Palestine: Israeli Forces Conduct Manhunt for Ramallah Attackers

Israeli security forces search vehicles west of Ramallah

The Israeli army arrested two Palestinians as part of a large-scale manhunt for the attack that killed an Israeli woman and wounded two others in the West Bank.

The army arrested Ribhi Abu al-Safa and Mohammed Nayef Abu al-Safa from the village of Ein Arik after raiding and ransacking their homes. They also arrested former prisoner Israr Maarouf, who is a student at Birzeit University, from Ein Qinya. 

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper said the Ramallah operation was very disturbing to Israeli security as this type of attack was rare and unusual.

Israeli security sources said that five similar attacks were thwarted since the beginning of the year. 

The arrest came hours after chief of Israeli army Aviv Kochavi announced that security services were at an advanced stage of the search. Kochavi said significant efforts were being made in the intelligence field to quickly arrest the perpetrators.

Rina Shnerb, 17, was killed and her father and brother were seriously injured in a bombing at a natural spring outside the central West Bank settlement 

Israel Forces Spokesperson Ronen Manelis said the army considered the blast to be a “serious terror attack,” noting that the device may have been planted at night by Palestinians who knew the area well, detonated it remotely and then fled the scene.

Israeli forces sealed off main roads leading to the western Ramallah in the West Bank, deployed troops, and blocked major roads 

The youths were arrested after Israeli soldiers seized tapes from the street surveillance cameras installed by shop and homeowners in these villages.

The new operation reinforced Israeli fears of a gradual security deterioration leading to a possible popular uprising soon ahead of next month’s Israeli elections.

Israeli military officials have warned in recent weeks of an increase in attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as Israeli elections approach. 

Hamas praised the perpetrators of a bombing in the West Bank, saying it was a “proof of the vitality and bravery of the Palestinian people, and of the fact that it will not surrender to the crimes and terrorism of the occupation.” 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called it “a heroic attack,” though he claimed he was not aware as to who was responsible.

But it “shows that the default state in the West Bank is one of resistance, despite what our residents suffer there. The West Bank has strong people who are no less faithful and steadfast than their brethren in Gaza,” he said. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to arrest the perpetrators and intensify settlement activity in the West Bank in response to the attack. Meanwhile, the United States has called on the Palestinian Authority to explicitly condemn the attack.

US special envoy to the Mideast Jason Greenblatt described the attack as “savage” which killed an Israeli teenager who was with her family.

“This isn’t the path to peace, just endless suffering,” he tweeted. 

Greenblatt called on the Palestinian Authority (PA) to “unequivocally condemn this attack,” adding that “if they don’t, donor countries should demand the PA answer for why their donor funds continue to be used to reward attacks.”

The PA usually does not condemn any operations against Israeli soldiers or settlers inside the West Bank given that it is an occupied territory, but condemns operations in Israel. 

(Source / 25.08.2019) 

Abbas Hopes for Dialogue with New Israeli Government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets members of the Democratic Camp, including Noa Rothman, granddaughter of late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed his hope to resume dialogue with the new government that will be formed in Israel after the next elections.

Abbas, in a secret meeting with members of the Democratic Camp, including Noa Rothman – the granddaughter of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of refusing to meet with him several times in Moscow, referring to the invitation made by Russian President Vladimir Putin to both leaders.

Abbas strongly attacked Netanyahu, saying he had “repeatedly opposed the formation of a unity government with Hamas and the establishment of Palestinian internal reconciliation, but he immediately paid millions of dollars to Hamas.”

The meeting, which took place on Tuesday, was not published by the Palestinian official news agency, but was revealed by the Israeli channel 13, which broadcast images of Abbas receiving the Israeli delegation.

The meeting with Abbas was secretly organized, with the sole knowledge of the party chairman Ehud Barak, who supported the initiative to meet with the Palestinian Authority president.

Rothman asked Abbas to take steps to free Israeli citizen of Ethiopian origin Avera Mengistu, who is being held by Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian president promised to help.

Hamas immediately described the meeting as “suspicious” and said it was a form of normalization with Israel and disregard for Palestinian sacrifices.

The Democratic Camp seeks to attract voters from the Blue and White or Labor parties.

