Israeli Forces Kill 2 Palestinian Civilians and Armed Group Member and Wound 12 Civilians in Jenin Refugee Camp
In excessive use of force, on Saturday, 22 March 2014, Israeli forces killed, 2 Palestinian civilians and a member of a Palestinian armed group and wounded 12 civilians and a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Jenin refugee camp, west of the northern West Bank town of Jenin. Israeli forces claimed via the Israeli media that they killed 3 Palestinians during armed clashes in the aforementioned refugee camp. However, investigations conducted by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) investigations refute the Israeli claim and confirm that the two civilians were killed as Israeli forces opened fire heavily at dozens of civilians who were trying to pull and carry the militant’s body to the centre of the camp.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 02:00 on the Saturday, 22 March 2014, an Israeli special military force from “Alimam” Unit in the Israeli military, which is described as “an anti-terrorism unit” infiltrated into the south of Jenin refugee camp, west of Jenin. The Israeli force surrounded a two-story house belonging to the family of ‘Azmi Mohammed Mahmoud al-Hasaniyah (67) in Tal’et al-Ghabes area. Israeli forces then sent large military back-ups, which were deployed throughout the camp while Israeli drones were hovering overhead. Israeli snipers ascended roofs of nearby houses after they received information that Hamzah Jamal ‘Abdel Salam Abu al-Heijah (22), the local leader of the Izziddin al-Qassam brigades (the armed wing of Hamas), was in the house.
After the military back-ups had arrived, Israeli forces blew up the main door of the houses and opened fire. They then yelled at residents of the house to get out. When the residents were about to come out and Mohammed (23), the son of the house’s owner who is member of the Palestinian National Security Forces, opened the external door, he was shot in the left shoulder. Amidst the screams of his family, the shooting stopped and the residents began to get out one by one while Abu al-Heijah stayed in a room on the second floor. Israeli forces arrested Mohammed and his brother, Majd (18), and took the rest of the family members to a nearby house. They then entered a tracker dog into the house, but Hamzah killed it and this made the Israeli forces certain that he is in the house. As a result, Israeli forces showered the house with live bullets and shells fired by machine guns and then used shoulder-fired missiles. As a result, the house was partially destroyed. Meanwhile, armed clashes broke out between Palestinian militants, who were stationed in the areas of al-Sahah and Abu Thahir Mountain areas, and Hamzah from the house from one side and the Israeli forces, which were surrounding the house, from the other side. Hamzah took advantage of this and jumped from one of the western windows of the house. As soon as he stepped a few meters, snipers opened fired and immediately killed him. They left him for two hours and he bled to death in the alley. Young men then tried to pull his body, and Israeli forces opened fire at them. However, they managed to pull it. When they were passing by al-Sahah area, Israeli forces opened fire killing two of them: Yazan Mahmoud Basem Taha “Jabarin” (20) who was hit by a bullet to the chest; and Mahmoud ‘Omer Saleh Abu Zeinah (24), who also was hit by a bullet to the chest. When the news of the death of 3 persons spread out, the camp residents started coming out of their houses. Immediately, the Israeli snipers opened fire at these civilians wounding 11 of them, including a 65-year-old woman. Thus, the number of wounded persons mounted to 12 civilians. It should be mentioned that Hamzah Abu al-Heijah is the son of Jamal Abu al-Heijah, who is serving a sentence of 9 life imprisonments in the Israeli jails. Hamzah had been subject to several extra-judicial execution attempts, the last of which was on 18 December 2013 when an Israeli special unit targeted him. However, he managed to escape and Nafe’a Jamil Nafe’a al-Sa’adi was killed.
PCHR strongly condemns this crime, which further proves the use of excessive force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in disregard for their lives. PCHR calls upon the international community to take immediate and effective action to stop Israeli crimes and reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and their obligation under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
A Palestinian journalist has reported that he and two of his colleagues were used by the Israeli military as ‘human shields’ during an Israeli military invasion of the Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem.
The term ‘human shield’ is used to refer to instances where armies or armed forces attempt to protect themselves by placing civilians between themselves and the people or group they are attacking. This practice is a direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.
Israel has, on multiple occasions in the past, been found to have used Palestinians (including children) as human shields, including tying them on the hoods of their vehicles. Multiple instances have also been documented by international and Israeli human rights groups of the targeting of journalists, including the killing of journalists documenting Israeli abuses in Palestine.
In the incident on Saturday, Palestinian journalist Moussa al-Shaer reported that he and two other journalists – a Palestinian and American – were used by the Israeli military to shield them from some youth who were throwing stones at them.
