50 Palestinian protesters have been blinded by shots to the eye at Gaza fence protests

Mohamed al-Naccar was shot in his right eyes with a tear gas canister fired by Israeli soldiers during “Great March of Return” protests on January 11, 2019. He is seen with his mother in Khan Yunis, Gaza on February 6, 2019. (Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)


‘Blinding the truth’: Israeli snipers target Gaza protesters in their eyes
The New Arab 20 Dec by Tareq Hajjaj & Pam Bailey — Media coverage and social media posts went wild when Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh was blinded in his left eye after he was hit by a rubber bullet while covering a protest in the West Bank. However, Amarneh was far from unique; Israeli snipers targeting participants in Gaza’s weekly Great Return March protests have aimed for the legs – and eyes. To date, Gaza’s Ministry of Health reports that 50 protesters have been shot in the eye since the demonstrations began March 30, 2018 – leaving them permanently blind. “Some of these protesters and journalists were hit in the eye with teargas canisters, but most were targeted directly with what is commonly called a ‘rubber bullet,’ giving the impression they are somehow benign,” says Ashraf Alqedra, MD, a treating physician at Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital and spokesperson for the Ministry of Health. “But there is still steel at the core, and although these bullets don’t usually kill, they do grave damage. It is impossible to save an eye hit directly by a rubber-coated steel bullet.” …
Mai Abu Rwedah: the most recent victim — Mai Abu Rwedah, 20, grew up in north Gaza’s al-Bureij Refugee Camp in a family of nine children supported by a father who works as a janitor for a UN school. She just graduated from university, hoping to start her professional life as a medical secretary and contribute her income. Abu Rwedah believes in using peaceful, but active, resistance to reclaim Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homeland. So, she has joined participants in the Great Return March protest since its launch on March 30, 2018.  But that dream was dealt a severe blow December 6, when she became the most recent Gazan to lose an eye to an Israeli bullet.
Earlier this month, stood with a few friends about 100 metres from the fence that marks the border between Gaza and Israel. She glimpsed an Israeli soldier waving and pointing his finger to his eye. “He was trying to intimidate me, but I was not afraid because I was doing nothing wrong. I wasn’t even throwing stones,” Abu Rwedeh recalls. The soldiers fired tear gas then, and Mai and her friends ran away, but still were in sight of the young man who had threatened her.  “He was watching me; wherever I moved he kept watching. Then, suddenly, he raised his gun and pointed it at me. I was about to flee but he was too fast. He shot me in my eye.” The bullet damaged her jaw as well. Doctors had to extract her right eye, since it was destroyed….

Updated: Israeli missile kills a Palestinian in Gaza
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Dec — An Israeli warplane fired, on Tuesday at night, a missile at a Palestinian youth in the southern Gaza Strip, killing him, before the soldiers took his body away. Armored Israeli military bulldozers advanced towards the perimeter fence, east of Khan Younis, before the soldiers snatched his corpse and took it away. Media sources in Gaza said the slain young man has been identified as Abdullah Ahmad Abu Teir (Abu Nasr), 18, from Abasan al-Kabeera, in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. His father called on international human rights groups to intervene and to secure the transfer of his corpse to his family for proper burial. The Israeli army claimed that it observed an armed Palestinian near the perimeter fence in the southern Gaza Strip, before instructions were given to an Israeli drone to shoot him. Eyewitnesses reported that Palestinian ambulances tried several times to reach the youth to save him, but Israeli forces opened fire towards them, preventing them from reaching the site. They added that Israeli soldiers called on Palestinian ambulances via loudspeakers not to move forward, and fired light bombs and announced a state of alert in the area, prior to coming forward with several bulldozers. His family issued a statement mourning his death on its Facebook page. It is worth mentioning that Abdullah’s brother, Ahmad, was killed by Israeli army fire in the same area in the year 2012.

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack: military
JERUSALEM (AFP) 19 Dec — Israeli warplanes attacked an arms plant in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip early Thursday, after Palestinian militants in the enclave fired a rocket at Israel, the army said. “Overnight, a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israeli territory,” an English-language army statement said. “In response… fighter jets struck a Hamas weapons manufacturing site in the northern Gaza Strip.” There were no immediate reports of casualties in the overnight rocket attack or the air strike that followed.
Later on Thursday, Israeli authorities announced a punitive reduction in the fishing zone off Gaza. COGAT, a unit of Israel’s defence ministry, said that in response to the latest rocket fire, “the Gaza Strip fishing zone has been reduced to 10 nautical miles until further notice.” Israel constantly adjusts the fishing zone according to the level of tension around Gaza, sometimes allowing boats to fish up to 15 nautical miles offshore and at others restricting them to six or banning fishing altogether.

IOF injures 30 Palestinians in Gaza border march
GAZA (PIC) 20 Dec — Dozens of Palestinian citizens were injured on Friday when the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened fire at the demonstrators participating in the Great March of Return near Gaza border. Gaza’s Ministry of Health said that 30 Palestinians, including a child and a woman, suffered injuries by IOF live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas grenades. Thousands of Palestinians marched on the 85th Friday of the Great March of Return along the border between the Gaza Strip and the 1948 occupied territories. The demonstrators raised banners and chanted slogans calling for breaking the siege on Gaza and condemning the settlement expansion in al-Khalil City in the occupied West Bank. The Gaza Strip Palestinians on 30 March 2018 launched the Great March of Return protests mainly to call for ending the 13-year-long blockade on Gaza and allowing the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.

Photos: Great March of Return continues
MEMO 20 Dec — Palestinians gathered at the separation fence in Gaza to continue protests

Israel church leaders urge government to allow Gaza’s Christian Palestinians to visit Bethlehem
MEMO 20 Dec — Catholic leaders in Israel have urged the government to allow Christian Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to visit Bethlehem, in the West Bank, for Christmas next week, reported Haaretz.Last week, Israeli occupation authorities declared that Christians in Gaza “would not be permitted to travel to the West Bank for the holiday”. Some 950 Palestinians, out of approximately 1,200 Christians in Gaza, applied to leave for Christmas, but the Israeli government has only “agreed to allow 100 people over the age of 45 to travel to Jordan and not to the West Bank”. Following international outrage, Israeli occupation authorities posted a link online “saying that 500 people would be allowed to leave Gaza for Christmas”. However, “a few hours later, the link was deleted and the office said a decision had not been reached, blaming a technical glitch”. The statement issued yesterday by the heads of Catholic churches in Israel – aimed at foreign diplomats as well as the government – slammed the confusion and indecision. According to Haaretz, “the church leaders stated that failure to provide permits to travel to the West Bank for the holiday would violate Gazans’ religious freedom.” Last year, Israel granted permits for close to 700 Palestinian Christians to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and other cities.

Israel allows shipment of rescue vehicles into Gaza
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) 17 Dec — Israel allowed the import of around 20 rescue and firefighting vehicles into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said. The equipment, which was donated by Qatar, includes several SUVs fitted with water pumps. Gaza’s Civil Defense previously had just 33 vehicles to serve the territory’s 2 million people, including a single fire truck with a hydraulic platform … Raed al-Dahshan, a spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense, said Tuesday’s shipment was “unprecedented.” The Civil Defense said no firefighting equipment has been allowed into Gaza since 2007, and the last shipment of fire trucks was brought in by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in 1998.

