Israel deployed more than 100 snipers along Gaza border in preparation for nonviolence protest


Israeli soldiers kill Palestinian farmer, seriously injure another, in southern Gaza
IMEMC 30 Mar — Israeli soldiers fired, on Friday morning, tank and artillery shells at Palestinian farmers, east of the Al-Qarara area, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, killing one and seriously wounding another. Medical sources said a young man, identified as Omar Wahid Nasrallah Sammour, 27, was killed by a shell fired from an Israeli tank stationed across the border fence. They added that another farmer suffered serious wounds, and was rushed to the European Hospital, in Khan Younis. Media sources in Gaza have confirmed that the slain Palestinian, and the wounded, were farmers, working on their land near the border fence area, and that the attack targeted them and several other farmers. There were no processions or confrontation in the area, and the entire coastal region, when the Israeli attack was carried out. Israeli Ynet News said the army refused to comment on the incident, and only claimed “checking for details about it.”

Army injures seven Palestinians in Gaza
IMEMC 30 Mar — Israeli soldiers shot, on Friday morning, seven Palestinians, including a young woman, in various parts of the besieged Gaza Strip, just as the Palestinians started the nonviolent processions on their lands, hundreds of meters away from the border fence, in several parts of the coastal region. Medical sources said the soldiers shot three Palestinians in the al-Boreij refugee camp, in central Gaza Strip, one in Rafah, in southern Gaza, and three others in Jabalia, in the northern part of the coastal region. The Israeli attack came just as the nonviolent processions were starting in the Gaza Strip, while the Palestinians were hundreds of meters away from the border fence. On Thursday evening, the Palestinians installed tents 700 meters away from the fence, east of Gaza city, while medics installed mobile clinics, especially since the army is preparing to use live ammunition against the nonviolent protesters. It is worth mentioning that the army infiltrated cellular networks in Gaza, especially phones owned by organizers of the processions, and tried to provide false information regarding places of protests….

Israeli soldiers shoot five Palestinians in Gaza
IMEMC 29 Mar – -Israeli soldiers shot, on Thursday evening, five young Palestinian men, east of Gaza city and east of Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. The soldiers repeatedly opened fire at dozens of Palestinians, who marched east of the Zeitoun neighborhood, southeast of Gaza city, wounding three of them. The three Palestinians suffered moderate wounds, and were rushed to the Shifa Medical center, in Gaza city. The soldiers also shot two other Palestinian with gas bombs, which directly struck them, near Khuza‘a village, east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, causing moderate wounds, before they were rushed to Nasser Hospital. The Israeli military pushed hundreds of soldiers along the border fence in the besieged Gaza Strip, in placed sand hills, in preparation for mass processions on Friday, which also marks the Palestinian Land Day.

Israeli soldiers injure a young man near Gaza border
IMEMC 28 Mar — Israeli soldiers shot, on Wednesday evening, a young Palestinian man east of the Sheja‘eyya neighborhood, east of Gaza city. Palestinian medical sources said the soldiers shot the young man with a live round in his thigh, before he was rushed to the Shifa medical center, west of Gaza. The incident took place after the soldiers targeted a group of Palestinians on their land, near the border fence of the besieged coastal region.

Israel warns it may use lethal fire on Gaza border protests
AFP 28 Mar — Israel has warned that its soldiers could use live fire if Gaza Palestinians try to breach the border with Israel during a mass rally planned for Friday. The demonstration marks the annual Palestinian Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976. It is expected to kick off more than six weeks of protests throughout the Palestinian territories leading up to the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem around May 14. Gazans are expected to gather from Friday in camps being erected along the border fence, a few hundred metres (yards) from the Israeli lines. Israeli armed forces chief Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot said in comments published Wednesday by local daily Yediot Aharonot that the current border tension presented the most serious risk of conflict since he took up his post in 2015 … Eisenkot said reinforcements, including more than 100 special forces snipers, had been deployed to the border and the army was prepared for all scenarios. Among them is the prospect of an attempt by protesters, organised or not, to break through the border fence which surrounds the Gaza Strip, home to two million Palestinians largely cut off from the rest of the world by Israeli and Egyptian blockades. “We won’t allow mass infiltration into Israel and to damage the fence,” Eisenkot told Yediot. “The instructions are to use a lot of force,” he said. “In the event of mortal danger (to troops) there is authorisation to open fire.”

IDF vows ‘personal’ steps against bus companies transporting Gazan protesters
Ynet 28 Mar by Elior Levy — The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav Mordechai warned bus companies in the Gaza Strip Wednesday evening not to cooperate with the Hamas terror group by driving residents toward the border fence as part of the large scale “Great March of Return” protest planned for this Friday. “Anyone who approaches the border is endangering his life. From my point of view, if bus companies you own take some of the protestors and bring them to the border, you and your families will be held personally responsible,” Mordechai warned during an interview on the Alhurra United States-based public Arabic-language satellite TV channel. Mordechai then turned to the bus companies themselves, saying that “If you enjoyed benefits in the past, they will be canceled.”….,7340,L-5205944,00.html

Gazans pitch protest tents on Israel border as tensions mount
GAZA CITY (AFP) 29 Mar — Palestinians in Gaza pitched tents near the volatile border with Israel on Thursday ahead of a six-week protest camp under the gaze of wary Israeli soldiers. The exceptional protest is dubbed “The Great March of Return” and has the backing of the Gaza Strip’s extremist rulers Hamas … The first protest will kick off on Friday when Palestinians worldwide mark Land Day, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976. Camping and protests in Gaza are expected to continue until mid-May, around the time the US is set to inaugurate its controversial new embassy in Jerusalem. Mid-May will also mark the anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe, which saw hundreds of thousands flee their homes in the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel. According to the United Nations, some 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million residents are refugees or their descendants. Khaled Al-Batsh, part of the committee planning the protest, said tents would be located 500 meters (yards) from the border, just outside the buffer zone between Gaza and Israel. Water facilities were being installed and medical teams deployed to allow people to stay for long periods. Organizers said tens of thousands of people would attend Friday’s protest, although it was not clear how the estimate was reached. Batsh said protesters were calling for Palestinians to be allowed to return to land that is now inside Israel … Hamas officials say they will monitor the area beyond the camp sites to prevent protesters going too close to the frontier, at least during the initial days of the protest. Five main camp sites have been set up, spanning the length of the coastal territory from near the Erez border crossing in the north to Rafah in the far south, near Egypt. Campers will be within sight of the border, frequently patrolled by Israeli soldiers….

