‘Shoot to maim’: How Israel created a generation on crutches in Gaza

Doctors tell MEE that Palestinian protesters’ crippling injuries, especially to lower limbs, were inflicted deliberately

By Dania Akkad

More than 150 Palestinians, who took part in the peaceful protests of the Great March of Return and Breaking to Siege in Gaza, were shot by Israeli snipers in their legs to internationally be maimed.

Israeli snipers have intentionally maimed Palestinians protesting in Gaza over the past year, creating a generation of disabled youth and overwhelming the territory’s already crippled medical system, frontline doctors tell Middle East Eye.

According to a United Nations inquiry released this month, over 80 per cent of the 6,106 protesters wounded in the first nine months of the Great March of Return were shot in the lower limbs.

Israeli soldiers intentionally shot civilians and may have committed war crimes in their heavy-handed response to the protests, which have been held regularly across Gaza since 30 March 2018, the report concluded.

Healthcare providers say the pattern of wounds shows that Israeli soldiers are purposefully shooting to maim protesters, most of whom are in their 20s and now require long-term medical care.

“The soldier knows exactly where he’s putting the bullet. This is not random. This is very intimate. This is very planned,” said Ghassan Abu Sitta, professor of surgery at the American University of Beirut (AUB), who treated injured protesters for three weeks at Gaza’s Al-Awda Hospital last May.

“When you have such a huge number of almost identical injuries, where many of the patients were 150 metres away, not in direct contact with the Israeli soldiers, you realise that this is an intentional policy rather than collateral damage,” Abu Sitta told MEE.

Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), agreed. “This is obvious. When you have almost 90 percent of the people injured in the lower limb, it means that there is a policy to target the lower limbs,” she said.

MEE asked the Israeli military if soldiers were intentionally harming protesters. Underlining the conditions that soldiers operate under – including being shot at, attempts by protesters to enter Israel, tyre burning, stone throwing and Molotov cocktails – a spokesperson told MEE by email: “The IDF uses live ammunition only as a last resort and in accordance with regulations that comply with international law.” The spokesperson also directed MEE to a page of FAQs about the protests.

Among the more than 6,000 wounded Palestinians is a footballer whose career was ended, a student journalist whose right leg was amputated, and a 16-year-old schoolgirl who was waving a Palestinian flag when she was shot.

At least 136 of have had their limbs amputated, according to the latest Gaza Ministry of Health data – 122 of those amputations have been of lower limbs alone.

But the figures don’t give a full picture of the challenges that the wounded protesters, suffering painful injuries, and their families face, as the vast majority live in poverty, said Dr Bassem Naim, who served as Gaza’s minister of health from 2006 to 2012.

“To be honest, it is catastrophic. Of those wounded, many of them are handicapped forever,” Naim said. “To bring them from the house to the hospital every two days for rehabilitation or care? It is a very, very huge burden.”

“I live on the ninth floor and, at least every day for 12 to 16 hours, I don’t have electricity. Can you imagine if you are a young man without a leg?”

Not only have the lives of thousands of protesters and their families been changed, but Gaza’s struggling medical system is also under severe strain as a result of the intensive care required to treat leg wounds.

With mass demonstrations planned this weekend to mark one year since the beginning of the Great March of Return, health professionals fear the system’s breaking point may be just around the corner.

Patterns of injury

On 30 March 2018, tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along Gaza’s 65-km boundary with Israel, pressing for the right of return to homes from which their families fled in 1948 and an end to an 11-year siege on the coastal Palestinian territory.

Almost as soon as the protests started, Israeli soldiers began shooting demonstrators at close range with sniper rifles. By the end of that first day of protests, 16 Palestinians had been killed and at least 400 others were wounded by gunfire.

What was supposed to be a six-week campaign has since stretched into a year, over which time at least 197 Palestinians have been killed and 29,000 injured. Two Israelis were killed and 56 injured in the same period, according to the UN.

One out of every four injured Palestinians has been shot with live ammunition, and the vast majority have been hit in the legs.

One of them was 31-year-old Mohammed al-Akhras.

Akhras, who was employed as an iron worker, said he decided to join the protests after being tortured during six years of detention in Israeli prisons.