Qatar says its Gaza aid to continue through March 2020 at least
GAZA (Reuters) 18 Dec — Qatar will continue providing humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip into next year, the gas-rich Gulf state’s envoy to the Palestinian enclave said on Wednesday, a pledge that may help stave off conflict between Hamas and Israel. Since the last Gaza war, in 2014, Qatar has with Israel’s approval provided over $1 billion in reconstruction funds and stipends for poor Palestinians. The aid has helped Doha win favor in Washington despite Qatari-Saudi diplomatic tensions.  Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi visited Gaza this week to oversee the donation of 22 fire trucks and other emergency vehicles and discuss proposed new energy and health projects.  “For the first quarter of the year we are continuing, this is for sure. For the rest of the year, I think we will continue, we are looking carefully and positively on this issue,” Emadi told Reuters when asked about future Qatari grants. In an effort to ease economic hardships and help calm down tensions along the border with Israel, Qatar provided more than $150 million in 2019 to buy fuel for Gaza’s lone power plant and provide monthly cash handouts to nearly 70,000 of the enclave’s needy. Israeli and Palestinian officials say the Qatari aid helps calm internal Gaza economic hardships that, in the past, have contributed to flare-ups in fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Analysis: Israel fears fallout of Qatar freeze on Gaza aid / Alex Fishman
Ynet 18 Dec — Gulf state’s assistance pulled Hamas-run enclave out of depression after PA suspended funding, bringing improved infrastructure and hopes for better standard of living, but halt to Qatari funds could lead to escalation on Israeli border, kill chances of long-term calm….

Israel allows Gaza to export strawberries to Europe, Gulf
MEMO 18 Dec — Israeli occupation authorities have allowed Gaza farmers to export strawberries to European countries and Gulf States, news agencies reported yesterday. Palestinian farmers from Gaza exported five tonnes of strawberries to the UK yesterday through Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport, the Jerusalem Post said. A similar amount was sent to Qatar and the UAE via the Allenby crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan last week. Chinese news agency Xinhua said Israel only allowed the export of a limited amount of strawberries to Europe, while Israeli press reported that 450 tonnes were cleared for export to the occupied West Bank and further afield. Gaza farmers are planting 7,300 dunams (1,800 acres) of strawberries in the north of the besieged enclave this year. The industry employs about 1,500 Gazan farmers.

Happily never after: In Gaza, marriage becomes an impossible dream
MEE 14 Dec by Isra Namey in al-Maghazi refugee camp, besieged Gaza — Hussein Qandeel has a simple dream: to earn a decent living, get married and start a family. But in the Gaza Strip, the 39-year-old’s aspirations are a luxury. Caught between recurring bouts of violence and constantly deteriorating economic and social conditions caused by more than 12 years of Israeli-led siege, young Palestinians in Gaza are struggling to survive, let alone build a future and find a partner. The issue has grown to worrying proportions, as authorities point to ever-decreasing marriage rates as dowries, weddings and housing grow out of reach for Gaza’s youth, with wide-reaching consequences for Palestinian society in the blockaded enclave …
Sheikh Hassan al-Jojo, the head of Gaza’s High Judicial Council, told MEE that the number of marriages has been declining by at least 10 percent each year. In 2018, our courts received 15,392 marriage applications, while in 2017 we had received 17,367 cases,” Jojo said. “In 2016, we received 19,248 files. This means that each year we have a drop of around 2,000 marriage applications. “More Palestinian young adults of marriageable age now fail to achieve their dream of getting married and raise children for our society,” Jojo said. “We are extremely concerned about the decline in the number of couples coming to courts to get married.”….

Turning waste to gold in GazaGAZA CITY (Al Jazeera) 17 Dec by Walid Mahmoud & Muhammad Shehada – Few opportunities await Gaza’s youth after they graduate from university. Unemployment among university graduates aged 19-29 years old in the besieged coastal enclave was just shy of 80 percent last year, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. But civil engineering graduates Tamer Abo Motlaq, 26, Usama Qudaih, 24, and Khaled Abo Motlaq, 24 were determined not to add to the grim statistic. Harnessing their degrees and their desire to create sustainable affordable energy alternatives for their cash-strapped fellow Palestinians in Gaza, the trio founded the Olive Jift Project – a startup that turns “jift”, byproducts from olive oil pressing, into fuel pellets for home heating and cooking. To secure seed funding and valuable mentorship, the three graduates entered their startup idea in a contest run by Danish Church Aid. “Our project won a micro-funding of $5,000 and received technical assistance and coaching from [the local NGO] Ma’an Development Center,” Tamer told Al Jazeera. Converting jift into fuel pellets costs the company about $150 a tonne, or $0.2 a kilogramme – roughly half the local price of a kilogramme of firewood …  The team hopes to make a meaningful impact, if even on a micro-level, by creating a sustainable product that is affordable to Gaza’s residents and helps alleviate chronic energy shortages while redressing a growing area of environmental concern….

West Bank

Illegal Israeli colonists attack shepherd, unleash their dogs toward him near Bethlehem
IMEMC 20 Dec by Saed Bannoura — Many fanatic Israeli colonists, illegally squatting on Palestinian lands, attacked a shepherd from Kisan village, east of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and unleashed their dogs at him, causing various injuries. Ahmad Ghazal, the deputy mayor of Kisan Village Council, said the colonists came from the illegal Ibei Hanahal outpost, which was installed on stolen Palestinian lands, near the illegal Maali Amos colony. He added that the assailants attacked the farmer, Atallah Ibrahim Obeyyat, 53, causing many cuts and bruises, before unleashing their dogs toward him. The dogs also attacked and bit some of his sheep. The wounded farmer was transferred to Beit Jala Governmental hospital for treatment; he said the attack took place when the colonists invaded the Palestinian lands and started trying to force him out of the grazing lands.

Israeli settlers uproot and steal 300 Palestinian-owned olive trees near Bethlehem
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Dec — Israeli settlers, on Thursday, uprooted hundreds of olive trees in the southern West Bank town of al-Khader, near Bethlehem, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) said. Owner of the trees, Hisham Barmil said that settlers from the illegal Sidi Boaz settlement outpost built on expropriated al-Khader land, uprooted 300 olive trees and stole them. He said the settlers invaded his 30 dunam plot of land and uprooted the trees, adding that the settlers did the same thing two months ago. He said the settlers do not want him to develop his land, in the hope they will take it over to expand their settlement.

Cars torched, graffiti sprayed in West Bank Palestinian village
Times of Israel 20 Dec — Several vehicles were found torched and graffiti messages spray-painted in the Palestinian village of Fara‘ata in the West Bank Friday morning, Hebrew media reported, citing Palestinian sources. A slogan daubed in the village, which lies close to Qalqilya, read, “Quiet will be met with quiet, regards from Kumi Ori.” Kumi Ori is a controversial Israeli outpost in the West Bank which has become a rallying point for extreme right-wing settlers …
The Tag Meir anti-racism group said in a statement that the “Jewish terror action overnight is the 60th incident reported in 2019. Palestinian/Arab communities that are under Israeli security responsibility are attacked by Price Tag law-breakers once every 5-6 days, without any real intervention by Israeli security forces,” Channel 13 television news reported. The incident came after vandals damaged 18 cars in the Palestinian village of Al-Jib near Jerusalem overnight Wednesday. Car tires were punctured and several of them were graffitied. The wall of a building was spray-painted with the words: “Arabs? Expel or kill!” Police launched an investigation. On Sunday, the Haaretz daily reported that the number of hate crimes against Palestinians dropped significantly in 2019, but the boldness of their perpetrators has increased.