Onions and vinegar for tear gas but stay away from the border: Gaza readies for Friday’s mass protests
Haaretz 29 Mar by Jack Khoury — Organizers of the march have issued assurances that friction with Israeli forces will be avoided — The Palestinian organizers of the mass march scheduled for Friday near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip have called on Gazans to come out in large numbers and participate, and to participate in Friday prayers to be held at several locations near the border fence. The march will be safe, the organizing committee has reassured the public in Gaza over the past few days, saying nothing should prevent women, children and the elderly from participating. Protesters have been encouraged to wave Palestinian flags and carry posters with the names of their former villages in Israel, as well as the keys from the homes their families fled from during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948. The march, dubbed the March of Return, will remain 700 meters (nearly half a mile) from the Israeli border fence to avoid friction with Israeli forces, said the organizers. The marchers are set to gather at a number of sites along the length of the Gaza Strip, including one north of Beit Hanun not far from the Erez border crossing with Israel. The public has been encouraged to turn out en masse. Despite the organizers’ cautions against approaching the border fence during the protests, there remains the possibility that large numbers of young people will still attempt to do so….

Analysis: Palestinian infiltration from Gaza reveals cracks in Israel’s border defenses / Amos Harel
Haaretz 28 Mar — A series of tactical mishaps on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip has made the security establishment very uncomfortable over the past few days, at the height of preparations for Friday’s anticipated challenge. This will be the Land Day march, which is expected to ratchet up tensions on the border in coming weeks. The series of incidents on the border began with the detonation of an explosive device in mid-February. The device was concealed in a Palestinian flag that had been hung on the fence, and it injured four soldiers due to their disregard for orders. Since Saturday, two groups of Palestinians from Gaza infiltrated into Israel. Between these incidents, the Israel Defense Forces fired nearly 20 Iron Dome interceptor missiles in response to machine-gun fire from the Strip that had been mistakenly identified as rocket fire.
On Tuesday morning, three young Palestinian men from Rafah crossed the border and walked about 20 kilometers through Israeli territory before IDF soldiers arrested them on the outskirts of the Tze’elim army base. They had three improvised hand grenades in their possession but it is unclear what their plan was … Over the past few months it has become fairly common for young Palestinian men to try to enter Israel out of despair over the economic situation in Gaza. They are mainly seeking to get arrested, having heard that living conditions in Israeli prison are relatively good compared to life in Gaza. In some cases, they carry improvised weapons on the assumption that it is a serious enough charge to warrant an indictment and send them to jail, not back to Gaza and the Hamas government … It’s no secret that the fence around the Gaza Strip, which was built after the disengagement and presented as the latest technology at the time, has become outmoded and can hardly serve its purpose anymore. It has been damaged during patrols or by IDF operations in the Strip. …

Israel deploys 100 snipers along Gaza border
Al Jazeera 28 Mar — The Israeli military has deployed more than 100 snipers, with permission to fire, on the Gaza border, before a planned mass Palestinian demonstration near Gaza’s border with Israel, the Israeli top general said in an interview published on Wednesday. “We have deployed more than 100 sharpshooters who were called up from all of the military’s units, primarily from the special forces … If lives are in jeopardy, there is permission to open fire,” Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot, the military’s chief of staff, told the Israeli Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. The annual “Land Day” protest is set to begin on March 30, a symbolic day in which six Arab citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations in 1976 over Israeli land confiscations.

In anticipation of Gaza border protests, soldiers to provide security to Gaza perimeter communities
Ynet 26 Mar by Matan Tzuri — In anticipation of protests expected this weekend near the border fence with the Gaza Strip, the IDF will station soldiers inside Gaza perimeter communities for the purpose of providing security, Ynet has learned.  The combat soldiers will be posted at the entrance to communities defined as “border adjacent” and patrols will also be held for a limited duration.,7340,L-5197828,00.html

IOF strikes Gaza for second day
Al Manar/Agencies 26 Mar — An Israeli tank struck two positions in the Gaza Strip late Sunday, the occupation army said on Monday. Two observation points belonging to the armed wing of Hamas resistance movement were struck in the northern part of the besieged enclave, according to the occupation army. Palestinian security sources said there had been no casualties. It was the second night in a row that the occupation forces had struck the coastal territory.
The strikes came ahead of a planned protest on Friday in which Palestinians have been urged to camp along Gaza’s border with the occupied territories to mark Land Day, which commemorates the death of six unarmed protesters in 1976. On Sunday night Tel Aviv’s Iron Dome missile defense system was activated and sirens sounded near the border, but it later turned out these were false alarms. The army said it was investigating why the systems turned on, but said “unusual machine gun fire towards Israel was identified.”

Israel blows hundreds of thousands firing Iron Dome missile at nothing in a bizarre, costly mistake
Business Insider 26 Mar by Alex Lockie — Israel’s military fired off a salvo of ten or so missile interceptors in a bizarre mistake that likely cost the country around a half million dollars. Israel activated its Iron Dome missile defense shield on Sunday night, and videos on social media show at least 10 missiles streaking across the night sky. But the missiles were fired in error, Israel later admitted. “Following reports of sirens sounding in southern Israel, unusual machine gun fire towards Israel was identified. No rocket launches were identified. The (military) is looking into the circumstances which led to the activation of the Iron Dome system,” a statement from Israel’s army said. A Hamas spokesperson also told Reuters that no rockets had been fired towards Israel. Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield is composed of multiple different missile defense systems and batteries, and none of them run cheap. It’s likely the missiles cost anywhere from $40,000 to $90,000 each. Typically, the Iron Dome has a high rate of success and is one of the world’s more battle-tested, effective missile defenses….

Qatar officially stops supporting Gaza municipal projects
Asharq al-Awsat 27 Mar — Qatar has stopped supporting infrastructure projects carried out by the municipalities of Gaza Strip and have been run and controlled by Hamas since the end of 2007, revealed an official report issued by Gaza Municipality and published on Monday. This is the first official announcement by a Hamas-affiliated group that Qatari support and fund for projects in Gaza has stopped. On August 18, Asharq Al-Awsat revealed a Qatari approach to reducing support for Gaza, based on a formal political decision from Doha. Qatar has earlier closed Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad Al Thani Charitable Association and stopped its activities in Gaza. The association contributed to large humanitarian programs, including health, education and agricultural projects for the needy and the poor … The report noted that the cessation of the country’s support coincided with the suspension of the German Development Bank (KFW) grant, worth $50 million, for the water and sanitation sector.

There are no late mornings for Samiha Ghaben
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Mar by Amjad Ayman — There are no late mornings for Samiha Ghaben. The 45-year-old mother of three wakes up every day at 5am to start work on her farm in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza.  By the time her female assistants arrive at 6am to take on their share of the work, Samiha has already irrigated the seasonal crops – such as lettuce, potatoes and cabbages in winter; and tomatoes, aubergines and pumpkins in summer, as well as various types of berries. Samiha and her sister Suad inherited their farm after the death of their father 10 years ago. Samiha’s eldest daughter, Ghada, who is 16, helps her mother on the farm while her sons help their father Sobhi, sell vegetables from the family farm to shops in Beit Lahiya. On their seven donums of land, they employ eight women to help them with the farming. Most of these women are the main breadwinners in their families, as well as skilled agricultural workers. In a statement to MEE, the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture said there are 66,000 farmers in the Gaza Strip, of whom 20 percent are women farmers who either own their own land or are employed by farms. On Samiha and Suad’s farm, the women are paid an average of $6 for a seven-hour day. The low wages reflect Gaza’s harsh economy, where incomes can vary depending on the farm’s revenue.
However, the small incomes earned pale in comparison to the other risks involved in the work. These women farm in the unilateral “buffer zone”, which is imposed by Israel along its border with Gaza and includes farmland on the Gaza side. “Every time we hear the Israeli artillery moving near the borders, we are afraid that we may be exposed to getting shot by them and we stop farming until the sounds disappear. In many cases, they shoot in the air […] We leave the farming field and we go back to our homes, so none of us get injured,” Samiha said….

