By Reham Alhelsi • April 18, 2009
Every year, on April 17, Palestinians commemorate the Palestinian Political Prisoners Day. On 17.4.1974 the first Palestinian political prisoner, Mahmoud Baker Hijazi, was released from Israeli prisons in the first prisoner exchange deal with Israel. That same year, the Palestinian National Council declared the 17th of April a day of solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners, to be commemorated every year. In Occupied Palestine prison and imprisonment are as common as sunrise and sunset. There is almost no family that had not been subjected to Israeli imprisonment one way or the other. Palestinians are being detained on a daily basis, making them the most imprisoned people on earth. It is difficult to estimate their number, but several sources put the number of Palestinians detained or imprisoned by Israel since 1967 at over 750,000 Palestinians, making 20% of the total Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories, and approximately 40% of the total Palestinian male population. With the outbreak of the 2nd Intifada in September 2000 until September 2008 some 65,000 men, 750 women and 7,500 children were arrested by Israel. According to the ICRC, in October 2008 there were 10,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Addammeer puts the number at 9,493, 750 of which are administrative detainees, 349 aged 18 and under, and 75 are females. Among those detained are political figures and some 47 Palestinians parliamentarians.
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) can arrest anyone and anywhere, without giving a reason. Palestinians are arrested at home, on the way to school or work, at universities, in hospitals, at checkpoints. Mass arrests, as form of collective punishment, are also very common. Curfews would be imposed on villages, towns or refugees camps, houses would be raided and Palestinians arrested. I have witnesses a number of these mass arrests, but never did the IOF bother to tell the residents why they were forced to leave their homes in the middle of the night and stand in the cold and the darkness for long hours. Under the cover of darkness and the curfew, the IOF would demand with loudspeakers that all men, usually those between 16 and 45, gather in the school yard or on the main street. We used to sit in the darkness at the windows and try and recognize the men standing in line and questioned by the IOF; relatives, friends and neighbours. Sometimes the men are blindfolded and handcuffed. They would wait for this to end, while being harassed, shouted at and kicked by the Israeli soldiers. We would wait with them, behind windows, hoping that they would all be released soon and come home safe. Sometimes, they are all sent back home after a night of harassment, but often this ends with mass arrest for no given reason.
Another form of collective punishment is house arrests. I have witnessed so many house arrests, and all were accompanied by violence and harassment and the wilful destruction of property by the IOF. They would turn the house over, destroying the furniture and even the food, as if the person they are searching for would be hiding in the wheat or the sugar, and if there was any money or valuables in the house, it was sure they would never be found again after the IOF had left the house. Family members trying to protect their home or their children are beaten. We would tell them that the person they are looking for is not in the house, we would try and reason with them, but it is all useless. They come on a mission to harass, destroy and arrest. Often I thought they knew they wouldn’t find what or who they are looking for, and that the whole operation of house raid is purely to punish the family and pressure it to hand over their son. During such house searches, the IOF would push us against the wall, kick us with their boots and beat us with the butts of their rifles. They didn’t care that they were beating children and elderly.
Upon arrest, detainees are often blindfolded and handcuffed. Not only is the detainee physically abused and humiliated, but other members of the family as well. Also, it is common practice by the IOF to use family members as human shields during such raids. The detainee is taken without informing the family about where he is taken to. Usually it takes days, if not more, before the family finds out where a detainee is. There are many incidents where families realized that their sons were in a certain prison months after they were arrested, and only after another detainee was released and informed that family about their son. One summer afternoon, my uncle and I were playing football in the garden. He was on the IOF list of wanted persons and was staying in our house. Nearby, there was a huge fruit tree, and when I was a child my father told me as way of a joke that a soldier was buried under that tree. At nights, when the leaves of the tree would move with the wind, I used to imagine the sound they made the murmuring of that soldier, and with all the Russian books we had in our library, I gave that imaginary soldier the name Yuri. My uncle and I made bets as to who would win the football game, we joked and laughed and I remember telling my uncle that Yuri would come and take him. After I explained to him what I was talking about, he said: I think you mean Uri and not Yuri, meaning that if any soldier came to take him away, it would be an Israeli soldier, not a Russian. That night at 2 in the morning, I was awakened by hurrying footsteps outside the window. The minute I fully woke up and stood, there was loud knocking on the front door. My father asked who it was, and removed the side of the curtain to see who stood outside. Standing near him, I could see the face of my grandfather and behind him nothing but darkness, complete darkness. The minute my grandfather said it was him, my father opened the door immediately, only to see grandfather practically thrown inside the house. In a matter of seconds, the house was full of IOF soldiers, some in army uniform, others in civil uniform. They had finally figured out were my uncle was hiding and had come to arrest him. They brought my grandfather, an old man, in the middle of the night as a human shield, in case anything happened. My uncle was still in bed, and the minute the Bethlehem area commander saw him, he jumped on the bed and held his throat in his arms, wanting to strangle him, shouting repeatedly: you were here the whole time. My mother tried to get them off my uncle, but the commander pushed her away. And while my uncle was putting on his clothes and shoes, the commander was slapping him and kicking him. The other area commander, responsible for Sawahreh and the surroundings, told his colleague not to do any beating in his area, meaning that since the prisoner was from the Bethlehem area, the beating was okay once they reached that area. I remember we had a huge poster on the wall, one of “Guevara Gaza”, and the commander asked my sister if she knew who it was. The name was written on the poster for all to see, so when she replied yes, he ordered her to remove the poster. When they left, we realized that they had surrounded the whole area around our house. IOF vehicles had blocked the way in case anyone thought of escaping, and I am sure that if an ant moved in the darkness that night, it would have been shot dead immediately. My uncle was taken to interrogation and tortured to confess to things he never did, and when they failed to get a confession from him, he was held in administrative detention, which is a detention without trial or charge, often used by Israel. When he was finally released, he told us that they couldn’t wait for the interrogation to start the torture, and that he was beaten by the soldiers all the way from Sawahreh till they reached the Israeli detention facility.
Sometimes, injured or sick prisoners are taken from their homes, from hospitals, or after being wounded in a demonstration. They rarely get the needed medical help, and often get Aspirin as treatment for everything. Health examinations are conducted through a fence and additional medical treatment or hospital transfers are often postponed for long periods of time. Withholding medical treatment is one method used to pressure detainees into collaboration. There are more than 800 Palestinian detainees who suffer from bad health conditions, much of which as a result of the arrest or the interrogation. According to Palestinian researcher Abdul-Naser Farawna, 196 Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli prisons since 1967 due to medical negligence and torture, 49 of whom died due to medical negligence. Alone last year, 2 detainees died because they were not given the needed medical assistance. During the 2nd Intifada 72 Palestinian detainees have died in detention, 17 due to medical negligence, 3 as a result of torture, 51 were executed by the IOF after being arrested and 1 prisoner was killed during prison protests.
