Israel Approves West Bank Residency for 4,000 Undocumented Palestinians

Israeli soldiers check a Palestinian woman as she waits to cross the Qalandiya checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem, to attend the second Friday prayers in the al-Aqsa mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 23, 2021

Asharq Al-Awsat – Israel announced on Tuesday that it approved registration as West Bank residents for some 4,000 Palestinians who have been living for years in the Israeli-occupied territory without official status.

The decision affects 2,800 former inhabitants of the Gaza Strip who left the enclave after the Hamas movement seized it in internal Palestinian fighting in 2007, Israel’s COGAT liaison office to the Palestinians said.

Some 1,200 other Palestinians, among them undocumented spouses and children of West Bank residents, will also receive official standing.

Inclusion in the Palestinian Population Registry, which Israel controls, will enable the group to receive identification cards. The documentation will enable passage through Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank, an area captured in a 1967 war.

Israel describes the roadblocks, condemned by Palestinians and rights groups as restricting freedom of movement, as a security necessity.

On Twitter, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he approved the 4,000 residency registrations as a humanitarian gesture and “as part of my policy to strengthen the economy and improve the lives of Palestinians” in the West Bank.

Hussein Al Sheikh, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, said on Twitter that the 4,000 “obtained their right to citizenship” and would receive identification cards.

Under interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals that established the PA, Israel committed to approve the residency in the West Bank and Gaza of some 4,000 new spouses of local residents each year under a family reunification program.

Israel suspended the approvals when the Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. It granted some 32,000 reunification permits in 2008 and 2009, but largely froze the process, save for a smattering of humanitarian cases, since then.

Gantz gave the new approvals some seven weeks after holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. It was the highest-level meeting between Abbas and an Israeli minister to be made public since Israel’s new government was formed in June.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a far-right politician, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, a divisive issue his cross-partisan government is unlikely to pursue. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

(Source / 19.10.2021)

Israeli settlers attack village south of Hebron

Illegal Israeli occupation settlers on Saturday attacked the village of al-Tuwanah, in the area of Masafer Yatta in the occupied West Bank district of Hebron, said a local source.

Fo’ad Omour, an official who monitors Israeli settlement activities in the area, told the official WAFA news agency that Jewish settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Havat Maon, escorted by an army force, stormed the village, attacked several homes and shouted profanities at local residents, who fended off the attack.

Read More: Settlers attack Palestinian vehicles south of Nablus

Yesterday, residents of the nearby village of Susya thwarted a similar attack by settlers which targeted their homes in the village.

Settler violence is commonplace across the occupied West Bank, and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities as the Palestinian Authority has no jurisdiction over Israeli Jewish settlers.

Read More: Jewish settlers attack Palestinians homes in Hebron

Palestinians and rights groups have repeatedly blamed Israel for fostering a culture of impunity for Jewish settlers committing acts of violence against Palestinians.

(Source / 14.06.2020)

Arab League to Meet over Israeli Annexation Plans

A general view shows the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 7, 2019

The Arab League said Monday it will convene an urgent virtual meeting this week to discuss Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The extraordinary meeting — scheduled for Thursday at the request of the Palestinian leadership — will bring together Arab foreign ministers via video conference, rather than a face-to-face meeting, due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Arab League’s deputy secretary Hossam Zaki said the ministers will “discuss in their virtual meeting providing political, legal and financial support to the Palestinian leadership to confront the Israeli plans”.

It comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz signed a deal for a unity government that could accelerate the premier’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank in the coming months.

Those Israeli plans — while subject to caveats, including the need to maintain “regional stability” and uphold the peace agreement with Jordan — have drawn wide criticism including from the United Nations and the European Union.

Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit had last week sent a message to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warning against Israel’s plans saying they risk “igniting tension in the region”.

He also accused Israel of “exploiting the world’s preoccupation with the novel coronavirus to impose a new reality on the ground”.

Netanyahu voiced confidence on Sunday that Washington would give Israel the nod within two months to move ahead with de facto annexation of parts of the West Bank.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a decision regarding the annexation of West Bank territories was up to Israel’s new unity government.

Earlier this year, the US unveiled the so-called deal of the century, a controversial Middle East peace plan that would allow Israel to retain control of the contested city of Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and annex Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands including in the West Bank.

Arab states rejected Trump’s plan, saying it favored Israel and failed to grant Palestinians their minimum rights.

The Palestinians as well as the European Union have likewise criticized the plan, saying it effectively closes the door to a two-state solution in the Middle East.

(Source / 27.04.2020) 

Palestinian PM Prepares Legislation Ensuring Social Equality for Women

A woman walks past a mural in Gaza City

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has pledged to issue legislation that aims to empower women and allow them to enjoy social equality.

“The Palestinian woman plays a great role in the development process in the local community,” he said in a recorded speech on the occasion of International Women’s Day, which is celebrated on March 8.

“We are proud of the levels women have reached in professions. They have become doctors, engineers, writers, entrepreneurs and business women.”

Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee Saeb Erekat recalled stages of the Palestinian women’s struggle in the Palestinian Territories.