He was 19 when he was hunting for birds on the eastern borders of Rafah, in southern Gaza, when Israeli forces arrested him and accused him of being involved in military operations with armed Palestinian factions.

He was released in 2013, but the memories and frustrations stemming from his arrest and detention pushed him to demonstrate, he said.

On 18 May, Akhras said he was protesting like others around him and wasn’t doing anything special, when two explosive bullets – which explode on impact and rip through tissue and bone – struck his left leg.

He required a quick operation, but it would be two months until he could have surgery – in Egypt.

Israeli authorities would not allow him to travel through the Erez crossing for surgery in Jordan because he was a former prisoner.

“I managed to travel to Egypt after several attempts, and after the swelling in my leg reached the point of exhaustion,” he said. By then, doctors were forced to amputate.

According to the UN report and as emphasised by the Israeli military spokesperson, Israeli security forces’ rules of engagement allow soldiers to fire at demonstrators “as a last resort in the event of imminent threat to life or limb of Israeli soldiers or civilians”.

But international doctors and Palestinians who spoke with MEE said they witnessed protesters who were shot even when they did not threaten soldiers.

Naim, the former Gaza health minister, said he was at the protest on 8 February with his 14-year-old son and a group of friends. Nearby, a friend of the boys’ was chewing on sunflower seeds and watching the demonstration, about 100 or 150 metres from the fence with Israel.

“Suddenly, they saw a child [who had been eating sunflower seeds] that had fallen down, and when they ran to him, they found a pool of blood around him and he was shot in the neck,” he said.

“I can send you hours of videos of cultural activities [at the protests] and, at the same time, you will see a few especially young people trying to throw stones or penetrate the fence. Okay, but I can say in 99.9 percent of the cases, there was no threat to the soldiers.”

While he is no longer directly involved in the medical field, Naim said he believes Israeli soldiers are intentionally maiming protesters – both based on what he has witnessed at this year’s demonstrations and his experience as a doctor during the Second Intifada.

During that uprising in the early 2000s, when he was working at the Naser Hospital in Khan Younis, Naim said there were noticeable patterns to the wounds inflicted by Israeli snipers.

“On one day, you will get only legs. Another day, you get only buttocks. A third day, you get chest,” he said.

“If they want to break the will of the people, then they shoot with the goal of killing. But sometimes, if they don’t want things to go out of control, they shoot, but they try to avoid killing people – shooting in the legs, in the hands.”

Nearly two decades later, Naim believes snipers are using same precision now at the Gaza frontier.

“I can be sure this is right because some Fridays, you have one martyr or two or three. And sometimes you have 50 or 25, because they want to exercise more pressure,” he said.

Medical system on the brink

In addition to raising troubling questions about the Israeli army’s tactics, the Great March of Return has put Gaza’s struggling medical system under renewed focus, as thousands of injured protesters are routinely brought in for emergency treatment.

Dr Medhat Abbas, director of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, describes 14 May last year as one of the worst days the hospital has experienced.

Hours after US President Donald Trump opened the new US embassy in Jerusalem and protests erupted in Gaza in anger over the move, around 500 wounded Palestinians arrived at Al-Shifa, almost as many as the 760-bed hospital can accommodate.

Patients lay on the ground and in the corridors as surgeons, too few of them with inadequate supplies, worked around the clock in all 14 of the hospital’s operation rooms.

“It was a black day in Palestinian memory,” Abbas told MEE, answering questions in recorded WhatsApp messages at odd hours, too busy for a phone interview.

In Jabaliya refugee camp, Abu Sitta, the AUB surgery professor, was working at Al-Awda Hospital specifically because it was near one of the main demonstration sites.

“We knew that those numbers that we were seeing every Friday were going to increase on the day of the move of the embassy,” he said.

It wasn’t just Shifa that was overwhelmed: between 4pm and 8pm that day, 3,400 protesters were injured, 1,000 more than the total number of hospital beds in Gaza, Abu Sitta said.

By the end of the day, 68 people had either been killed or suffered fatal injuries to which they would later succumb.

Gaza’s healthcare system was already weak as a result of the 11-year siege, which has limited the flow of medical equipment, supplies and doctors, particularly those with surgical specialities, into the territory.