Often Palestinians are arrested for breaking one of the over 2,000 military orders governing the Occupied Palestinian Territories, some of which they have never heard of before their arrest. Women and children are often arrested to pressure detained family members into confessing or pressure other family members wanted by Israel to hand themselves in. The Palestinian Prisoners Society reports that between September 2000 and September 2008 some 750 women and 7,500 Palestinian children were arrested by Israel. In September 2008 there were 69 Palestinian female political prisoners held in Israeli prisons, 2 of them in solitary confinement and 5 in administrative detention. There are 6 female child prisoners and 4 detainees imprisoned as well as their husbands. One detainee has her baby with her who was born in prison. Palestinian female prisoners are placed in 2 Israeli prisons: Hasharon-Telmond and Neve Tertza prison, where they are detained in the same section as Israeli female criminals accused of murder, drug use and prostitution. Like Palestinian male prisoners, Palestinian female prisoners face torture and humiliation. Strip search, brutal body searches and sexual harassment are frequent.
Contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which defines a child as being under 18, Israeli military orders consider a child over 16 an adult, to be treated, tried and sentenced as such. In practice, Palestinian children as young as 12 may be arrested, charged and sentenced in Israeli military courts, since there are no juvenile courts. According to several reports, there are over 400 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons today, including 7 girls and 6 administrative detainees. These child detainees are aged between 13 and 18, more than 54 of whom are not older than 16. They are detained in Israeli prisons together with adults. 50 of these child prisoners are held in Ofer, 100 in Magiddo, 7 in Atzion, 22 in the Negev, 105 in Hasharon-Telmond and the rest in other prison facilities. Today, more than 450 Palestinian adult prisoners were children upon arrest and turned 18 in Israeli prisons. Like adult prisoners, Palestinian child prisoners are subjected to physical and psychological torture to extract confessions from them. During interrogation, they are not allowed to have any family member or a lawyer attending. Although I was practically a child when arrested, I was placed in a small empty room. I had been separated from my sister, and didn’t know where they had taken her. I stood waiting for a life sign from anyone, and I didn’t know how long I stood there, but I remember well how tired I was of standing and how thirsty I was. After some time, I could hear the cries of a boy in the room next to where I was. I thought, they were either torturing him or someone was making these noises to make me scared before it was my turn to be interrogated. I kept thinking of everything I ever heard, of how to keep still, stay brave and remember that they are only playing games with us to scare us into confessing to things we didn’t do. When I was finally led into a room with a number of IOF soldiers, all males, the soldier in charge checked my school bag and found my biology textbook. He looked through the book and saw a drawing of the anatomy of a human tooth. He showed it to me and asked smirking in a disgusting way if I knew what it was. I knew what it was and knew what he thought it was and what his plan was by asking me about it. At that moment I didn’t feel scared anymore, because I realized how stupid they are. Not only didn’t he know it was a tooth, the textbook was in English and it was written below the drawing what it was, but most probably he didn’t know a word of English and was acting so superior. I looked at him and said: yes, this is a tooth. My suspicions were confirmed when, upon not believing me, he asked one of the other soldiers in the room and the other confirmed what I said.
Child prisoners are held up in overcrowded cells, face torture and solitary confinement and don’t receive the needed medical treatment. In the last couple of months there has been an increase in the number of Palestinian children arrested. They are either arrested at home, at checkpoints or in streets, and are often accused of throwing stones without any proof. DCI-Palestine reports that the number of children brought before Israeli military courts in pre-trial hearing in the first two weeks of January was twice as high as in 2008. It added that its legal department receives a monthly average of 10 to 15 new cases of children for legal representation in Military courts, and that alone for the first two weeks of January 2009 it received 10 new cases. In one incident, 7 children were arrested in Toura Al Gharbieh in Jenin on 20.1.2009 and were detained at the Salim detention and interrogation centre. Two of the children were 12, two 13, two were 15 and the last 17 years old. Under pressure and with no lawyer present, the children confessed they had thrown stones at the Apartheid Wall. In another incident, during an invasion of Hares in the West Bank on the night of 12/13.3.2009, the IOF arrested a 17 year old boy suffering from kidney malfunction.
Palestinians prisoners are held in facilities run by the Israeli Prison Services (IPS) or the IDF. There are 30 detention centres that include 21 prisons and military camps, 5 detention and holding centres and 4 interrogation centres. Also, there is at least one known secret prison, Facility 1391, which is renowned for its severe torture methods. The exact location of this prison is unknown and lawyers and the ICRC have no access to it. The majority of these facilities are located outside the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and transferring Palestinian prisoners to these facilities constitutes a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, and making family visits almost impossible. Some of these facilities are buildings while others are tents within military camps like the Ketzion Military prison camp in the Negev, exposing detainees to harsh weather conditions. They are all overcrowded, with little hygiene, prisoners have to sleep on wooden planks and covers are often provided by the families or human rights organizations. The food provided is insufficient and of poor quality. Palestinian detainees have to live in appalling conditions in these facilities, are humiliated and subjected to inhuman treatment. In some cases, detainees are deported, either abroad or to the Gaza Strip. After the siege of the Nativity Church in 2003, Israel deported 13 Palestinian detainees to Europe and 26 to the Gaza Strip. During the Gaza war, hundreds of Palestinian civilians were arrested, including minors. They were handcuffed and blindfolded, and had nothing to shelter them from the harsh weather. Many held for days in pits dug in the ground. Reports added that some of the detainees were held near tanks and in combat area, making them human shields for the IOF.