Pope Francis awards Gaza child a medal for her writing on horrors of war
KHAN YOUNIS (WAFA) 29 Mar — Roa Qdeih, 14, was surprised when Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), presented her on Wednesday with a medal from Pope Francis after reading what she wrote about her suffering during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. Krähenbühl found Roa’s notebook in the rubble of her school in Khan Younis, south of Gaza Strip, which was destroyed during the Israeli war on Gaza in 2014. Roa had written about the difficult situation and horror she and her family had experienced during the war when her family’s home was shelled, burnt and partially destroyed, and her mother was injured. Krähenbühl picked up the notebook, which included her writings especially her poem written in Arabic, “Hope never betrays”, and took it to show it to the rest of the world and to Pope Francis in particular two weeks ago during a meeting for donor countries in Rome. Pope Francis was so impressed by Roa’s writing and sincere feelings that he awarded her a medal, to show his pride in the refugee children and of their courage, according to Roa. “Children have the right to live and to go to school without fear or terror, and we are steadfast in our land despite the siege and the difficult conditions in Gaza,” she told WAFA….

First women’s yoga training center opens doors in Gaza
GAZA (Reuters) 28 Mar by Nidal al-Mughrabi — A small group of Palestinian women in Gaza are stretching their limbs with yoga to help them teach others to cope with the stresses and traumas of living in the embattled territory … There are few recreational activities for women in the densely populated enclave of two million people, which is under a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt and has the highest unemployment rate on earth. Amal Khayal, who teaches the class in a makeshift gym and also heads women’s activities for Italian charity Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud (CISS), said the project was aimed at training some 30 women to teach. “We are trying to use physical activities to help release psychological pressures so that women here can form a support network for one another,” Khayal told Reuters during one of her classes….

Gaza’s graduates finally get recognition they’ve demanded
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 27 Mar by Khaled Abu Amer — The Ministry of Education and Higher Education of the Palestinian national consensus government announced in a statement March 13 the first step of a plan aimed at solving the problem facing graduates of universities that were established following the 2007 Palestinian division and were not recognized by the ministry in the West Bank. This step consists of approving certificates issued by these unrecognized universities and colleges in the Gaza Strip. Further steps will be taken before the start of the academic year in September, according to the statement. On March 14, dozens of holders of bachelor’s degrees rushed to the headquarters of the Ministry of Education in Gaza to have their certificates certified. Students who graduated from universities and disciplines established during the Palestinian division hold diplomas that are not recognized by the ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah. This prevents them from entering the labor market and working in government departments or associations in Palestine and around the world. It also prevents them from applying to graduate programs that require a certificate approved by the Education Ministry. According to the ministry’s statement, only two categories of students are to benefit from the decision….

Tribal law keeps imperfect order in Gaza
Al-Monitor 28 Mar by Mohammed Othman — Tribal arbitration for the settlement of community problems and crimes before elderly members and dignitaries has long been the norm in Palestine, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But over the past decade, more Palestinians have been turning to the traditional process, which is not without its drawbacks … In another case, on Nov. 9, a 15-year-old boy from the al-Dagas family living in al-Faluja, northern Gaza Strip, accidentally killed another boy  during a fight. The Dagas family has been forced out of its home in accordance with the provisions of the tribal arbitrators. “This is a case of manslaughter. Yet the entire family, the boy’s father and uncles, were evicted from their house [for fear that] the victim’s family might act in reprisal against them,” Tariq al-Dagas, a relative of the accused boy, told Al-Monitor. “Tribes have played a negative role. The case was not resolved. We demand that the law be followed. We are ready to respond to the demands of the victim’s family according to the law and Sharia. As things stand now, our punishment is twofold: first, the accused young boy is facing jail time and second, his family will have to pay blood money and face displacement.”… Abu Rakhia said tribal arbitrators in the Gaza Strip deal with thousands of cases a month….

Closures / Restriction of movement

Closure to be imposed on West Bank, Gaza for Jewish holiday
IMEMC/Agencies 26 Mar — Israeli authorities, Monday, declared that a closure will be imposed on the West Bank and Gaza for eight days, over the Jewish Passover holiday, starting Thursday and lasting until midnight, April 7. The closure, according to WAFA, means entry into Israel for all Israeli-issued permit holders will be banned, except for humanitarian and medical cases. Meanwhile, Israeli forces intensified security measures in East Jerusalem, particularly around the Old City and at the main entrances of the city. Israel regularly seals off the occupied Palestinian territories during Jewish holidays.

Easter in Jerusalem: No access for Gaza’s Christians
Al Jazeera 27 Mar — Three days to go before Good Friday, Israel has not issued permits for Gaza Palestinian Christians to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter, Church authorities have said. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said church authorities had applied for around 600 permits for Gaza Palestinian worshipers to travel, but had not received any. Gaza is under an ongoing Israeli blockade and people’s movements out of the Gaza Strip is tightly restricted by the Israeli military. The Israeli military-run authority that operates in the occupied West Bank defended its policy to deny the applicants access to the city of Jerusalem in the West Bank, and said it would only issue permits to people aged at least 55.
–Holy places– Father Ibrahim Shomali, chancellor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said worshippers should not even be required to get permits. “We have to have free access to the Holy Land, free access to our holy places,” he said at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered as the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Of course, we apply, but in reality, there must be no applying for permits to come to visit your own places.” Church leaders feared more restrictions than usual this year as Easter falls on the same weekend as the start of Passover, a Jewish holiday when Israel boosts security.
–Trump factor– Christian leaders said US President Donald Trump‘s decision in December to recognize Jerusalem – sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam – as Israel’s capital could embolden Israeli authorities’ restrictions to their holy sites … Youssef Daher, of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Centre, said Trump’s decision could lead to further Israel pressure on Christian authorities, because “they think that they have a free hand.”….

Violence / Detentions — West Bank / Jerusalem

Palestinian suffers broken jaw in suspected settler attack
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 27 Mar — A relative of a Palestinian farmer says suspected Jewish settler vigilantes attacked him with clubs and metal pipes as he worked his land in the West Bank. Fathi Abu Mughli, a doctor at the West Bank’s Istishari Hospital, said Tuesday that 62-year-old Tayseer Suleiman suffered multiple jaw fractures in the attack near the Palestinian village of Hawara a day earlier. Suleiman’s 26-year-old son, Hamodeh, says his father can’t speak, but that he wrote down what happened to him. Hawara is near Yitzhar, viewed as one of the more militant settlements in the northern West Bank. The Israeli rights group Yesh Din says it has recorded 25 cases of settler violence in the area of Yitzhar in the past six months. Israeli police were not immediately available for comment.