Local settlers despair as Hilltop Youth moves in
Ynet 20 Dec by Elisha Ben Kimon — The West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin has seen a jump in attacks on the local Palestinian community in recent weeks, leaving residents in despair and local officials scrambling to root out the culprits, thought to be young extremist settlers. According to an Israeli security official, the IDF believes this is the work of the Hilltop Youth – young extremist settlers who set up unauthorized settlement outposts and create friction with the Palestinians who live in the West Bank. In particular, the IDF suspects a group originating at the Komi Ori outpost, known for its violent altercations with IDF and Border Patrol troops as well as attacks on local Palestinians. The outpost, near the settlement of Yitzhar, has now been declared a closed military area, forcing the youths to relocate to a different part of the West Bank.
Officials in Gush Etzion Regional Council, the local authority to which Bat Ayin belongs, say the spate of attacks on Palestinian property in the area began at the end of November in the village of Jab’a, where vehicles and houses were damaged and defaced with racist graffiti … Bat Ayin settlers have found themselves dragged into the situation. The residents unanimously denounce such acts and are trying to stop those responsible….

Illegal Israeli colonists attack a Palestinian home with live fire
IMEMC 16 Dec — On Monday, several fanatic illegal Israeli colonists, squatting on private Palestinian lands, attacked a Palestinian home with rounds of live ammunition, and stones, in Jeet village, east of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia. Ghassan Daghlas, A Palestinian Authority official who monitors Israel’s illegal colonialist activities in northern West Bank, said the colonists invaded Jeet village, and targeted a Palestinian home with live fire, in addition to throwing stones at it. Daghlas added that the attack led to property damage, without physically wounding any Palestinian. The home is located at the edge of the village, and the Israeli assailants fled the scene.

Israeli settlers stone Palestinian commuters in north of West Bank, cause damage
NABLUS, Sunday, December 15, 2019 (WAFA) – Israeli settlers attacked with stones Palestinian commuters in the north of the occupied West Bank causing damage to cars but no bodily injury, according to a local official. Ghassan Daghlas, in charge of the settlements file in the Palestinian Authority, said settlers hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles on the road linking Nablus and Qalqilya cities that goes by the illegal settlement of Yitzhar. He said several cars sustained damage but that luckily no one was hurt.

Israel places 15-year-old under administrative detention
IMEMC/Agencies 19 Dec — Israeli forces, on Wednesday, placed a Palestinian minor under detention at the Ofer Detention Center, west of Ramallah, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported. The Prisoners’ Affairs Commission said in a statement that Hamza al-Hreimi, 15, was shot and injured in the thigh, by the Israeli soldiers, on Tuesday night. He was later moved to an Israeli hospital for treatment. In Beit Jala city, west f Bethlehem, the family home was invaded by occupation forces, with the purpose of detaining him. The statement added that the Ofer Military Court is scheduled for Thursday to hold a hearing to extend al-Harimi’s detention.

Updated: Two Palestinians wounded in northern West Bank
IMEMC/Agencies 16 Dec — Israeli army shooting of Palestinians apparently trying to enter Israel for work or to reach their land behind Israel’s separation barrier in the northern West Bank continued today, the third incident in one week, and resulted in the injury of two men, the Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) quoted Palestinian medical sources. Israeli soldiers manning a gate set up by the military at the apartheid barrier in the village of Nazlat Issa, north of the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem, shot Ahmad Hussam Kittaneh, 25, in the leg, and Dirar Rasem Kittaneh, 21, in the shoulder. Their injuries were described as moderate. With these two injuries, the number of Palestinians shot and injured in one week at similar army-managed gates in the northern West Bank has reached eight in three different incidents. WAFA reports said that the soldiers were given orders to shoot at any Palestinian attempting to breach the gates in the barrier set up since 2004 on Palestinian-owned land in the occupied West Bank …  Approximately 100,000 Palestinian workers work in Israel, while the occupation state prevents them from reaching their jobs inside the Green Line unless they have permission, which forces many to pass through holes in the apartheid wall.

NGO: Israel soldiers wantonly shot at Palestinian children, injuring two
MEMO 18 Dec — Israeli forces “wantonly” shot at Palestinian children in Al-Jalazun refugee camp, injuring two, according to an investigation by human rights group B’Tselem. The incident occurred on the afternoon of 17 November, when Israeli occupation forces entered Al-Jalazun to chase Palestinian children who had been throwing stones at them at the camp entrance. After reinforcements arrived in an Israeli military jeep, uniformed soldiers and “at least one armed person in civilian clothing” began “firing live rounds toward the fleeing children and teens”, as well as rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters. Thirteen-year-old Rami Abu Nasrah and 11-year-old Amir Zbeideh were both hit with live ammunition; Rami suffered “an open fracture in the arm and underwent surgery to stabilize the bone”, while Amir “had surgery to reattach his right index finger and remove shrapnel from his chest”.  As B’Tselem noted, at the time, the Israeli military spokesperson claimed that soldiers had “used crowd-dispersal methods including the firing of rubber bullets and shooting into the air.”….

Israeli electric company cuts power to West Bank over Palestinian debt
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 18 Dec – Israel’s state-owned electric company on Wednesday said it was continuing power cuts to several cities in the occupied West Bank to press for payment of what it said was $519 million owed by a Palestinian electricity company. Israel Electric Corp (IEC) began daily, three-hour power cuts on Sunday, a spokeswoman said, adding that the company is “determined to collect the debt but disconnects the power in a reasonable and proportionate way”. The cuts have led to afternoon power outages in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, affecting an estimated 130,000 people, said Hisham Omari, who heads the Palestinians’ main electric company in the West Bank. “When you have no electricity, there is no life. You stop life, you stop work, you feel the winter cold, for three hours,” added Omari, chairman of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO). Palestinians in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East War, are largely dependent on electricity supplied by Israel. JDECO buys electricity from IEC and then sells it to customers in the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority has limited self-rule under interim peace deals with Israel. JDECO does not have its own power stations and relies on Israel for 95 percent of its energy supply. It buys the remainder from neighboring Jordan. Omari said the company was “trying to take a 150 million shekels ($43.25 million) loan from a Palestinian bank to help pay off the debt.”….

Israel/West Bank: Grant Palestinians equal rights
[with VIDEO] (JERUSALEM (HRW) 17 Dec  – Israel should grant Palestinians in the West Bank rights protections at least equal to those afforded Israeli citizens, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today, citing Israel’s 52 years of occupation with no end in sight. The law of occupation permits occupiers to restrict some civil rights in the early days of an occupation based on limited security justifications, but sweeping restrictions are unjustified and unlawful after five decades.  The 92-page report, “Born Without Civil Rights: Israel’s Use of Draconian Military Orders to Repress Palestinians in the West Bank,” evaluates Israeli military orders that criminalize nonviolent political activity, including protesting, publishing material “having a political significance,” and joining groups “hostile” to Israel. Human Rights Watch examined several case studies to show that Israel unjustifiably relies on these sweeping orders to jail Palestinians for anti-occupation speech, activism, or political affiliations; outlaw political and other nongovernmental organizations; and shut down media outlets. “Israel’s efforts to justify depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights protections for more than half a century based on the exigencies of its forever military occupation just don’t fly anymore,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “Given Israel’s long-term control over Palestinians, it should at minimum allow them to exercise the same rights it grants its own citizens, regardless of the political arrangement in place.” … In the lead-up to the report release, the Israeli government, rather than substantively responding to the Human Rights Watch report, has chosen instead to impugn a Human Rights Watch staff member….