Prison visits usually take the whole day, although the visit itself lasts less than an hour. We would set off in the very early morning, when it was dark outside and everyone else was still sleeping. The bus of the ICRC would be full with Palestinians from everywhere, mostly elderly women and children, all anxious to see their relatives. And before we would finally be able to see our loved ones, we would undergo one checkpoint after the other and one search after the other. I remember during one visit, when we were finally allowed into the visit room, I walked quickly looking for my uncle. I hadn’t seen him in years, and after I finally sat opposite him, we started talking through the barbed wire. We were both so happy. It was after a few minutes that someone from my family came and told me to come and say hello to my uncle. I was talking to the wrong person, and I was so embarrassed I didn’t even say goodbye or look back to see if that prisoner had any visitors that day. Later, I thought he too might have not seen his family since so long that he too mistook me for a relative, or maybe he was just anxious to speak to someone. During another visit, I remember sitting and talking to my uncle and at the same time trying to ignore the rain drops that were seeping through the roof and hitting me on the head and running down my face. My uncle must have found it amusing, because every time a raindrop would hit me in the face he would smile, but I would ignore it and continue talking, and by the end of the visit my hair was totally soaked and I was freezing. There was no possibility of kissing or hugging a relative, and the only thing we could do in way of shaking hands was to stretch our fingers through the barbed net separating us. Saying goodbye was always difficult, because we knew we were going back to our homes, to the relatively bigger prison, while leaving them behind in the small overcrowded cells. And when we finally reached home, it would be dark again and most people would be sleeping, a day spent between checkpoints and searches for a 45 minute visit of loved ones.
One time, on the way to my aunt’s house in Dheisheh, a friend of mine and I passed a young man, who was walking up and down one narrow alley of the refugee camp. The man was most probably mid twenty and was good looking. He was walking that alley and was arguing with someone. I looked around and saw no one in the whole area. I looked up to see if he was addressing someone sitting at a window or on the roof, but could see no one. I pointed the man to my friend, who told me not to worry. She said the young man had been recently released from an Israeli prison, where he was tortured. Since then he had been roaming the streets of Dheisheh, arguing with an invisible friend. As I listened closer, I realized he was talking politics with himself, discussing the occupation and life in prison. They had not released him, for he was still in that Israeli cell, being tortured every minute. Last winter when I was in Palestine, I wanted to take some photos of old UNRWA rooms, built for the Palestinians in 1949. Most old UNRWA rooms were being destroyed to build new houses, and I wanted to keep a record of the last remaining rooms that are a synonym to the Nakba and refugee camps. The wife of one of my uncles accompanied me in my search since she was born and grew up in Dheisheh and knew where to find a few old rooms. Most of these tiny rooms are deserted now, standing empty near larger family houses. I would take photos from the outside and if the room had no door or the door was open, I would take photos from the inside. As we came to inspect one room, we were surprised to find an old man lying on the ground, wrapped in a torn out winter coat. The old man opened his eyes as he saw us, he made a move as if to stand up, but my uncle’s wife told him not to leave and apologized for disturbing him, since we thought the room was deserted. A few minutes later, my mother’s aunt saw us invited us for some tea. Inside, we told her about the old man, and as she and my uncle’s wife talked about the old man and giving him something to eat and warm himself, since they knew who he was, I realized it must be the young man I saw long time ago. He was still imprisoned in that cell, a whole life wasted, and all I could do was to shake my head at the injustice of it all.
Under international humanitarian law, torture is strictly forbidden. The world was shocked when the torture in Abu Ghreib came to light, there were condemnations from everywhere and demands were made to close that prison. But the Zionist state, which conducts one war crime after the other, never hesitates in using torture. The forms of torture used in Abu Ghreib were not new to Palestinians, because they have been used since decades by the IPS against Palestinians. Was it not revealed that Israeli IOF and Shin Bet interrogators were hired by the Pentagon to brutally interrogate prisoners in Abu Ghreib? Was it not revealed that the American interrogates implicated in the torture had attended an “anti terror” training camp in Israel, and that many of the torture methods used in Abu Ghreib resembled those applied by Israel against Palestinian detainees? Much is documented about torture in Israeli prisons, but we rarely hear of any condemnation or demand to close these torture facilities. According to B’Tselem, 85% of the Palestinian detainees have been subjected to torture, adding that “Since 1987, the GSS (Israeli General Security Service) interrogated at least 850 Palestinians a year by means of torture …. (a)ll governmental authorities – from the Israeli army to the Supreme court – take part in approving torture, in developing new methods, and in supervising them.” In 1999 the Israeli High Court superficially outlawed the use of arbitrary torture as an interrogation method, but in reality it did not ban it and till today torture is still used by Israel. Physical ill treatment combined with humiliation begins with the arrest, whether at home or in the street. Palestinian detainees can be interrogated for 180 days, and can be denied a lawyer for a period of 60 days. During interrogation, torture is used and has led to the death of the detainee in some cases and confessions extracted under torture are admissible in Israeli courts.
Palestinians may be held for days without being brought before a judge or informed of the reason for the arrest, during which they are interrogated, which can last up to 180 days, or are administratively detained. Administrative detention is a detention without trial or charge or the continuation of imprisonment after the completion of a sentence. It is often used by Israel and is authorized by an administrative order of the IOF rather than by a judicial decree. Israeli Military Order 1229 of 1988 empowers IOF military commanders to detain Palestinians for up to 6 months, which can be extended indefinitely. Over the years, thousands of Palestinians, men and women and of all ages, have been held in administrative detention for periods ranging from 6 months to over 8 years, without being tried or charged. Families of detainees are not informed of a person’s arrest or the arrest location. Theoretically, detainees can appeal, but in reality neither they nor their lawyers are informed of the reason for the detention or examine the evidence, which makes defending their clients very difficult. The Orders governing administrative detention were also modified in 1999. MO 1466 – Temporary Order, Modification 13 states that a detainee must be brought before a military judge within 10 days of his arrest, and authorizing the military judge to approve, cancel or decrease the time of administrative detention order. This modification is also superficial, since the judges are military personnel who give legal legitimacy to the illegal actions of the IOF and the IPS. In reality, Palestinians are tried by Israeli military courts consisting of a panel of 3 judges appointed by the IOF. These judges often have no legal background and thus don’t fulfill international standards of a fair trial. Since the beginning of the 2nd intifada in September 2000 some 20,000 Palestinians were held in administrative detention. By April 2009 there were more than 560 Palestinian administrative detainees, held in Israeli prisons without trial. 372 of these detainees have been held without trial or charge for at least two consecutive periods, 47 of them for over two years, and 23 for over two and a half years including two who have been imprisoned for over four and a half years.