After 36 days, body of Palestinian shot & beaten to death returned to family in Jericho
IMEMC 29 Mar — On Wednesday evening, the Israeli military returned the body of a Palestinian man who was killed in Jericho by a group of Israeli soldiers who shot the unarmed man at point blank range and beat him repeatedly until he died. The military initially lied about the circumstances of Yassin Saradeeh’s death, but a surveillance video was released by a local business that captured the entire incident on film. After holding his corpse for 36 days, the military turned the body over to family members at the Jericho checkpoint, where hundreds of Palestinians gathered to mourn his death and to challenge the circumstances in which he was killed. Yassin Omar Saradeeh, 33,was killed on February 22nd by Israeli soldiers who shot him, then beat him repeatedly while he was lying on the ground. According to witnesses, Yassin heard a commotion at his uncle Khamis Hattab’s house at around 4:00 in the morning, and rushed to see what was going on. The soldiers ambushed and shot him, then beat him up, including hitting him with their rifles. The Israeli army abducted the severely wounded Palestinian, and several hours later, said that he died from his wounds. Ismael al-Masri, Yassin’s brother-in-law, said that a group of soldiers jumped at Yassin, and started beating him up on various parts of his body, including his stomach and back, and dragged him away. It is worth mentioning that a surveillance video of the attack shows a muzzle flash the moment the soldiers jumped at the young man, just as they began to beat him. The video shows 6 Israeli soldiers attacking Yassin and brutally beating him up using their rifle butts and feet … Forensic pathologist Dr. Rayan al-Ali, who participated in the autopsy of Yassin, said that the Palestinian man was killed by a bullet in his abdomen, which was fired at point-blank range. The bullet which struck Yassin caused massive internal bleeding, and severed the left common iliac artery, then exiting through his back.The autopsy also revealed multiple fractures in the pelvis, in addition to various cuts and bruises indicative of having been beaten.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, the bodies of 17 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military remain in the custody of the Israeli military, which refuses to return the bodies to their families.  According to the Muslim religion (which is the religion of the majority of Palestinians), a person’s body must be buried as quickly after death as possible, in order for that person’s spirit to be at peace. But the Israeli authorities have prevented the burial of the following 17 people, some of whom have had their corpses frozen in an Israeli morgue for nearly two years:….

Arab says 2 settlers attacked, robbed him
Ynet 29 Mar by Hassan Shaalan — Police launch investigation after man in his 20s from Umm al-Fahm [in the Haifa District of Israel] claims two men blocked him off near Mevo Dotan with their vehicle and began attacking him and stole NIS 1,000; ‘They called me a dirty Arab.’ — …When people began to appear at the scene, he said he managed to escape, but the attackers attempted to continue their assault.“They continued to chase me and I called the police. Unfortunately, one of the policemen said to me on the phone that it wasn’t his area,” he said. “I felt as though my life was in danger and suddenly my scooter stopped working. So I was forced to drag it until I got to the road and then a car containing soldiers came by. I signaled them to stop with both hands. They saw me and ignored me.” Eventually, the complainant arrived at a checkpoint where police were present. They too, he said, refused to help him. “They wanted me to give testimony and they took my scooter and cellphone as if I was a criminal. They didn’t do a thing in order to try and catch the suspects who hurt me,” he said. “If it was a Jew, we would have seen policemen deploy in all areas.” Following the complaint, the police launched an investigation. “A serious investigation has been opened. We are looking in all directions, including suspicions of a nationalistically motivated incident,” a statement said.,7340,L-5207787,00.html

VIDEO: Israeli soldiers assault child, 3, attempt to abduct him
IMEMC 28 Mar — A video published by nonviolent activist, Raed Jihad Abu Rmeila, exposed Israeli soldiers assaulting a Palestinian child, only three years of age, and attempting to abduct him, in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank. The video shows the soldiers holding the terrified child, Durgham Karam Maswada, 3, who was crying sobbing, in front of his home near the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the Old City of Hebron. It also shows the child’s older brother succeeding in freeing him from the hands of the soldiers, who were holding him despite his cries.

Israeli soldiers abduct two children in Jerusalem
IMEMC 30 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Thursday evening, two Palestinian siblings, only 8 and 10 years of age, from their home in Beit Hanina neighborhood, north of occupied East Jerusalem. The soldiers claim that the two children “hurled stones at their jeeps,” on Road #20, near their neighborhood, and abducted them before taking them to an interrogation facility, without legal representation. The two children have been identified as Amir, 8, and his brother Hatem Abu Rmeila, 10.
Late on Wednesday at night, the soldiers abducted a child, identified as Mohammad Majdi ‘Atiya, from his home in the al-‘Isawiya town, in the center of Jerusalem. He was among thirty-one Palestinians, including children and a mentally challenged teen, who were abducted by the soldiers from their homes in several parts of the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, on Wednesday at night and Thursday at dawn.

Army abducts a young man in Nabi Saleh
IMEMC 28 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted, on Wednesday evening, a young Palestinian man from his home in Nabi Saleh, northwest of the central West Bank city of Ramallah. Local nonviolent activist against the Israeli Annexation Wall and Colonies, Mohammad Tamimi, said the soldiers abducted Odai Abdul-Razeq Tamimi just moments after returning home, and took him to an unknown destination. He added that the army has been trying to abduct Odai for several months, for participating in the weekly nonviolent processions against the Wall and Colonies, in the village. Odai is a former political prisoner, and the brother of Mustafa Tamimi, who was killed after the soldiers shot him with a gas bomb in the head three years ago.

Updated: Israeli soldiers abduct 31 Palestinians in the West Bank
IMEMC 29 Mar — Israeli soldiers abducted on late at night, Wednesday, and on Thursday at dawn, thirty-one Palestinians from their homes, after the soldiers invaded and violently searched them, in several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has reported.
One of the abducted Palestinians, identified as Tha‘er Shreiteh, who was taken prisoner from his home in the al-Mazra’a al-Gharbiyya village, near Ramallah, is the head of the media department of the Palestinian Detainees’ Committee.
In addition, two of the abducted Palestinians are high-school students, identified as ‘Assem Mustafa ‘Orouq and Wawis Mahmoud Ejjawi, from Jenin city, in northern West Bank.
The soldiers also installed roadblocks in several parts of the occupied West Bank, stopped and searched dozens of cars, and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards.
One of the abducted Palestinians, Nuwwar Bassam Tamimi, 16, is mentally challenged.
The abducted Palestinians have been identified as: [list follows]

Palestinian arrested for planning attack
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 29 Mar — Israeli police arrested Thursday afternoon a Palestinian young man in Beersheba, to the south of Israel, for allegedly planning to carry out an attack on Israeli targets. Israeli media sources claimed that a man was detained for planning an attack against Israeli forces while a second man was arrested for helping the first suspect. Earlier, Israeli police blocked entrances and exits to the Arab city and declared a state of alert after receiving information about “a potential assailant.”