Relations between Netanyahu and Abbas are currently at their worst with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accusing the Israeli government of waging an open war on the Palestinian people.

Israel’s general elections are set for September 17.

(Source / 15.08.2019) 

Abbas Says Palestine For Canaanites…Outsiders Will Leave

PA President Mahmoud Abbas inspects Jalazone camp on Saturday, August 10, 2019 

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that outsiders will be deported from the Palestinian land to the “dustbin of history” because this land is for the Canaanites.

“We are the Canaanites,” he stressed.

Addressing the crown in Jalazone refugee camp in Ramallah, Abbas said the Palestinians will remain “steadfast, patient and resilient.”

“We will remain in our homeland, and the outsiders on this land has no right in this country. The land is for its inhabitants, this land is for the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago, and we are the Canaanites.”

Abbas’s rhetoric was sharp compared to his usual diplomatic speeches. He congratulated the masses on Eid al-Adha, hoping victory to be achieved by next year.

He praised the Palestinian people’s honorable stance and patience, especially as they haven’t received their full salaries for a quiet period of time now.

Abbas was referring to the deduction of half the salaries of civil servants for nearly six months now after Israel deducted money from Palestinian tax revenues as punishment for the PA for continuing to pay the martyrs and wounded.

The PA refused to receive deducted money and rejected any compromises.

“We won’t accept that our martyrs be labeled as terrorists,” Abbas noted, adding that they are martyrs of the homeland and ‘we will not accept the deduction of a penny from their money.”

He reiterated the Palestinian political position rejecting the US “Deal of the Century,” affirming that no meetings are accepted or attended without the Palestinians’ consent.

Abbass added that Jerusalem will remain Palestine’s capital, stressing that all Palestinians and Islamic and Christian Arab nation will visit this capital one day.

He urged Palestinians in Gaza Strip to end the division that only serves the enemy, adding that Hamas and its leaderships are working for the enemy, not for Palestine.

Palestinian unity should include Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank for the State of Palestine to have East Jerusalem as its eternal capital, Abbas further noted.

Abbas has earlier arrived in Jalazone camp and was briefed with the refugees’ conditions and needs. He visited the camp’s institutions and met its residents.

(Source / 11.08.2019) 

Gazans Too Poor to Afford Sheep for Eid Sacrifice

A Palestinian herding sheep against the backdrop of a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem

Ali usually marks the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha with his family in the Gaza Strip by sacrificing a sheep, a customary annual ritual for those who can spare the cost.

But this year the 49-year-old police officer says he cannot afford to buy an animal for the “feast of the sacrifice” holiday, which begins next week, after the Palestinian Authority halved his salary five months ago.

“I have slaughtered a sheep every year … but this year there is no way I can. I am ashamed,” the father of five, who declined to give his last name, told Reuters.

Gaza has suffered under years of Israeli blockade. Nearly 80 percent of the enclave’s 2 million residents rely on some form of aid and over half are unemployed.

Ali said that in March, the PA cut his monthly salary in half, leaving him with 1,500 shekels ($431). A sheep costs around $500.

The PA, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, still has some 25,000 Gazan civil servants on payroll despite a decade-long feud with rival Hamas which has left the group in control of the coastal territory.

Many PA employees across Gaza and the West Bank had their salaries slashed in March amid a dispute with Israel over payments it makes to the families of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Israel says the payments fan Palestinian violence, and in February it removed the portion the PA designates for prisoners’ families from taxes it transfers monthly to the body under interim peace accords.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to accept partial transfers, saying the PA is entitled to the entire sum of around 700 million ($197 million) shekels, over half its budget. The mounting fiscal pressures have squeezed the Palestinians’ $13 billion economy.

The cuts have put a particular strain on Gaza, where civil servants had already been hit by earlier salary cuts Abbas imposed in 2017 to isolate Hamas.

“I used to offer a sacrifice every year but this year there is no money,” said Hassan An-Najjar, an unemployed father of six. He says the cost of a sheep would run out the $500 in welfare he receives quarterly from the PA.

“I am looking for someone who can sell me a sheep and divide the cost into three or four payments,” An-Najjar, 58, told Reuters.