While a Palestinian may be held in custody for 18 days before being brought to a judge, an Israeli can be held in custody for a maximum of 48 hours before being brought before a judge. While a Palestinian can be held for 30 days without charges which can be extended indefinitely, an Israeli can be held for 15 days without a charge which can be extended for only another 15 days. Palestinians brought to court on accusation of murder are always convicted, even without evidence, and are always sentenced to life imprisonment. Most cases against Israeli soldiers or illegal Jewish settlers accused of murdering Palestinians are closed without any charges, even with the existence of evidence or witnesses. The few who do get sentenced are imprisoned for short periods ranging from 6 months to 7 and a half years or to community service. Palestinian Prisoners have been used by Israel at politically convenient moments, whereby Palestinians who had already served out their sentences with only a few days remaining would be released as “gestures of good will”. At the same time hundreds others would be arrested. For example, on 25.8.2008 Israel released 198 prisoners as a “gesture of good will”, however statistics for August 2008 show that another 338 Palestinians were arrested. Today there are some 81 “old detainees” i.e., detainees who are in continuous imprisonment since over 20 years, 2 of whom since over 30 years, and some 290 prisoners who have been in prison since over 15 years.
Although they have modern deadly weapons, are top recipients of military assistance, have their war crimes justified by a biased western media, and their interests protected by Zionist lobbies all over the world, the Zionists still fear us because they know we are the rightful owners of the land and that alone by existing we are defying them and their power and countering the myths and lies on which their state is built. Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman said on the release of Palestinian prisoners: “It would be better to drown these prisoners, in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.” They not only deny us our rights and our freedom, they want to kill our spirit and see us dead. What they haven’t understood by now is that the more they humiliate us, harass us, imprison us, take away our freedom from us, the more we value that freedom and the stronger becomes our belief in our just cause and our will to be free.
The agreement with MEKOROT in La Plata has been suspended! Now we continue, in the rest of Argentina…
CTA, ATE, Federación de Entidades Argentino-Palestinas (Federation of Argentinian-Palestinian Entities) and Stop the Wall announced the suspension of the shady business with Mekorot, a water treatment plant that would have fuelled Israeli apartheid in Palestine and sought to export it to La Plata in Argentina.
On January 11 2011, the governor of Buenos Aires province, Daniel Scioli, announced, after visiting Israel, that they would tender the building of a regional water treatment plant in La Plata. The contract worth US$170 million was awarded to a consortium of business conformed by the Israeli Water Company MEKOROT, ASHTROM BV (Spanish-Israeli firm) and the Argentinian “5 de Septiembre SA”, a company in which members of the Sindicato de Obras Sanitarias de Buenos Aires (SOSBA), which owns the 10% of the national and provincial Aguas de Buenos Aires (ABSA), participate.
Since 2011, Palestinian organizations, ATE-CTA unions, other civil society organizations and MPs mobilized against this contact. During more than 3 years, they informed the public about Mekorot’s criminal actions in Palestine and investigated the consequences that Mekorot would cause in Argentina.
In a joint effort, they denounced that public Argentinian money would benefit Mekorot and, through this, finance Israeli apartheid in Palestine. The accusations that Mekorot implements apartheid in Palestine are based on reports by Palestinian organizations, the United Nations, and Amnesty International.
Mekorot has been responsible for water right violations and discrimination since the 1950s, when the national water carrier was built which is diverting the Jordan river from the West Bank and Jordan to serve Israeli communities. At the same time, Mekorot deprives the Palestinian communities from access to water. The average consumption in the occupied Palestinian territories is about 70 liters per capita per day – well below the 100 liters per capita per day recommended by the World Health Organization -, while the Israeli consumption per capita per day is around 300 liters. Mekorot has refused to supply water to Palestinian communities inside Israel, despite a decision by the Supreme Court of Israel recognized their right to water. Mekorot is a proud partner of the Jewish National Fund “Blueprint Negev” plan, which will expel 40,000 Bedouin Palestinian citizens of Israel uprooting them from their homes and forcibly moving them to reserves while their lands will be used for Jewish-only settlements in the Naqab/Negev.
Mekorot’s support for illegal settlements is vital and has continued since 1967 when the company took monopoly control over all water sources in the occupied Palestinian territories and caters to the Jewish settlements to the detriment of Palestinian communities. Mekorot participates in the international crime of pillage of natural resources operating about 42 wells in the West Bank, which mostly cater to Israeli settlements. Mekorot also works closely with the Israeli army in the confiscation of irrigation pipes from Palestinian farmers and destruction of sources of water supply for Palestinian communities.
Beyond the street protests and work in the media, the more than 1000 pages of research and technical details compiled by ATE-CTA, served to substantiate questions in the provincial parliament and allow interventions in front of federal human rights organizations. In late 2012, the construction of Mekorot water plant was suspended.
The organizations insisted that Mekorot intended to export its model of discrimination, squandering of water and illegitimate profits developed in Palestine, now to the detriment of the population of Buenos Aires.
To start with, the entire bid was based on a work plan that had previously been designed by Mekorot, which expectably proposed the lowest price.
The expenditure of public money for water treatment plant and the consequent debt of the city with multinationals is unnecessary as the province of Buenos Aires has excellent aquifers. Puelches Aquifer is saturated and to stop drinking its water – as the Mekorot project envisaged – would have produced the elevation of the water table, bacterial contamination, basement flooding and damage to housing foundations. Reports from the ABSA state that the main problem of drinking water lies in the distribution network for which Mekorot wouldn’t have provided a solution.
For the installation in the region, Mekorot required an increase in water tariffs, until almost tripling the costs. The construction of the plant, also implied a further increase of service that would have exceeded 30% and would be paid by all the users in the region.
In terms of water quality, it would have been below the standards determined by the Argentine Food Code. Only part of the population would have had access to safe drinking water while poorer people would have received only tap water posing a risk to their health.
CTA, ATE, Federación de las Entidades Argentina-Palestinos and Stop the Wall thank to all social and political organizations, experts and individuals who contributed to the campaign ‘Mekorot Out of Argentina’. Together we won an important victory for justice in Palestine and the right to water! We continue to fight for our sovereignty over water, against the violence of multinationals and in solidarity with the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and the return of refugees to their homes.
We ask everyone to continue supporting the global movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and to fight and prevent other Mekorot contracts in Argentina.
We ask everyone to join the International Week against Mekorot – from 22 to 30 March: “No to water apartheid, Yes for water justice!”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he did not commit to freezing settlement construction during his meeting with US President Barack Obama and that he will reject any agreement with the Palestinians that does not meet Israel’s security needs.
