Jewish settlers raided a West Bank village near Ramallah on Saturday night, attacking several houses and prompting clashes between residents and Israeli forces, Ma’an news agency reported.
Israeli forces were standing guard as hundreds of settlers stormed the village of Ras Karkar, reportedly barring ambulances from entering the village before allowing an ambulance to take only two people to the hospital.
Eight residents of Ras Karkar were wounded as Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them. Live bullets were also fired into the air to scare the residents and prevent them from defending their property.
Rubber-coated bullets hit one Palestinian in the eye, one in the head and another in the chest. Four others sustained bruises and fractures from the attack by settlers and Israeli troops, locals said.
According to local sources, three houses in Ras Karkar were attacked and set on fire, as well as a number of olive trees.
One settler was wounded after being hit by a stone.
Settlers were also gearing up to attack another village near Ramallah on Sunday, Ma’an reported.
According to a witness, dozens of settlers were being escorted by Israeli troops and police officers near the village of al-Janiya in northwest Ramallah.
Residents of al-Janiya were trying to close the road to the village with rocks, only to be met with stun grenades and tear gas. Activists used the village mosque’s loudspeakers to urge residents to defend their village.
Settlers routinely attack Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank, as Israeli forces regularly turn a blind eye or even assist settler crimes.
According to figures compiled by Israeli group Yesh Din, nine out of 10 police investigations about settler crimes fail to lead to a prosecution.
(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar, Photo Credit – Ma’an)
Israeli forces on Monday demolished Palestinian homes and water wells in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as settlers confiscated land near Hebron to build a new outpost, local media reported.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces razed two apartments in the Tur neighborhood after several attempts by the owners to reverse the demolition order failed.
The authorities evicted 24 members of the Ghaith family, including five children and an elderly woman, from the two apartments ahead of the demolition, Rushi Ghaith, one of the owners, told Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
The apartments were scheduled for demolition in December but the family secured a court-ordered injunction to stop it from going ahead, Ghaith said.
The Ghaith family lawyer said they had successfully stalled attempts to raze the apartments since September 2004, when Israeli authorities handed down the demolition notice because the home was built without a licensing permit. The family’s case to reverse the demolition order is ongoing.
Ghaith said the family has been fined 80,000 Israeli shekels (about $22,000) since the case began.
Meanwhile Israeli soldiers demolished water wells south of Hebron in al-Fawar refugee camp, as settlers from the nearby Ma’oun settlement seized land west of Yatta in preparation for the establishment of new outposts.
Abdul Hadi Hantash, an expert on settlement policies in the southern West Bank, said that the Ma’oun settlers seized land of one of the hills southwest of their original outpost.
Hantash told reporters that the wells the soldiers destroyed were used for agricultural purposes and irrigation.
He added that the continued confiscation of land and demolition of Palestinian structures, including the bulldozing of homes and uprooting of trees, are part of the Israeli government’s illegal settlement expansion program.
Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes and other structures in the occupied West Bank occur almost daily under the pretext of building without a permit.
According to the United Nations, 33 percent of all Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem lack Israeli-issued building permits, which are difficult to obtain, potentially placing at least 93,100 residents at risk of displacement.
Roughly 94 percent of Palestinian applications for building permits are rejected, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
The group estimates that Israeli authorities have demolished about 27,000 Palestinian structures in the West Bank since 1967.
(Ma’an, Wafa, Al-Akhbar)
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A Catholic monastery and convent in a secluded valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the building of Israel’s apartheid wall on its land on Friday, according to its lawyers.
The Society of Saint Yves, a Catholic human rights group which argued the case on the monastery’s behalf, said an Israeli appeals court had endorsed a plan to expand the barrier it had built in the area.
The apartheid wall would surround the convent on three sides and cut it off from most of its land, Saint Yves said in a statement.
Salesian monks and nuns tend lush vineyards and olive trees on terraced hillsides under the gaze of Israeli settlements there. A convent school teaches 400 local children.
Israel started building the barrier, a mix of metal fencing, barbed wire and concrete walls, in 2002. It claims the apartheid barrier keeps its citizens safe from militants.
Saint Yves said “that the plan would violate international law and conventions protecting religious minorities and the right to education and freedom of religion”, said Anica Heinlein, its advocacy officer.
Around 50,000 Palestinian Christians, including 17,000 Catholics, live among 4 million Muslims in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza.
They say Israel’s checkpoints and apartheid barrier cut them off from their neighbors and holy places in Jerusalem.
Some 90 percent of Palestinian Christians live in a 20-km stretch from Ramallah and East Jerusalem to Bethlehem – an area locked in a labyrinth of Jewish settlements, Israeli-only roads and a drab concrete walls.