B’Tselem: When you work for thirty years you learn a few things. Here’s what we’ve learned since 1989
IMEMC/Agencies 16 Dec — The Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported that during a speech at Khan al-Ahmar, marking 30 years since the establishment of B’Tselem, Executive Director of the Israeli human rights center, Hagai El-Ad delivered the following speech: “When you work for thirty years you learn a few things. Here’s what we’ve learned since 1989. We’ve learned the noble principles that are the foundations of our work: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which decrees that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”, and the biblical verse that inspired our name, B’Tselem – literally, in the image: “And God created humankind in His image. In the image of God did He create them.”
But we’ve learned, too, that rather than serving as principles to be fulfilled, they can also be drained of any meaning after Israeli lawyers charge, trampling them under foot and then market it all to the outside world as “justice”. Free and equal? We’ve learned that the stretch of land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is run by one government, ruling over all people with a conviction that only Israelis are worthy of freedom and equality, not Palestinians. We’ve learned that there is not an inch of Palestinian land that Israel can’t find justification to take over and do with whatever it pleases. We’ve learned that there is no Palestinian home the demolition of which an Israeli judge won’t justify with lofty legal verbiage. We’ve learned that there is no Palestinian victim – a three-year-old child, a fourteen-year-old youth, a whole family – whose killing the Israeli system cannot expertly whitewash. There will be an investigation, there won’t be an investigation, the file has been lost, no suspect has been named – the details change but the outcome remains the same: death and violence with impunity. We’ve learned there’s hardly any aspect of Palestinian life that Israel can’t arbitrarily subject to a permit, a checkpoint, a paper-pusher or a soldier….

Israeli soldiers abduct 23 Palestinians in West Bank
IMEMC 16 Dec — Israeli soldiers abducted, Monday, at least 23 Palestinians from several parts of the occupied West Bank; 22 of the abducted were taken prisoner after the soldiers stormed and ransacked their homes, and one after being stopped at a military roadblock. The Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) said the soldiers abducted Majd Abdul-Salam al-Jondob, from Deir al-Ghosoun town, in addition to Ramzi Na’alwa, Yousef Mhanna, Mo’tasem Oleyyan, Salah Dheiliyya, Abdullah Nasser, Abdullah Mahdawi, and Ahmad Ekbariyya, from Shweika area, in the northern West Bank governorate of Tulkarem … In occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers abducted Hakam Mojahed Abu Roumi and Sayyaf Nidal Abu Roumi, from their homes in the al-‘Ezariya town, southeast of the city. The two Palestinians are the cousins of Nassim Mokafih Abu Roumi, 14, who was killed by Israeli soldiers near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, in August of this year….

Shin Bet announces arrest of largest PFLP cell in West Bank
RAMALLAH (Asharq Al-Awsat) 19 Dec — Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service said that it had arrested in the West Bank the largest military cell of the Popular Front (PFLP), which belongs to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
It announced that in recent months it had uncovered a wide and organized infrastructure of activists of the Popular Front, which carried out a bomb attack in Ein Bubin, where Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb was killed and her brother and father were injured … According to information, 50 activists in the Popular Front were subsequently arrested …  A statement by the Shin Bet said those responsible for the armed operation in Ein Bubin were Samer Arbid, 44, from Ramallah, a former prisoner who is the head of the cell; Yazen Mghames, 24, a resident of Bir Zeit; and 25-year-old Qasim Shibli, a resident of the village of Kober …  The Shin Bet said that the PFLP, which was considered a “small” organization, was active during the second Intifada, but its activities diminished in recent years, before emerging again in the recent operation near Ramallah.

Israel to compensate Palestinian shepherd injured in West Bank military firing zone
[behind paywall] Haaretz 18 Dec by Hagar Shezaf — Israel will compensate a Palestinian shepherd who was injured by an undetonated grenade in a military firing zone in the West Bank in 2012. The plaintiff Hussein Rafaiqa, from the Jaheleen Bedouin tribe east of Jerusalem, was 15 years old when he lost four of his fingers after picking up the grenade while herding his sheep.  The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that the state was negligent and ordered the defense ministry to pay Rafaiqa 304,000 shekels ($87,000). The judge accepted testimonies that claimed that the area in which Rafaiqa was injured is marked in some maps as a hiking trail, and is used by visitors to nearby tourism sites. Additionally, the court ruled that the army knew of shepherds entering the site, as there is an active well there from which they water the flock. The defense argued that the zone was scanned for safety according to protocol. However, the state failed to present the report typically issued after such a scan, and the court ruled that the army did not follow protocol and failed to scan the firing zone.

The Christian December dish nothing to do with Christmas
ABOUD (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 17 Dec — Stirring a giant vat in a village in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian Christian Maryam Salem prepares a special festive dish — not for Christmas, but the St Barbara’s Day festival. It is celebrated every December 17 in Aboud, which residents believe is the last resting place of Saint Barbara, a third century woman killed for refusing to renounce her Christian faith. The special dessert, named after Barbara and given to hundreds of people, looks a little like rice pudding but includes wheat, anise, fennel, cinnamon, almonds, raisins and sugar …
The exact details of Barbara’s story are disputed but the legend of the story is well-known. The beautiful daughter of a pagan born in the third century, she secretly converted to Christianity. Once her father found out she fled but was eventually caught. Her furious father murdered her but was struck by lightning and died shortly after. The pastor of Aboud’s Greek Orthodox Church, Father Emmanuel Awwad, said some accounts suggest the final scenes took place in the village, while others placed them in the city of Baalbek in modern day Lebanon. Celebrations began before sunset on Monday, with a special prayer held in the church in the village centre. Afterwards the clergy and local residents, both Christian and Muslim, marched through the village down streets flanked by olive trees and cactuses, while a group of scouts played bagpipes and drums. The march culminated at the saint’s tomb, located on a rocky hill where on a clear day you can see through Israeli territory to the Mediterranean Sea …
Hanna Khoury, head of the village council, recalled how in 2002 during the Palestinian intifada, or uprising, Israeli forces blew up the site under the pretext it was being “used to prepare for commando operations.” The army later apologised, saying it had not realised the religious significance of the site….