5 Druze Israelis arrested for smuggling weapons from West Bank
Times of Israel 25 Mar — Five Israelis from Druze communities in the north of the country were indicted Sunday for smuggling weapons from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in the West Bank into Israel. According to the indictment filed by the Haifa District Prosecution, the group is made up of friends hailing from Daliyat al-Karmel and Isfiya, two Druze towns near the coastal city of Haifa. The charge sheet details how the central suspect made an agreement with a Palestinian citizen, named in the indictment as “Abu Adham,” to bring weapons “from the Palestinian Authority into Israeli territory,” in return for an undisclosed sum of money. Under that agreement, the suspects brought several caches of weapons into Israel earlier this month. The weapons were then to be transferred to a resident of Shfaram, an Arab Israeli town in the north, whose identity was not known to the suspects. Three of the suspects were arrested when they were caught with weapons in their car at a temporary checkpoint set up on Highway 6, the indictment said.

When settlers beat Palestinian fathers in front of their sons
Haaretz 29 Mar by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac –– A 45-year-old Palestinian farmer who was gathering food for his sheep was violently assaulted by settlers from a nearby outpost who regularly launch attacks on villagers, entering their homes and beating them — …Jumaa Rabai, 45, is lying on the bed, eyes half-shut, still groggy from the anesthetic, an IV attached to his arm. Gray-haired and bearded, dressed in a white hospital robe, he’s covered with a blue synthetic blanket. Occasionally he mumbles something to the family members gathered around his bed – among them his firstborn son, Raafat, 21, and his youngest child, a 7-month-old daughter in the arms of her mother, Saria, 40. The couple have eight children.
Three days earlier, last Friday. The Palestinian  village of Al-Tuwani, in the South Hebron Hills. Rabai got up at 5 A.M. and headed for his fields, about two kilometers away, where he intended to gather fodder to feed his small herd of sheep. Before leaving home, he asked Raafat to follow about an hour later with the family’s mule, which would bring back the two sacks of food to the pen next to the family’s home. The village’s calamity is Havat Maon, a rogue outpost of violent settlers that was established in the adjacent grove as a satellite of the settlement of Maon. Villagers relate that settlers enter their homes at night and threaten and beat people, and that there are repeated attacks on shepherds in the fields as well. In the last two weeks, Havat Maon settlers have run wild and attacked farmers from Al-Tuwani …
Raafat heard his father screaming in pain. He saw the Israeli draw close and hit his father in the head with his rifle butt, as he lay helpless at the foot of the hill. Raafat recognized the man from an attack the previous week, when he had also acted brutally. Jumaa urged his son to escape, so the thugs wouldn’t hurt him, too. When the settler aimed his pistol at Raafat, he did indeed back off a few dozen meters. While his father lay injured and groaning with pain, Raafat hid in the bushes and called volunteers from “Operation Dove” – Christian peace activists from Italy who live in Al-Tuwani and help protect the villagers…
The family seemed to take the violent incident in stride, the way one would react to some sort of recurring natural disaster. They have become accustomed to this outrageous situation, in which their lives are in constant danger, their honor is trampled, fathers are beaten before the eyes of their sons, their land is plundered – and no one protects them. They say they may submit a complaint to the Israeli police about the assault, although they know that nothing will come of it….

Prisoners / Court actions

Israeli court refuses to release a wounded child who was abducted from Palestinian hospital
IMEMC 28 Mar — An Israeli Court decided, Tuesday, to remand a wounded child who is currently at an Israeli hospital receiving treatment for severe burns, until further deliberations are held this coming Thursday. The child was abducted from a Palestinian hospital. The child, Asadeddin Abu al-Hawa, 14, from at-Tour neighborhood, in occupied Jerusalem, was injured by the Israeli military during an invasion into his area and suffered severe burns in his back and arm. After the child was injured, Palestinian medics rushed him to the al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital, in Jerusalem, but the soldiers invaded the medical center, five days ago, and abducted him. The army then moved the child to an Israeli hospital, posted soldiers at his room’s door, and refused to allow his family to visit with them. Following an appeal filed by Khaldoun Najm, a lawyer representing the child, an Israeli court allowed his parents to visit with him at the hospital, and to stay in his room.

Israeli court refuses to release Sheikh Raed Salah
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 29 Mar — An Israeli court refused the conditional release of Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. According to the lawyer Khaled Zabarqah, Haifa District Court refused to release Sheikh Salah after Israeli Public Prosecution appealed against his conditional release. The court’s order came following the Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s call for keeping Sheikh Salah in prison, the lawyer added. Last week, the Magistrate’s Court accepted to release Sheikh Salah and to place him under house arrest. According to the terms of his release, Salah will wear an electronic tag, be prohibited from using the internet or mobile phones, be banned from holding public meetings or giving speeches and has had a travel ban imposed on him. “We will respond to the court’s ruling in the appropriate time,” Zabarqah said. Sheikh Salah was arrested from his house on 25 August 2017 and was indicted nine days later by the Israeli Public Prosecution over incitement charges.

Dozens of Palestinian detainees have died directly following release
IMEMC/Agencies 27 Mar — The Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies stated  that dozens of released Palestinian detainees died of  serious illnesses they sustained  during the period of detention, of deliberate medical negligence, and lack of proper treatment by Israeli prison services. The spokesperson of Center, Reyad al-Ashqar, said, in a statement, that Israeli occupation authorities hold direct responsibility for dozens of detainees who died  just a few months after their release. Ex-detainee Hasan Shawamra, 48, from Doura town, recently passed on after becoming sick with cancer during his detention. Al-Ashqar pointed out that Shawamra died at Al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron, where he was undergoing treatment for cancer. He was detained on 2/22/16 and spent 17 months in Israeli prisons. He further noted, according to Al Ray, that the Israeli occupation court issued a decision to release him on July 29, 2017, because of the deterioration of his health condition. He was hospitalized after his release in several hospitals for treatment, but without benefit. Al-Ashqar accused the occupation of deliberately neglecting the treatment of sick detainees and leaving them for years without medical care or real examinations until the disease finally worsened. This policy is considered an indirect form of murder, as they died  after serving their sentences and, thus, Israel can not bear responsibility for their deaths….