Built mostly within occupied land and not on the “Green Line”, which was the de facto border before the 1967 War, the apartheid barrier inside the West Bank is deemed illegal by the UN’s International Court of Justice.
The Palestinian Authority says the Christian population in the West Bank has shrunk over the last three decades due to emigration, but it lacks accurate figures.
“The occupation hurts Christians and Muslims both, but affects the Christian community more because it’s a smaller percentage of the population,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a diplomat in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
“This is a matter of their survival, as this is one of the last pieces of land the community owns,” he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres will meet the newly elected pope next week during a visit to Italy.
The two men are due to discuss ties between Israel and the Vatican and improving relations between Christians and Jews. It was not immediately clear if the new pontiff would raise the issue of the monastery.
France’s highest appeals court has struck down a decision to release Georges Abdallah, 62, jailed in French prisons for 29 years, calling the Lebanese prisoner’s request for parole “irreceivable” on legal grounds.
He was granted parole on 21 November 2012, but the prosecution appealed the decision, and France has come under mounting pressure from the US and Israel to block his release.
“We don’t think he should be released and we are continuing our consultations with the French government about it,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in January. “We have serious concerns that he could return to the battlefield.”
France’s interior minister Manuel Valls refused to sign Abdallah’s extradition order on the morning of his anticipated release in January, prompting protests and sit-ins at French centers across Lebanon.
Abdallah was sentenced to twenty years to life over his alleged involvement in the murder of two diplomats, an assistant to an American military and an Israeli in 1982. The court was not able to present concrete evidence against him, and he was imprisoned for passport fraud.
France’s court of cassation, its highest court of appeals, ruled against his release on grounds that Abdallah’s extradition would not allow for a one-year, electronically monitored parole period, compulsory for life-sentence convicts appealing for parole. His deportation from the country was ruled a necessary condition for his release.
The document detailing the court’s deliberations and ruling made no reference to the crime in question as justification for his continued imprisonment.
But Lebanese activists say there is still hope, and are holding out for an April 11 hearing at the Sentence Enforcement Tribunal (TAP), where they hope to challenge the appeal. It is unclear whether Thursday’s ruling can be contested, however.
“A case like this cannot be appealed based on the courts and France’s legal sources,” the prisoner’s brother, Joseph Abdallah, told Al-Akhbar.
Dozens of activists have gathered outside the French embassy to protest Thursday’s ruling, continuing months of regular demonstrations and sit-ins demanding Abdallah’s release.
The UN General Assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly adopted the first-ever treaty to regulate the $80-billion-a-year conventional arms trade.
The assembly voted 154-3 for a resolution that will open the treaty for signature from June. Syria, North Korea and Iran – which had blocked the treaty last week – voted against it. Twenty-three nations abstained.
The first major arms accord since the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would cover tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, as well as small arms and light arms.
It would aim to force countries to set up national controls on arms exports. States would also have to assess whether a weapon could be used for genocide, war crimes or by terrorists or organized crime before it is sold. The treaty will not control the domestic use of weapons in any country.
The vote capped a more than decade-long campaign by activists and some governments to regulate the global arms trade.
Every country is free to sign and ratify the treaty, which will take effect after the 50th ratification from among the 193 UN member states, which could take up to two years.
(AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)
23 countries, including China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and India abstained.
Russia and China – which both abstained during Tuesday’s vote – said that the vague criteria defined in the document may lead it to being manipulated for political ends, with various hostile countries defined as “human-rights abusers”. Russia also wanted the document to ban the supply of arms to non-state actors, such as rebels in the recent Arab uprisings.
India, another country that refused to endorse the treaty, and a major importer of arms, claimed the treaty gave excessive leverage to exporting states, who would be allowed to unilaterally break contracts for supposed ethical violations.
Two Hamas officials say the Palestinian Islamic group has re-elected Khaled Meshaal as its leader for the fourth time.
Mashaal, 56, who has run the Palestinian movement since 1996 from exile, was widely seen as a favorite.
He is backed by regional powers Qatar, Turkey and Egypt. He is now based in Qatar.
The officials said the majority of the group’s Shura council members voted for Meshaal. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret procedure.
There had been speculation that Meshaal, who is based in exile, would be forced aside by the movement’s powerful leaders in the Gaza Strip, which it has controlled since 2007. Meshaal himself had said last year that he would not seek a new term.
But Hamas officials had hinted that Meshaal would continue leading the Palestinian group.
“The movement’s leaders have decided to renew Meshaal’s term for four years,” a high-ranking Hamas official told AFP on condition of anonymity ahead of the vote.
Hamas officials were in Cairo on Sunday and Monday for the vote, and to discuss with Egyptian leaders reconciliation with the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
After 37 years in exile from Palestine, it was only last December that Meshaal made his first ever visit to Gaza.