The other Palestinian journalist was identified as Abd al-Rahman Younis, but the American journalist was not identified.
According to al-Shaer, the three journalists were detained by Israeli troops, who took their press cards and refused to allow them to leave or do their job of covering the incident. Throughout the invasion, the Israelis placed the journalists in front of the troops in an attempt to stop the kids from throwing stones at the troops.
Eventually, at the end of the invasion, the soldiers handed the journalists their press cards back and released them without charge.
During the Israeli invasion of the camp, soldiers fired stun grenades and tear gas at residents, causing several in the camp to seek medical attention for tear gas inhalation.
Settlers from Mitzpe Yair attack Palestinian shepherds grazing on Palestinian owned land during Purim
At-Tuwani, Occupied Palestine – On Sunday March 16, during the Jewish holiday of Purim, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians and Internationals on Palestinian fields near Mitzpe Yair illegal outpost.
In the morning, four Palestinian shepherds from the village of Qawawis were grazing their flocks south of the Israeli outpost of Mitzpe Yair, when a settler arrived armed with an iron pipe to threaten them shouting. At 9:18 am two Internationals arrived together with two further Palestinian shepherds. The armed Israeli settler then left when he saw that they were filming the scene.
At 9:28 am eight settlers arrived from the illegal outpost – one was still armed with the iron pipe – and four of them violently chased away the flocks, pushing them toward the valley underlying the outpost. Palestinian shepherds followed the settlers in order not to lose their flocks accompanied by Internationals. The Palestinians immediately called the Israeli police.
At 9:48 am the settlers came back to the outpost. In the meantime, an additional International and two Palestinian members of the South Hebron Hills Popular Committee arrived at the scene. At 10:00 am one of the settlers tried to chase away one of the newly-arrived Palestinians, a member of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. As this happened, an Israeli policeman and three Israeli soldiers arrived by foot. At 10:20 am, as the policeman began interrogating the attendants, a further three settlers arrived. Those interrogated were the Palestinian shepherd Nail Abuaram (who filmed everything with a B’Tselem camera) and one International.
At 10:45 am, the policeman lead Abuaram and one of the Internationals to Kiryat Arba police station to give testimony of the harassments. They arrived at the station at noon.
The International was asked for the camera footage of the incident, interrogated and finally released at around 2:50 pm. Abuaram was interrogated alone for a couple of hours and was threaten of arrest until he accepted to sign a paper stating that he will not get closer than 450 meters to the area where the harassment took place for a period of 15 days. He was later released around 6:00 pm after signing the paper. The Israeli police forced the settler who attacked the Palestinians with an iron pipe to stay 200 meters far from the spot where the harassment took place for a period of 15 days.
Palestinian communities of the South Hebron Hills area are strongly involved in using nonviolence as a way to resist the Israeli occupation.
Operation Dove has maintained an international presence in At-Tuwani and the South Hebron Hills since 2004.
[Note: According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Regulations, the International Court of Justice, and several United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements and outposts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts, including Havat Ma’on (Hill 833), are considered illegal also under Israeli law.]
Soldiers break into the wrong house at night, go on a rampage – and make off with a woman’s savings from 15 years of work
One night in early September, the members of the Kavajeh family in Tarqumiya were woken by IDF troops breaking into their house. According to the despicable custom of the last few years, some of the soldiers wore ski masks; before our apathetic eyes what used to be the premier line of fashion among criminals has become common military attire.
From this moment on, everything went as per the routine – a routine known to every soldier who has ever served in the occupied territories: the soldiers gathered all the family members in one room, not giving them time to dress properly. They then searched the house, found nothing, and as they left, the head of the family, ‘Issa, heard the soldiers say to one another that they had raided the wrong house. Needless to say, the soldiers did not apologize to the family. The soldiers told them not to leave the house while they were still present.
When the family realized the soldiers were gone, they began to estimate the damage. Here the words of Issa are worth quoting: “We began moving around the house and saw the horror.” The contents of the cupboards had been spilled, and the soldiers had thrown bedding, clothes and equipment onto the floor. The kitchen was the real calamity zone: the soldiers made certain to spill the flour on the floor, mix the sugar, the lentils and the salt together, poured the tahini into the kitchen sink, and, finally, broke the eggs.
Now, certainly some IDF spokesperson, whether an official or a self-appointed one, will manage to find a way to explain why there was a pressing military need behind this wanton destruction of food; we’ll probably find a fool who would explain why there was a need to break the eggs – how do you know what they might have hidden in there? And anyway, why don’t you show us what happened before? And do you know what happened in 1929?