Israeli prosecution drops indictment against colonizer who killed Palestinian farmer in 2017
IMEMC 27 Mar — The Israeli prosecutor’s office has dropped all charges against an Israeli colonizer who, on November 30, 2017, shot and killed a Palestinian farmer, after a group of colonizers attacked Palestinians who were working in their orchard. Israeli sources said the prosecution ruled that the colonizers who opened fire on the Palestinians, including the one who killed Mahmoud Ahmad Odeh, 46, “acted in self-defense,” and alleged that the colonial Israeli settlers “were picnicking in the area when Mahmoud and several other Palestinians hurled stones at them, mildly wounding one.” The prosecutor’s office therefore dropped the “negligent homicide” charges against the Israeli perpetrator who killed Odeh. Palestinian eyewitnesses of the fatal Israeli attack contradicted the Israeli allegation and confirmed that the Israeli colonizers assaulted many Palestinian farmers in their olive orchards in Qusra village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and opened fire at them, killing Odeh after shooting him with a live round in the chest. The incident took place when approximately 20 settlers who came from the illegal “Yesh Kod” outpost, which was built on private Palestinian lands, assaulted the Palestinian and his family, before one of them shot Mahmoud. The colony where the Israeli assailants reside is nearly 15 kilometers away from the Odehs’ land. Following the shooting, Emad Jamil, a member of Qusra Village Council, said that “It is clear they infiltrated the area, close to many Palestinian homes, with one goal in mind, to commit murder – there have been many attacks by colonists in this area, including the burning, cutting and uprooting of trees.” … Hours after the fatal Israeli attack, dozens of settlers and soldiers invaded Qusra, before the army shot and seriously wounded one Palestinian in his pelvis, and injured many others, while the settlers also smashed the front windshield and one of the windows of a Palestinian ambulance, wounding the driver in his eye. The Palestinian Red Crescent identified the injuries among the Palestinians as: ….

Three settlers convicted of hate crimes, terrorism
Ynet 29 Mar by Gilad Morag — Three brothers, settlers and members of a six-person Jewish terror cell, were sentenced Thursday to prison terms ranging from 32 months to five years for their part in hate crimes committed against Palestinians in 2014 and 2015. They were convicted of a series of “price tag” felonies, which took place in the Gush Talmonim area near Ramallah—including torching vehicles, throwing Molotov cocktails and gas grenades at homes and aggravated assault—as a form of revenge for attacks against Israeli citizens perpetrated by Palestinians during that time, such as the murder of Na’ama and Eitam Heinkin. The trial of the three other members of the cell is still ongoing. The suspects confessed to the crimes attributed to them and have even reenacted several of the incidents. They admitted that their objective was to sow fear and panic among the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and to send a message to the Israeli public and security forces. One of the defendants, who was a 16-year-old minor at the time the crimes were committed, was convicted as part of a plea bargain of membership in a terrorist organization, arson, assault under aggravated circumstances motivated by racism, sabotage with aggravated intent and other offenses. The court sentenced him to five years in prison …  The defendants were also required to pay an agreed-upon compensation of NIS 50,000 to their victims. The Central District Attoney’s Office said the crimes were “motivated by racism and directed against Palestinians and their property, solely because of their religious or national affiliation,” adding the case “exemplifies the determination of the law enforcement authorities to eliminate violent acts, especially when they constitute acts of terror and on a clearly nationalistic background.”….,7340,L-5208904,00.html

Land, property theft & destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlements

Israeli colonists invade two Palestinian buildings in Hebron, force family out
IMEMC 27 Mar — A group of around fifteen Israeli colonialist families invaded, on Monday at night, two Palestinian buildings close to the Ibrahimi Mosque, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, despite being evicted earlier following a court ruling. The colonizers invaded the two buildings, after claiming they purchased them with the approval of the ‘Civil Defense Administration,” which is the executive branch of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank. One of the homes is owned by Za‘tari family members who said that the colonizers stormed their building, terrorizing the children, and kicked them out, before raising the Israeli flag on top of the building. Israeli soldiers were heavily deployed in the area but did not intervene or try to remove the illegal colonizers. It is worth mentioning that the colonizers invaded the two buildings, two years ago, and created colonialist outposts they dubbed ‘Beit Rachel” and Beit Leah,” but were evicted by the army after a court ruling, despite their allegations of “purchasing the properties.”

Soldiers demolish under-construction home and walls, destroy graves near Bethlehem
IMEMC 28 Mar — Israeli soldiers invaded, on Wednesday at dawn, the al-Walaja village, northwest of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and demolished an under-construction home, walls, and destroyed graves. Local nonviolent activist Ibrahim Awadallah told the WAFA Palestinian News Agency that the soldiers invaded Ein Jweiza area, north of the village, and demolished an under-construction home, owned by Nader Mahmoud Abu Khiara. The soldiers also invaded a graveyard for Abed-Rabbo family, and destroyed its five graves, in addition to walls surrounding a property owned by Fayez Omar, allegedly for being built without permits. Awadallah added that the army has been frequently targeting Ein Jweiza area, demolished several homes, and is now targeting more homes and properties, to replace them with illegal colonies.

Most new settler homes being built in isolated West Bank settlements: monitor
i24NEWS 26 Mar — Construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank rose significantly last year with the majority of housing units being built in isolated settlements far beyond the so-called “Green Line”, according to a report published Monday by settlement watchdog Peace Now. Data published by Peace Now shows that Israel began construction on 2,783 new housing units in 2017, a figure approximately 17 percent higher than the yearly average rate since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assumed office in 2009 but lower than the 2016 figure. The monitor said that 78% of the new housing units in 2017 were being built in isolated settlements beyond the Green Line, which is internationally accepted as a representation of the approximate division of Israeli and Palestinian territory in a two-state solution. Those housing units would likely therefore be evacuated if a Palestinian state is established, as opposed to the large Israeli settlement blocs likely to be annexed to Israel in the event a two-state solution is reached. Construction in outlying settlements was up 8% from 2016, the report said. Another 243 units, or 8% of total settlement construction in 2017, were in wildcat outposts not authorized by Israel, the watchdog said….

Israel working to take over Palestinian archaeological site – official
NABLUS (WAFA) 27 Mar – Israel is working to take over Sebastia archaeological site to the northwest of Nablus in the northern West Bank and has sent a contractor to do restoration work on the site, according to Mohammad Azem, head of Sebastia village council. He told WAFA that residents were surprised to the Israeli contractor working at the site, which is considered a Palestinian site. He said the Israeli authorities are trying to take control of the archaeological area through increasing visits to the site by Israeli settlers while moving any signs that show it as a Palestinian area, including removing the Palestinian flag that has been flown there for decades … Sebastia is an archaeological city to the west of Nablus in the northern West Bank of about 3,000 Palestinian residents. Besides being archeological city, it has religious significance for Muslims and Christians alike because it is believed that John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus in Jordan River, is buried there….

IOA stops work on agricultural road in Bethlehem town
BETHLEHEM (PIC) 28 Mar — The Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) Wednesday prevented the municipality of al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem, from opening an agricultural road in the area. The local activist Ahmad Salah said that Israeli forces stopped work on a road in the town’s Um al-Rokba area. The road was planned to be an alternative to the main entrance to the town which was blocked by the IOA almost two years ago, at the pretext of being built without permit.

Israeli settlers close rural roads to prevent farmers from reaching their land
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 29 Mar — Israeli Jewish settlers closed on Thursday rural roads leading to agricultural land in the town of al-Khader to the south of Bethlehem to prevent Palestinian farmers from reaching their land, according to a local source. Ahmad Salah, coordinator of anti-wall and anti-settlement commission in al-Khader, told WAFA that a group of settlers from Sidi Boaz settlement outpost, built illegally on Palestinian-owned land, closed the road with dirt mounds, rocks and construction remnants. He said the settlers repeatedly close the roads in an attempt to force the Palestinian farmers to abandon their land. However, the farmers reopened the access road….