Photos: Palestinian wood sculptors  work at workshop in West Bank city of Bethlehem
Xinhua 20 Dec — Wood figures for Nativity scenes are seen at a workshop in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Photos by Mamoun Wazwaz/Xinhua)


IPS bars entry of winter clothing as Palestinian detainees suffer harsh winter conditions
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Dec — The Palestine Prisoners Centre for Studies has called on international humanitarian and human rights institutions, foremost of which is the Red Cross, to exert pressure on Israeli Prison Services (IPS) to provide winter clothing and covers desperately needed during the severe cold season. The spokesperson for the Centre, Riyad Al-Ashqar, explained that Palestinian detainees in all facilities suffer harsh conditions in the winter season, due to acute shortage of clothes, winter blankets, and heating devices, especially in prisons located in the desert areas — namely the Negev, Nafha, Beersheba, and Rimon. This is in addition to the fact that some sections in a number of prisons are composed of tents that do not protect from the cold, many of which are old and worn out, allowing rain water to enter. Al-Ashqar noted that IPS does not allow the entry of blankets and winter clothing for detainees, except in very limited quantities which are insufficient for cover. It also banned certain items from the canteen, and those which are available have a very high price. Additionally noted was the presence of a large number of recently jailed detainees who lack resources, due to their inability to [have visitors in the first six months of detention. He also explained that the extreme cold in the Negev leads to the freezing of limbs, with no means of heat, in addition to the lack of a permanent hot water supply. These cold climates will continue for several months, affecting many detainees with various diseases, especially of the bone, in addition to rheumatism, arthritis, back pain, and chest diseases, with a lack of medical care and medications needed for treatment.  He added, according to Al Ray, that IPS intends to increase the suffering of the detainees, in winter, through many repressive practices, foremost of which involves the storming of rooms and tents, justifying the practice of taking  them out to open places, late at night, where they sit in open areas for long hours, in freezing cold and rain. They are additionally forced to stand for the daily count in the very early morning or evening, in the cold or rain.

Two Palestinian women moved to Israeli administrative detention
Al Jazeera 17 Dec — Two Palestinian women arrested last week by Israeli forces have been referred to administrative detention, a form of internment where a prisoner is held indefinitely without charge or trial. Bushra al-Tawil, 26, was detained in an Israeli raid on her home in the occupied West Bank city of al-Bireh, days after her father was released from an Israeli prison. The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said al-Tawil is currently being held in Hasharon prison in northern Israel. A defender of rights of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, al-Tawil has been arrested several times by Israeli forces. According to local media, she has gone on a hunger strike to protest against her detention. Al-Tawil was first arrested when she was 18. She served five months of her 18-month sentence before being released as part of a 2011 prisoner swap deal. However, she was re-arrested in 2014 and spent the remaining 11 months of her sentence in detention. In 2017, she was arrested again and spent eight months in prison …
Shatha Hasan, a 20-year-old student and coordinator of the student council at Birzeit University, was also arrested last week at her family home in Ramallah. She was referred to administrative detention for three months on Tuesday, the PPS said. On December 12, a large contingent of Israeli military vehicles surrounded her house in the Ain Misbah neighbourhood in a pre-dawn raid. Videos circulated on social media showed her mother calling out, “God be with you” to which Shatha replied “Pray for me!” before she was bundled into an Israeli jeep by soldiers….

Palestinians protest in support of prisoner on hunger strike
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 18 Dec by Mohammed Daraghmeh — Dozens of Palestinians protested outside an Israeli military court in the occupied West Bank on Thursday calling for the release of a prisoner who has been on a partial hunger strike for nearly three months. The protesters carried portraits of Ahmed Zahran, 42, who was arrested in February and is being held without charge in what is known as administrative detention. He is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist group that Israel blames for a bombing in a settlement in August that killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl and wounded her brother and father. Zahran has been arrested several times and previously spent 15 years in Israeli prison. His family says he went on hunger strike to protest administrative detention, under which Israeli authorities can hold detainees for months or years without charge or trial. Rights groups have criticized the practice, which Israel says is necessary to prevent attacks and to protect classified information. Zahran’s brother, Adel, says he is taken to a clinic and given nutritional supplements when he faints….

Palestinian detainee transferred to hospital after suffering a stroke
IMEMC/Agencies 17 Dec — The Palestinian Prisoners Committee has reported, Monday, that the Israeli Prison Administration transferred a Palestinian detainee to a hospital after he suffered a stroke. The Committee stated that the detainee, Ahmad Jaber Saada, was transferred from Ramon Prison to Soroka Medical Center.  Saada is the representative of the detainees in Section 1 of Ramon Prison.
After Israel installed signal jamming devices in its prisons and detention centers, the detainees started suffering from various complications, especially migraine. There are more than 20 jamming devices in Section 1 alone, an issue that is constantly affecting the detainees. In September of this year, an agreement was reached with the Israeli Prison Authority after more than a hundred detainees started the strike fifteen days earlier. Part of the agreement was lowering the frequency of the signal jamming devices that are causing them various health complications. Not long after the agreement was reached, the Israeli Prison Authority violated it.

Palestinian prisoner has a child through smuggled sperm
MEMO 20 Dec — Prisoner Rizk Bahaa Ali Al-Haroub,35, from Dersamet town in the Hebron Governorate, south of the occupied West Bank, has had a new baby through smuggling his semen outside the Israeli occupation prisons. Al-Haroub was arrested about ten years ago and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli occupation jails are recently smuggling sperm out of the prisons. Many of them serving out lengthy prison terms had children while they are being held in jails in Israel. The occupation authorities have repeatedly tried to prevent the smuggling of sperm and have imposed various measures and sanctions on prisoners, which have all failed to prevent the phenomenon. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies, to date, 50 children have been born after sperm was smuggled out of Israeli prisons. “Twenty-three prisoners had attempted to reproduce through the smuggling of sperm by the beginning of 2015, and they had 30 children,” the centre’s spokesperson, Riyad Al-Ashqar, said today. He added: “This number rose at the beginning of 2016 to 28 prisoners who had 38 children. The number rose to reach 39 prisoners who had 50 children.” Al-Ashqar said: “This reflects a moral victory for the prisoners and shows their strong will and hope, which will never fade nor disappear. They have overcome all walls, borders and barbed wire, despite the harshness of prison guards, the difficult circumstances and the long years that have passed without freedom.”


Jerusalem cable car controversy hangs over Old City
JERUSALEM (AFP) 18 Dec by Delphine Matthieussent — Ramparts of ochre stone stand out against the sky, framed by hilltop buildings and olive trees — but the view of Jerusalem’s Old City could soon include cable cars and pylons. Israel has approved a project to ferry visitors from western Jerusalem to near the Western Wall, the holiest place Jews are allowed to pray but part of one of the world’s most contentious sacred sites. Supporters of the 200 million shekel ($57 million) plan say it will ease the congestion and pollution caused by millions of visitors a year. But archeologists, architects and city planners say the scheme, if completed, will be a blight on Jerusalem’s ancient heritage … The 1.4 kilometre (0.8 mile) line “will change the face of Jerusalem, offering tourists and visitors easy and comfortable access to the Western Wall”, minister Yariv Levin said when it was approved last year. But the project, set to open by 2021, faces a backlash. “Jerusalem is not Disneyland, its landscape and heritage are not for sale,” 70 Israeli architects, archaeologists and academics wrote in an open letter to the government before it was adopted…
The cable car is to start at the preserved, but no longer functioning, Ottoman-era railway station in west Jerusalem, where a two-story glass terminal will host 3,000 passengers per hour. A first stop will be on Mount Zion, a hill where Christians believe Jesus and his disciples met for the Last Supper and also revered by Jews as the burial place of biblical King David. From there, the cable cars will pass above the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan, a frequent flashpoint between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers …  In Silwan, the cable cars will pass over about 60 homes, at some points just 14 metres above the rooftops, said Fakhri Abu Diab, director of the local residents’ association….