But as the family members finished examining the results of the small green storm that passed mistakenly through their home, the real disaster was discovered: the savings of one of the family members, Thahani, had been stolen. These were two gold bracelets and a gold ring. Thahani had saved the money to buy the jewelry from working in a seamstress shop since 1998.
Fifteen years of savings. Fifteen years of painstakingly gathering, day by day, an ounce of meager pay. A slow collection culminating in 65 grams of gold, each one of them worth 60 Jordanian Dinars, each Dinar the equivalent of about $1.7 USD. Fifteen years of savings left Thahani with some $8,005 USD; a bit more than $385 USD a year, or $1.25 USD a day. This was Tahani’s portion of all her labor. Now it lies in the pocket of a soldier. Perhaps he’ll give them to his lover, who will be grateful and not ask where he got such gold bracelets and such a ring; perhaps they’ll end up in a pawnshop. Perhaps, loyal to the value of comradeship, he already split the loot with other troops in his section.
In the morning, the family complained both to the Red Cross and the Israeli police. This was a futile gesture: good luck finding the looter among dozens of troops, some of whom were hooded and all well-versed in covering for one another. But before the MPCID rushes to close the case claiming it couldn’t find a suspect, one more thing must be said.
Looting is a war crime. It is defined as such in the Fourth Geneva Convention. During wartime, armies often harshly punish looting soldiers, if only because looting is bad for military discipline. At best, looting soldiers have to lie to their commander, which opens the door to more lies; at worst, the commander will take a commission off the loot. Armies who don’t punish looting harshly quickly cease to become armies and turn into militias at best, gangs at worse.
Israel, as is well known, does not have laws against war crimes on its books. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t commit them. And as long as the MPCID does not shake itself up and find the thief, and as long as Israel does not compensate Tahani, it allows a war criminal – not a mere thief, but a war criminal – to roam freely. And since we know nothing of him but the colors of the uniform he wore, he besmirches through his act all those who wear them. And if the IDF wants to remove this stain from its uniform – admittedly, they are spotted with quite a few of them – it had better find the guilty party, and throw the book at him. Hard.
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
– Art. 49, Fourth Geneva Convention
American news agencies (AP, Reuters, any major news organization or outlet) in reference to Israeli settlements (which could more accurately be termed “colonies”), routinely comment that these settlements are “considered illegal by most nations.” This is dishonest, as it creates the impression that the legality of settlement activity is murky and subject to debate. When I encounter this phrase I often ask the source to identify which nations consider settlement building on occupied territory legal. I neither receive or expect a reply because, of course, no nation besides Israel itself would argue their legality.
In order to drive this to ground, on August 8 I sent requests to both the U.S. Dept. of State and to Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to provide a written statement of official U.S. policy on the legality of settlement building on occupied territory.
With no response being offered, on August 16 I began placing calls to State and the Congress, which I continued over the the following twenty-five days. By email and/or by telephone I contacted several offices at State along with spokespersons for Senators Menedez and Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) and the Congressional Representative of my home district, Loretta Sanchez. Specifically, I spoke to Kerry, Carlos, Kirby, Jose, Jennifer and Cameron, a gaggle of bright young staffers who ranged from earnest to annoyed and aloof. They all shared an abject inability to summon a response to my question. This includes the emailed response I finally received from Sen. Menendez on September 9, which reads as follows:
Dear Mr. Hurt :
Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding a two-state solution to the Israel – Palestinian conflict. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter and having the opportunity to respond.
As you may know, the Palestinian Authority proposed a resolution at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) regarding issues under direct negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, namely borders and settlements. Regardless of the content of such a resolution, our country’s consistent position has been that this and other issues linked to the Middle East peace process can only be resolved by the two parties negotiating directly with each other.
A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is long overdue, and we must ensure that peace is sustainable and both parties are fully committed to a resolution. The merits of any peace proposal between the Israelis and the Palestinians will have to be weighed against the assurances Israel requires for its security. Israel’s right to exist and defend itself is inalienable and must be explicitly recognized by its neighbors.
Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.
The reader will note that Sen. Menendez’s response is mere boilerplate and utterly fails to address the question. It also opens with a striking disregard for the truth: At no point did I “express (my) views regarding a two-state solution…” I immediately hit “Reply” and sent a polite, carefully worded message pointing out that my question remained unaddressed. In return, I was summarily notified by an entity labeled “senatepostmaster” that my reply was undeliverable.
