In a phone call on Friday with Pope Francis, Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his commitment to peace and his readiness to resume talks with Israel, Wafa News Agency reported.
Abbas discussed the importance of developing bilateral Palestine-Holy See relations to the benefit of both sides and the prevalence of peace in the region and worldwide.
He thanked the Holy See for its position in support of achieving peace based on the United Nations (UN) resolutions, as well as for its rejection of all peace plans in violation of international law.
Abbas renewed his call for an international peace conference to launch a genuine peace process. He pointed out that his call is in line with his commitment to achieving peace based on the UN resolutions and his immediate willingness to resume talks with Israel.
He urged the pontiff to work together to safeguard Palestinian Muslims and Christians and reinforce their steadfastness in Jerusalem and throughout the occupied territories.
Pope Francis affirmed that he was on the same page as Abbas regarding the importance of peace and dialogue, the need to convene the international peace conference, and reinforcing the perseverance of the Palestinian people.
In a verbal message carried by a lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), detainee Maher al-Akhras, who began his hung strike three months ago, said he doesn’t want to die at an Israeli clinic, but at home surrounded by his loving family.
Al-Akhras told the PPS lawyer, Ahlam Haddad, that while he is still being imprisoned, he wishes to see his mother, wife, and children, and added that he does not want to die at an Israeli clinic.
“If anybody is willing to help me, then try to secure my transfer to a Palestinian hospital in the West Bank,” he said, “If I am going to die, I want to be surrounded by my family.”
“Please do not place my corpse in the morgue, do not perform an autopsy, whether I die here or in the West Bank,” he stated, “If I die, all I ask is for former political prisoners, those who experienced the pain of the hunger strike, to carry my corpse during my funeral, and my message to my people is to always protect and defend our homeland.”
His statements were made before Israel moved al-Akhras, on Friday, from Kaplan Hospital to the infamous Ramla prison clinic, despite his rapidly deteriorating health.
On Saturday, his family announced that Maher’s mother, wife, and three eldest sons will start a hunger strike after the Israelis denied them their right to visit Maher Al Akhras when he was in his room at Kaplan hospital.
The soldiers, stationed at the door of his room, refused to allow his family to visit with him, and ignored the cries and pleas of his little daughter. The family was literally standing at the door leading to his room.
The father of six was abducted by the soldiers from his home in Jenin, in northern West Bank, and has since been held under the arbitrary Administrative Detention orders, without charges or trial.
He began the open-ended hunger strike in July demanding to be released and declared that his strike would continue until freedom or death.
It is worth mentioning that al-Akhras has been abducted and imprisoned by Israel numerous times, including when he was taken prisoner on July 27th, 2020, and was instantly slapped with a four-month Administrative Detention order, without charges or trial.
Before his current imprisonment, al-Akhras was spent for over four years in prisons, including many months under the arbitrary Administrative Detention orders.
A Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike for more than 85 days since his arrest by Israel is entering a medically “critical phase”, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced yesterday.
Maher Al-Akhras, 49, is from Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank. He has been held since 27 July under an administrative detention order with neither charge nor trial and can be detained indefinitely. His hunger strike is a protest against such inhuman treatment.
“More than 85 days into the hunger strike, we are concerned about potentially irreversible health consequences,” said Yves Giebens, the head of the ICRC’s health department in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. “From a medical perspective, he is entering a critical phase.”
The ICRC said it has been monitoring the situation closely and visited Akhras on Thursday. “The ICRC encourages the patient, his representatives and the competent authorities involved to find a solution that will avoid any loss of life,” the organisation added.
Last month, Akhras was moved to Kaplan Hospital in the Israeli city of Rehovot, where he has been drinking water but refusing solid food, explained his family.
Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip have launched several demonstrations to demand the prisoner’s release. They have also organised sit-ins and online campaigns to show their support for him.
There are around 5,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, 350 of them under administrative detention. Israeli officials claim that detention without trial is sometimes necessary to protect the identities of undercover operatives.
