Category: Historic Land of Palestine


March 31, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Thousands of Palestinians marched to Gaza’s border with Israel on Friday in the largest such demonstration in recent memory, and 15 were killed by Israeli fire on the first day of what Hamas organizers said will be six weeks of daily protests against a stifling border blockade.

It was the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas. Fourteen of the marchers were killed and more than 750 wounded by Israeli fire in clashes along the border fence, the Palestinian Health Ministry said. Another Palestinian was killed earlier Friday.

The Israeli military said thousands of Palestinians threw stones and rolled burning tires toward troops deployed on the other side of the border fence. It accused militants of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of mass protests, saying that in one incident, Palestinian gunmen fired toward soldiers.

The large turnout of the flag-waving marchers in the dangerous border zone was a testament to Hamas’ organizing skills, but it also signaled desperation among Gaza residents after a decade-old border closure. Life in the coastal strip has deteriorated further in recent months, with rising unemployment, grinding poverty and daily blackouts that last for hours.

Asmaa al-Katari said she participated in the march despite the risks and would join upcoming protests because “life is difficult here in Gaza and we have nothing to lose.” The history student said she is a descendant of refugees from what is now Israel’s southern Negev Desert. She said her grandfathers had lived in tents as refugees.

“I want to tell the world that the cause of our grandfathers is not dead,” she added. Gaza resident Ghanem Abdelal, 50, said he hopes the protest “will bring a breakthrough, an improvement, to our life in Gaza.”

He had brought his family to a protest tent camp near Gaza City — one of five set up several hundred meters from the border fence — where he distributed water bottles to women and children sitting on a mat.

Israel had threatened a tough response, hoping to deter breaches of the border fence. The Israeli military released video showing a row of snipers perched on a high earthen embankment facing the Gaza crowd in one location.

Israel also used a new means of crowd control Friday — small drones that each dropped several tear gas canisters on protesters below. People quickly scattered when they saw the drones approaching. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting late Friday to discuss the situation in Gaza. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “an independent and transparent investigation” into the deadly clashes and council members urged restraint on both sides.

Friday’s high death toll and prospects of daily protests in coming weeks have raised concerns about another escalation along the volatile frontier. Israel and the Islamic militant Hamas have fought three cross-border wars in recent years.

The protest campaign is meant to spotlight Palestinian demands for a “right of return” to what is now Israel. A large majority of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the 1948 Mideast war over Israel’s creation.

The 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel, on May 15, is marked by Palestinians as their “nakba,” or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were uprooted. The planned mass sit-ins on the border are also seen as a new attempt by Hamas to break the border blockade, imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized Gaza from forces loyal to its rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in 2007. The continued closure has made it increasingly difficult for Hamas to govern.

Other attempts to break the blockade, including wars with Israel and attempts to reconcile with the West Bank-based Abbas, have failed over the years. The latest Egyptian-led reconciliation efforts collapsed earlier this month, when a bomb targeted but missed Abbas’ prime minister and intelligence chief during a visit to Gaza.

Hamas and Abbas traded accusations after the bombing, signaling that any deal on Hamas handing the Gaza government to Abbas is increasingly unlikely. The Hamas leader in Gaza, Yehiyeh Sinwar, said the protests are a signal to Israel and the world that “our people will not accept the continuation of the siege.”

Israel and the Trump administration expressed concern in recent months about a looming humanitarian crisis in Gaza and appealed to the international community to fund large-scale development projects there, including a desalination plant.

However, such plans appeared to be linked to a deal on Abbas taking charge in Gaza, and Israel didn’t say what it would do if such an arrangement didn’t work out. Friday’s violence began before dawn when a 27-year-old farmer picking parsley in his field was hit by an Israeli tank shell in southern Gaza, the Health Ministry said. Another farmer was injured by shrapnel.

Israel’s military said troops directed tank fire toward suspicious figures on the border. Later in the day, mosque loudspeakers urged Gaza residents to head to the border encampments. A Hamas-linked bus company ferried protesters to the area. In all, tens of thousands gathered at the encampments, though not all headed to the border, witnesses said. Other Palestinian factions also participated in organizing the protests.

The Health Ministry said at least 1,000 people were injured, including 758 by live fire and the rest by rubber bullets and tear gas. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum praised the turnout. “The large crowds … reflect the Palestinian people’s determination to achieve the right of return and break the siege and no force can stop this right,” he said.

Groups of marchers threw stones at Israeli soldiers who responded with live fire, tear gas and rubber bullets. The military said thousands participated in the clashes. Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, commander of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, which includes the Gaza border, said he held Hamas responsible for the violence and alleged there were attempts to “carry out terror attacks under the camouflage of riots.”

The army said Israeli soldiers opened fire at two Palestinians who approached the fence and shot at soldiers in northern Gaza. It said troops also fired on Palestinians who had infiltrated into Israel.