Sen. Menendez has a spotty political record, often taking positions closer to Republican than Democratic. When it comes to Israel, however, he is reliably and staunchly in support, and maintains a close relationship with AIPAC. (Please read his address to AIPAC, March of this year.) He has recently sent a letter to the president laying out conditions for the Iranian nuclear negotiations that appear to be penned by Netanyahu himself, going far beyond Obama’s objectives and well beyond anything the Iranians could accept. Not surprising then that in his letter above, Menendez speaks entirely from an Israeli perspective, for example stressing the Israeli security requirements with nary a word about Palestinian security.
I had also forwarded this question (our nation’s official position on the legality of Israeli settlements) to the Council on Foreign Relations, and was pleased to receive a reply penned by Elliot Abrams, who, though still encumbered by significant moral and legal baggage (Central American death squads, Iran-Contra), must be respected as a scion of American diplomacy. Mr. Abrams, whose reply provides a neat history of the issue, from Reagan (“not illegal”) to Obama (“illegitimate”), while still failing to state our national position on legality, which position quite clearly does not currently exist.
The episode described clearly illustrates that our “representative democracy” is a charade. A representative democracy whose government declines to discuss or even express policy is nothing more than a plutocracy and our elections become merely an opportunity to select from a limited pool of plutocrats. It also calls into question our ability to perform an elemental and essential role of government: to create and conduct policy. It further questions the quality, capability and experience of our leadership and certainly our commitment to fundamental American values, namely the rule of law. The Fourth Geneva Convention was incorporated into Customary International Law in 1993, making it applicable to all nations. It’s clear that in this case our government willfully ignores and refuses to even acknowledge international law.
Damascus – A sort of roller coaster atmosphere pervades Damascus these days with “good” and “bad” news rising and falling, often by the quarter hour. Much of the population is monitoring closely the news and quickly expressing their interpretations of the latest media reports and rumors as well as predicting the fairly precise timing of the now assumed American attack on their country.
In the very popular, and normally crowded Abaa Coffee House on the edge of the old city in what is called the Sarugha section, students and others enjoy the fine cool mist, as Damascenes have done for years, that is sprayed from ceiling pipes to provide welcome relief from the 37 degree Celsius (98 degrees F) outside temperatures. Many are glued to their laptops and/or in animated conversation analyzing the likely extent and timing of the soon believed to be arriving American missiles.
This observer often meets interlocutors in the Abaa because it’s very pleasant, large with dozens of tables, cheap and two blocks from my hotel. I have noticed that common greetings are changing from “kif hallack” ” (how are you?) and “Arak lahekan” (see you later) to “Get home safely” and “Good luck with the checkpoints.”
But there is also a distinct growing esprit de corps and a broad coming together of much of the population here as the countdown to the American attack on Syria begins. An evident rallying around the Assad regime, which one presumes is the opposite of what the White House was hoping would result from its threats.
A good friend from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) an humanitarian organization doing amazing rescue, and medical services for Syrians and Palestinians during this expanding crisis, described one way that her friends are preparing for the American attack. “We gathered our important documents, birth, marriage certificate and passport and made photo copies. Then we leave them with friends in “safe” areas or even bury them somewhere. No one knows how bad the Americans will bomb us. At work we have been told during our final practice drill last saturday that the next siren will be the ‘real thing’ and we will do as we have planned for.” She added, “Many of my friends and family are leaving but it’s not easy and is very expensive now to go to Lebanon and they don’t want us– and my family has decided to stay in our home no matter what happens in the coming days.”
One common topic being discussed is the reluctance of the American public to attack Syria and how Obama can ignore it. “What kind of Democracy do you have that your President can ignore the will of the American public?” this observer is frequently asked. One soldier who is stationed with his unit just outside my hotel seemed to speak from his heart: “You Americans claim you are trying to help the Syrian people. Every child knows, both here and in your country I think, that the coming attack will make things much worse for the Syrian people and many others. The American people are good and we hope they can control their government, but we are preparing for the worst and there will be consequences you will come to regret as with Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.”
The government here is assuring the public that Syria is ready for the American attack and that public services will continue. TV channels show around the clock images of heroic Syrian army exploits with martial and patriotic music. Youngsters, students and workers are gathering at presumed targets offering themselves as Human Shields in solidarity with their countrymen while challenging President Obama to bomb their beloved Syria.
Interestingly, an International Human Shield movement is coalescing according to informed sources here and abroad. One initiative is to bring 1000 Americans and thousands of others, to Syria within the next ten days to guard likely bomb sites reminding one of the International Solidarity Movement volunteer’s efforts in Occupied Palestine in order to try to protect homes of Palestinians from Government bulldozing.