Israel Radio quoted Netanyahu on Friday, on his way back to Israel, telling Israeli journalists that he considered extending the negotiating period between the Israelis and Palestinians in US Secretary of State John Kerry’s framework agreement unlikely to make a difference for the Israeli coalition government, as most of its members reject the idea of establishing a Palestinian state.
He added that he will reject any agreement with the Palestinians that “does not meet Israel’s needs and poses a threat to its security, even if there are attempts to impose such an agreement on Israel.”
Netanyahu refused the possibility of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank territories if the negotiations fail, stating that he does not prefer this possibility and that “the unilateral withdrawals (from south Lebanon and the Gaza Strip) have not justified themselves nor did they provide security stability for Israel”.
Netanyahu returned to Israel today following his visit to the US which started on Sunday in which he met with Obama in the White House and gave a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Tuesday.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced, while receiving a delegation from the Israeli left-wing party Meretz a few days ago, that he is not opposed to extending the negotiations period, but demands that settlement construction is suspended and prisoners are released.
An Israeli military contractor, whose surveillance technology is used along Israel’s apartheid wall constructed in the Palestinian West Bank, has been chosen by the United States to provide similar services on the southern border with Mexico, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
Elbit Systems announced on Sunday that the US Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had awarded its subsidiary a $145 million contract to deploy border surveillance technology in southern Arizona, Reuters reported.
But according to Bloomberg analyst Brian Friel, quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the one-year contract could expand to a broader $1 billion deal if the US Congress passes stringent immigration legislation.
Elbit Systems is set to install watch towers along the border with sensors for spotting, tracking, and classifying data, along with command and control centers.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona hailed the deal as a “step in the right direction.”
“Arizonans have been waiting more than a decade for the Department of Homeland Security to place the needed technology along our border to support the Border Patrol and fully secure our southern border,” he said in a statement.
“If this technology is developed, integrated and fielded correctly, these Integrated Fixed Towers in southern Arizona, coupled with the tremendous work of the Border Patrol, will give our agents the ability to detect, evaluate, and respond to all illegal entries crossing our border.”
A government contractor said the choice of an Israeli firm was justified by of its “advanced” experience in maintaining separation barriers.
“It is odd to go offshore for this work, but in extraordinary circumstances, one really wants to employ the best,” Haaretz quoted Mark Amtower, a partner at Amtower & Co, as saying.
Elbit Systems is one of the primary military suppliers of the Israel’s occupation forces. Its Hermes 450 attack drone has been used extensively in the besieged Gaza Strip, as well as in Lebanon during the 2006 war.
The company is also responsible for surveillance technology along the apartheid wall erected by Israel within the West Bank. Only 15 percent of the separation barrier is built along the so-called 1949 Green Line, which is recognized by the international community as the border of Israel proper, UN figures show, with most of it jutting into the occupied West Bank.
The 440-kilometer long barrier is considered illegal under international law.
Among its many international contracts, Elbit contributed in 2013 to a $40 million expansive Internet surveillance program for the Nigerian government.
Elbit Systems has officially pledged on its website to “contribute to the enhancement of quality of life and the environment of the communities in which we live and work.”
But this contribution mainly consists of supporting Israeli occupation forces through the “Adopt a Combat Unit” program.
Elbit is targeted by the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for “directly contribut[ing] to violations of international humanitarian law.”
The Stop the Wall campaign has called Elbit a “symbol” which“thrives on and fuels war, repression and control in Palestine and around the globe.”
“Elbit offers its experience in ghettoizing and killing Palestinians to repress other people,” the campaign wrote of the company’s international projects.
“Because Elbit Systems is knowingly participating in and aiding Israeli war crimes and Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, investors in and partners of the security firm are, by extension, accessories to Israel’s many violations of international law and human rights standards.”
In December 2010, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a television interview that if Israel continued to build settlements in the West Bank he would disband the Palestinian Authority (PA), the West Bank authority established under the Oslo Accords.
“I cannot accept to remain the president of an authority that doesn’t exist,” he said.
Abbas responded to the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early 2013 by again threatening to dissolve the PA. “I’ll tell him… Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority.” The threats were made in an attempt to apply pressure on the Israeli government to kick start negotiations.
For the last seven months, both parties have been back at the negotiations table, with the hope of finding a solution to the decades long conflict by this April. The two sides, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, are again trying to draw the borders in a two state solution.
Established under the Oslo Accords as an interim body, the PA was sold as a national project that would see the transportation of Palestine from an occupied territory to an internationally recognised state. The West Bank was split into three areas under the accords; Areas A, B and C. The PA was given apparent full control of Area A, the smallest chunk of land, while Area B came under shared control and Area C fell under full Israeli control.
The idea was that a final status peace agreement would be reached within 5 years, and all areas would fall under Palestinian jurisdiction. Twenty years later and the status quo established by the Oslo Accords is still in place.
The PA’s control remains limited to Area A, where its authority is nonetheless frequently violated by Israel. For Palestine, the two central functions anticipated from the PA – providing both a vehicle to statehood and a means of institution building – have arguably failed.
The last 20 years of negotiations between the PA and Israel have instead left the West Bank fragmented into 167 enclaves, which are in turn broken up by 552 checkpoints and barriers as well as being separated from Israel by a 440 kilometre long concrete wall which has annexed East Jerusalem, the envisioned capital of an independent Palestinian state. The settler population has doubled and 53 thousand settlement homes have been constructed to house them. Meanwhile 15 thousand Palestinian homes have been destroyed, according to infographics from Visualizing Palestine.
Instead of viewing the Authority as a vehicle towards statehood, many Palestinians see the PA as an arm of the occupation, with the biggest beneficiary of its existence being the occupier. PA run schools and hospitals, supported by foreign aid, maintain a status quo allowing Israel to shoulder its obligations as an occupying power. Instead of tackling the underlying political issues, millions of dollars of aid are poured into the PA and projects in the West Bank, acting as temporary plasters that serve to make the current situation viable.
The security cooperation between Israel and the PA, which was at a high, according to a 2012 summary report by the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, has led many to define the Authority as a puppet of the occupation. This has fuelled a decline in Abbas’ popularity and, in turn, led to calls for the third intifada to be pitted against the PA.
Israel’s Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said during a court case waged against the PA, “I think that the Palestinians shared partial, tendentious and incomplete information with the Shin Bet.”
Shin Bet, the Israel security agency, was reportedly trying to “cover up their inability to use this tool called the Palestinian security forces in supplying them with the purpose for which they exist: preventing terror.”