But the mass casualties on days like 30 March or 14 May have left a lingering burden on Gaza’s hospitals. Gunshot wounds to legs, particularly those caused by sniper bullets shot at close range, can require as many as nine periods of surgery to treat, said Abu Sitta.

“Think about the number of orthopaedic and plastic surgeons you would need to do reconstructive surgery on 80 percent of 6,500 [injured patients],” he said.

“It’s beyond the human resource capacity of Gaza. It’s beyond the number of available operating room hours, in terms of materials, in terms of medication, in terms of rehabilitation. And the aim is to completely overwhelm the system. There’s an intention to maim.”

If doctors are unable to move quickly to help the wounded, they can suffer complications for the rest of their lives, said MSF’s Ingres.

“We are struggling because we are afraid that if there is not enough involvement in the response, thousands of people could be disabled,” she said.

“Already 200 people have been amputated, and if we are not able to treat them tomorrow, it means among the young generation, many of them will be disabled because we will not be able to save their legs – and it is possible.”

The leg wounds have also triggered concerns over antibiotic resistance in Gaza. Ingres said MSF estimates that at least 1,200 people may have developed bone infections, which require six weeks of hospitalisation and a high-level antibiotic before any surgeries.

“So we know already that the treatment will be long and very expensive,” she said.

The toll on a generation

Beyond the layers of medical crisis in Gaza, say the doctors, are the long term implications of a generation of young, disabled Palestinians.

“The media will say ‘two, three Palestinians dead, 500 wounded today’. But actually, these 500 have been condemned to a life of disablement, of economic unproductivity, and years of painful surgery,” said Abu Sitta.

“It is also a psychological problem,” added Ingres, “because now the young people understand that it will be very difficult for them.”

“They just wanted to demonstrate for the majority of them to show that they have the right to exist like everybody in the world. And today, after one year, what do they have? They have nothing.”

Ingres said the spectre of a large demonstration to mark the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return is worrying.

“To be frank with you, if there is a new massive number of injured people, nobody will be able to manage Gaza,” she said. “It will be a disaster.”

But even with clear knowledge of the risks they take to protest near the frontier, young Palestinians have continued to demonstrate, with calls for a million people to join the anniversary march on Saturday.

Akhras, the 31-year-old who was shot in the leg last May, may be among those protesters, despite the fact that his life has taken a dramatic turn since he was shot.

No longer able to make money as an ironworker, Akhras had been receiving a salary from the Palestinian Authority for injured people until two months ago when it was cut, leaving him in challenging economic circumstances.

His wife, Haneen al-Qutati, 23, helps support the couple through her work as a nurse, and their first baby is due soon. Meanwhile, Akhras is training to be a woodworker through an organisation that helps disabled people.

He says he feels the ache of his injury frequently, but doesn’t want to take painkillers for fear of becoming addicted. He is still without a prosthetic leg, using crutches to move around.

“I feel a lot of pain in the evening, but I try to show my wife that there is no pain,” he said. “Some look at me as a pity. It is a painful feeling for my wife.”

Nonetheless, he’s gone out on several recent Fridays to join protests near Rafah, still determined to protest.

(Source / 25.04.2019)

Israel Continues Holding Palestinian Detainee In Solitary Confinement Since March 2017

23 APR11:58 PM

The Palestinian Commission for Detainees’ Affairs has reported, Tuesday, that a Palestinian detainee, identified as Mohammad Yousef Shinnawi, 23, from Haifa, has been held by Israel in solitary confinement since March of 2017.

The Commission stated that the detainee is facing very difficult conditions in solitary confinement section 12 in Majeddo prison, after the Prison Authority decided that he “poses a threat to Israel’s security.”

The detainee was abducted in January of 2017 and was sentenced, in October of 2018, to a life term and twenty years in prison, after the court convicted him of killing one Israeli and wounding another in two separate incidents, in Haifa.

Only two months after his arrest, the detainee received a solitary confinement order for six months, but the order has since been constantly renewed.

The current solitary confinement order against him is set to expire in September of this year and will likely be renewed yet again.