Some redacted specifics have been disclosed to this observer from an international organizing committee working around the clock on this Human Shield initiative.
Some descriptive excerpts:
International Human Shields are planning on coming to Syria in solidarity with the Syrian people and in an effort to send a global message and hopefully deter an American attack next week…
Timing – While moves can be made fast and with all other key elements in place, time is not in our favor. Ten mores days for preparation would be ideal. The HS initiative assumes that it must be done in such a way that very little time lapse from the official announcement of the action to the actual arrival of the Human Shields on the ground in Syria…
Impact – In order to achieve a significant impact having at least 1000 Americans and several thousand international Human Shields deployed in Syria is the objective. With ideally at least one representative from every UN Member State, as evidence of the true ‘international community’ opposing the American attack.
The US activist-based steering committee is quickly bringing together professionals in IT, marketing, logistical planning and implementation, spokesperson(s), public relations, accounting, documentarians, and experienced project managers. Ferries from European ports are to be arranged to carry significant numbers of Human Shields from Major European cities. Ideally, several jumbo jets will be chartered to carry human shields from some of the world’s major cities and use of land convoys are under consideration.
HS/Government Relations – The first objective of the enemies of Syria will be to portray Human Shields as nothing more than pawns of President Bashar al-Assad. This was precisely what the mainstream media did in 2003, presenting Human Shields as pawns of Saddam. In order for the Human Shields to have power they must be seen as independent supporters of the people of Syria who represent the will of the vast majority of people around the world who oppose the pending US-led western attack. The HS should however work with prominent leaders in the civilian sector of Syrian society and great effort should be made to produce daily news stories of the Human Shields and Syrian people working together to protect Syria from the ongoing foreign instigated aggression. There are once again many details here and these would need to be discussed and agreed if any action will be able to reach its full potential.
Strategy – The sites that Human Shields deploy to must be very well publicized and these sites must be identified as protected sites under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The White House is saying that they are not going to attack infrastructure (as they did with Iraq in 2003), but they must attack the infrastructure as the goal is to drive Syria into the stone age and make it so weak that Israel will through its agents eventually take Syria over. They know that the Syrian people and military cannot be defeated without massive attacks on the infrastructure.
So it is absolutely vital that all power plants, water treatment facilities, bomb shelters (if they exist), civilian communications sites, food storage sites and other such sites that are critical to the civilian population are the primary if not sole focus of sites for the HS to deploy. They cannot deploy to military sites, although I personally feel this is morally defensible, it will neutralize the power of the HS in the public relations realm and intelligent public relations is absolutely critical.
A comprehensive list of protected sites is to be produced immediately and these sites will need to be verified by the most independent sources we can manage to obtain. UN representatives or former representatives would be great, human rights attorneys, legal experts and others of this type are very useful.
There will be room to deploy to sites not specifically listed in the Fourth Geneva Convention, such as with ethnic and religious minority communities who are deathly afraid of the foreign invaders/terrorists. Special emphasis should be placed on Christian populations as the western audience sadly has more sympathy for Christians than Muslims.”
Our goal is to personalize the people of Syria and show their suffering through the eyes of the HS with effective daily reports to be uploaded on the Internet and reported by legitimate news agencies such as Press TV, RT and Telesur. A massive effort must be made to educate the public about the reasons for the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) and the imperial powers undeniable record of knowingly destroying the lives of ‘protected persons’ as defined in the FGC. There must be high quality, well-spoken Arabic/English speaking spokespersons.
We should be ready to provide evidence of any attack on such sites the moment it happens and have legal briefs prepared to immediately charge the aggressors with war crimes. This is why it is critical that the HS are almost exclusively at sites that are protected by the FGC.
The Action Plan concludes:
We cannot necessarily stop them from doing what they intend to do, but we can make their aggression harm them far more than Syria and its people in the end. Herein lays the power, using the enemies momentum against him in the most powerful way possible.
Time will tell which Americans will arrive first in Syria, the military or the American public. Many Syrians are today praying it will be the latter and have pledged to join them to defeat the coming aggression.
Franklin Lamb can be reached c/o firstname.lastname@example.org
- ‘Hands off': Syrians form human shields outside possible US strike targets (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Tubas, Occupied Palestine – Last Tuesday Sireen Sawafteh, a 24 year old woman from Tubas, was detained by Israeli forces. She is currently being held in Al Jalameh, an Israeli prison. Her family and friends fear for her safety. She has been denied access to a lawyer and she has not been allowed to make any contact with her loved ones since her arrest.
