Associated Press ‘yet to receive evidence’ of Hamas presence in Gaza building

By Ali Harb in Washington

The Associated Press has not seen any evidence that the Palestinian movement Hamas used the building which housed its offices in Gaza before it was bombed by Israel last month.

AP issued a statement on Tuesday after Gilad Erdan, the Israeli envoy to the US and UN, visited the news agency’s New York headquarters and posted photos on Twitter with the company’s president Gary Pruitt.

Read More: Israel’s crackdown on journalists slammed by major international press association

Erdan said the meeting was meant to “explain to top executives that the building housing their Gaza operation was being used by Hamas terrorists trying to jam the Iron Dome,” Israel’s missile defence system.

But Lauren Easton, an AP spokesperson, said the Israeli government did not present proof to back the assertion.

Read More: Israeli airstrike flattens building housing Al Jazeera, AP offices in Gaza

“Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat. We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims,” Eaton told Middle East Eye in an email.

“AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public.”

‘Positive and constructive’ meeting

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Erdan said Israel was “willing to assist” the AP rebuild its offices in Gaza.

“AP is one of the most important news agencies in the world and Israel does not suspect its employees were aware a covert Hamas unit was using the building in this way,” he wrote.

On 15 May, during its offensive on Gaza, the Israeli army bombed the al-Jalaa tower housing the bureaus of the AP, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye and other news outlets. It gave journalists a one-hour notice to evacuate the building.

The attack drew condemnations from press freedom advocates. Pruitt, at the time, said that the agency was “shocked and horrified” by the Israeli air strikes.

On Tuesday, Eaton described AP’s meeting with the Israeli diplomat as a “positive and constructive conversation”.

“The Associated Press appreciates the opportunity to meet with Ambassador Erdan to discuss the attack on the building housing our Gaza bureau and Israel’s support for our efforts to rebuild the bureau,” she said.

The administration of US President Joe Biden had refused to denounce the attack. Instead, American officials merely expressed “concern” for the safety of journalists at the time.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli authorities had shared information about alleged Hamas activity in the building with Washington through intelligence channels.

However, he was evasive when asked whether he thought the attack was justified during an interview with Axios on HBO.

“Any country would defend itself, and Israel has the right,” Blinken said. 

“However, having said that, Israel as a democracy I think has an added burden to make sure it is doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. And that’s what is expected of us. It’s expected of Israel.”

Israel targeted several high-rise buildings in Gaza in last month’s offensive. Israeli air strikes killed more than 256 Palestinians, including dozens of children, while rockets fired by Hamas and other groups killed 12 people in Israel.

Emily Wilder sacking 

The bombing of the media tower in Gaza sparked a campaign by right-wing politicians and commentators against AP, with prominent Republican Senator Tom Cotton suggesting that the news agency was colluding with Hamas.

“Why is the Associated Press sharing a building with Hamas? Surely these intrepid reporters knew who their neighbours were,” Cotton said on the floor of the Senate last month.

“Did they knowingly allow themselves to be used as human shields by a US-designated terrorist organization? Did the AP pull its punches and decline to report for years on Hamas’s misdeeds?”

The campaign also targeted Emily Wilder, a junior Arizona-based AP reporter, over her past advocacy for Palestinian rights. The news agency subsequently sacked the journalist.

AP maintains that Wilder was fired over social media posts she had written during her brief tenure at the agency that violated AP’s policies. 

But Wilder insists that her firing was in response to the campaign targeting her, saying that she was turned into a “scapegoat” by AP.

“This is heartbreaking as a young journalist so hungry to learn from the fearless investigative reporting of AP journalists – and do that reporting myself,” the journalist said in a statement last month.

“It’s terrifying as a young woman who was hung out to dry when I needed support from my institution most. And it’s enraging as a Jewish person – who grew up in a Jewish community, attended Orthodox schooling and devoted my college years to studying Palestine and Israel – that I could be defamed as antisemitic and thrown under the bus in the process.”

(Source / 09.06.2021)

Israeli bulldozers raze agricultural road south of Hebron

Days of Palestine – Hebron – Israeli occupation vehicles today, Wednesday, razed an agricultural street in Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron.

Local sources said that the Israeli occupation forces bulldozed the agricultural road linking Yatta and Khallet al-Daba with Masafer Yatta, in preparation for the confiscation of Palestinian lands in favor of settlement projects.

Read More: To expand an illegal settlement, Israel levels a large tract of Palestinian land south of Hebron

The Israeli occupation notified that the street would be leveled about a week ago, to prevent citizens from communicating between the villages.

Coordinator of the Popular Anti-Wall and Settlement Committees in Southern Hebron, Rateb al-Jabour, said that the Israeli forces escorted bulldozers to the area, where the heavy machineries destroyed the road, which was established in 2019 and used to connect the Yatta and Khillet al-Dabe‘ towns to Masafer Yatta.

Read More: Breaking | Israeli forces execute Palestinian in Hebron

He pointed that the move was intended to further fragment the Palestinian communities making up the area as a prelude to seizing their lands in favor of colonial settlement expansion.

Masafer Yatta is a collection of almost 19 hamlets that rely heavily on animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood.

Located in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli administrative and military control, the area has been subjected to repeated Israeli violations by settlers and soldiers targeting their main source of living – livestock.

It has been designated as a closed Israeli military zone for training since the 1980s and accordingly referred to as Firing Zone 918.

Israeli violations against the area include the demolition of animal barns, homes, and residential structures. Issuance of construction permits by Israel to local Palestinians in the area is non-existent.

