April 17 marks Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, an international day of action for Palestinian political prisoners
Israel detains about 4,500 Palestinians in its jails, among them 41 women and 140 children below 18 years. Since the beginning of 2021, Israeli authorities have arrested nearly 1,400 Palestinians.
Nearly 550 inmates suffer from various diseases and require close monitoring and healthcare. At least 10 inmates suffer from cancer of varying degrees, including Fouad al-Shobaki, 82, the oldest of the prisoners. So far, 368 jailed Palestinians have been infected with the coronavirus.
Some Palestinians have spent 40 years in captivity with 543 sentenced to several life sentences.
Prisoners’ Day has been commemorated annually since 1974 after the first Palestinian detainee – Mahmoud Hijazi – was released in a swap deal with Israel.
Mahmoud Abbas has warned that Israel is on the path to becoming an apartheid state in a speech to the annual J Street Conference in America. The President of the Palestinian Authority addressed the progressive Jewish advocacy group online and spoke about the precarious situation facing Israel. He also mentioned the removal of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) from the US terrorist list and steps to re-establish ties with Washington.
“Moving away from the two-state solution will eventually lead to a de facto one-state solution, an apartheid state,” said Abbas. “[This is] something neither we nor the entire world would accept. A one-state solution will only perpetuate the conflict.”
Although Abbas warned that Israel is on the road to becoming an apartheid state if it fails to agree to a two-state solution with the Palestinians, a major Israeli human rights group has concluded that the Zionist state has already passed that threshold. In January, B’Tselem described Israel as an “apartheid” state that “promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” A similar conclusion was reached by the UN in 2017.
Speaking about resuming peace talks and turning a new page in relations with Washington, Abbas said, “We are ready to resume peace negotiations with our Israeli counterpart on the basis of international legitimacy, resolutions and signed agreements, and under the auspices of the International Quartet.” The 85-year-old reiterated support for a two-state solution based on pre-June 1967 borders and international law to create an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The PA cut relations with the administration of former US President Donald Trump following several bitter disagreements including America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the relocation of the US Embassy to the occupied city. Abbas explained that the PA now sought to open a new page with the Biden administration.
“However, this requires the elimination of some obstacles, the most important of which is removing the PLO name from the terrorism list pursuant to the Congress Anti-Terrorist Act of 1987,” Abbas said, with reference to the relevant legislation. US presidents have traditionally waived the application of the law, allowing for relations to continue as normal, but Abbas wants the terrorism designation to be rescinded completely.
Israeli occupation yesterday summoned Jerusalemite activist Mohamed Arnaout for questioning at the Qishla detention centre and handed him an order banning his entry to Al-Aqsa Mosque for six months, the Palestinian Information Centre reported.
Arnaout is an ex-detainee who has spent over 15 months in Israeli jails because of his active role in exposing Israeli demolition and displacement campaigns in the Palestinian neighbourhoods of the holy city.
Israeli police had already banned him from international travel.
Arnaout is married and a father of five. Occupation authorities have previously prevented his wife from visiting him while in detention.
Al-Aqsa Mosque is facing Judaisation plans, as right-wing settler groups have repeatedly called for their supporters to storm and occupy the Muslim holy site in an effort to divide it spatially and temporally between Muslims and Jews.
Israel has lifted orders for masks to be worn outside after about 56 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated, Reuters reports.
Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, urged people to continue carrying masks with them for entry into indoor public spaces, where they are still required.
Meanwhile, Israelis who wish to return to the country but who have not yet been vaccinated must still self-isolate, while foreign travellers’ entry is being limited over concerns virus variants could challenge the vaccine.
“We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters. “[But] we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return.”
Daily new coronavirus infections in Israel have fallen from a peak of 10,000 in January to around 100 more recently.
Vaccine uptake in the territories occupied by Israel, however, has not been so high, as occupation authorities have not provided inoculations to Palestinians living under their brutal regime.
Human rights organisations have argued that international law requires Israel to provide Palestinians with similar access to vaccines as its own citizens as an occupying power. Many have said this “Israel’s vaccine apartheid“.