Palestinians hunger-strikers in Israeli jails – Cartoon
The infrastructure of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is designed to have a negative impact on the lives of Palestinians, and it does. The dire situation has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. No doubt to the delight of the Israelis, there can be no place easier to lock down than the occupied Palestinian territories.
Although necessary, the drastic preventative measures had dire consequences for the already high unemployment rate in Palestine; it has now gone through the roof. Businesses across all sectors have been hit hard, especially tourism and hospitality.
However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for everyone. Engineering student Issa Haj Yasin saw a gap in the market and set about filling it with his mobile business, the Hotdog Van. Based in Ramallah, Yasin opened his first van before the pandemic to provide himself with an income to cover his study and living expenses.
“I was studying at Birzeit University and worked at a restaurant making sandwiches, but I wanted to start something different on the campus,” he explained. “I had originally wanted to start my own coffee shop but it was going to be too expensive.” Then he thought about a food van, which was affordable. “And since there are no places here in Palestine serving hotdogs even though they’re common around the world, I decided to be the first to open a Hotdog Van.”
Hotdog Van in Ramallah, Palestine
The business stopped in the first months of the crisis when the total lockdown was imposed but reopened even as the pandemic worsened and outdoor dining was in demand. Now his business has more than doubled in size.
“I’ve employed six students who are working in two vans, and I am preparing a third van that is going to have another four new employees,” Yasin pointed out.
Buying street food is preferred over-ordering and waiting for food indoors. His customers know that social distancing is easier, and so there is less risk of infection.
Yasin’s first orange Hotdog Van is stationed behind Nelson Mandela Square, a popular spot which families drive past when returning from road trips. The second van is parked at the university.
“Customers just park up, wear their masks, take their hotdogs, and go. It’s very popular with school children; when they see it in the street they get excited and run towards the van.”
The Hotdog Vans are classic VW campervans. “There is no vehicle like this here; the design and colours. All the elements of the van are perfect.”
The 27-year-old entrepreneur is now planning a fourth van, but this one will be the Sugar Van selling desserts ranging from marshmallow ice creams to creamy frozen yogurts and chocolate and strawberry waffles. It will mean a few more jobs for fellow students.
“Being able to provide jobs to students like me who are struggling to look after their families along with paying their university fees is what makes me more ambitious to expand my business,” said Yasin. This is important in the current climate as many employers are laying off their workers. “It’s having a devastating impact.”
One of his colleagues used to work at a hotel in Jerusalem, which closed down due to the lockdown. “He was close to having a breakdown so asked if he could work with me. I took him on right away.”
Hotdog Vans in Ramallah, Palestine
Although his degree course is normally five years, Yasin is in his eighth year of studying because he couldn’t keep up with his tuition fees. He knows what it is like to struggle. Like him, he insisted, many Palestinians just want to get on and live a normal life. If a second lockdown is imposed, he thinks that businesses should be allowed to stay open.
“People should be allowed to work even if there’s a lockdown because there’s too much economic damage here. Too many of us are struggling. We need to learn how to work around Covid-19 instead of hitting both extremes of a complete shutdown or complete freedom.”
With unemployment in the occupied West Bank reaching 26.6 per cent during the second quarter of 2020, compared to 25 per cent in the first quarter, he has a point. According to a recent report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, those working in restaurants, hotels, and construction are the worst hit by the pandemic.
“When you see ten young people working hard to learn new skills together so enthusiastically, and know that they have families to feed even while going to university and making their semester payments, then I know that we are doing the right thing,” concluded Issa Haj Yasin. “To see them happy and achieve their ambitions, that’s what my target is now. That’s what’s going to make me open ten more vans in Palestine.”
If the success of the first Hotdog Vans in Palestine is anything to go by, he will succeed.