The median monthly wage in the Strip is around $330, according to the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute.

The territory’s livestock breeders and farmers say they are desperate for customers ahead of the eid.

“This year I brought only 40 cows and so far I haven’t even sold half of them,” said Gaza farmer Mohammad Al-Balawi. He says he normally sells 500 each year to people who may also split the animal’s 9,000 ($2,600) shekel price.

“I have not seen a year as bad as this in my life,” he said.

(Source / 09.08.2019) 

Partial Dutch Burqa Ban Goes Into Effect

Protestors demonstrate against the ban on Muslim women wearing the burqa in public in The Hague, November 30, 2006

The Netherlands banned the wearing of face-covering veils, such as burqas or niqabs, in public buildings and on transport from Thursday as the law on the garment came into force.

According to the Dutch government’s main advising body, only 200 to 400 women are estimated to wear a burqa or niqab in the country of 17 million people.

The legislation was passed by the Dutch Upper House of parliament in June 2018 after more than a decade of political debate on the subject. The far-right politician Geert Wilders had proposed the face-covering veil ban back in 2005.

“From now on the wearing of clothing which covers the face is banned in educational facilities, public institutions and buildings, as well as hospitals and public transport,” the Dutch interior ministry said in a statement. 

It added that it was important in such public places to be recognized and seen, which besides the burqa, also bans a face-covering motor helmet, ski-mask or hood. A person could be fined 150 euros ($165).

However, the public transport sector said it would not stop to make a woman in a burqa get off as it would cause delays. And hospitals also said they would still treat people regardless of what they are wearing.

The Dutch law does not ban the wearing of a burqa on the street, unlike France’s ban which took effect in 2010. Belgium, Denmark and Austria have similar laws.

(Source / 01.08.2019) 

Egypt Committed to Two-State Solution as US Excludes It

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi during a visit to the military academy in Cairo on Saturday, July 13, 2019   Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reiterated Saturday his country’s commitment to a “two-state solution” within the framework of settling the Palestinian issue.

His remarks were made following the announcement made by US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt that the awaited Deal of the Century does not include the two-state solution.

Sisi spoke during his visit to the Military Academy about various regional issues and he pointed to his country’s clear stance regarding the Palestinian cause.

“Egypt is committed to the Palestinian people’s rights in accordance with the international references and resolutions and the two-state solution,” he said.

When asked by Asharq Al-Awsat about the two-state solution, the US envoy said the peace plan did not mention this term.

“The use of this term leads to nothing,” he noted, adding that a conflict of such complexity could not be resolved with a two-word slogan.

Last month, Egypt participated in the US-led “Peace to Prosperity” workshop hosted by the Bahraini capital of Manama and was part of the US administration’s measures taken to implement its new peace plan between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

An Egyptian delegation led by Deputy Finance minister will take part in the “Peace to Prosperity” economic workshop, which will be held in the Kingdom of Bahrain on Tuesday and Wednesday (June 25-26), said the Egyptian Foreign Ministry back then.

Foreign Ministry’s Official Spokesman Ahmed Hafedh stressed his country’s unwavering keenness on dealing with economic challenges facing the Palestinian people.

He also reiterated Egypt’s steadfast commitment to the achievement of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations and the reinstatement of their inalienable rights, including the establishment of an independent state on the June 4, 1967 borders, with Eastern Jerusalem as its capital, conducive to the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution, the international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative. 

(Source / 14.07.2019) 

Tension Prevails Ahead of Egypt’s Delegation Arrival to Gaza

Hamas said that Israel will have to handle the consequences of killing Mahmoud Al-Adham

Tension has risen in Gaza with Israel killing a civil official in Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, amid escalating threats from both sides prior to the arrival of the Egyptian security delegation to the strip.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a field leader near the border of northern Gaza.

The Israeli army confirmed the forces fired on two “armed suspects approaching the fence in the northern Gaza Strip,” refusing to provide further details.

The health ministry in Gaza said that 28-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Adham was shot and killed in Thursday’s incident near Beit Hanoun in the northern part of the territory.

Al-Qassam said that it would not let the death go “unpunished” and that Israel “would bear the consequences of this criminal act,” according to a statement. 