(Source / 24.04.2019) 

Army Injures 27 Palestinians, Including A New Born Baby, In Nablus

24 APR9:36 AM

Israeli soldiers invaded, on Wednesday at dawn, the eastern area of Nablus city, after accompanying dozens of illegal colonialist settlers into Joseph’s Tomb, and fired at Palestinian protesters, wounding at least 27, including a new born baby.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Nablus said its medics provided treatment to seven Palestinians, who were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, including two who were shot in the head, before they were rushed to Rafidia governmental hospital.

It also said that at least fourteen Palestinian, including baby, only two months of age, suffered the effects of teargas inhalation, when the army fire a barrage of gas bombs at protesters, as well as several surrounding home.

The baby was rushed to Rafidia hospital after asphyxiating due to gas inhalation, and was instantly provided with the urgently needed medical attention.

Many Palestinians suffered various cuts and bruises, and received the needed treatment.

Media sources in Nablus said dozens of buses, filled with colonialist settlers, and accompanied by many army jeeps, invaded the eastern area of the city, and headed towards “Joseph’s Tomb.”

The WAFA Palestinian News Agency said at least 15000 colonialist settlers, accompanied by members of Knesset of the Likud Party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, participated in the invasion,  including Yossi Dagan, the head of “Settlements Council” in northern West Bank.

It is worth mentioning that the Palestinians believe Joseph’s Tomb to be the funerary monument to Sheikh Yousef Dweikat, a local religious figure. Others believe that the tomb belongs to the Biblical patriarch Joseph revered by Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muslims alike.

(Source / 24.04.2019) 

Palestinian Man Dies During Israeli Police Chase

24 APR6:05 AM

A young Palestinian man died Tuesday morning, in the Arab town of Arrabat al-Bottuf, in northern Israel, after the Israeli police chased him, Palestinian sources have reported.

Mohammad Majd Kamil, 22, from the town of Qabatia, south of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, was pronounced dead after falling from a considerable height while Israeli police officers were chasing him.

The young man worked in Israel, as a laborer, and apparently did not carry a work or entry permit.

According to WAFA News, hundreds of Palestinians work illegally in Israel, until Israeli police chase, detain and deport them back to the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank face an unemployment rate of 18-19% according to the World Bank, while in Israel, more jobs are available, with better wages.

(Source / 24.04.2019) 

IOF Blasts House Of Martyr Omar Abu Laila

Days Of Palestine [ Salfit ] – The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Wednesday morning detonated the family house of martyr Omar Abul Laila in az-Zawiya town, west of Salfit, causing widespread damage to nearby homes.

According to local sources, Israeli troops and two military bulldozers stormed az-Zawiya town at 10:30 pm on Tuesday, spread through its streets and announced the town a closed military zone.

Then, soldiers stormed the house of martyr Abu Laila and embarked on destroying parts of its interior walls and placed explosives inside them before blowing it up at six o’clock on Wednesday morning.

The IOF also forced dozens of citizens along with children and women to leave nearby homes and fired volleys of stun and tear gas grenades at angry citizens and journalists as they were documenting the events in the town.

Eyewitnesses affirmed that about 50 families were forced to stay outdoors during the demolition and detonation of the house.

Meanwhile, violent clashes broke out between the IOF and local young men and lasted for over seven hours.

On March 17, 2019, martyr Abu Laila managed to shot dead two Israeli settlers, including a soldier, on a road near an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.

(Source / 24.04.2019) 

Dozens Of Extremist Settlers Defile Al-Aqsa Mosque

Days Of Palestine [ Occupied Juersalem ] – Hordes of Israeli settlers on Wednesday broke into al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied Jerusalem amid heavy presence of police officers.

The Islamic Awqaf said that 276 settlers stormed al-Aqsa Mosque compound and carried out provocative tours on the fourth day of Passover holiday.

Meanwhile, the Israeli police have tightened the restrictions imposed on the Old City of Jerusalem in general and the Muslim worshipers entering al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.

Israeli settlers carry out daily break-ins into al-Aqsa Mosque, except on Fridays and Saturdays, in two rounds: one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

(Source / 24.04.2019) 

Israeli Court Rules To Evict Settlers From Palestinian-Owned Home

An Israeli court ordered the eviction of Israeli settlers from a Palestinian-owned home that they held illegally since 2005 in Hebron City, in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, on Monday.