Not only is it recognised here that the PA is openly sharing files with Israel’s notorious intelligence agency, there is no attempt to hide the fact that the PA, as an entity, has been created solely for this purpose, as a “tool” to be used by Israel.
In 2011, 31 per cent of the total PA expenditure, one third of its budget, was spent on security, the beneficiary of such large national expenditure being Israel.
This led Yossi Beilin, the Israeli architect of the Oslo process, to also call for the disbandment of the PA. In a heavily worded letter to Abbas he said; “Do not let Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hide behind the fig leaf of the Palestinian Authority – impose upon him, once again, the responsibility of the fate of four million Palestinians.
“Remain as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which will give you the authority to lead the political negotiations if and when they resume, but for the sake of your own people, for the sake of peace, you cannot let this farce continue,” he said.
While the talks restarted, the call for PA disbandment has continued. The two-state solution currently being deliberated is likely to include large settlement blocs being annexed to Israel, with compensatory land swaps, which some argue could be defined as illegal under international law. Israel is likely to gain “legal” control of the valuable Jordan Valley under the pretext of security, with the right of return for Palestinian refugees shelved.
After they have carved up the complex territory, the Palestinian State will be demilitarised with no control over its borders or airspace. Just as the Bantustans of South Africa were seen by the world as fantasy entities with governments and borders that gave them a veneer of legitimacy, a “state” of Palestine as envisaged by Israel similarly leads one to consider when a state ceases to be a state. This kind of “state” also leads one to question where the terms “peace” and “agreement” are in this solution.
After 20 years of negotiations, which many argue has only led to 20 years of concessions made by the Palestinian side, most citizens seem unexcited by the new talks. Talks that continue despite Israel’s refusal to freeze settlement building, an issue which led to the breakdown of the last talks and despite moves in the Knesset to enforce Israeli sovereignty over Al-Aqsa, Jewish claims to the Islamic holy site sparked the last intifada.
On the ground the effect of dissolving the PA would be disastrous, with a projected loss of $3 billion of public spending, 100,000 public servants left unemployed and the poverty rate potentially rising to 60 per cent, according to a report by the Palestinian Center of Policy and Surveys Research. There is also a genuine concern that the power vacuum left behind would be filled with more radical elements.
However, disbanding the PA may push the completion of a two state peace agreement, with the possibility of using the situation as leverage to gain more from the negotiations than a Palestinian Bantustan. Of course its dissolution would make negotiations between the state of Israel and a future state of Palestine difficult, which instead of contributing to the two-state framework, could lead to a one-state solution becoming the only viable option. Either way, it would mean an end to the occupation.
Alternatively Israel could launch a full scale occupation of the whole West Bank, without the façade of the “liberated” Area A. The latter would cost Israel billions, with the gap left by the PA in Area A cities like Nablus and Jericho requiring an investment of more manpower for little gain. In a desperate bid to protect the Jewish demographics of Israel from the threat of a one-state solution, and with the maintenance of the status quo no longer possible, a viable State of Palestine may be born.
Alternatively, the one-state solution may finally gain some ground, outside academic circles. The one-state solution is unpopular with many Palestinians, who see the negotiations as futile, but are still focused on the aspiration for a nation state and see the PA as the only vehicle to get there, while the PA’s 100,000 employees are understandably more concerned with their pay cheque. However the situation on the ground is often referred to as a “one-state reality”, inferring that the one-state solution is the only option.
In this case, Israel would have to choose between turning the one-state into an apartheid state with Palestinians as second class citizens, or a democratic state granting equal rights to its citizens.
In one-state, accusations of apartheid could not be so easily thwarted by those who excuse Israel’s policies and international condemnation would be quick to follow. Either way, desperate not to let the power vacuum left by the PA be filled by radical Islamist groups that may not be so easy to negotiate with, Israel and the US would be pushed to think of alternative solutions.
Nonetheless, Abbas’ past threats to dissolve the PA are empty. Like Israel and its backers, the Fatah run PA does not want the power vacuum to be filled with its political enemy number one; Hamas, who it has been pitted against since the 2006 elections, with the dissolution of the West Bank authority also spelling the dissolution of Fatah’s authority over the territory. In a meeting with EU representative Marc Otte, Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian side, was recorded saying; “Reaching an agreement [with Israel] is a matter of survival for us. It’s the way to defeat Hamas.”
Instead, April will see a US brokered peace agreement unveiled with a State of Palestine resembling a state but not a state with sovereignty but dependent, run by a leader that governs the oppressed, but who is a puppet for the oppressor. The status quo will largely be the same, except this time it will no longer be a called a conflict and the US will celebrate the success of bringing “peace” to the region.
Muatazz Washaha, 24, was found dead inside the house following a stand-off between Israeli military forces which lasted several hours.
Witnesses said that the victim was hit in the head by a rifle-fired Energa shell.
Israeli forces were reportedly trying to arrest Muatazz for being an activist with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
During the dawn raid, Israeli forces stormed the house and detained his brother, Ramiz, and two other men. Earlier reports suggested Israeli forces were targeting another brother, Thaer.
Palestinian firefighters rushed to the scene after the house caught on fire as a result of Israeli artillery shelling.
Palestinian Authority Minister of Detainees, Issa Qaraqe, said Israeli troops raided Birzeit at around 3 a.m.
An Israeli army spokeswoman said that Israeli forces raided Birzeit to arrest a man suspected of “terror activity.”
“After the suspect was called to turn himself in, he barricaded himself inside his house, effectively resisting arrest. Under the premise that he had weapons in his possession, the forces used different means to complete the arrest, including live fire.”
An AK47 assault rifle was found in the house, but no shots were fired at any point towards Israeli forces.
The Solidarity Foundation for Human Rights (SFHR) has reported that Israeli soldiers kidnapped, on Tuesday at dawn, its lawyer and its researcher, after the army violently invaded their homes in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.
The foundation said dozens of soldiers invaded the home of SFHR lawyer Abu al-Hasan, in the Rojeeb Housing Projects area, east of Nablus, and kidnapped him after violently searching his home causing property damage.
Soldiers detonated the door of Abu al-Hasan’s home, invading the place and terrifying the family.
They also interrogated Abu al-Hasan’s father for more than an hour, and confiscated documents and files. Abu al-Hasan was moved to the Petah Tikva interrogation facility.
It added that the soldiers also broke into several nearby homes, violently searched them and ransacked their property and belongings, and used their rooftops as monitoring towers during the invasion.