In response to this threat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting at city hall in the coastal city of Ashkelon: “I prefer that there be calm. But we are preparing for a campaign that is not only broad but also surprising.”

Interior Ministry spokesman in Gaza Iyad al-Bazm said that the ministry and the national security have conducted an emergency maneuver simulating an abrupt security threat – this falls under testing the readiness of the security bodies and forces.

Officials from Hamas said that the exercise imitated Israeli special forces units’ incursion.

According to the ministry’s statement, the maneuver was conducted due to the enemy’s attempts to subvert the security and the state’s ruling.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian delegation has convened with Israeli security officials and is planning to meet Hamas officials in Gaza to discuss understandings with Israel and the Palestinian reconciliation. Before Gaza, the delegation arrived in Ramallah to discuss the dispute about the reconciliation issue.

(Source / 12.07.2019) 

Israeli Government Eases Restrictions on Gaza, Army Prepares for Military Campaign

Gas canisters fall among Palestinians during a demonstration near the border of Gaza City, on March 30, 2019 

The Israeli government announced easing the restrictions imposed on Gaza Strip, within the framework of its understandings with Hamas. Meanwhile, the Israeli army is preparing for an intensive drill of a wide-scale military campaign.

Over the recent months, the Israeli cabinet had relaxed a minor part of their blockade over the strip. It allowed the transfer of $30 million Qatari funds, the entrance of fuel to increase electricity supply hours, and the expansion of the fishing zone in the Mediterranean. 

Israeli authorities also agreed to remove items from the “blacklist” of goods banned from entering Gaza, expand the export basket, and increase the number of merchants allowed to enter Israel.

Sources revealed that among the 18 items are steel cables for large fishing boats; banned for fear that they would be used for underground tunnels, and fertilizer for agriculture that had previously been banned. In addition, the export of iron doors, aluminum housewares, wipes and toys were permitted.

Authorities lowered the age over which Gaza merchants would be permitted to enter Israel from 35 to 25, thus increasing the number of merchants authorized to enter Israel to 5,000.

Sources revealed that Israel is considering to allow the construction of a controlled industrial zone on the border with Gaza, funded by Qatar, which is predicted to employ up to 5000 workers. 

The agreement was reached following an understanding between Qatar and Hamas on ensuring strict Israeli control of the industrial zone and materials manufactured.

The new employment for the Gaza residents will include fields of agriculture, textile, food and furniture; as long as security is maintained in the region. 

The far right-forces of the government criticized PM Benjamin Netanyahu for easing the restrictions, to which he responded saying Israel’s policy is clear: “We want to return calm, but at the same time, we are preparing for a large-scale military operation, if necessary. These are my orders to the military”. 

Meanwhile, the Israeli army unveiled this week drills conducted by soldiers and officers of the southern brigade to occupy several populated towns and neighborhoods. The command explained that the army was trained on occupying such neighborhoods with maintaining the least losses possible among Israelis.

The command admitted that a land invasion would be costly, but it will cost Palestinians much more, noting that the army will introduce into the battle modern and surprising weapons and warfare equipment.

(Source / 06.07.2019)

Palestinian Officials: Financial Situation on Brink of Collapse

Palestinian officials said the financial blockade on the Palestinian Authority (PA) was intensifying, warning of a possible collapse if the situation remained the same

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused the current US administration of cracking down on Palestinians through the political and financial war against them, forcing them to surrender and accept the alleged deal of the century.

In a recent statement, Shtayyeh asserted that a just and comprehensive political solution is the only acceptable one for the Palestinians, which ensures their rights in an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital according to the 1967 borders.

Meanwhile, PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh said the financial blockade is “intensifying” against the Authority, after its decision to boycott the US administration and its rejection of the deal of the century, which Washington is forging for peace with Israel.

Sheikh, who is also a senior Fatah Central Committee member, tweeted: “they may be able to destroy us, but certainly they can not defeat us.”

Over the past three months, the financial crisis has deepened in an unprecedented way when the PA refused to receive the money Israel collects on its behalf, after Tel Aviv deducted from it.

