Israeli settlers threw petrol bombs at two Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank village of Burin, near Nablus, on Thursday evening, Wafa has reported. When local residents rushed to try to extinguish the resultant fire, Israeli occupation forces fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas at them.
The soldiers then entered the village and opened fire on the villagers. Many suffered from tear gas inhalation, and one resident in his 30s was arrested.
The attack came shortly after groups of extremist settlers sealed off several roads and junctions and attacked Palestinian vehicles with stones and empty bottles. Eyewitnesses said that the Jewish settlers who hurled the petrol bombs were identifiable but were not detained by the security forces.
Attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian property are commonplace, particularly by extreme right-wing settlers. They are rarely held to account by the Israeli occupation authorities. Indeed, in most cases the settlers who harass and attack Palestinians are accompanied and protected by Israeli soldiers.
More than 600,000 Jewish settlers currently live in more than 250 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. According to international law, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are “occupied Palestinian territories” and all Jewish settlements built there and the settlers who live in them are illegal.
Israeli settlers have called for the murder of Palestinian bus drivers in the occupied West Bank, the Times of Israel has reported. Racist graffiti reading “Kill Arab drivers” was sprayed in Modi’in Illit, the largest illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Other graffiti warned that “The damage won’t stop” until Israeli-run Kavim Bus Company stops employing Arabs. The word “revenge” was also sprayed on the back of a bus. The Israeli army claims to have launched an investigation into the graffiti.
“The writing on the wall is clearer than ever,” said Kavim. “The day isn’t far away when drivers will be harmed, and it doesn’t matter what sector they’re from.”
The company pointed out that the responsibility for the safety of the drivers and passengers lies with all “relevant” parties. “It is time to see a change in the whole issue of information, enforcement and punishment so that the drivers do not stand at the forefront without proper protection.”
Settler attacks on Palestinians have become commonplace in the West Bank, with settlers often throwing stones, vandalising property and destroying olive trees belonging to the indigenous population.
Israeli settlements are home to around 600,000 Jewish settlers across the West Bank. The settlements (and the settlers) are illegal under international law and have been described as “major obstacles to peace”, given that they are built on stolen Palestinian land.
The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas is planning to hold its internal elections at the same time as preparing for national elections, Anadolu Agency reported on Friday.
Reporting informed sources, Anadolu Agency said that the Hamas Shura Council turned down a proposal for delaying the internal elections for several months in order to prepare for the national elections.
Last Friday, Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree ordering the Elections Committee to hold the parliamentarian elections on 22 May, presidential elections on 31 July and the Palestinian National Council on 31 August.
An informed source told MEMO that Hamas had already started its preparations for the internal elections, noting that they are expected to be completed by 25 February.
Other sources informed MEMO that Hamas prisoners inside Israeli jails have already completed their elections. The source did not reveal names because this remains confidential until the end of the elections in Gaza, West Bank and abroad.
Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative Movement, Mustafa Al-Barghouti, called on Tuesday for reducing the age of candidates for the Palestinian parliament to 21.
In a statement sent to the media, Al-Barghouti said that most of the Palestinians are youth and most of the voters are youth. “So we have to exert much efforts to encourage them not only to vote, but to run for parliament, get involved in political life and hold real, leading positions.”
Meanwhile, he reiterated the importance of holding the national dialogue meetings as soon as possible in order to agree on the safety and transparency of the elections.
Fatah sources revealed on Monday that the Palestinian factions are scheduled to meet in Cairo on 5 February.
On Tuesday evening, Anadolu News Agency reported that a meeting between Hamas and Fatah representatives would be held in Istanbul before the Cairo meeting.
As new US President Joe Biden took office yesterday, the Israeli government approved the building of 2,572 new settlement units in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, an Israeli NGO has revealed.
“Our out-of-touch government leadership continues to press on with its mad scramble to promote as much settlement activity as possible until the last minutes before the change of the administration in Washington,” said Peace Now.
According to the watchdog, 2,112 of the new housing units are planned for illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank, with 460 to be built in settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. The group said that this comes just days after similar approval for 780 settlement units in the West Bank.
During 2020 alone, said the NGO, Israel approved or advanced construction of over 12,000 settlement homes, the most in a single year since it started monitoring settlements in 2012.
Israeli media have reported that the Israeli government wanted to seize the opportunity of the last few hours of Donald Trump’s presidency to approve and build as many settlement housing units as possible, taking advantage of the fact that he has never criticised this illegal activity.
The Israeli government is apparently concerned that it might not be able to continue to build settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories during Biden’s presidency. His former boss, Barak Obama, regarded settlements as an obstacle for peace during his presidency, which ended in 2016. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
A seven-month pregnant Palestinian mother suffered a miscarriage after tear gas was fired repeatedly by Israeli soldiers at her home in the village of Al-Mughayyer near Ramallah last week. Areej Abu Alya, 37, inhaled a lot of the gas and started to suffocate during the attack.