Hebrew-language news outlets reported that the Jerusalem Magistrate Court rejected claims by Israeli settlers, stating that given their “long occupation” of the property and their investments to improve it, the home should remain theirs. 

The court rejected the claims and ordered the Israeli settlers to pay the Palestinian family 580,000 shekels ($161,000) as compensation for the years it was held illegally by the settlers.

The legal owners, the Bakri family, were represented by attorney, Samer Shehadeh, who confirmed that the Israeli settlers were appealing the court ruling.

The home is located in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, in the center of Hebron City, and sits on 0.75 acres of land.
Palestinian residents in Hebron said that Tal Construction & Investments LTD., the company which bought the home based on forged documents, is registered as a Jordanian company, however, is operated by Israeli settlers who aim to promote illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank.

Tal Construction bought the Hebron home in 2005 from Hani al-Batash, who claimed to have legal rights over the property, for $300,000 and handed it over to Israeli families.

Nevertheless, Israeli police launched an investigation into the issue and determined that the documents used during the transaction were forged and that al-Batash was not the legal owner of the property.

The area of Tel Rumeida has long been a flash-point for tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and military, as it is located near illegal Israeli settlements whose residents are notoriously aggressive toward Palestinians.

Tel Rumeida is located within the area of the city designated as H2, an area taking over the bulk of Hebron’s Old City that is under full Israeli military control, and the site of five illegal Israeli settlements which continually expand into surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods.

The Israeli-controlled H2 area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces.

Some 800 notoriously aggressive Israeli settlers now live under the protection of the Israeli military in the Old City of Hebron, surrounded by more than 30,000 Palestinians.

(Source / 23.04.2019)

IDF opens investigation into shooting of blindfolded, handcuffed Palestinian teen

Sixteen-year-old Osama Hajahjeh was shot twice in the leg last in Tuqu’, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on 18 April 2019 [Video still, Facebook]

Sixteen-year-old Osama Hajahjeh was shot twice in the leg last in Tuqu’, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank on 18 April 2019

The Israel Defence Forces has opened an investigation into an incident in which its soldiers shot a Palestinian teenager while he was blindfolded and handcuffed. Sixteen-year-old Osama Hajahjeh was shot twice in the leg last Thursday in Tuqu’, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Speaking to Agence France Presse (AFP) by phone from a hospital in Beit Jala yesterday, Hajahjeh explained that he had been attending the funeral of a local teacher when “he was tackled by a soldier who jumped out of an olive grove and forced him to the ground.” The soldier then handcuffed Hajahjeh and blindfolded him, Al Jazeera reported.

“They shot me the first time while I was trying to change my sitting position because they sat me on thorns,” the teenager explained. “I started walking towards the villagers asking for help, [then the soldiers] shot me again and hit my left thigh.”

Images of the incident captured by a local photographer clearly show Hajahjeh surrounded by several Israeli soldiers, his hands behind his back and a white cloth tied over his eyes. The aftermath of the event was also caught on video, which shows several Palestinians gathered around the teen – who can just be seen lying bleeding on the ground – and an Israeli soldier pointing a gun at those trying to help, warning them to stay away or “you’ll get shot”.

READ: Israeli forces arrest 10 Palestinians, including minors

The Israeli army yesterday confirmed the incident and was forced to issue a statement, saying: “On Thursday there was an incident, which included massive stone-throwing near [Israeli army] forces and Israeli cars on the road, risking the lives of civilians and soldiers. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods and arrested one of the demonstrators [Hajahjeh] who tried to flee after his arrest.”

The statement continued: “[Hajahjeh] was detained nearby and shortly thereafter he began to flee from the [army] squad again. The squad immediately began a pursuit, during which the detainee was shot in the lower body. The squad offered the Palestinian first aid immediately. The incident will be investigated.”

Hajahjeh’s father, Ali, said of the incident that “only a sick person would shoot a blindfolded boy.” Meanwhile, Roy Yellin, a spokesperson for Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, pointed out that four Palestinians in their late teens or early twenties had been shot since early March and that, “like the previous four cases [B’Tselem] investigated, this is an example of Israel’s reckless use of lethal fire and the fact that the human lives of Palestinians count very little in the eyes of the army.”