In February, Tel Aviv began deducting about $11.5 million a month from tax revenues transferred by Israel to the Authority, and decided to proceed with that on a continuous basis during 2019, totaling to about $138 million. This amount is equal to what is paid by the Authority to the families of martyrs and prisoners in 2018.

These funds constitute the largest part of the Authority’s income, causing a major financial crisis. For months, the Authority paid its employees half of their salaries, as part of an emergency budget cut until July.

In the same context, head of the Palestine Monetary Authority (PMA) Azzam Shawwa reported that the Palestinian finances are on the brink of ruin after the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of US aid.

The mounting financial pressures on the Palestinians’ self-ruling entity have sent its debt soaring to $3 billion and led to a severe contraction in its estimated $13 billion GDP economy for the first time in years, Shawwa told Reuters.

“We are now going through a critical point.”

“What’s next, we don’t know. How we are going to pay salaries next month? How are we going to finance our obligations? How will daily life continue without liquidity in the hands of people?” said the head of the PMA, Palestine’s equivalence of a central bank.

Shawwa was on a visit to Jordan where he said “I don’t know where we are heading. This uncertainty makes it difficult to plan for tomorrow.”

The major cuts in US aid over the past year were widely seen as an attempt to pressure Palestinians back to the negotiating table after it cut off political dealings with the Donald Trump administration in 2017.

After that, Trump announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and intention to move the US embassy to the city despite its internationally disputed status.

The White House wants the Palestinians to engage with a long-delayed Middle East peace plan devised by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The plan’s economic component will be revealed at a conference in Bahrain next week, which the Palestinians are boycotting, citing pro-Israel bias by Washington.

(Source / 20.06.2019) 

Palestine: Hamas Arrests Sderot Rocket Launchers

Iron Dome anti-missile system fires an interceptor missile as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel near the southern city of SderotRamallah- Asharq Al-Awsat Hamas arrested members responsible for the rocket fired on Thursday that struck a building in Sderot, Palestinian sources told i24NEWS Sunday.

The detainees were said to be residents of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip and members of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

Both Hamas’ internal security agency and Hamas’ al-Qassam military wing are investigating the possibility that the order for the launch came from outside of Gaza.

Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is a small armed group that has members from Gaza and is financed by Hamas.

The arrest came hours after Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov that Hamas was investigating the rocket fire.

Haniyeh asserted to Mladenov that Hamas was committed to the understandings reached as part of the ceasefire with Israel, stressing that the movement wanted the ceasefire to remain in place.

The arrest of the rocket launchers is intended to send a message that the movement actually wants the situation to remain stable despite recent tensions. Israel responded to the missiles with raids on Gaza.

Tension in the Strip has risen with Hamas accusing Israel of delaying the implementation of the ceasefire, followed by the incendiary balloons launched from Gaza which Israel responded by imposing a naval embargo on Gaza.

Hamas said that demonstrations would see escalations if Israel continued to stall the implementation of the understandings brokered between both parties and sponsored by Egypt, UN, and Qatar. 

Israeli media said Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi was informed by the Israeli government he should not arrive in Gaza for the transfer of money. However, Mladenov promised Haniyeh that the Qatari envoy would enter the Gaza Strip with a monthly cash delivery, and conveyed that Israel was interested in maintaining calm in the south. 

Israel’s Channel 13 said the Qatari mission would arrive in Gaza with a new shipment of cash. 

The total amount of the grant is expected to reach $25 million, of which $10 million will be transferred to Israel to purchase fuel to the power plant in Gaza City, according to Yedioth Ahrenot.

The remaining $10 million will be distributed to needy families, with each family receiving $100. In addition, $5 million will be donated in cash to the United Nations’ cash-for-work projects, where Gazans are temporarily employed and paid.

This week, an Egyptian security delegation is supposed to arrive in order to contain any possible escalation. Cairo had drawn up an agreement last month for a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip.

The agreement includes expanding the fishing zone to 12 miles, improving electricity networks and supplies, facilitating export and import operations, and resuming transfers of funds to the Strip.

According to the agreement, if this stage is successful, another stage will be discussed to include a prisoner exchange deal and infrastructure projects.  (Source / 17.06.2019)