At around 3pm last Tuesday Sireen’s car was stopped at a temporary checkpoint on the road between Nablus and Tubas in the West Bank. After brief questioning by Israeli forces she was detained. The second person in the car was also detained.
In the early hours on Wednesday, Israeli forces raided Sireen’s family home whilst her father Khalid Sawafteh, her mother, three brothers, sisters in law and their two young children were sleeping. Twenty-five army jeeps entered the town of Tubas. Twenty officers entered the home and over one hundred remained in the street cornering off the house. The family and young children were all taken into one room whilst their home was ransacked. Israeli soldiers took all the computers in the house leaving Sireen’s relatives in shock.
Tubas is located in Area A as designated under the Oslo Accords, an agreement drawn up between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. ‘Legally’ it is under total Palestinian civil and military control. Israeli civilians and military are prohibited to enter Area A and any incursion into this area is considered a breach of this agreement. Despite this, Israeli forces have continue to carry out ‘operations’ in Area A.
The illegal incursion on Wednesday morning sparked protests in Tubas. Israeli forces fired tear gas and sound grenades at local residents as they gathered. Omar Abed al-Razaq, a 20 year old local university student from Nablus, was injured. He is in a serious but stable condition in Nablus Hospital. He has lost some of his fingers and is currently unable to communicate with his visitors. The full extent of his injuries are not yet known. The head of the Palestinian Prisoners Society in Tubas, Mahmud Sawafteh, denounced Israel’s continuous raids, which he says causes ‘fear and panic among residents (1).’
Since her detention, Sireen has been forcibly transferred out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories to an Israeli prison in Haifa located in the north of Israel, a practice illegal under international law.
Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the cccupying power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive”. While Article 76 states clearly that ‘protected persons accused of offenses shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein”.
Last Thursday, lawyers acting for Sireen tried to visit the prison inside Israel where she is being held. They were refused entry. She appeared in court on Monday with her hands and legs shackled. The spurious charge was internet activism, creating a Facebook page which is considered a ‘threat’ to the ‘security’ of the region.
Sireen is active in the non violent campaign for human rights in Palestine. She studied computer science at the Open University in Tubas. During her studies she was actively involved in a twinning project between Tubas and the University of Sussex, England. She took part in a delegation of students which visited the UK from Palestine to strengthen links and foster friendships.
Rashed Kahled, Sireen’s older brother said; ‘We in the family are very concerned for Sireen and we would love her to be returned to us soon. My mother is very sad and fears for Sireen, she cannot sleep. How can we be at peace? We do not know what is happening and we are not allowed to see her.’
Many Palestinian women prisoners suffer abuse during their detention. Palestinian women prisoners are often kept in the same cells as Israeli female convicts. This practice often leads to female Palestinian prisoners being humiliated, suffering from threats and assault perpetrated with impunity by the Israel prisoners.
Adameer, a Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organisation reports that Palestinian women prisoners ‘are subjected to some form of psychological torture and ill-treatment throughout the process of their arrest and detention, including various forms of sexual violence that occur such as beatings, insults, threats, body searches, and sexually explicit harassment. Upon arrest, women detainees are not informed where they are being taken and are rarely explained their rights during interrogation. These techniques of torture and ill-treatment are used not only as means to intimidate Palestinian women detainees, but also as tools to humiliate Palestinian women and coerce them into giving confessions (2).’
Sireen was in court for the second time this Wednesday. The judge extended her detention for a further 6 days. She will appear again on Monday, when it is possible her detention will be further extended.
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- Israel renews administrative detention of 11 Palestinians (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Inhuman: Israeli abuse of Palestinian children in prison ‘systematic’ says UN report (sott.net)
More bad news emerged from Israel in recent weeks. Indeed, good news is seldom associated with Israel and its military occupation and institutionalized discrimination and mistreatment of Palestinians.
But now even those international organizations that are often supportive of Israel’s militancy seem to be joining the consensus that Tel Aviv is on an irrevocably perilous course.
Few international law experts would defend Israel’s fervent settlement-building on occupied Palestinian land.
Yet the Western powers, led by the United States, have brought little pressure to bear on Israel to cease its illegal activities.
In fact, without US and European funding it would have been nearly impossible for Israel to build settlements and transfer over half a million Israelis over the years to live on stolen Palestinian land, in violation of numerous international laws including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Worse still, trade with European and other countries sustained these illegal settlements, allowing them to flourish at the expense of Palestinians who have suffered massive ethnic cleansing campaigns since 1967.