Report: Palestine Archbishop Atallah Hanna poisoned in Jerusalem
MEMO 19 Dec — The Head of the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem Archbishop Atallah Hanna was reportedly hospitalised yesterday after being poisoned by chemical substances, according to Quds TV. Reports said the Archbishop was rushed to hospital after an Israeli gas canister was fired into his church in Jerusalem. He is expected to make a full recovery. The outspoken Palestinian Christian leader has been a staunch critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its acts of aggression in neighbouring Lebanon and Syria. Hanna was a notable attendee at last month’s First international Conference on Israeli Apartheid held at Istanbul. “The occupation in Jerusalem is treating us as if we are guests and foreigners in our own city. This is the embodiment of apartheid policies and practices against our people in Jerusalem specifically and in Palestine more generally,” he told MEMO in an exclusive interview

VIDEO: Santa on a camel delivers Christmas trees in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (Reuters) 19 Dec by Rami Ayyub — Along the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, a man dressed as Santa Claus tries to raise holiday cheer from atop a camel by offering free Christmas trees to residents. The man behind the beard is Issa Kassissieh, a Palestinian Christian who has in recent years distributed both Christmas spirit and trees, provided by the municipality, in a city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians alike. His mission, he says, is “to bring joy and love and peace to the Holy Land”. This year, as ever, those qualities are badly needed.

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

UN: Israel has advanced 22,000 housing units in West Bank
UNITED NATIONS (AP) 18 Dec by Edith M. Lederer — The U.N. Mideast envoy said Wednesday that Israel advanced or approved plans for over 22,000 housing units in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem in the three years since the Security Council adopted a resolution condemning settlements in lands the Palestinians want for their future state. Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that in addition, Israel issued tenders for some 8,000 housing units since the December 2016 resolution, which also declared that the settlements have “no legal validity.” He said the numbers “should be of serious concern to all those who continue to support the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the council circulated Wednesday that the settlements have “no legal effect.” He declared that construction and approvals “must cease immediately and completely.” … Mladenov was reporting to the council on implementation of the 2016 resolution. The resolution was approved by the council when the United States, in the final weeks of the Obama administration, abstained rather than using its veto to support longtime ally Israel as it had done many times previously. U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft told the council that “the Trump Administration strongly opposes the 2016 resolution….

Short video: Disabled man watches as his home is destroyed in front of him
MEMO 18 Dec

Palestinian in Jerusalem forced to demolish his own home
IMEMC/Agencies 15 Dec — A Palestinian citizen from the northern occupied West Bank city of East Jerusalem, in Jabal al-Mukabir neighborhood, embarked on tearing down his own home, on Saturday. The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem threatened to charge extreme fees for the municipality to demolish it, forcing him to demolish it himself. The Palestinian News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported that the homeowner, Nasser Abu Ze‘eter, was told by the municipality that he must demolish his home under the pretext of not having a building permit, a nearly impossible feat with current Israeli prerequisites. Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem are frequently forced to build without permit because the Israeli municipality rarely issues permits for the city’s Palestinian citizens as a way to reduce their number in the city, by forcing them to leave it and find accommodation elsewhere.

18,000 homes in occupied Jerusalem under demolition threat, says official
MEMO 17 Dec — Some 18,000 homes in Jerusalem are under the threat of demolition by the Israeli occupation authorities, the city’s deputy governor announced yesterday. Abdullah Siam told The Voice of Palestine that the Israeli demolition activities were being carried under the pretext of the homes’ “illegal construction.” “The demolition of the Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem comes in the context of Israel’s punitive measures, forced displacement, ethnic cleansing, and the Judaization of the occupied Jerusalem,” Siam pointed out. The Israeli occupation has been demolishing Palestinian homes and structures in the occupied Jerusalem in an effort to expand settlements and force Palestinians from their homes and lands.

Palestinian farmers prevented from plowing their farmlands in Jordan Valley
JORDAN VALLEY, Wednesday, December 18, 2019 (WAFA) – Israeli forces today prevented Palestinian farmers from  plowing their farmland in the Bedouin community of Khirbet Umm al-Jamal, east of Tubas city, in the northern  Jordan Valley, according to local sources. Aref  Daraghmeh , a local human rights activist , told WAFA that Israeli forces raided Khirbet Umm al-Jamal, where they ordered farmers to halt the plowing of their farmlands and threatened to confiscate their tractors if they attempt to access it again.


‘Deeply damaging’: Anger as Boris Johnson plans ‘anti-BDS’ law
LONDON, United Kingdom (Al Jazeera) 17 Dec by Anealla Safdar – UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to ban public bodies from boycotting foreign products from countries including Israel, a move seen as targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Lord Eric Pickles, Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and a former Conservative MP, confirmed the move, saying: “BDS is an organisation devoted to boycotting and removing investment from Israel, one of our key allies. We’re going to ensure that public sector, places like councils and health authorities, can’t work against Israel, can’t prejudice Israel. “BDS is just a thin disguise for anti-Semitism and we as Conservatives should always tackle racial discrimination. BDS is one of the worst, wink wink, nudge nudge, piece of racialism that we know.” His message, posted in a video on the Conservative Friends of Israel lobby group’s Twitter feed, has stirred concerns among experts and activists who see BDS as a non-violent protest movement aimed at pressuring Israel to comply with international law and stop oppressing Palestinians. Specifically, BDS seeks to break down Israel’s illegal wall and settlements. Its supporters demand equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and call for the rights of Palestinian refugees to be upheld….

Spain: Anti-Israel activists heckle, assault settler-Palestinian delegation
i24NEWS 12 Dec — Delegation said to have been granted police security detail after BDS supporters tried to assault members — Anti-Israel activists with the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement rained insults on and attempted to assault a joint settler-Palestinian delegation in Madrid, Israeli media report. The delegation, which says it aims to push against EU’s ruling on designating settlement products as such, was supposed to take part in a conference on peaceful coexistence, which was where the BDS activists held a rally. After being evicted from the venue over their disruptive behavior, the protesters waited for the delegation members outside, showering them with insults and, according to Israel’s Channel 12, attempting to assault some of the members. The delegates included Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and Sheikh Abu Khalil al-Tamimi of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority; other Arab members were also present, including Muslim Arab-Israeli activist Sara Zoabi. The protesters reportedly branded the Arab delegates as traitors of their own nation. Eventually, police had to intervene to help the delegation make it back to the hotel; the team will have a police security detail for the rest of their stay in Spain. On Thursday, they are set to head on a tour around Madrid’s universities, where the BDS is reported to have major sway with the students.


UNRWA deficit drops from 167m to 77m
MEMO 19 Dec — After generous donations were made over the last three weeks, UNRWA’s deficit reduced from $167 million to $77 million, the organisation’s statement said. The UN refugee agency (UNRWA) secured $167 million in order to continue its services, including paying the salaries of its employees until the end of the year, the statement said. This is the least amount needed, it explained, adding that refugee services need greater funding. “Thanks to the intensified efforts made during the past three weeks, the deficit was reduced after donations had been made by more than 20 countries and partners,” the statement said. “The sum includes amounts transferred from countries that froze their donations for 2019 at the instigation of an investigation supervised by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services,” the statement added.