Israeli forces seize tents used by farmers west of Bethlehem as animal barns
BETHLEHEM (WAFA) 28 Mar – Israeli forces Wednesday took over tents used as animal barns by Palestinian farmers living in the town of Nahalin to the west of the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem, said a local official. Deputy Mayor of Nahalin village, Hani Fnoon, told WAFA an Israeli military force stormed Ein Fares area to the west of the town and removed and took over the tents that were placed there by the anti-settlement and wall committee as part of efforts to support the steadfastness of Palestinians in the area in light of almost daily Israeli forces and settlers’ violations against them. Israeli occupation authorities have escalated their measures against Palestinians in the town.  The measures include the seizure of land and halt on construction orders, in addition to continued house-to-house raid and arrest campaigns.

Palestinian refugees from Syria

Euro-Med: Syria’s displaced Palestinian refugees facing recurrent tragedies outside of Syria
GENEVA (WAFA) 28 Mar — …The report, titled “Palestinian Syrians: Displaced Once Again. An eye on the appalling humanitarian conditions of Syria’s Palestinian refugees in exile”, highlights the dire humanitarian conditions and the legal limbo Syria’s Palestinian refugees suffer from after being forcibly displaced as a result of the conflict breaking out. Out of 526,000 who used to reside in the country, 3,600 have been killed. The new Euro-Med report review the shocking humanitarian conditions and the legal limbo of Syria’s Palestinian refugees and documents their difficult living circumstances in host countries as the seven-year conflict in Syria continues. The host communities include Europe and Turkey as well as neighboring Arab countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories (Gaza). Statistics by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) show that at least 120,000 Palestinian Syrians left their camps in the country and migrated either to neighboring or to European countries. Meanwhile, estimates available to Euro-Med Monitor indicate an even higher number, amounting to over 160,000. In Lebanon, the number of Palestinian refugees from Syria reached nearly 32,500 by the end of 2017, according to UNRWA estimates. About 90% of them live below the poverty line, and 95% suffer from food insecurity….

Other news, opinion

For first time in 80 years, Palestinians return to their villages
SILWAD, Occupied West Bank (Al Jazeera) 29 Mar by Shatha Hammad To commemorate Land Day, group of Palestinian refugees returned to the villages they were expelled from in 1948 — In a rush, Hawwa al-Khawaja and her daughter Khawla stepped off a bus as it pulled over at the entrance of what was once the village they called home. The elder Khawaja stood there greeting others who had arrived on the buses that followed, just as she used to greet her village’s visitors as a young woman before 1948. “Welcome, welcome to al-Thahiryeh,” the 90-year-old said. “We apologise for not having a home to welcome you in.” Since 1948, there have been no homes or residents in the destroyed village of al-Thahiryeh, which lies southeast of the city of al-Lydd. That year, Zionist forces pushed out Palestinian families living in the village, before destroying every inch of it. Al-Thahiryeh was one of 500 villages that faced the same fate in what became known as the ethnic cleansing of at least 800,000 Palestinians. On Wednesday, Hawwa al-Khawaja returned to al-Thahiryeh for the first time, but only for a few hours. As part of an initiative launched by Filastiniyat, a Palestinian non-governmental organisation, a group of elderly refugees from the occupied West Bank and from inside the territories occupied by Israel in 1948 were given a chance to fulfil their dreams of returning to their destroyed villages surrounding al-Lydd. They were all between 70 and 95 years old. The journey was planned to coincide with Land Day, which marks the day when, on March 30, 1976, Israel ordered the confiscation of massive tracts of land belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel…

Ashrawi says Palestinians committed to nonviolent activism to be free
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 28 Mar – Hanan Ashrawi, PLO Executive Committee Member, Thursday said Palestinians remain committed to popular non-violent activism and political, legal and diplomatic efforts, and will persist in the struggle for freedom. Her remarks came one day prior to the 42nd anniversary of Land Day, which falls on March 30 every year. She explained that in March 1976, the Israeli government announced its decision to expropriate thousands of dunams of land belonging to Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Thousands of indigenous Palestinians organized a general strike and marches in Arab towns from the Galilee to the Naqab. In the following confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six unarmed Palestinians were killed, about one hundred were wounded, and hundreds of others arrested. Ashrawi said, “Forty-two years later, the Palestinians in all of historical Palestine continue to endure destruction, displacement and dehumanization at the hands of the right-wing and extremist Israeli government and its unlawful policies and draconian measures.”….

Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas supporters in West Bank
Al Jazeera 28 Mar — At least 55 Hamas supporters arrested in aftermath of explosion that targeted PM convoy in Gaza Strip — Dozens of Hamas supporters and activists have been detained in the West Bank over the past two weeks following an attack on the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister’s convoy in Gaza on March 13. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of being behind the attack on Rami Hamdallah’s motorcade, calling it an “assassination attempt”. Hamas denied the allegations and said it was launching an investigation to uncover who was behind the blast. Almost two weeks after the attack, two suspects were killed in an operation carried out by Hamas security forces. They were identified as Anas Abu Khousa and Abdul Hadi al-Ashab, unaffiliated with any Palestinian political faction. The attack and the subsequent recriminations marked a serious deterioration in relations between Hamas and the PA. So far, at least 55 Palestinians have been arrested as part of a crackdown by the PA on Hamas supporters.
-‘Arrests must stop’– Hasan Khreisheh, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the West Bank, told Al Jazeera that the arrest campaign by PA security forces is “incomprehensible and unjustified”….

Abbas bans PA officials from visiting Gaza Strip
MEMO 26 Mar — Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has secretly banned officials from visiting the Gaza Strip following the attack on Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy two weeks ago, Quds Press reported yesterday. Official sources told Quds Press that Abbas intended to take more punitive measures against the Gaza Strip but several parties, including Egypt, asked him not to carry out his plans. The PA is likely to continue running civil services in the Gaza Strip, including the health and education sectors and Hamas would continue running the security sector, the sources added. Reconciliation efforts are failing, Fatah officials told Quds Press, “because Fatah wanted one political system, while Hamas insisted on a functional division”.

PA to Israel: Stopping payments to Gaza workers in April
MEMO 26 Mar — The Palestinian Authority has informed Israel that it will cease to pay the salaries of staff in the besieged Gaza Strip from 1 April further exacerbating the humanitarian and economic crisis in the Strip. According to Israeli media, PA Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, spoke to Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon by telephone yesterday and warned him that the move could have a negative effect on Israel. According to a report on Hadashot TV, Kahlon did not agree that the move would “explode on Israel”. Tens of thousands of employees receive wages from the Palestinian Authority, should this cease unemployment rates which already stand at over 43 per cent will increase. There have been fears that the situation in the Gaza Strip could explode at any time ….