He was propelled to the movement’s leadership in 2004 after Israel assassinated the movement’s founding leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdelaziz al-Rantissi in the Gaza Strip.
Meshaal himself survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Jordan in 1997 when agents of the Mossad secret service disguised as Canadian tourists bungled an attempt to poison him on a street in Amman.
(AFP, AP, Al-Akhbar)
Israeli police arrested Palestinian worshipers on Saturday at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem, after an alleged scuffle erupted during a visit by a group of Jews and Christians to the mosque.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an that six Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones at groups of Jews and Christians visiting the compound.
Witnesses told Ma’an that police detained ten Palestinians and attacked Muslim worshipers with electric shock batons.
Dozens of Israeli settlers raided the mosque from al-Magharbeh gate, witnesses said. One settler drank wine and another allowed her daughter to urinate near an olive tree in the compound, they said, adding that a guard at al-Aqsa Mosque intervened, leading to scuffles.
Sheikh Azzam al-Khatib, the director of Islamic endowments in Jerusalem, said 200 Israeli settlers had entered the mosque in a provocative way, adding that religious officials had forced Israeli police to close al-Magharbeh gate for the day.
Israel’s police spokesman said further visits of Jewish and Christian groups were scheduled on Sunday afternoon and would continue as planned.
The al-Aqsa Mosque compound is one of the holiest sites in Islam. Jews also consider the area, which they refer to as Temple Mount, as imbued with important religious meaning.
- News Black-out and Political Farce over Jerusalem Clashes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Turkey has deported at least 600 Syrians staying at a refugee camp near the border after clashes with Turkish military police in a protest over living conditions, a Turkish official said on Thursday.
“These people were involved in yesterday’s violence, they were seen by the security cameras in the camp,” an official in the camp told Reuters by telephone. “Between 600 and 700 have been deported. The security forces are still looking at the footage, and if they see more they will deport them.”
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency says a riot has broken out at a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan after some of the refugees were told they could not return home.
Ali Bibi, a UNHCR liaison officer in Jordan, says it’s unclear how many refugees were involved in Thursday’s melee at the Zaatari camp. The riot broke out after some Syrians in the camp tried to board buses to go back to their country.
He says Jordanian authorities refused to let the buses head to the border because of ongoing clashes between the rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces in southern Syria, just across the border from Jordan.
Bibi says there were no immediate reports of injuries.
He says Jordanian authorities promised to organize the refugees’ return home at another time.
Over 70,000 people have been killed during Syria’s two year old uprising.
(Reuters, AP, Al-Akhbar)
Hezbollah’ Secretary General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah told his cadres in a private gathering that the Islamist group “has changed” and that the group’s ultimate priority is to “protect Lebanon”, a source reported to Al-Akhbar.
“Hezbollah has changed and its priorities have changed based on circumstances,” Nasrallah said.
“There was a time when we used to see Lebanon as a colonial construct that was part of the Ummah,” he added. “That was in our early days, and the country was going through a civil war. All parties were calling for a nation that fit their liking.”
“Today conditions have changed. We believe that this country is our country, and that the flag of the cedar is our flag that we need to protect, too. At this stage, our priority is to protect the state in Lebanon and to build it.”
The remarks appear to fly in the face of accusations by Hezbollah’s opponents that the group is a proxy of Iran, functioning as a “state within a state.”
“What I am telling you isn’t mere rhetoric. We are convinced of this and must work to apply it,” Nasrallah said at the close of his remarks.
Hezbollah launched into the Lebanese political scene during Israel’s brutal invasion of Beirut in 1982 as a hodgepodge of Islamist groups supported by Iran.
In 1985, the groups coalesced under a single party with a manifesto that declared its loyalty to be to the Islamic Ummah, and Iran’s supreme leader rulings to be a source of the group’s bylaws.
The 1985 manifesto also mentions “the obliteration of Israel” as one of its primary goals.
This is not the first time Hezbollah rescinds Ummah-related sections of the manifesto. In 2010, an updated group charter identified Lebanon as the party’s “homeland and the homeland of our fathers and ancestors.”
“We want Lebanon to be sovereign, free, independent, strong and capable … it should be mentioned that one of the most important conditions for the establishment of a home of this type is having a fair state, a state which is capable and strong, as well as a political system that truly represents the will of the people and their aspirations for justice, freedom and security, stability and well-being and dignity,” the charter went on to say.
Israeli forces have delivered evacuation orders to around 100 Palestinian families in the northern Jordan Valley ahead of a military training exercise, a local official said Monday.
The evacuation affects around 1,000 Palestinians living in rural communities who reside in Wadi al-Maleh, Ain Hilwa, Wadi al-Faw and al-Burj, local mayor Arif Daraghma told Palestinian media.