Switzerland resumes funding of UN’s Palestinian aid agency
GENEVA (AFP) 20 Dec — Switzerland said Friday it had resumed payments to the UN’s embattled agency for Palestinian refugees after a UN probe cleared the organisation of allegations of mismanaging funds. Switzerland was among a number of countries that halted their contributions to UNRWA earlier this year amid suspicions that the organisation had misused donor funds. The organisation also faced allegations of “serious ethical abuses” by the management, including its then chief, Pierre Krahenbuhl, a Swiss citizen who resigned last month. In early November, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres released a statement saying the preliminary findings of an internal UN probe found no “fraud or misappropriation of operational funds” by Krahenbuhl….

‘Israeli Arabs’/ Palestinian citizens of Israel

Haaretz: 88 Israeli Arabs murdered in 2019
MEMO 18 Dec — Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported on Tuesday that 88 Israeli Arab citizens (Palestinians) were killed in 2019, with only 27 cases being solved. According to the newspaper, only one third of the Palestinian cases were solved, while approximately two thirds of the Israeli murder cases were solved. This year, Palestinians organised several protests and rallies against the increasing number of murders amongst their community, with what they described as persistent government and police inaction over the murders. However, Haaretz disclosed that they did not obtain their expected results, adding that the Israeli police did not succeed in seizing arms. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee has demanded an end to the violence; one demand being that the police confiscate illegal weapons. Haaretz reported that the Israeli police estimate that there are approximately 150,000 illegal weapons, but they only succeeded in confiscating 20 of them. Haaretz noted that the Israeli police force is not solely to blame for the violence against Palestinians, and that the continuous indifference of the consecutive Israeli governments should share the burden of blame. Safa News Agency reported Palestinians accusing the Israeli occupation authorities of encouraging the crime phenomena against and within the Palestinian communities, in order to eradicate them.

Arab community leaders: Why were Arab infants sent to Sweden for adoption?
Ynet 17 Dec by Attila Somfalvi & Alexandra Lukash —  Representatives of the Arab community are demanding an inquiry into how almost 200 babies born to Israeli Arab mothers were flown to Sweden for adoption during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Approximately 192 infants who were either given up by their parent or were born out of wedlock were taken to the Scandinavian country during this period. The community representatives are now demanding an investigation into why the babies were taken to a foreign country in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and cut off from their roots. The issue was raised by MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List in the Knesset, and was told by Likud Minister Yariv Levin that at the time it was nearly impossible to find Muslim families to adopt the children. Therefore, Levin said, in order to spare a childhood without a family and growing in state-run institutions, they were adopted by families in Sweden.
Prof. Ahmad Natour of the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem says he tried to investigate the matter in 1998….

Other news

ICC to probe alleged war crimes in Palestinian areas, pending jurisdiction
THE HAGUE (Reuters) 20 Dec by Stephanie van den Berg — The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said on Friday she would launch a full investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories as soon as the court’s jurisdiction had been established. The announcement opens the possibility of charges being filed against Israelis or Palestinians. The Palestinians welcomed the decision but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose country captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a 1967 war, said the ICC had no jurisdiction to investigate the Palestinian Territories. The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said a preliminary examination into alleged war crimes, opened in 2015, had provided enough information to meet all criteria for opening an investigation. “I am satisfied that … war crimes have been or are being committed in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” Bensouda said in a statement. She said she had filed a request with judges for a jurisdictional ruling because of the contested legal status of the Palestinian territories. “Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the ‘territory’ over which the court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza,” Bensouda said. Determining where she can investigate should be resolved before she starts an investigation “and not settled only later by judges after my investigations are completed,” she said. It is not clear when a decision would be made but Bensouda said she had asked the court to “rule expeditiously” and to allow potential victims to participate in proceedings….

PA calls for Israel settler groups to be added to global terror lists
MEMO 17 Dec — The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday called on countries around the world to place Israeli settlers groups and their leaders on “international terrorism lists” and prevent them from entering their territories. The ministry said in a statement that the Israeli settlers’ terrorist militia attacks against Palestinian citizens have significantly increased. According to the statement, the settlers’ attacks included cutting and burning the trees of Palestinian farmers, seizing their lands by force, damaging car tyres, attacking Palestinians’ homes, destroying water, roads and irrigation projects which the Palestinians use on a daily bases in the Jordan Valley. The statement added that the settlers continue to throw stones at Palestinian vehicles and fire live bullets at passers-by. While also carrying out organised terrorist acts against Palestinians. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the settlers’ attacks and held the Israeli government and army fully responsible for this dangerous escalation.

Hamas sets up elections committee in Gaza
MEMO 16 Dec by Mohammed Asad — Hamas leader Osama Al-Muzaini revealed on Saturday afternoon that his movement has finished forming the preparatory committee for the elections. Al-Muzaini said, during a central celebration held by the movement to mark 32 years since it was launched in the centre of Gaza City, that Hamas affirms the necessity of Palestinian unity and has made dozens of concessions to achieve this. “We are ready to appeal to the Palestinian street through comprehensive elections, and we in Hamas have finished forming the preparatory committee for the elections, and we will contest them for the sake of our people,” he added …  He stressed that Hamas is working hard to break the siege on Gaza, and that the Israeli occupation must know that the equations have changed and work will continue until the siege is lifted.

With Israel thaw, Hamas leader tours globe seeking support
GAZA CITY (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) 20 Dec — Egypt, Turkey, Malaysia: the leader of Hamas has been on a whistle-stop tour of prominent Muslim countries seeking legitimacy and support as an informal truce firms up with Israel. In his first major foreign tour since taking over as leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement in 2017, Ismail Haniya has sought to drum up support from allies and find new ones. He visited the leaders of Turkey and Gulf state Qatar, both of which are longtime Hamas supporters with leaders allied to the Muslim Brotherhood — in which Hamas has its roots. Haniya is currently in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur for a summit of Muslim leaders, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The delegation is expected to travel on to Russia, Lebanon, Mauritania and Kuwait before Haniya returns to Gaza … Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said Haniya’s tour was “not an ordinary visit” but part of a wider strategy. “(Hamas) wants to bring support and strengthen its ties regionally and arrangements for a long-term ceasefire with Israel.” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the movement was seeking to “mobilise political support for the Palestinian cause.”….

UN: Palestine lost $48bn from Israeli occupation
MEMO 13 Dec — Israel’s control of the occupied West Bank between 2000 and 2017 cost the Palestinian people approximately $47.7 billion and rising, according to a UN report published last week. This equates to more than $2.5 billion annually. Entitled “Economic cost of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people: Fiscal aspects,” the report stated this situation has weakened the Palestinian economy, stripping it of the ability to benefit from economic resources in agriculture, tourism, trade and natural resources, which could have reduced the Palestinian budget deficit. Presented at the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the $47.7 billion figure over 17 years is almost triple the Palestinian GDP in 2017, the report said. It illustrates how Israel is making enormous profit from its occupation, while deliberately causing huge financial loses to the Palestinian economy. The UN report noted that if the same amount was invested in the Palestinian economy, they would have created two million jobs over the 17-year period, an average of 111,000 jobs each year. Home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, Gaza’s unemployment rate stands at 52 per cent, according to the World Bank.