The military had doubled its standard troop level along the border, deploying snipers, special forces and paramilitary border police units, which specialize in riot control. Friday’s protest campaign began as Jews prepared to mark Passover, and it is scheduled to culminate with the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, in mid-May.

The anniversary of Israel’s founding will be particularly fraught for Palestinians this year. The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to mark the occasion. The planned embassy move falls in line with Trump’s recognition in December of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a decision that has infuriated Palestinians who seek the city’s Israeli-annexed eastern sector as a future capital.

Laub contributed from Ramallah, West Bank.

March 28, 2018

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Gaza’s embattled Hamas rulers are imploring people to march along the border with Israel in the coming weeks in a risky gambit meant to shore up their shaky rule, but with potentially deadly consequences.

Beginning Friday, Hamas hopes it can mobilize large crowds to set up tent camps near the border. It plans a series of demonstrations culminating with a march to the border fence on May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s establishment, known to Palestinians as “the Nakba,” or catastrophe.

The group aims to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people for the effort, though it hasn’t been able to get such turnouts at past rallies. Nonetheless, a jittery Israel is closely watching and vowing a tough response if the border is breached.

“When we march to the border, the organizers will decide then what to do,” said Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official. Warning Israel against targeting the protesters, he said “the occupation should not commit any stupidity in confronting the Palestinian crowds.”

Hamas says the demonstration is meant to draw attention to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Gazans whose relatives fled or were expelled from their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

But the first-of-its-kind protest also comes at a low point for the Islamic militant group and the 2 million residents of Gaza, where conditions have deteriorated since Hamas seized control of the territory from the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority in 2007.

An Israeli-Egyptian blockade, along with three wars with Israel and a series of sanctions by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, have left Gaza’s economy in tatters. Unemployment is well over 40 percent, tap water is undrinkable and Gazans receive just a few hours of electricity a day.

An Egyptian-led attempt to broker a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah movement took a major downturn earlier this month after a bombing targeted a convoy carrying Abbas’ prime minister and security chief shortly after they entered Gaza. Abbas has blamed Hamas and threatened more financial pressure, such as cutting civil servant salaries or fuel purchases, to force the group to cede control.

“Hamas has realized it’s besieged from three sides; Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, political science professor at Gaza’s al-Azhar University. “It feels the crisis is suffocating.”

He said that for Hamas, the protests can divert attention from their domestic woes while avoiding renewed war with Israel. “They think busying Israel with this issue may put it under pressure,” he said.

As Gaza’s woes have mounted, Hamas’ popularity has plummeted, and it remains unclear whether the group will be able to mobilize the crowds it envisions. Still, a combination of social pressure and curiosity in a territory with few options for recreation could help attract people.

On Tuesday, bulldozers were busy leveling the five camp locations from north to south. Trucks unloaded portable toilet stalls, and the Palestinian Scholars Union, which represents Islamic clerics, declared participation in the protests a religious obligation.

The demonstrations will begin after the Muslim noon prayer on Friday. Buses will carry people from all over Gaza to the five tent camps, situated hundreds of meters (yards) from the border fence. Hamas and Hamas-allied organizers of the “Great Return March” say the sit-in will remain peaceful through May. But the ultimate plan is to move to the border in mid-May.

Organizers say they are trying to realize the “right of return,” a Palestinian demand that descendants of refugees who lost their homes in 1948 should be able to return to lost family properties in what is now Israel.

Israel opposes any large-scale return of refugees, saying it would destroy the country’s Jewish character. The fate of refugees and their descendants has been a core issue in past rounds of peace talks.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Yoav Galant, a retired general and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner Security Cabinet, said that Israel had set clear red lines. “Hamas is in distress,” he said. “They are using in a cruel and cynical way their own population in order to hurt them and to hurt Israel.”

He said the military was well-prepared to prevent any infiltrations. “We will try to use the minimum force that is needed in order to avoid Palestinians wounded and casualties. But the red line is very clear. They stay on the Gazan side and we stay in Israel.”

Violent skirmishes are expected even before May 15. Clashes have erupted along the border every Friday since Dec. 6, when President Donald Trump recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv.

There have been a series of recent incidents along the border, including a bombing that wounded four Israeli soldiers last month. On Tuesday, three Gazans armed with hand grenades managed to cross into Israel and travel some 30 kilometers (20 miles) before they were caught.

The upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover, Israeli Independence Day celebrations in April and the planned move of the embassy in May could lead to additional clashes. Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the planned marches “a dangerous, premeditated provocation meant to fan the flames of the conflict and increase tension.”

April 30, 2018

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The Japanese foreign minister has presided over a rare meeting of Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials to push ahead with an agro-industrial park intended to enhance cross-border trade and cooperation.