But at last EU diplomats in east Jerusalem and the West Bank are speaking out in unequivocal terms.
In a report released at the end of last month, the diplomats declared that “settlement construction remains the biggest single threat to the two-state solution. It is systematic, deliberate and provocative.”
The report called on EU states “not to support … research, education and technological co-operation” with settlements and to “discourage” investing in Israeli companies that operate in the occupied territories.
Expectedly, the report is non-binding. And even if such recommendations are considered, Israel and its EU friends and lobbyists are likely to find loopholes that would deprive any EU action of substance and vigor.
Without civil society action focused on turning up the heat on European governments, especially die-hard supporters of Israel such as the British government, business with Israel is most likely to carry on as usual.
Not only is Israel flouting international law but the supposed guardians of international law are the very ones that are empowering Israel in carrying out its illegal acts, disempowering and bankrupting Palestinians.
Last January an Oxfam report said that the Palestinian economy, which is currently in utter disarray, could generate urgently needed income – $1.5 billion to be exact – if Israel eased its restrictions in the Jordan Valley alone.
But without suitable access to their own land and to water sources, Palestinians in the valley continue to struggle while the settlers are thriving.
Although the US government is well known to have done everything in its power to defend Israel at any cost and ensure Israel’s superiority and military edge over all of its neighbors, the EU has falsely acquired a more balanced reputation. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In a recent report the Palestinian rights group al-Haq emphasized that trading in produce grown in settlements had “directly contributed to the growth and viability of settlements by providing an essential source of revenue that allows them to thrive.”
The reported value of total EU trade with illegal Israeli settlements amounts to approximately $300 million a year. This may appear small compared with the $39bn of total trade between the EU and Israel reported in 2011, for example, but it does mean that “the EU has some room for leverage given it is Israel’s largest trade partner, and it receives some 20 per cent of total Israeli exports,” as pointed out by Dalia Hatuqa writing for al-Monitor.
The fact is that Europe is ultimately taking part in the subjugation of the Palestinians by funding Israel’s illegal occupation and its massively growing settler population. And no amount of diplomatic “recommendations” or newspeak can alter that fact.
But settlement growth cannot be considered in a vacuum. It makes no sense to talk about boycotting settlements while supporting the main organs that ordered or sanctioned the illegal settlements in the first place.
So differentiating between products made in Israel or those made in the settlements is absurd at best.
The settlers are not self-sustaining autonomous outposts. They are considered part and parcel of the so-called Israel proper.
In the eyes of the Israeli government there is little distinction between settlers from Ma’ale Adumim or residents of Tel Aviv.
Yigal Palmore of the Israeli Foreign Ministry responded to the EU report in withering terms.
“A diplomat’s mission is to build bridges and bring people together, not to foster confrontation. The EU consuls have clearly failed in their mission,” he said.
Nothing is random in Israeli planning. As is already the case in various parts of the occupied territories, Palestinians are becoming an unwanted presence on their own land.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s has decided to develop more settlements in an area known as E1, which is set to cut off east Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.
There is unlikely to be a turning back from the construction plans, which include the building of 3,000 settler homes in the land corridor near Jerusalem.
Israel is unrelenting and seems to have no regard for international law. It is emboldened in its actions by the weakness of its neighbors, the unhindered backing of its friends, and the gutlessness of its critics, who all too often are consumed in intellectual tussles over the boundaries of language and proper ways to frame the discourse.
None of this wrangling is of any concern to Israel, which is merely winning time to achieve its own harrowingly ugly version of apartheid.
For those who still feel uneasy with this provocative term, consider the latest Israeli transport ministry’s initiative. It has designated bus line No 210, which shuttles cheap Palestinian laborers to and from the West Bank, to be “Palestinian only.”
Of course this is not an isolated policy but a continuation of a dreadful track record.
Bad news from Israel is likely to continue.
Almost every day there is a new disturbing development in Israeli practices against Palestinians.
All too often this is merely met with feeble international criticism without any substantial action.
Civil society organizations and groups must tell their governments that enough is enough.
While Israel should be held responsible for its own behavior, the EU and other countries should not finance the occupation while decrying the settlements. This hypocrisy can no longer be tolerated.
– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).
- Stop EU funding of Israeli military companies and illegal settlements (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Israel has given final approval for 90 new homes in Beit El settlement near Ramallah and greenlighted the construction of 346 settlement homes in the southern West Bank, officials and an NGO said Monday.
Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now settlement watchdog said the plans had been published for validation in an Israeli newspaper in what was the “final stage of approval”, meaning construction of the new homes could begin “within a few days.”