Film about lawyer who represents Palestinians shortlisted for Oscar
MEMO 17 Dec — An acclaimed biopic about Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel, who has dedicated her life to representing Palestinian defendants charged by Israeli authorities, has been shortlisted for an Oscar. “Advocate” is one of 15 films shortlisted in the Documentary Feature category, out of an original 159 submissions. The final five contenders will be announced next month. The award-winning documentary, co-directed by Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, has been vociferously attacked by right-wing Israeli groups and Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev. When “Advocate” won Best Picture at the DocAviv festival in Tel Aviv, Regev condemned “the choice to make a movie focusing on a lawyer who represents, supports and speaks in the name of many who undermine the State of Israel’s existence, [and] use terrorism against its soldiers and people”….

In blow to environmentalists, Israel clears way for offshore gas
Al Jazeera 19 Dec — In a major blow to Israeli environmentalists and climate activists, Israel’s energy ministry gave its final approval for the start of production at the giant Leviathan offshore gas field. Officials said the wells will open early on Monday after an Israeli court lifted a temporary injunction granted over environmental impact concerns. Rescinding Tuesday’s injunction, the Jerusalem District Court said on Thursday that appellants had not provided sufficient evidence that Leviathan’s emissions, in the gas field’s startup phase, could prove dangerous. It also cited reassurances provided by government representatives about precautions taken at the site. However, the court left open the possibility of a further hearing on the issue … The Energy Ministry said the wells will open on Monday midnight GMT and the natural gas will reach the pipeline 13 hours later. For a number of hours, there will be limited emissions of nitrogen and then nitrogen mixed with gas, the ministry said. “Based on experts’ estimates and models acceptable in the world, the change in air quality … is expected to be small,” the ministry said in a statement….

France to financially support Palestinian agriculture in Area C
MEMO 19 Dec — The French government has committed to supporting Palestinian agricultural development and water infrastructure in “Area C” of the occupied West Bank, signing two agreements worth 20 million euros (about $22 million), reported Al-Monitor. The French Development Agency (AFD) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) signed the agreements earlier this month in PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh’s office in Ramallah. “France’s support for a number of communities and villages in Area C is at the heart of the government’s work strategy aimed at stabilising these areas as an integral part of the Palestinian territories,” said the prime minister at the time. Under the Oslo Accords signed in the 1990s, so-called Area C of the West Bank – around 60 per cent of the territory – is under full Israeli “security” and civil control. Israeli occupation authorities almost entirely prevent Palestinian construction and development in Area C, while settlements thrive.

Palestine, Germany sign 76 million euro agreements to support vital West Bank, Gaza projects
RAMALLAH, Tuesday, December 17, 2019 (WAFA) – Palestine and Germany today signed at the Prime Minister’s office in Ramallah agreements worth 76 million euro to support the implementation of vital projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip …  Commenting on the signing, the Prime Minister said: “What has been signed today are agreements worth 76 million euros aimed at implementing vital projects in the education, vocational training, sanitation, and water sectors in the Gaza Strip, as well as local government, the private sector, loan guarantees, the tourism sector, information technology, food industry, and to complete a sanitation project east of Nablus.”

Turkey denies allowing Hamas to operate on Turkish soil
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) 19 Dec — Turkey on Thursday denied accusations that a militant Palestinian group is using its territory to plan attacks against Israel. The denial came following media reports that claimed that Turkey was turning a blind eye as commanders of the Hamas group were allegedly ordering attacks against Israel from Istanbul. The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the report on its Twitter account. “We firmly reject the accusation that the Turkish territory is being used for any act against Israel or any other country,” the ministry said. The ministry added, however, that Turkey and other countries don’t consider Hamas as a terrorist group “but as a political reality which has won the elections in Gaza back in 2006.” “Various countries, including Turkey, have contacts with Hamas at different levels,” the ministry said … President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who touts himself as the champion of the Palestinian cause, met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyah in Istanbul on Saturday….

Brazil opens Jerusalem trade centre as step to embassy shift
JERUSALEM (AFP) 15 Dec — Brazil opened a trade office in Jerusalem Sunday, in a ceremony attended by President Jair Bolsonaro’s son and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking at the ceremony, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a lawmaker, said his father intended to make good on a pledge he made early this year to move Brazil’s embassy in Israel from the city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “He told me that for sure — it’s a commitment — he’s going to move the embassy to Jerusalem, he’s going to do that,” the younger Bolsonaro said, in Netanyahu’s presence….

Arab League condemns Brazil for trade office in Jerusalem
CAIRO (AP) 19 Dec — The Arab League on Thursday condemned Brazil’s opening of a trade office in the contested city of Jerusalem, warning the move will “seriously damage” Brazil’s political and economic interests in the Arab world. At an emergency meeting convened in Cairo, representatives from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, among other states, criticized Brazil’s move as a violation of international law and voiced their continued support for Palestinian claims to the divided city. In a statement, the council said that such a “negative change in Brazilian foreign policy toward Palestinians would seriously damage Arab-Brazilian shared political, economic and diplomatic interests,” though did not offer specifics. It expressed “deep regret” that the Brazilian government had reversed its decades-long Mideast policy … Brazil, like other Latin American countries, has long sided with the Palestinians at the United Nations and other global bodies. But far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has found common ground with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government….

Congress rejects funding for Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’
IMEMC/Agencies 20 Dec — The United States Congress has rejected a request, from the White House, for $175mn in funds that would go towards pushing the Trump administration’s failed Middle East “peace plan”. In a bipartisan decision, on Monday, lawmakers rejected having funds be set aside, in the government’s 2020 budget, for the so-called Trump “Deal of the Century.” A congressional source who was involved in negotiations over the decision told Haaretz that the rejection was not motivated by politics, but rather by budgetary considerations. “One argument against it was, ‘No one thinks this peace plan is coming out any time soon, so why devote money to it?’” the newspaper’s source said. The Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” was seen as a wasted effort from its inception. The deal calls for $50bn in regional investments over 10 years, with $28bn going to the Palestinian territories – the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip – as well as $7.5bn to Jordan, $9bn to Egypt and $6n for Lebanon….

US Congress to give Palestinians $150m in aid next year
MEMO 18 Dec — US Congress leaders will contribute $150 million towards Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem two years after the Trump administration cut all assistance, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. The funding which will be part of next year’s aid to Palestine was agreed by both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress. The budget deal includes $75 million in assistance for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, and another $75 million to support civilian and humanitarian programmes and institutions that lost funding in 2018 as a result of the administration’s cuts, including hospitals in East Jerusalem … The announcement came at a time when the Palestinian leadership has angered the White House by boycotting its peace efforts in June this year as a result of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decision to move the American embassy there, reversing decades of US policy. The $150 million in aid to the Palestinians includes “several pages of caveats”, such as money not go to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza or to any institution “named for a terrorist”, according to the Times of Israel.

HRW: Facebook stifling Palestinian free speech
MEMO 17 Dec — Social media giant Facebook is actively limiting Palestinian freedom of speech by targeting criticism of Israel on its platform, Human Rights Watch has warned in its new report today. Entitled “Born Without Civil Rights”, the study found that Palestinian content is suffering from an increased crackdown on Facebook, which has put in place algorithms which identify such content. Palestinians have for years complained that Facebook is targeting their accounts, deleting them without notice. HRW Israel and Palestine Director Omar Shakir, the author of the report, acknowledges the right Israel – like any democracy – has to monitor incitement-directed speech. However, the report investigates whether Israel has blurred the lines between legitimate criticism and incitement, both on social media and in terms of the right to physically protest….

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