(Source / 09.06.2021)

Israeli forces launch campaign of arrests in West Bank and Jerusalem

Days of Palestine – Ramallah – The Israeli occupation forces today, Wednesday (9-6), launched a campaign of raids and incursions into separate areas of the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem, during which they arrested a number of citizens, including a Hamas leader and ex-prisoners.

In Tubas, the Israeli occupation forces arrested a Hamas leader, Nader Sawafta (47 years), after brutally storming his house, in addition to the ex-prisoner, Osaid Shafiq Kharaz (33 years).

Read More: Israeli forces launch campaign of arrest in West Bank and Jerusalem

Local sources reported that three young men were wounded by live bullets, one of them seriously, during clashes that erupted in the city after the Israeli occupation forces stormed, who fired live bullets and poison gas canisters at the youths.

In Ramallah, the Israeli occupation forces arrested from Umm Safa village, northwest of the governorate four Palestinian including a high school student.

Read More: Massive campaign of arrests in the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem

Israeli occupation also arrested Abd al-Karim Ziada (60 years), after raiding his house and tampering with its contents in the town of Beitunia, west of Ramallah.

In the Ramallah governorate, the Israeli forces arrested Mr. Farid Murra from his home in the Al-Tira neighborhood. They also arrested the ex-prisoner, Islam Nimr, from the Al-Amari camp in the city.

In the same context, the Israeli occupation forces arrested the ex-prisoner, Osaid Shtayyeh, from the village of Salem, east of Nablus, while he was in the city of Ramallah; While the two young men, Thamin Hamdan and Nazem Shtayyeh were arrested after raiding their homes in the village and then released.

In Hebron, the Israeli occupation forces arrested the young Adam Banat and the child Ahmed Abu Sharar (13 years), after raiding their homes in the Al-Aroub refugee camp, north of Hebron.

In Bethlehem, the Israeli occupation forces arrested the young Riad Al-Amour, after raiding and searching his father’s house in the town of Taqu`, southeast of Bethlehem.

In occupied Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation forces arrested two young men, Fouad Al-Rajabi and Muhammad Al-Rajabi, from the Batn Al-Hawa neighborhood in the town of Silwan.

Separate areas of the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem witness daily incursions by the Israeli occupation forces, including raids and searches of homes, sabotaging their contents, and terrorizing their residents, especially women and children.

(Source / 09.06.2021)

Israeli forces raid, close leading health organization headquarters in al-Bireh

Days of Palestine – Ramallah – Israeli occupation forces dawn Wednesday raided the main headquarters of a leading health organization in the occupied West Bank city of al-Bireh and ordered the place to be shut down.

General Manager of the Health Work Committees (HWC), Shatha Odeh, said that the heavily-armed Israeli soldiers smashed the main door of HWC headquarters and barged their way inside, tampering with and damaging most of its contents and seizing four computers, before posting a military order to close the building for six months, renewable.

Read More: Report: Israel destroys 500 housing and 52 government headquarters

She added that the Israeli decision to close the organization comes under flimsy security pretexts while noting that this is the second time the headquarters was raided during the last two months.

On March 8, Israeli soldiers ransacked HWC premises and seized the hard discs of seven computers and other documents before leaving.

Read More: Ministry of Health condemns Israeli deliberate targeting of health institutions

Odeh pledged that HWC will continue to carry out its work even if it has to look for another place.

Established in 1985 by a group of Palestinian volunteers working in the health sector, HWC is a non-governmental health and development organization that strives to meet the health care needs of the Palestinian population living under the Israeli occupation, particularly the poor and the marginalized.

HWC services benefit over 400,000 beneficiaries, with the services provided by its 270 full-time employees and over 150 part-time and contracted medical professionals in 17 health centers and clinics throughout the West Bank. These centers range from small clinics to a day surgery hospital that provides health services through general medicine, laboratory, radiology, surgery, and specialties.

(Source / 09.06.2021)

Israeli forces open fire at farmers in Gaza with live bullets

Days of Palestine – Gaza – The Israeli occupation forces Wednesday morning, opened fire at the border agricultural lands, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.

Local sources reported that the Israeli occupation forces opened fire from the “Kissufim” bush military post towards agricultural lands, east of the town of Qarara.

Read More: Palestinian succumbed to being shot by Israel’s bullets in Ramallah

They explained that this coincided with the shooting of the Israeli occupation forces towards the lands east of the town of Khuza’a, forcing the farmers to run away.

No injuries were reported.

Read More: Israeli forces deny access of farmers to their land in Bethlehem

Israel does not allow Palestinians to reach their lands along the Gaza border with Israel and often infiltrates the borders to either destroy the land and level it or to build dirt mounds causing serious damage to fertile agricultural land.

The Israeli occupation army regularly opens fire at people near the border fence with Gaza, including farmers attending to their land, in order to keep them as far from the border as possible.

(Source / 09.06.2021)

138 Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa Mosque

Days of Palestine – Jerusalem – Israeli settlers today, Wednesday, stormed the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, under the protection of the Israeli occupation police.

The Department of Islamic Endowments in occupied Jerusalem stated that 78 settlers and 60 Jewish students stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque and carried out provocative tours.

Read More: Dozens of Israeli settlers storm Al-Aqsa

They added that the settlers, in groups, stormed the mosque’s courtyards from the Mughrabi Gate, and received explanations about the alleged “temple”.

Settlers storm the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on all days of the week, except on Saturdays and Fridays, and perform Talmudic rituals and act provocatively that is not befitting the sanctity of the mosque.

Read More: Israeli settlers storm the courtyards of Al-Aqsa

(Source / 09.06.2021)