They must leave their homes by Wednesday for 48 hours, or they will be subject to penalties, he added.
Israel’s army forced several families from their homes in the northern Jordan Valley earlier this month for a similar exercise.
Hundreds of others were also pushed out their homes for a two-day military exercise in November.
Israel has designated the Jordan Valley a “closed military zone.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says Israel has designated around 18 percent of the West Bank as closed military zones, an area roughly equal in size to Area A, the 17.7 percent of the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control.
Around 5,000 Palestinians live in Israeli military firing zones in the West Bank, UNOCHA says. Since 2010, Israel has demolished the homes of 820 Palestinians located in firing zones.
- More evictions for Israeli army training in the Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel’s navy shot and wounded a Palestinian fisherman in waters off Gaza, and army soldiers shot another Palestinian in the chest inside the Strip on Monday, sources on both sides said.
Israeli forces also arrested nine overnight Sunday in violent West Bank raids.
Nizar Aayesh, head of the Gaza fishermen’s union, said the fisherman was wounded when navy gunfire hit his boat before being taken to a hospital in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
“There was a shooting towards a Palestinian fishing boat in the sea off northern Gaza. One fisherman was injured and the occupation’s navy took him to Barzilai hospital,” he told AFP.
Israel, which maintains a paralyzing air, land and sea blockade of Gaza, only allows Palestinian boats to travel six nautical miles from the coast.
The fishing zone was extended from three nautical miles after a November 21 truce ended Israel’s eight-day assault on Gaza that killed over 143 Palestinians.
“It was within the six nautical mile limit, but the Israeli vessels took the boat and whoever was on it and we are waiting for the fisherman to come back to know more details,” Aayesh said.
Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen are not uncommon. Army snipers killed a 22-year-old fisherman in September off the coast of Gaza and injured his brother. One week later navy soldiers fired at a fishing boat they said had breached the three-mile limit before detaining the fishermen on board.
In Gaza, locals told Ma’an news agency that Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian in his 20s in his chest near the southern town of al-Qarara.
Israeli soldiers have fired several times across the border since the ceasefire agreement.
The latest incident was Friday, when soldiers shot and injured a 19-year-old man east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, medical officials said.
Israel has imposed a no-go zone on the borders, but agreed to stop targeting Palestinians in the area as part of the ceasefire, Gaza’s government has said.
West Bank raids
Meanwhile in the West Bank, Israeli soldiers detained nine people overnight Sunday.
Four men were arrested in the Ramallah village of Beit Rima, locals said, with clashes breaking out that lasted several hours following the arrests of Ibrahim, Firas and Mohammed Rimawi.
Another unidentified man was injured while being detained and taken to the hospital for treatment, witnesses said.
Israeli soldiers also raided several areas in Nablus, arresting five people, locals said.
The headmaster of a secondary school in Balata camp, Farid al-Museimi, 47, was arrested by soldiers in his home. Soldiers also detained a Palestinian security officer Baha Jamil Mohammed, 22.
Saddam Raghib Salah, 20, Diyaa Abdul-Fattah Salah, 21, and Mahdi al-Shafi were also arrested in nearby areas of Nablus.
In another incident just south of Nablus, Jewish residents of the hardline Yitzhar settlement attacked shepherds from the nearby village of Madama, one of whom was hit in the leg by a bullet, a local official said.
“Settlers from Yitzhar attacked shepherds who were tending their flocks south of the village and started shooting with live ammunition,” Madama local council head Ehab al-Qat told AFP.
He said a 27-year-old shepherd was shot in the leg and his brother “was beaten by settlers.” Palestinian medics confirmed they had treated one person for a gunshot wound. An Israeli official told AFP that the shooter was an Israeli soldier.
(AFP, Ma’an, Al-Akhbar )
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One Palestinian was killed and another critically wounded Sunday morning in an Israeli strike on southern Gaza.
The two men, who were reportedly members of Hamas’ Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, were on a motorbike near the southern town of Khan Younis when they were hit.
Israel confirmed the airstrike, claiming the attack was in response to Palestinian fire on Israeli tanks that had crossed into Khan Younis earlier that morning.
Palestinian fighters launched at least four rockets into southern Israel later on Sunday in retaliation for the killing.
Israeli forces frequently cross into Gaza, prompting retaliatory fire from Palestinians.
The latest fighting took place following a three-day lull in violence after an Egyptian brokered truce went into force at midnight on Wednesday.
The agreement was aimed at ending a 72-hour spike in cross-border fighting, which began on Monday, with Israeli strikes killing eight Palestinians.
The fighters responded by firing more than 100 rockets across the border, seriously wounding two Thai workers.