Taro Kono, the Japanese minister, acknowledged late Sunday that it “has not been easy for the four parties to get together under current circumstances.” Israel and Jordan only recently patched up relations after a months-long diplomatic crisis. Officials from Israel and the Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank meet only intermittently because of ongoing deadlock in peace efforts.

Sunday’s meeting focused on the Japan-backed Jericho Agro-Industrial Park in the West Bank, near an Israeli-controlled border with Jordan. Twelve companies operate at the park, launched more than a decade ago. Kono says he hopes more will join, including Japanese firms.

April 13, 2018

The former Prime Minister of Jordan, Taher Al-Masri, has called for the Palestinian Authority to be dissolved and for its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to resign.

Al-Masri explained during a seminar held yesterday at the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies in Al-Bireh, central West Bank, that dissolving the Palestinian Authority or Abbas’ resignation are the most feasible option for the Palestinians.

He warned of the increasing dangers facing Jerusalem by the Israeli Judaisation plans and called to strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and their unity “especially in light of the decline of the Arab position regarding the Palestinian cause”.

He also called to make every effort to end Palestinian division and achieve reconciliation.

The Jordanian official praised the Marches of Return in Gaza and called for their expansion to include other parts of Palestine.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180413-former-jordan-pm-calls-to-dissolve-pa-abbas-resignation/.

February 25, 2018

A Turkish foundation provided aid to 200 Palestinian families in East Jerusalem on Saturday.

Enes Erbas, board member of Sadakatasi, said the aid included electric blankets and winter clothing.

The distribution was organized by the Jerusalem Zakat Committee.

“We have been working in Palestine for the last eight years and strive to heal the wounds of our Palestinian brothers and sisters,” he said.

Hamza Kasisi, an official from Jerusalem Zakat Committee, thanked the Turkish people and the foundation for its support.

The foundation has previously helped several families living under Israeli occupation in East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180225-turkish-foundation-aids-200-palestinian-families-in-jerusalem/.

February 2, 2018

Turkey on Friday expressed concerns over the US decision to add Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s name to its terrorist blacklist.

In a written statement, Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey is “concerned that this decision of the US Administration, which disregards the realities on the ground, could undermine the Middle East Peace Process, including the efforts for intra-Palestinian peace and reconciliation.”

“We also hope that the decision will not have a negative impact on our country’s humanitarian assistance and economic development activities towards Gaza,” Aksoy said.

“It is obvious that this decision, which overlooks the fact that Hamas is an important reality of Palestinian political life, cannot make any contribution to the just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

On Wednesday, the US government dubbed Haniyeh a “specially designated global terrorist” and imposed a raft of sanctions against him.

On its website, the US State Department said Haniyeh had “close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”

The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, also added Haniyeh to its sanctions list, essentially freezing any US-based assets he might have.

The designation also bans individuals and companies from engaging in financial transactions with the Hamas leader.

Haniyeh has been a vocal critic of US President Donald Trump’s decision late last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a move that drew widespread condemnation and protests from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Washington’s recent policy decisions, Haniyeh said after the US move, had served to confirm that “the US Administration can no longer be considered an honest broker… in the so-called peace process.”

On Wednesday evening, Hamas slammed the US decision to add Haniyeh’s name to the terror blacklist, saying the move had revealed the “depth” of Washington’s longstanding bias towards Israel.

“This decision reveals the depth of US bias towards Israel, which has reached the level of a partnership in the aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Anadolu Agency by phone.

The move, he added, “specifically targets the Palestinian resistance.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180202-turkey-concerned-over-haniyeh-terror-listing/.

March 1, 2018

Gaza got its first ever “child friendly school” yesterday on the ruins of Jamal Abdul Nasser School which was completely destroyed during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Serving 800 pupils, the new school was built by a Qatari education foundation and UN bodies with design input from children and the local community.

The school was opened by Al Fakhoora, a program of the Qatari funded initiative, Education Above All (EAA) Foundation. It was completed in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Donors of the project are confident that Jamal Abdul Nasser School can now also serve as an emergency shelter for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict. In its press release, the EAA said that the new building is designed to be “environmentally friendly, child-centered and fully accessible for all students. Renewable energy is provided by solar panels, the design incorporates a double wall system, double-glazed, shatter-proof windows, and thermal insulation in the ceiling and floor.”

There are a number of distinctive additions to the school’s multi-purpose halls. “Features of the multipurpose buildings include: flexible learning spaces, an extensive library, IT facilities, breakout spaces, a multi-purpose sports facility and an on-site health facility, providing crucial psychosocial support and child protection services,” said EAA. “The halls are also specially designed to serve as emergency shelters for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict, with gender-sensitive accommodations, emergency power and water networks, and improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities”.

Representatives from UNDP, UNICEF and EAA Foundation were all present at the school opening, as well as returning students from Al Fakhoora’s “Dynamic Future’s scholarship program”. EAA applauded the returning students who have previously completed their education as a result of Al Fakhoora funding.