Israeli and Palestinian Combatants for Peace activists, as part of the movement’s olive harvest campaign, joined Palestinian farmer Muhammad Adwan, from the village of Azzun in the northern West Bank, on Friday to help him pick his olive trees on his land in the Al-Salamah area adjacent to the Ma’ale Shimron settlement.“With the beginning of each harvest season, Israeli settlers assault us and prevent us from harvesting,” Mohammad said. “A year ago, the settlers and the Israeli occupation soldiers shot at my son and held us for hours. I feel joy and relief that Combatants for Peace activists are with us here today to help us pick the olives. “Activists also took the opportunity to send a message of solidarity with political detainee Maher Al-Akhras, who has been on hunger strike for 90 days. His hunger strike is in protest of his so-called ‘administrative detention’, in which he is held without charges by Israeli authorities for months on end. Activists hung pictures of Maher on olive trees.During the olive harvest season, Israeli occupation soldiers and settlers step up the frequency of attacks targeting Palestinian farmers and their olive trees. Attacks such as burning trees and preventing the owners of land from accessing their olive groves are commonplace during the month of October each year — a critical window of time during which the olive harvest must be completed. Many Palestinian families depend on the olive harvest for their annual income, as olive oil is a major part of the Palestinian economy.“We are here today to support Palestinian farmers. The olive tree is part of Palestinian culture and a history that we are trying to preserve from the continuous attacks by Israeli occupation forces”, explained Suleiman al-Khatib, the Palestinian executive director of Combatants for Peace.Friday’s event is part of the olive harvest campaign that Combatants for Peace is carrying out to help Palestinian farmers gain access to their olive fields, especially those located near Israeli illegal settlements and the Separation Wall.
Human rights organisations are protesting about domestic abuse following the murder of a pregnant woman in the occupied West Bank, Wafa news agency has reported. According to police spokesman Loai Irzeiqat, the 24-year-old mother of two was found dead at her house in the town of Nabi Elias.
Unconfirmed reports said that the victim’s husband is being held for her murder. He is reported to have been drunk at the time of his arrest, and is a known drug addict.
The Palestinian Network of NGOs has expressed alarm at the murder, calling on politicians and civil society to take all necessary steps to protect Palestinian women from domestic abuse. Violence against women in Palestine has been on the rise for the past decade.
According to the UN Population Fund, 29 per cent of Palestinian women within occupied Palestine reported psychological, physical, sexual, social or financial abuse by their husbands at least once in 2018-2019. At the same time, there are major concerns that many cases of domestic violence go unreported. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic has left women even more vulnerable to abuse across the region.
The Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs described the killing as a “heinous murder” and said that it will do what it can to prevent violence against women in Palestinian society.
The Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council on Thursday condemned visits that were recently carried out by pro-normalisation groups to Al-Aqsa mosque. The visits were under the protection of Israeli police and accompanied by officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
In the wake of its 88th session, the council’s Chairman Muhammad Hussein told reporters: “The normalisation visits are no different than the repeated incursions of the occupation soldiers and settlers, who desecrate the holy mosque under the protection of their soldiers.”
“The holy Al-Aqsa mosque is for Muslims alone and only those who do not strip its Islamic legitimacy are welcome to visit,” Hussein asserted, adding that those who normalise with the Israeli occupation were “not welcome at the sanctity of the mosque.”
The grand mufti denounced what he described as: “Israeli plans to isolate the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, as well as the denial of thousands of worshippers from accessing them.”
He pointed out that the Israeli authorities were exploiting the occurrence of the pandemic: “In order to empty the mosque, seize it and facilitate the incursion of extremist settlers into it.”
A Palestinian family is appealing for British members of parliament to intervene on their behalf in their imminent eviction from their home in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The Sumarin family, whose plight has grabbed global attention, are at the heart of Israel’s ethnic cleansing drive within the Holy City.
A press release sent on the family’s behalf by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions announced an online meeting to be held next week between a Palestinian Israeli parliamentarian, a rabbi opposed to Israeli government policy and British MP Richard Burden.