The besieged Gaza Strip yesterday recorded the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the coastal enclave said.
According to the daily briefing issued by the ministry, 23 people died from coronavirus and there were 446 new infections.
Israeli occupation forces arrested three Palestinian candidates for holding a press conference at St George Hotel Jerusalem on the upcoming elections in occupied East Jerusalem.
The press conference was scheduled to discuss the right of Palestinians in the occupied city to participate in the upcoming elections and the mechanisms needed to do so.
Two of the candidates are on the list of the Fatah party led by President Mahmoud Abbas and the third is on the list of the Palestinian Democratic Union.
According to Wafa news agency, the Israeli occupation’s intelligence handed the management of St George Hotel Jerusalem a notice from the Israeli Minister of Public Security, which bans any Palestinian Authority-related activity there.
Palestinians have urged the European Union to exert pressure on Israel to allow residents of occupied East Jerusalem to vote. Israel has not responded. Israel claims the entirety of Jerusalem as its capital.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said these practices reflect a “clear political decision to prevent Jerusalem’s participation in the elections and deny the Palestinians in Jerusalem their right to vote or run for the elections.”
This comes after Israeli occupation forces banned a similar meeting earlier this month, which was supposed to be held at the Ambassador Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem, and arrested two candidates, including Naser Qaws, a Fatah member.
The two candidates were investigated by Israeli soldiers, who informed them that all election-related activities are banned in occupied East Jerusalem.
Palestinians are scheduled to vote in legislative elections on 22 May, presidential polls on 31 July, and National Council polls on 31 August, their first in over 15 years.
Israeli settlers today razed Palestinian land in the area of Khirbet Al Hamma in the north of the Jordan Valley, Palestinian sources reported.
According to the sources, who spoke to Wafa news agency, settlers from an illegal outpost located near the Palestinian Bedouin community in the area used a bulldozer to raze the Palestinian land, as they are pushing occupation authorities to open settler-only roads in the area.
Residents are worried that the settlement outposts and the settlers are going to take control of most of the pastures they use to herd their livestock, which is their main source of income.
Palestinian factions on Saturday criticised the “offensive” remarks made by dismissed Fatah official Nasser Al-Qudwa who claimed that everyone has problems with Islamic political movements.
In an interview with French TV, Al-Qudwa claimed: “Everyone has problems with Islamic political movements or political Islam.”
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said that Al-Qudwa’s remarks: “Keep up with the American and Zionist resolutions aiming to tear up the Palestinians and expand the internal division.”
In an official statement, a copy of which was sent to MEMO, Hamas added: “The Palestinians have a long resistance history based on political plurality with no hostility except with the Israeli occupation which has been working day and night to Judaise our holy sites, desecrate them, annex the occupied West Bank and impose a siege on Gaza.”
Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad leader Anwar Abu Taha told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that the Palestinian movements do not seek: “Fake authority, but national Islamic resistance to liberate Palestine.”
He added: “It is better for those, referred to by Al-Qudwa, to have problems with the Israeli occupation, which is the central enemy of the Palestinians, not with any party that is working to liberate Palestine and maintain national unity.”
Head of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Kamil Abu Rukun has warned that Israel “will stop everything” if Hamas wins the upcoming parliamentary elections, the Times of Israel reported.
In an interview with Israeli public broadcaster Kan, he said: “That, at least, will be my recommendation, based on things that happened in the past and on what I see in the field.”
Abu Rukun told Kan, according to the Times of Israel, that he conveyed his stance to the Palestinians via indirect channels.
He stressed: “It is a very big mistake to go to these elections due to the high risk that Hamas will win, and therefore anything that serves this [a Hamas victory]. My recommendation is to not go along with it.”
The Israeli official reiterated that Israel should prevent carrying out the Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem.
The last Palestinian parliamentary election was held in 2006 when Hamas achieved an overwhelming majority, while Fatah, the PA, Israel, Western countries, the US and most Arab countries did not recognise Hamas’s transparent victory.