Palestinian budget excludes Gaza, unless it toes the line
GAZA CITY (Al-Monitor) 28 Mar by Entsar Abu Jahal — Hamas is rejecting the Palestinian Authority’s 2018 public budget, which  President Mahmoud Abbas approved this month. Some legislators believe the budget is illegal. The budget was submitted to the government of national consensus and ratified Feb. 27, without being presented to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) as required by law. The government merely presented the budget to a number of parliamentary bloc members, prompting PLC First Deputy Speaker Ahmed Bahar to denounce the process and assert that the budget is illegitimate. In a Feb. 28 news conference, he also called for the government to resign. The Palestine News Agency, WAFA, reported that the Palestinian Council of Ministers stressed in its weekly meeting Feb. 27 that the first version of the budget has taken into consideration the status quo in the Gaza Strip. This would mean that not all of the expenditures are fully calculated yet. Under this scenario, the budget is estimated at $5 billion, including $3.8 billion in revenues, $775 million in foreign aid, $4.5 billion in current expenses and a funding gap of $498 million….

Palestinian women celebrate legal win with eye toward greater victories
RAMALLAH (Al-Monitor) 28 Mar by Aziza Nofal — Women warmly welcomed the government’s declaration of a “package of decisions and measures to [address] laws that are unfair to women,” March 5 in advance of International Women’s Day. But they want more. The government called on President Mahmoud Abbas March 5 to issue a decision to amend Penal Code No. 16 of 1960 by adding a fifth paragraph to Article 99 excluding honor crimes against women from their customary consideration of extenuating circumstances. The government also called for abolishing Article 308 of the Penal Code, which exempts a perpetrator of rape from prosecution and punishment if he marries his victim. There were also changes to the regulations governing child custody and measures to fight discrimination against women. Women gained the right to obtain passports for their children, open bank accounts for them and transfer them between schools. Activist Nahed Abo Tueima, who played a significant personal and professional role in demanding these legislative measures, described the amendments as incomplete. She told Al-Monitor that more action was required for the amendments to be complete and to ensure women’s independence and interests….

US ambassador says he was misquoted on Palestinians
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) 29 Mar — The U.S. ambassador to Israel on Thursday said he was misquoted in an Israeli report in which he warned that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could become irrelevant if he keeps shunning the United States as a Mideast broker. In a post on Twitter, David Friedman said the U.S. is “not seeking ‘to replace’ Mahmoud Abbas. It is for the Palestinian people to choose its leadership.” He also retweeted an apology from the Israeli publication that interviewed him, Shvii. Israeli reports had quoted Friedman as saying that if Abbas is not interested in negotiating, “I am sure somebody else will” and that “vacuums tend to be filled.” Palestinian officials had criticized the comments as interference in Palestinian affairs.

Palestinians get bulldozed for doing what the US State Dep’t is doing
Mondoweiss 29 Mar by Scott Roth & Philip Weiss — The news from Israel Tuesday was that the finance minister had waived all building permit and rezoning requirements so as to allow the U.S. State Department to ramp up construction on a consular building in South Jerusalem that is to become the new U.S. Embassy, perhaps as early as May. The Times of Israel reported that Minister Moshe Kahlon said he would sign the waiver because moving the embassy is such a political priority: “As we promised, we won’t let unnecessary bureaucracy delay the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital,” he said in a statement. “…This is a strategic diplomatic move for the State of Israel.” Israel’s i24 channel said this would save months or years of delays, and Yaacov Lozowick, the Israeli archivist, celebrated: “The elected politicians have succeeded in twisting the arms of the bureaucrats. This is no small feat.”
The green light for the Americans only highlights the red light that Palestinians almost invariably get under the same system. They can’t even wait months or years; their plans to build are routinely denied because Israel is seeking to frustrate the growth of Palestinian areas. And when they do build, Israel often comes in with bulldozers to demolish the construction. A whole organization, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, arose to fight this pattern; nearly 1000 Palestinian buildings are destroyed every year. The phrase that appears most frequently in its reports is this: “The house was demolished on grounds of lacking an Israeli-issued building permit.” The human rights organization Adalah reported last year that permits are unobtainable to Palestinians, whether in Israel or in occupied Jerusalem:

Israeli demographer: Arabs nearly equal Jews in Holy Land
JERUSALEM (AP) 27 Mar by Aron Heller — Israel’s leading demographics expert on Tuesday defended military figures indicating the number of Arabs will soon equal that of Jews in the Holy Land — figures that had sparked outrage from nationalist lawmakers in parliament. Sergio Della Pergola, a demographer from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said the numbers of Arabs and Jews are nearly equal when you factor in the population of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem along with the population of Israel. Jews make up about 80 percent of Israel proper and advocates of a two-state solution have long warned the country risks losing its Jewish majority if a Palestinian state is not established alongside it. Short of that, they warn, Israel will be faced with a daunting choice between becoming a binational state or one in which Arabs and other minorities do not have equal rights. Della Pergola said that there are currently about 6.9 million Jews in the Holy Land — including Israel and the Palestinian territories — compared to 6.5 million Arabs. He said the gap was likely to be closed completely within 15-20 years. “These are the figures. You can either accept them or not,” he told The Associated Press. “For some, it may be uncomfortable so they say they are inaccurate but truthfully that is quite childish.”….

How many Palestinians live in Gaza and the West Bank? It’s complicated
Haaretz 28 Mar by Yotam Berger & Jack Khoury — Determining how many Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip may seem like a relatively simple matter to resolve, but no reliable figures seem to exist. The Israeli Civil Administration in the territories makes use of Palestinian Authority data, which other officials in Israel consider problematic. Research institutes identified with the right wing contend that the data are wrong. The disparity between the smallest and largest estimate of the Palestinian population in the territories is a difference of a million people … The Israeli military does not automatically resort to using the Palestinian data, Della Pergola says, and there are also numbers that the Palestinians themselves “don’t like to make public so much, but I saw them once and they also point to a negative migration balance,” meaning that more Palestinians are leaving the region than are arriving. For his part, however, Shaul Arieli, a researcher of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who follows developments in the territories, said: “I have no reason to doubt the reliability of either the figures from the [Israeli] Civil Administration or the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which are also consistent with data from other researchers, including those of Professor Della Pergolla.” Major importance should be attached to the data rather than “the few studies meant primarily to serve the right wing,” he adds….

Opinion: To the settler chief who insists Jews must rule Israel even if Arabs become the majority / Bradley Burston
Haaretz 27 Mar — If nothing else, the right has persuaded me of this: We need to offer every West Bank Palestinian the option of voting in Israeli elections. If you refuse to allow them a country, for God’s sake, allow them the vote — A senior Israeli settlement movement official, responding to statistics cited by the Israeli military indicating that Jews are now a minority in the Holy Land, stated this week that Jews have the right to rule Israel even if Arabs become a majority within the country. The statement came hours after a furor erupted Monday in the Knesset, where figures cited by an army colonel showed that some three million Palestinians now live in the West Bank and another two million in the Gaza Strip. Combined with the 1.8 million Arab citizens of Israel and the 300,000 Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, the statistics meant that from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, Arabs may outnumber Israel’s 6.6 million Jews by as many as 600,000 people. The Israeli right wing was quick to dispute the figures, arguing that the West Bank total is based on data inflated by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics…. (listserv)

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