The ICAHD drew attention to Israel’s industrial scale demolition of Palestinian homes backed by international donors. A secret funding of ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem was highlighted in the BBCPanorama programme “Banking Secrets of the Rich and Powerful”. An Israeli organisation, Elad, which aims to Judaise East Jerusalem by evicting Palestinian residents and replacing them with Jewish settlers, has apparently received huge sums of money transferred from Virgin Island companies owned by Roman Abramovich.
New evidence shows that Elad funded court proceedings over decades to evict the Sumarin extended family from their lifelong residence in Silwan, East Jerusalem. Elad acted in coordination with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund.
An international campaign in support of the family has won the backing of 71 MPs and provoked division in the JNF and its subsidiary Himanuta. This week, though, settler groupings strengthened their hold on the leadership of the JNF and Himanuta through a battle within the World Zionist Congress. In a disingenuous attempt to deflect responsibility, the Israeli Embassy has claimed that the eviction, based on the so-called “Absentee Property Law”, does not involve the Government of Israel.
The online meeting will be hosted by UK campaign group Stop the JNF and partners. It will feature Amal Sumarin in an appeal to Britain to help stop the eviction.
Geneva (QNN) – The occupying state of Israel should release a Palestinian detainee who has been on hunger strike for close to 90 days and end its practice of administrative detention, under which people can be held indefinitely without trial, said Michael Lynk, special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.
Maher Al-Akhras began a hunger strike in late July after he was arrested. Israeli security forces accuse him of being a member of Islamic Jihad, a charge he denies. The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected his petitions for release three times.
“Mr. Al-Akhras is now in very frail condition, having gone without food for 89 days,” said Lynk.“Recent visits by doctors to his hospital bed in Israel indicate that he is on the verge of suffering major organ failure, and some damage might be permanent.”
Al-Akhras was arrested on 27 July in his hometown of Selit El Dahir in the West Bank. An administrative detention order was issued against him on 7 August to run until 26 November 2020. In 2009 he was administratively detained for 16 months, and again in 2018 for 11 months.
“Administrative detention is an anathema in any democratic society that follows the rule of law,” Lynk said. “When the democratic state arrests and detains someone, it is required to charge the person, present its evidence in an open trial, allow for a full defence and try to persuade an impartial judiciary of its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Administrative detention, in contrast, allows a state to arrest and detain a person without charges, without a trial, without knowing the evidence against her or him, and without a fair judicial review,” he said. “It is a penal system that is ripe for abuse and maltreatment.”
International law allows a state to use administrative detention only in emergencies, and only if a fair hearing can be provided where the detainee can challenge the allegations against her or him. In an occupation, Article 78 of the Fourth Geneva Convention only permits an occupying power to employ administrative detention “for imperative reasons of security.”
Israel has been regularly criticized by international human rights organizations for its promiscuous use of administrative detention. According to Israeli Prison Services data obtained by B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, there were 355 Palestinians being held in administrative detention by Israel as of 31 August 2020.
While Israeli courts allow for a form of judicial review for administrative detainees, the Israeli Supreme Court (sitting as the High Court) has regularly approved the practice and refused Mr. Al-Akhras’s request for release in a ruling in mid-October. Two previous petitions for his release had been rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court.
Israel also regularly incarcerates its Palestinian administrative detainees in Israeli prisons, a violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which says protected people under occupation should be detained in the occupied territory
“The Israeli security forces who arrested and detained Mr. Al-Akhras have not provided any persuasive evidence in an open hearing to justify its allegations that he is a genuine security threat,” Lynk said. He called upon Israel to release Al-Akhras immediately if it could not provide persuasive evidence on a high standard that he has broken laws that would be acceptable in any democratic state.
“I also call upon Israel to abolish its practice of administrative detention, release those detainees it presently holds, and strictly follow international law in the application of its security operations” Lynk said.