Meanwhile, soldiers also detonated the front door of the home of SFHR researcher Ahmad al-Beetawy, and invaded the property in the Dahia area, south of Nablus, searched it for more than an hour and kidnapped him.
His brother said the soldiers also invaded the home of their mother, in the same neighborhood, and violently searched it. Al-Beetway defends the rights of Palestinian political prisoners, illegally held by Israel.
The foundation said that the soldiers also invaded its office in al-Isra’ building, in the center of Nablus city, and confiscated computers and files after violently searching the property.
A decade ago, I wrote a commentary for the International Herald Tribune (now the International New York Times) arguing that Israel’s wall that was then just starting to be built in the West Bank was really a land grab. Difficult to believe now, but in those days that was a controversial opinion.
The paper then received the “largest postage in our history”, as an editor told me – possibly not surprising as the Anti-Defamation League, a Zionist organisation, had urged its followers to complain and had even published a template letter of condemnation on its website to help them. The result: the paper published a whole page of letters attacking me and dropped me as a writer.
So it is with some pleasure I see that the same paper has again been overwhelmed with letters following three recent articles on BDS in both the NYT and INYT : Omar Barghouti making the case, and Jodi Rudoren and Roger Cohen attacking it, the former implicitly and the latter explicitly.
What’s so different this time is that the INYT’s letters page is dominated by readers backing Barghouti and attacking Rudoren and Cohen. Not only that, but the arguments used to support BDS are intelligent and well-informed, while the few letters attacking BDS sound tired and formulaic.
The fact that the NYT has allowed the BDS debate into its pages is a triumph for the cause. That its international sister publication (and the NYT website) has then allowed its letters page to be dominated by BDS supporters is another small landmark.
We can mark a further victory when the NYT itself publishes a page of such letters. The time cannot be far off.
JERUSALEM — The European Union has long been one of the most reliable foreign sources of humanitarian, economic and political aid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), providing 426 million euros ($575 million) in 2013 alone.
In 2011, overall overseas development aid to the OPT was worth $2.5 billion, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Much of this aid to the Palestinian people is focused on a single long-term objective, according to EU officials — the building up of the institutions of a future democratic, independent and viable Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel.
But with limited progress so far in the current US-brokered peace talks and the wider aim of the realization of a Palestinian state, some in the more austerity-minded EU are starting to wonder if the aid is being well spent, when humanitarian crises in Syria and Mali are in need of greater funds.
“By now there is no Palestinian state. The point is: what are we funding here? Are we helping Israel to maintain the occupation, or are we actually helping Palestinians to build independence?” Caroline du Plessix, a French political scientist specialized on EU policy towards the two-state-solution, told IRIN.
“EU member states are today much more aware than before that their aid has not made possible the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” she said, adding: “The EU is trying to figure out what the best strategy may be. Member states need to show that their policy is reaching its ends and is effective. But if the main solution still is the two-state-solution and we are not really going in that direction, this policy is not sustainable and cannot go on for ever.”
Carrot and stick
A substantial reduction in EU aid seems unlikely at the moment. Such a move would have dramatic consequences for the Palestinian economy and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families.
“There will be a price to pay if these negotiations falter,” the EU’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, said in late January. In December 2013, an EU official was cited in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that the EU may cut off financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if peace talks fail, while “some people suggested giving the money to other countries, like Syria, Mali and other places around the world.”
On the other hand, EU foreign ministers are making unprecedented offers, setting out a very substantial set of incentives designed to encourage both parties to finalize a peace agreement.
“These incentives aim at boosting prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians by increasing access to European markets, facilitating trade and investment and deepening business and cultural ties,” EU-representative John Gatt-Rutter told IRIN, adding: “Therefore, at this stage our approach is one of encouraging both parties to seize this unique opportunity provided by the peace negotiations.”
“In spite of donor fatigue in Europe we will not see more than a limited gradual reduction — say 10 percent a year — in European aid if negotiations fail because European leaders do not want to trigger major instability or a humanitarian crisis,” Ofer Zalzberg, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, told IRIN.
Building the state to come
Of the 426 million euros provided by the EU to Palestinians in 2013, 168 million was Direct Financial Support to the PA under the so-called PEGASE-mechanism.
PEGASE helps the PA to meet its recurrent expenses through paying salaries, pensions and social allowances to people in extreme poverty, and through supporting essential public services and revitalizing the private sector through policy reforms, institution-building and strengthening the relations between Palestinian enterprises and European counterparts.
The funds are transferred directly to individual beneficiaries like 55-year-old Nabila from the Qaddura refugee camp. “I get 750 shekels ($210) every three months, have a disabled son, and my husband died 10 years ago. How can I move on?” she told IRIN at the Ramallah district office of the PA’s Ministry of Social Affairs.
“There is poverty and we get tired of this situation,” she said, adding though that restrictions on movement (caused, for example, by the Barrier and numerous Israeli checkpoints allegedly set up for security reasons) highlighted a greater problem that aid would never solve.
“How do you want to solve this problem? Why do we have to be in this miserable situation?”
In addition to the direct financial support, humanitarian aid is provided through the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), which spent 35 million euros in 2013 on areas such as humanitarian coordination, legal assistance and emergency response to demolitions and evictions.
Propping up the status quo
EU aid faces the same challenges as non-governmental aid groups have faced — that by providing support they may inadvertently be playing a political role by helping prop up the status quo, giving life-support services that should normally be provided by Israel, as the occupying power.
“EU funding is strategic. Its main aim is to prevent instability. It is thus scared of the PA’s breakdown,” said Caroline Du Plessix.
For Sami Abu Roza, former economic policy adviser to the Palestinian president, this system of dependency has a bitter political aftertaste.
“If you take away the good intention behind the money, aid is a substitute for not having real remedies,” he told IRIN at the PA’s Ministry of Education, where he currently works.
The EU’s approach to solving the conflict, he says, is part of a larger trend he calls “peaceconomics”, the feeding of an illusionary idea that institution-building and economic aid can contribute to real progress, while the actual political causes behind the difficult situation are side-lined and remain unresolved.
Ashraf Azzam sits in the ruins of his house in eastern Gaza City in Jan. 2013 after it was destroyed in an Israeli attack in Nov. 2012. (Ahmed Dalloul/IRIN)
“The EU’s attitude towards Palestinians is patronizing, as if money was the only thing Palestinians needed,” he said, adding: “They are sacrificing real solutions for economic aid, building a smoke screen around the real problems.”