An investigation published by B’Tselem last week stressed that in all four incidents, the Israeli army’s use of lethal fire was “completely unjustified” since “none of the victims posed a threat to the lives of security personnel.” The report added: “As B’Tselem has cautioned countless times in the past, these are not aberrations or ‘bad apples’. These are incidents that occur as part of the routine actions of soldiers and police officers, pursuant to Israel’s dangerous, lethal open-fire policy.”

READ: Israel army covered up settlers’ killing of wounded Palestinian father

(Source / 23.04.2019)

Notre Dame of Gaza: Our mosques and churches are also burning

Palestinians from the village of Jabaa, east of Ramallah, look at damage at a mosque which settlers tried to burn overnight on June 19, 2012. [AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI / Getty]

Palestinians from the village of Jabaa, east of Ramallah, look at damage at a mosque which settlers tried to burn overnight on June 19, 2012 
By Ramzy Baroud  

As the 300-foot spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris tragically came tumbling down on live television, my thoughts ventured to Nuseirat Refugee Camp, my childhood home in the Gaza Strip.

Then, also on television, I watched as a small bulldozer hopelessly clawed through the rubble of my neighbourhood mosque. I grew up around that mosque. I spent many hours there with my grandfather, Mohammed, a refugee from historic Palestine. Before grandpa became a refugee, he was a young Imam in a small mosque in his long-destroyed village of Beit Daras.

Mohammed and many in his generation took solace in erecting their mosque in the refugee camp as soon as they arrived in the Gaza Strip in late 1948. The new mosque was first made of hardened mud but was eventually remade with bricks, and later concrete. He spent much of his time there, and when he died, his old, frail body was taken to the same mosque for a final prayer, before being buried in the adjacent Martyrs Graveyard. When I was still a child, he used to hold my hand as we walked together to the mosque during prayer times. When he aged, and could barely walk, I, in turn, held his hand.

But Al-Masjid al-Kabir – the Great Mosque, later renamed Al-Qassam Mosque – was pulverised entirely by Israeli missiles during the summer war on Gaza, starting July 8, 2014.

 A vehicle removes the wreckage of the al-Oassam Mosque destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Nuseirat Refugee Camp in Gaza on August 9, 2014

The Israeli military targeted hundreds of Palestinian houses of worship in previous wars, most notably in 2008-9 and 2012. But the 2014 war was the most brutal and most destructive yet. Thousands were killed and more injured. Nothing was immune to Israeli bombs. According to Palestine Liberation Organization records, 63 mosques were destroyed and 150 damaged in that war alone, often with people seeking shelter inside. In the case of my mosque, two bodies were recovered after a long, agonising search. They had no chance of being rescued. If they survived the deadly explosives, they were crushed by the massive slabs of concrete.

In truth, concrete, cement, bricks and physical structures don’t carry much meaning on their own. We give them meaning. Our collective experiences, our pains, joys, hopes and faith make a house of worship what it is.

Many generations of French Catholics have assigned the Notre Dame Cathedral with its layered meanings and symbolism since the 12th century.

Read: Israeli forces arrest 10 Palestinians, including minors

While the fire consumed the oak roof and much of the structure, French citizens and many around the world watched in awe. It is as if the memories, prayers and hopes of a nation that is rooted in time were suddenly revealed, rising, all at once, with the pillars of smoke and fire.

But the very media that covered the news of the Notre Dame fire seemed oblivious to the obliteration of everything we hold sacred in Palestine as, day after day, Israeli war machinery continues to blow up, bulldoze and desecrate.

It is as if our religions are not worthy of respect, even though Christianity was born in Palestine. It was there that Jesus roamed the hills and valleys of our historic homeland teaching people about peace, love and justice. Palestine is also central to Islam. Haram al-Sharif, where al-Aqsa Mosque and The Dome of the Rock are kept, is the third holiest site for Muslims everywhere. Christian and Muslim religious sites are besieged, often raided and shut down per military diktats. Moreover, the Israeli army-protected messianic Jewish extremists want to demolish Al-Aqsa, and the Israeli government has been