She was rushed to hospital by her husband Iyad, where her condition worsened. During the treatment, doctors discovered that her baby’s pulse was no longer detected. Areej was in intensive care for several days after losing a lot of blood and requiring transfusions.
“We live in a very dangerous area,” Iyad told Wafa news agency. “Tear gas canisters are scattered around the house and inside, and I can no longer collect them immediately to throw them out of our children’s reach.”
The couple have eight children. According to Iyad, the tear gas comes in through the windows while they are sleeping almost every night. “Every week I take my children to the village doctor, all of them with severe symptoms as a result of inhaling tear gas and suffering from a burning sensation in the lungs, which causes them to vomit, and have chest pains and severe coughs.”
He believes that the gas used by the Israeli occupation forces is a new, more toxic type. Palestinian doctors have accused the Israelis before of using chemical weapons, not tear gas, and testing new varieties on the people in the occupied territories to see what the effects are on human beings.
Attacks, assaults and acts of vandalism are carried out frequently on Palestinian towns and villages in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Illegal settlers and Israeli soldiers are always the culprits.
The official Twitter account of the US Ambassador to Israel had a brief name change yesterday to “US Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza” after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. The account was quickly changed back to “US Ambassador to Israel”.
Asked whether this brief change suggested that a shift in American foreign policy can be expected under Biden, an embassy spokeswoman said: “This is not a policy change or indication of future policy change. It was an inadvertent edit, and not reflective of a policy change.”
In his first day in office, Biden reversed a number of Trump era policies, including the controversial “Muslim travel ban”. However, indications are that he will not overturn the most controversial changes made by his predecessor, such as the relocation of the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem.
Biden may be more even-handed than Trump, however. There is talk that the new president will reopen the US Consulate-General in occupied East Jerusalem to act as an “embassy” to the Palestinians, to whom he will also restore US aid.
Relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Biden are predicted to be tense given their history. Biden was humiliated during a trip to Jerusalem in 2010 when he was Vice President under Barack Obama.
As a pro-Israel stalwart, Biden arrived in Jerusalem with instructions from Obama to revive peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. Netanyahu had reluctantly agreed to a temporary moratorium on Jewish settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. However, as Biden pledged unyielding US support for Israel, Netanyahu unveiled a big expansion of settler housing on Palestinian land in occupied Arab East Jerusalem annexed by Israel.
In what could be a message to the now President Biden, the Israeli government approved the building of 2,572 new settlement units in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank during his inauguration yesterday.
Following increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO)’s Commission for Prisoners Affairs, accused Israel of “intentional medical negligence” against Palestinian prisoners, Anadolu Agency reported on Friday.
“The situation inside Israeli jails is worrying,” he expressed, noting that the number of COVID-19 cases among prisoners has reached 277 and is expected to rise.
Abu Bakr said that Palestinian prisoner Basel Ajaj, 45, is suffering a critical health condition after he caught COVID-19 and entered the ICU.
He holds the Israeli occupation authorities fully responsible for the condition of Ajaj and other prisoners who are suffering from COVID-19.
Israeli occupation authorities have taken the measurements of the Dome of the Rock while Israeli settlers are calling for its demolition, Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani announced on Friday.
Al-Kiswani described what is being done inside Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock as “a dangerous measure”.
Speaking with the local Palestinian Al-Quds Radio, Al-Kiswani explained: “We are looking seriously at the behaviour of the Israeli occupation inside Al-Aqsa Mosque. We believe it is taking the measurements for a foreign firm and we do not know what’s behind it.”
In addition, he indicated that the Israeli occupation is working to revoke the sovereignty of the Awqaf Ministry in Al-Aqsa Mosque, pointing out that the Israeli occupation is imposing tight measures on the Palestinians under the pretext of the coronavirus, while it is facilitating the raids of the settlers.
“Al-Aqsa Mosque is not the responsibility for the Palestinians or the Jordanians alone, but for all Muslims around the world,” according to Al-Kiswani, stressing that all the Islamic countries should have a united decision to stop the Judaisation of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Across Palestine, schools are closed to try and stem the spread of the virus, but Al-Maleh Elementary has struggled to offer remote learning, because of the lack of internet and electricity in the village
By Laila Ahmet and Amelia Smith
For the 170 pupils in Al-Maleh village in the West Bank, the three-hour journey to school was arduous. Sometimes it took three hours after they had navigated the Israeli security checkpoints, some on foot and others on donkeys. Eventually, many of them simply stopped going.
In mid-2019 Mahdi Daraghma, chairman of the local council, set up two tents which served as a makeshift school for the children in the hope that having it close by would encourage pupils to attend classes.
It worked, but there were other challenges. In the winter months the pupils shivered and rubbed their hands together – so Mahdi appealed to international organisations for funding. When it arrived a year or so later, he used the money to build four classrooms, each room 15 by 20 square metres, with brick walls and a tin roof.