He saluted women held in Israeli prisons and mothers of the martyrs, expressing Palestine’s pride in them and their sacrifices to achieve “the legitimate rights of our people to gain sovereignty of the state according to the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates said Israeli occupation is the main obstacle hindering women from achieving their rights and self-reliance and integrating in the development process of their society.

The ministry stressed the importance of immediate cessation of all measures that are inconsistent with international law, as well as discriminatory legislation, policies and procedures committed by Israel against Palestinian women and girls, who are the most affected by its policies, crimes and racist practices.

It noted that in 2019, nine Palestinian women and 28 children were killed by Israeli forces. A total of 732 women and 227 girls were injured in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

Since March 30, 2018, more than 2,000 women and 600 children were injured during the peaceful return marches in the Gaza Strip. Some inhaled tear gas and others were hit by live or rubber bullets fired by the Israeli troops.

(Source / 08.03.2020) 

Palestinian Authority Announces West Bank Tourism Ban Over Coronavirus

A visitor wearing a mask as a preventive measure against the coronavirus takes pictures in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 5, 2020

The Palestinians announced a two-week ban on tourists visiting cities and sites in the occupied West Bank Thursday, after the first suspected cases of coronavirus in the territory.

The two-week restriction, announced by the Palestinian Tourism Ministry, goes into effect on Friday.

The church of the nativity, built on the Bethlehem location revered as the birthplace of Jesus, is among the sites expected to be closed off until March 20.

“We have decided to prevent the entry of tourists for a period of 14 days and to prevent hotels in all cities from receiving foreigners,” tourism minister Rula Maayah told AFP.

A church official confirmed the planned closure.

“We respect the authorities’ decision because safety comes first,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The decision followed the first suspected cases in the West Bank of the disease, which has spread rapidly across the globe since emanating from China.

The Palestinian health ministry announced a number of suspected cases had been detected at a hotel in the Bethlehem area.

The head of the local health directorate, Imad Shahadeh, told AFP that a group of Greek tourists had visited the hotel in late February, with two later discovered to have the virus.

Four suspected cases have been identified among hotel workers, with full confirmation expected later Thursday, he said.

Palestinian health officials said they were examining whether four hotel workers in Bethlehem had contracted the disease from tourists who stayed there.

Police surrounded the hotel, as authorities awaited the results of laboratory tests.

Israel controls all entrances to the West Bank from the Jewish state but the Palestinian government has limited autonomy in cities.

(Source / 05.03.2020) 

Israeli Troops Shoot Dead Palestinian in West Bank

A Palestinian man was shot and killed on Monday during clashes with Israeli forces in the south of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry and medics said.

Palestinian medical sources identified the man as 22-year-old Omar al-Badawi, who was hit in the chest with live fire before being taken to Ahali hospital in the nearby city of Hebron, where he was pronounced dead.

The Israeli army did not immediately comment on the incident at Al Arroub refugee camp.

The clashes came as Palestinians in the West Bank marked the 15th anniversary of the death of former president Yasser Arafat.

Medics also reported Israeli use of live fire in clashes at Fawwar, south of Hebron.

(Source / 11.11.2019) 

Israeli Study Suggests Accommodation with Hamas Rather than Escalation

Palestinians run as smoke rises following what police said was an Israeli air strike on a Hamas post, in the northern Gaza Strip

An Israeli study published by Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) suggested there are three scenarios for Israel to deal the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, with the best option lying in accommodating with it.

According to the study prepared by the two Israeli researchers, Kobi Michael and Yohanan Tzoreff, the first scenario is the continuation of the status quo with neither escalation nor calm and with escalation followed by calm.

The second scenario, they said, is a gradual military escalation against Hamas, leading to comprehensive war. While the third is a broader and longer-term accommodation with Hamas.

The study concluded that the chances of understanding and settlement between Israel and Hamas are the most likely, pointing out that Israel faces a serious dilemma regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip, especially the behavior it is supposed to adopt towards Hamas.

“Although it (Israel) seeks to provide calm in the Strip by reaching a settlement with Hamas in return for easing the siege there, this settlement requires that Hamas retain the ability to govern and restrain factions seeking to foil prospects for calm,” the study noted.

Practically, Israel does not seek to end Hamas’ rule in Gaza, but wants it to continue since this prolongs the division with the West Bank and Fatah. However, the problem lies in the movement’s ongoing development of its military capabilities.

“These indicators raise the following question: Does the weakening of Hamas serve Israel as a prelude to the Palestinian Authority’s return to Gaza Strip?” asked Tzoreff.

It is doubtful the PA will try to regain control of the Strip as long as there is no political breakthrough in relations with Israel and since such a move would be perceived as enabled by Israeli aggression, he remarked.

The PA had previously rejected such proposals “to overthrow Hamas and return to the Strip.”

Hamas in turn, is facing its own dilemma in regards to fulfilling the civic responsibilities of governance in Gaza and in combating Israel.

It has sought to open channels of communication with regional and international countries to explain its contradictory stance that refuses to recognize Israel and is yet not opposed to striking agreements with it.