“Palestinians know that any money coming to Palestinians is political. But they also know that the world won’t stop paying for Palestinians under occupation. That’s the strange kind of peace Palestinians live in.”
In an attempt to decrease the political dependence from aid, the Ministry of Education has implemented a new mechanism, the Joint Financing Agreement, which has been running for about three years.
With aid money flowing from the German KfW Development Bank, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Belgium, directly into a pool at the treasury of the PA’s Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education has full ownership of the money and decides how and where it is spent.
“It’s a small path to independence, towards political independence,” Abu Roza said.
But for one senior official in the Ministry, who asked to remain anonymous, the notion of independence remains unreal.
“We don’t have control of our own borders, no taxation, and all of Area C is under Israel’s control. What economic independence are we speaking of?” he said, adding that the PA was not created to become a social entity providing salaries and services to Palestinians. “Its aim was political, and so are our problems.”
‘Aid has not helped to fulfill Palestinians dreams’
Some anomalies in the EU’s funding to the PA emerged recently in a report of the European Court of Auditors (ECA), which criticized the EU’s paying of salaries to Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip “who no longer work.” The report suggested financial assistance “be discontinued and redirected to the West Bank.” Hamas, which took control [won elections] of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is classified by the EU as a terrorist group.
So the EU continues to support the former PA structure in Gaza with salary payments even though the PA no longer has any control: The political cost of stopping funding is seen as too great.
From 2008 to 2012, the average number of civil servants and pensioners whose salaries were at least partly paid by the EU rose from 75,502 to 84,320, about half of the PA’s 170,000 civil servants and pensioners.
During the same period, the average monthly PA wage bill for EU-beneficiaries rose from 45.1 million euros to 62.9 million euros, an increase of 39 percent.
But at the same time, contributions to PEGASE for Civil Servants and Pensioners fell from 21.3 million euros (47 percent of total pay to eligible beneficiaries) in 2008 to 10.4 million euros (16 percent) in 2012, mainly due to reductions in contributions from donors, such as Spain.
These pressures point to a new funding environment in which the PA is finding it increasingly difficult to pay salaries and pensions on time.
The UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) faces similar challenges. This year it has a deficit of $65 million in its core budget and struggles with declining international funding. The EU is UNRWA’s largest donor.
“Aid has not helped to fulfill Palestinians dreams, nor did it lead to sustainable development. Independence is today further away than 20 years ago,” Alaa Tartir, program director of the Palestinian Policy Network, told IRIN.
Despite the contradictions in EU aid policy, it is clear that without EU aid the humanitarian situation in OPT would worsen significantly.
“If we reach a condition where there is no more aid for PA employees, who will fill this gap? This will have a severe humanitarian impact,” said Tommaso Fabri, head of the Jerusalem office of Doctors Without Borders.
One beneficiary of the EU’s direct assistance to the PA is 49-year-old Said Samara, a teacher at the Secondary Boarding School in Ramallah.
“As a teacher, I hope that this aid will continue. But as a teacher, and for my students, I also need some hope for an independent Palestinian country,” he said.
Hebron, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday, the 16th of February, Israeli soldiers and border police in Hebron fired tear gas and sound grenades at children on their way to school. The border police also chased the children, attempting to arrest them.
At Checkpoint 29, around 7:30 a.m., a few children on their way to school (there are three schools near the checkpoint) were throwing stones at the soldiers stationed there. In response to this two border police and a soldier appeared from an alley and threw a sound grenade at the kids close to the United Nations school on Tareq Ben Ziyad Street.
This frightened not only the children who had thrown stones but all the children on their way to school, causing them to flee. When they did not catch any children the two border police and the soldier stood in front of the school blocking the entrance and started firing teargas at those who had fled.
As the border police and the soldier returned to the checkpoint, three new soldiers came out of an apartment across the street, preventing the children from entering their school. The soldiers continued firing teargas towards the crowd of upset and frightened children.
Tear gas is a nondiscriminatory nerve gas which affects all persons nearby. The gas often takes a long time to disperse, forcing children to go through the half-dispersed gas clouds on their way to school, leaving them crying and coughing. The use of tear gas against schoolchildren is common in Hebron.
In total, seven soldiers and two border police were involved in the incident, firing six tear gas grenades and two sound grenades at the children.
NABLUS – Israeli forces on Saturday opened fire at a vehicle traveling on a main road near an Israeli settlement south of Nablus, injuring a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, security sources said.
Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops operating a flying checkpoint near the illegal settlement of Yitzhar fired at a Palestinian car that allegedly refused to stop at the soldiers’ request.
A bullet hit Nahad Kamal Aqil in the thigh, and she was taken to a nearby hospital, the sources said, adding that the teen is a resident of Kafr Qaddum in the northern West Bank.
Israeli troops detained the driver of the car, the sources said.
An army spokeswoman said that the Israeli border police was responsible for the area where the incident occurred.
A border police spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.
Israeli forces maintain severe restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the West Bank through a combination of fixed checkpoints, flying checkpoints, roads forbidden to Palestinians but open to Jewish settlers, and various other physical obstructions.
At any given time there are about 100 permanent Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank, while surprise flying checkpoints often number into the hundreds.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.
BETHLEHEM – Two young Palestinian football players shot by Israeli forces last month have learned that they will never be able to play sports again due to their injuries, according to doctors.
Doctors at Ramallah governmental hospital said the pair will need six months of treatment before they can evaluate if the two will even be able to ever walk again, at best.
Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17, were shot by Israeli soldiers as they were walking home from a training session in the Faisal Hussein Stadium in al-Ram in the central West Bank on Jan. 31.
Israeli forces opened fire in their direction without warning as they were walking near a checkpoint.
Police dogs were subsequently unleashed on them before Israeli soldiers dragged them across the ground and beat them.
The pair was subsequently were taken to an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, where they underwent a number of operations to remove the bullets.
Medical reports said that Jawhar was shot with 11 bullets, seven in his left foot, three in his right, and one in his left hand. Halabiya was shot once in each foot.
The two were taken to Ramallah governmental hospital before being transferred to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman.
Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril al-Rajoub condemned the shooting and said that “Israeli brutality against them emphasizes the occupation’s insistence on destroying Palestinian sport.”
Rajoub called for imposing penalties on the Israeli football association, and demanded its removal from the FIFA as it should not accept racist organizations that do not adhere to international law.