“We are extremely proud to be part of building this innovative school in Gaza for a community who deserves the highest quality of education facilities. Education is a fundamental human right, one that is crucial to the future of the Palestinian state. By investing in their future, we enable these young people to play a key role in rebuilding their communities, unlocking their full potential,” Farooq Burney, executive director of EAA Foundation’s Al Fakhoora program, said.

The UN was equally effusive in its remarks. Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, said: “UNDP welcomes the opening of the first child-friendly school in Gaza. We are confident that the school, with the support from Qatar Fund for Development, through Al Fakhoora, and in partnership with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, will become a positive example of ensuring appropriate conditions for education. Most importantly, this model will ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all children and adolescents, with a focus on those left behind.”

UNICEF Special Representative Genevieve Boutin added: “The completion of work at the Jamal Abdul Nasser School is an opportunity to reflect on how this project has helped not only rebuild schools, but also catalyze additional investments in children and young people across Gaza, thanks to generous support from Al Fakhoora, a program of the Education Above All Foundation, and the Qatar Fund for Development.”

Boutin applauded the contributions of children in Gaza in the “design of a safer and more child-friendly school” adding: “We also supported the training of 400 school counselors and 10,000 teachers to provide students with crucial psychosocial support and child protection services, and help them develop life skills and peaceful conflict resolution techniques. All these efforts have contributed to a more positive learning environment, giving us all hope in a better future.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180301-gazas-first-child-friendly-school-opens-to-students/.

February 15, 2018

Fatah has postponed an expected visit by a senior delegation to the Gaza Strip until further notice, sources told the Palestinian newspaper yesterday.

The sources said that the visit was called off by Fatah Central Committee. The delegation had intended to hold meetings with Palestinian factions in Gaza.

Sources believe the visit was postponed to avoid officials being blamed for the failure of reconciliation efforts.

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in October last year which saw the Palestinian Authority taking control of ministries and border crossings in the besieged Gaza Strip.

However many have accused the PA of failing to fulfill its part of the deal as salaries of civil servants have remained unpaid, the electricity crisis has not been resolved and borders continue to be closed.

Cleaning staff at medical centers in Gaza went on strike earlier this week demanding their outstanding wages be paid. Workers say they have not been paid for five months. Hospitals in the Strip have been forced to scale back their work as a result of the walkout with the Ministry of Health saying 500 surgeries have been postponed.

Fatah member Fraih Abu Middain said yesterday that President Mahmoud Abbas told him that “Gaza is going to starve until it bows down. Hamas must handover government, money and weapons in order to achieve the reconciliation.”

International aid groups have repeatedly condemned the PA and Israel’s use of collective punishment when dealing with the Gaza Strip.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180215-fearing-backlash-fatah-postpones-visit-to-gaza/.

February 16, 2018

Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf Bin Alawi bin Abdullah visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque yesterday.

Azzam Al-Khatib, the director of the Islamic Waqf in occupied Jerusalem, who received the Omani minister, described the visit as “historic” and said it was aimed at supporting the people of Jerusalem.

The visit comes after a meeting between the Omani minister and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

During a press conference with the PA president, the Omani foreign minister called on the Arab countries to “accept the invitation of Mahmoud Abbas to visit Palestine and occupied Jerusalem, stressing that the Palestinian people are not alone and that all the Arab peoples are behind them”.

“What is required is the hard work of the Palestinians to build their country, which has historically been a beacon of science, containing universities, schools, professors and experts,” he added.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180216-oman-fm-visits-al-aqsa-in-historic-move/.

February 1, 2018

Senior Hamas leader in the West Bank Abdul-Rahman Shadid said yesterday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) ordered the arrest of Palestinians who had been freed from Israeli jails, Felesteen.ps reported.

The PA security services and the Israeli occupation forces carried out a dual detention campaign against Palestinians in different areas in the occupied West Bank early this week.

The campaign came after a number of roadside explosives were discovered along a settler road in the occupied West Bank. The PA claimed that the explosives were aimed at it.

Shadid said: “The PA’s arrest of Palestinians is collusion with the Israeli occupation policies. It is even carrying out the occupation’s orders to hunt and get rid of the [Palestinian] resistance.”

He stressed that the PA claim that the explosions were aimed to harm it was “feeble” and this was only to “cover up its crimes against the Palestinian resistance”.

The Hamas leader stressed that “arresting the freed prisoners serves only the Israeli occupation and puts these Palestinians under suspicion so they can later be arrested by the Israeli occupation.”

Shadid called for the PA to immediately release them and all other Palestinian political prisoners, as well as to stop the security cooperation with the Israeli occupation.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180201-hamas-pa-ordered-arrest-of-freed-palestinian-prisoners/.