(Source / 10.11.2019) 

Series of Israeli Raids Against Gaza in Response to Rockets Launched From Strip

Relatives of Palestinian youth Ahmed al-Shehri, who was killed in the Israeli raids on Saturday, November 2, 2019

Israel has launched a series of raids targeting various locations in the Gaza Strip. The attacks came in response to a rocket barrage fired earlier from the Strip into Israeli towns and settlements.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said Ahmed al-Shehri, 27, was killed during pre-dawn attacks on areas west of Khan Younis on Saturday.

Two other Palestinians sustained moderate or serious shrapnel wounds from one of the strikes, according to the ministry.

The rockets and raids were launched one day after new clashes erupted as part of the “March of Return” demonstrations near the Strip’s border with Israel.

They resulted in wounding more than 90 Palestinians on Friday, including 50 with bullets, according to the Hamas-led Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip.

“Israeli warplanes attacked a wide array of targets, including a military compound belonging to the naval forces of Hamas group, a military compound belonging to the organization’s air defense system, a missile simulator, training facilities, an arms manufacturing site, and a military compound used as a weapons storehouse,” the army said in a statement.

Ten rockets were fired into Israel in two separate barrages on Friday night, the army noted, adding that one projectile slammed into a house in the town of Sderot, while the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted eight other rockets.

This was the second night in a row that rockets were fired from the Strip into Israeli territory, following a six-week truce.

The videos released by the army showed the moment of bombing sites in the Strip in open lands.

The Israeli army held Hamas accountable for the rocket fire from Gaza, while Hamas responded that the Israeli bombardment was a serious escalation against innocent civilians and would retaliate against the occupation.

Israel routinely holds Gaza’s Hamas rulers responsible for any violence emanating from the Strip.

(Source / 03.11.2019) 

Record Number of Demolitions of Palestinian Homes in Jerusalem

Fawzia stands on the ruins of her house, after her Palestinian ex-husband demolished the dwelling to not face the prospect of Israeli settlers moving in after he lost a land ownership case in Israeli courts, in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, July 19, 2018

Israeli authorities have demolished at least 140 Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem this year, rights group B’Tselem said Thursday, the highest annual number since it began keeping records in 2004.

B’Tselem said 238 Palestinians have lost their homes this year, including 127 minors. The second highest number of demolitions on record was in 2016, when 92 homes were demolished.

Last month another Israeli rights group, Peace Now, obtained official figures on building permits in east Jerusalem going back to 1991 that provided strong evidence of systematic discrimination against Palestinian residents.

While Palestinians make up more than 60 percent of the population of east Jerusalem, they had received just 30 percent of permits.

The Israeli military said Thursday that it demolished a partially-built structure in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Ramallah overnight.

It said the structure was being built on the site of the family home of a Palestinian who had killed an Israeli officer during an operation in May 2018.

It said the residence was demolished in December of that year, and that troops returned after they noticed that new construction was underway.

Israel says demolishing the family homes of alleged militants deters violence, while the Palestinians see it as a form of collective punishment.

(Source / 24.10.2019) 

Rohingya Refugees Agree Move to Bangladesh Island

Rohingya refugee girls carry metal pitchers with water at Balukhali makeshift refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, September 13, 2017

Thousands of Rohingya living in Bangladesh refugee camps have agreed to move to an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said Sunday, despite fears the site is prone to flooding.

Dhaka has long wanted to move 100,000 refugees to the muddy silt islet, saying it would take pressure off the overcrowded border camps where almost a million Rohingya live.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in August 2017 in the face of a military crackdown, joining 200,000 refugees already in makeshift tent settlements at Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh’s refugee commissioner, Mahbub Alam, said officials overseeing the relocation would be posted to Bhashan Char island in the next few days.

“Approximately 6,000-7,000 refugees have already expressed their willingness to be relocated to Bhashan Char,” Alam told AFP from Cox’s Bazar, adding that “the number is rising”.

He did not say when the refugees would be moved, but a senior Navy officer involved in building facilities on the island said it could start by December, with some 500 refugees sent daily.

Bangladesh had been planning since last year to relocate Rohingya to the desolate flood-prone site, which is an hour by boat from the mainland.

Rights groups have warned the island, which emerged from the sea only about two decades ago, might not be able to withstand violent storms during the annual monsoon season.

In the past half a century, powerful cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the Meghna river estuary where the island is located.

Rohingya leaders would be taken to Bhashan Char to view the facilities and living conditions, Alam said.

Safety facilities built on the island include a nine-feet (three-meter) high embankment along its perimeter to keep out tidal surges during cyclones, and a warehouse to store months-worth of rations, he added.

Rohingya father-of-four Nur Hossain, 50, said he and his family agreed to relocate to Bhashan Char after they were shown video footage of the shelters.

“I have agreed to go. The camp here (at Leda) is very overcrowded. There are food and housing problems,” the 50-year-old told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from the UN, although Bangladeshi officials said they expect a delegation would visit the island in the next few weeks.

(Source / 20.10.2019)