If you look north from Al-Maleh Mixed Elementary School, you can see the mountains of Khirbet Jabaris; to the south are the Salama Mountains and to the east is the Jordanian border. Fake grass lines the playground and a wire mesh fence surrounds it.
Inside, there are two grades to a classroom and the pupils share desks. There is no electricity or internet, but at least the children have access to lessons: “The school is very important for the students and the village community,” says Mahdi. “The students now wake up at a normal time and the parents can follow up on their children and go to speak to the teachers as it is near to their homes.”
Hanan Dabak started in the school as a volunteer teacher, when it was still made up of tents, teaching Arabic, maths, English and National Education. Now she works there officially and receives her salary from the Palestinian Education Ministry.
For roughly one week, everything in the new school was going well. Then a notice arrived at Mahdi’s office from the civil administration of the Israeli army – Al-Maleh Elementary was set to be demolished on the pretext that it had been built on an archaeological area. With that, it became one of 44 schools across the occupied West Bank currently at risk of demolition.
Mahdi himself was arrested and detained for four hours and when he was released the army confiscated his car and tractor, which they have not yet returned. He has submitted an appeal to an Israeli court challenging the demolition order but has not heard anything back.
On 17 December 2020 a second demolition notice was issued informing Mahdi that in 96 hours the Israeli army would destroy the new building.
“We didn’t increase the size of the school. We just built a school in the same area as the tents. Just four classrooms with bricks and tinplate,” he says, pausing.
The aim is for the Palestinians to own nothing.
“The demolition order for the school is part of the settlement support policies because if they accept the school, they think that will give the citizens a motive to stay in the area,” adds Hanan. “Because if the school is far from where the people live, people would leave the area to go to places with services.”
After they received the notice, teachers erected a billboard outside the school and attached it to the fence, displaying the name of its funders. The EU, Belgium and Denmark are all on there. Hanan and the other two teachers hope this might dissuade the army from razing it.
“We as teachers felt very sad when we learnt that the school will be demolished, and that the future of many students will be in danger and there is nothing we can do,” says Hanan. “However sad we feel, we never show the students, and we encourage them and say we will stay here.”
“What danger would a six or nine-year-old student pose for the Israeli occupation to issue a demolition order to the only place they have to attend lessons, the only school they can reach?” she asks.
“The psychological state of the children, the fear and anxiety is worrying. Many students come to speak to me and say, ‘Miss Hanan, I’m afraid that the Israeli army will attack us, or the settlers will attack the area and harm us.”
Al-Maleh is a Bedouin village situated in the Governorate of Tubas and the Northern Valleys, which is registered as Area C and has been under the full control of Israel since the Oslo Accords.
The area has been classified as a military zone and nature reserve which means it is out of bounds for Palestinians. Mahdi says that whilst roughly 19 Palestinian structures, largely made of tents and tin, received demolition orders in 2020, Israeli settlements have expanded.
“Since 1967 until now, the Israeli occupation exercises the most heinous violations against Al-Maleh’s civilians,” says Mahdi. “Construction is banned, any infrastructure or services are banned, the people of the village live in camps.”
Al-Maleh is an agricultural area and the population relies on sheep and cows to make a living, yet it’s not easy because there are no essential services, including electricity. Residents import water for approximately 20 shekels a cup, explains Mahdi.
The village is surrounded by five settlement outposts and their inhabitants’ assault and attack the Palestinians on a daily basis, locals report, including preventing them from entering their fields to tend to their animals. The Israeli army has seized some 30 tractors from farmers in the community.
“For the last two years, farmers have been prevented from cultivating their lands,” says Mahdi. “They confiscate any tractor that enters the land under the pretext that it is a military zone. Settlers, however, are allowed to farm and raise their livestock.”
Added to the challenges faced by these villagers is the global coronavirus pandemic, which has driven down the price of products as demand has eased. On top of this, it has made it harder to transport milk and cheese products amidst travel restrictions.
Across Palestine, schools are closed to try and stem the spread of the virus, but Al-Maleh Elementary has struggled to offer remote learning, because of the lack of internet and electricity in the village.
After the demolition notice, 30 of the original 50 students – 1st to the 3rd grade – were brought back to try and deter the Israeli army from demolishing the school. Mahdi explains that the number of schools being knocked down has increased as the army takes advantage of empty premises.
In the meantime, the teachers try to reassure their pupils that they will be able to continue with their education. “When will the Israeli army demolish our school?” they ask Hanan. “Where will we study if they do; will we continue our education, will we have to make the long journey in the morning again?”
The parents are worried also. The mother of Mahmoud Zamil, one of the pupils at the school, said she is deeply anxious about her child’s schooling and if he will once again have to make the difficult journey just so he can learn to read and write. Other mums and dads have asked Hanan and Mahdi if they have a plan for what will happen if the school really is demolished.
“If they demolish the school, we will build tents again in its place,” says Mahdi. “If they demolish the tents, we will teach them under trees. The students will stay there, and we will keep educating them.”