s TV channel Al-Ghad, was covering a protest in front of the Damascus Gate when he was shot in the foot by Israeli police with a rubber bullet.

May 27

Palestine’s Al-Qafiyah television reporter Ziynet al-Halawani and cameraman Wahbi Mekkiye were detained by the Israeli police while they were following a protest in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in support of the Palestinians.

Mekkiye was beaten up and injured when he was detained by the Israeli police. The journalists were released five days later.

June 5

The Israeli police attacked an Al Jazeera team covering a sit-in in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in support of Palestinians being forcibly removed from their homes.

Israeli police detained Al Jazeera TV channel correspondent Givara al-Budeiri for a few hours, and released her with a ban on her entry in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood for 15 days.

Israeli police also assaulted Al Jazeera cameraman Nabil Mazzawi and broke his camera.

June 6

Palestinian activist and journalist Muna al-Kurd, 23, and her brother Muhammad, who tried to tell the world about the wrongdoings and use of excessive force by Israel, were detained in a raid on their house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. Al-Kurd was later released.

Palestinian activists, including al-Kurd and her brother Muhammad, launched a campaign on Twitter with the #SaveSheikhJarrah hashtag to make the world aware of what has been happening in Sheikh Jarrah.

Al Jazeera reporter Najwan Simri got his leg injured the same day as Israeli forces dispersed demonstrations in East Jerusalem.

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Israeli ambassadors to South Africa say Israel practices ‘Apartheid’ against Palestinians

Israeli ambassadors to South Africa have said that ‘Israel’ practices ‘Apartheid’ against Palestinians, calling the world to recognize that what happened in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too.

In an article they wrote in the GroundUp, the two Israeli ambassadors, Ilan Baruch and Alon Liel, said that the occupation state of ‘Israel’ “has worked to change both the geography and the demography of the West Bank through the construction of settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

The ambassadors also said that ‘Israel’ has “advanced projects” to connect the illegal settlements to its proper “through intensive investment in infrastructure development, and a vast network of highways and water and electricity infrastructure have turned the settlement enterprise into a comfortable version of suburbia.”

“This has happened alongside the expropriation and takeover of massive amounts of Palestinian land, including Palestinian home evictions and demolitions,” they wrote.

“That is, settlements are built and expanded at the expense of Palestinian communities, which are forced onto smaller and smaller tracts of land.”

Ilan Baruch served as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, and Alon Liel served as Israeli Ambassador to South Africa and as Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ambassadors said that during their careers in the foreign service, they “learned firsthand about the reality of apartheid and the horrors it inflicted. But more than that – the experience and understanding we gained in South Africa helped us to understand the reality at home.”

The ambassadors said that the reality which they have seen in ‘Israel’ reminds them of what the former Ambassador Avi Primor described in his autobiography about a trip that he took with then-Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon to South Africa in the early 1980s.

“During the visit, Sharon expressed great interest in South Africa’s bantustan project. Even a cursory look at the map of the West Bank leaves little doubt regarding where Sharon received his inspiration,” they wrote.

“The West Bank today consists of 165 “enclaves” – that is, Palestinian communities encircled by territory taken over by the settlement enterprise.”

“In 2005, with the removal of settlements from Gaza and the beginning of the siege, Gaza became simply another enclave – a bloc of territory without autonomy, surrounded largely by Israel and thus effectively controlled by Israel as well,” they continued.

The ambassadors wrote that the bantustans of South Africa under the apartheid regime and the map of the occupied Palestinian territories today are “predicated on the same idea of concentrating the “undesirable” population in as small an area as possible, in a series of non-contiguous enclaves.”

They added, “By gradually driving these populations from their land and concentrating them into dense and fractured pockets, both South Africa then and Israel today worked to thwart political autonomy and true democracy.”

“It is clearer than ever that the occupation is not temporary, and there is not the political will in the Israeli government to bring about its end.”

“Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Israel has crossed a threshold and its actions in the occupied territories now meet the legal definition of the crime of apartheid under international law.”

The ambassadors stated that “Israel is the sole sovereign power that operates in this land, and it systematically discriminates on the basis of nationality and ethnicity.”

“Such a reality is, as we saw ourselves, apartheid,” they said.

“It is time for the world to recognize that what we saw in South Africa decades ago is happening in the occupied Palestinian territories too,” the ambassadors added.

“And just as the world joined the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, it is time for the world to take decisive diplomatic action in our case as well and work towards building a future of equality, dignity, and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”

(Source / 08.06.2021)

Activists clean sites visited by Israeli ambassador to Morocco, hang Palestinian flags

Rabat (QNN)- Pro-Palestine activists in Morocco have launched a campaign to “clean up” all sites visited by Israeli ambassador to the country, calling to “expel the representative of the occupation power.”

Moroccan Assahifa website reported recently that owners of apartment compounds in Morocco’s capital, Rabat, refused to rent out flats to David Govrin, the head of Israel’s liaison office in Morocco.

“The agency hired to find accommodation for Govrin found an appropriate residence in a residential compound in an upscale area in Rabat, and Govrin agreed and thought that the flat had the required security measures,” reported the newspaper.

“However, the problem was that the owners categorically refused to rent their properties to the Israeli diplomat as soon as they knew who he was.”

The newspaper also reported that according to a Moroccan source, the same thing “happened in other residential compounds in the same area”.

“Flat owners in the Zu’air Road residences preferred from the beginning to stay away from the controversy and the security pressures expected to be imposed on the neighbours if they agreed to lease a flat to David Govrin,” the source said.

The Israeli diplomat is currently staying in a Rabat hotel, Assahifa reported.

The pro-Palestine activists apparently followed Govrin’s social media accounts, and identified the places he visited based on the pictures which were uploaded.

They then appear to have visited the same locations to post pictures of “cleaning” the sites he visited and hanging Palestinian flags using the hashtag in Arabic “expel the representative of the occupation power.”

The activists launched the campaign in protest against their government’s normalization with the occupation state of ‘Israel’.

Morocco is the fourth Arab country to normalize ties with the occupation state under the Abraham Accords, a pact brokered by the United States, after the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan normalized the ties.

Last January, ‘Israel’ appointed the former ambassador to Cairo, Govrin, as its chargé d’affaires in Morocco.

Rabat agreed to re-establish ties with the occupation state in return for the US’ recognition of its sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

Palestinians condemned the normalization agreements, saying they encouraged Israel’s denial of their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.

(Source / 08.06.2021)