The plans were signed off by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in August but received the final rubber stamp on Sunday by the Civil Administration’s planning committee, she said.
The Beit El construction plans were hurriedly put together as a compensatory measure for settlers who were evicted last year from Ulpana, an unauthorized settlement outpost on the outskirts of Beit El which was evacuated following a High Court ruling.
A civil administration spokesman confirmed the approval for the 90 units, saying they had been signed off by the political establishment.
Ofran said it meant the bulldozers could now get to work immediately.
“They can start building within a few days,” she said.
The Yesha Council – an umbrella organization of settlement councils – said that they welcomed any development in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported. The group led the 2005 movement against Israel’s disengagement plan.
On Sunday, the defense ministry confirmed it had given the green light for the construction of 346 new settler homes in two settlements in the southern West Bank: 200 housing units in Tekoa and 146 in Nokdim.
The approval was pushed through despite the fact that Israel is currently between governments following last month’s general elections, with coalition talks likely to continue for several more weeks.
“Even though there is not yet a new government in place they are still allowing settlement procedures to continue instead of putting them on hold which is a telling sign about this new government,” Ofran said.
The move comes just days after the White House announced that Obama would make his first-ever visit to Israel as president on a trip expected to take place in late March.
According to Peace Now data for 2012, at least 1,747 new settlement housing units were built in the past year, and plans were approved for the construction of 6,676 more homes.
The international community views all Israeli construction on occupied Palestinian land as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Palestinians have refused to return to peace talks while Israel builds on land they want for a future state.
A UN human rights inquiry has called on Israel to remove all Jewish settlers from the West Bank and cease expansion. The report said the settlements violate international law, and are an attempt to drive out Palestinians through intimidation.
”Israel must, in compliance with article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, cease all settlement activities without preconditions,” the report read, adding that Israel must immediately begin to withdraw all settlers from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).
The inquiry prompted a strong reaction from Israel who slammed the report as biased.
“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that,” said spokesman Yigal Palmor in a statement.
The 1949 Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of a civilian population into an occupied area – such an act could constitute war crimes if brought before the International Criminal Court. Following the UN’s de facto recognition of Palestine last December, Israel announced plans to build thousands of homes in the OPT.
In response, Palestine wrote to the UN warning that Israel’s planned expansion into the occupied territories would lead to more war crimes being committed.
The UN investigators interviewed over 50 people who were driven from their homes. They described how their livelihoods were destroyed and their land was confiscated, and how they were subjected to continuous violence from Jewish settlers.
“The mission believes that the motivation behind this violence and the intimidation against the Palestinians as well as their properties is to drive the local populations away from their lands and allow the settlements to expand,” said the report.
The report has the potential to significantly worsen the UN’s already-strained relationship with Israel, particularly after Israeli representatives failed to appear at a UN human rights review two days ago.
The Israeli government has repeatedly ignored international condemnations of its settlements in the occupied territories, and continues to bar the entry of a Human Rights Council probe to assess the impact of the settlements. Israel has insisted that the organization is biased in favor of the Palestinians, and claimed that historic and biblical ties justify its claim to the territories.
The US State Department issued a statement this week that included a rare criticism of Israeli policy, calling the ongoing construction of settlements on Palestinian land a “pattern of provocative action” that prevented the renewal of peace talks. Despite this critique, the Israeli government announced plans to move ahead with 6,000 new settlement units, mainly in the Jerusalem area.
After the Palestinian Authority pursued, and succeeded in obtaining, a vote for non-member statehood status at the United Nations last month, the Israeli government undertook a number of punitive measures against the Palestinians. These including illegally confiscating Palestinian Authority funds that would pay the salaries of teachers, doctors, pensioners and the disabled, as well as announcing a plan to increase settlement construction in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israeli forces have militarily occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967, and have illegally seized large swaths of Palestinian land in order to transfer Israeli civilians onto this land, in direct violation of its obligations as an Occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Since a peace agreement known as the ‘Oslo Accords’ was signed in 1993, hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers have poured into the West Bank and established colonies. In 2005, around 5,000 settlers were paid by the Israeli government to move out of settlements in the Gaza Strip, although many of them ended up moving to other settlements in the West Bank.
In this week’s statement to the press, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, “Israel’s leaders continually say that they support a path towards a two-state solution yet these actions put that goal further at risk.”
Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon responded defiantly, “ We will continue to build in accordance with Israel’s strategic interests.”
1,500 units were approved on Monday by Israel’s Interior Ministry, and discussion is continuing throughout this week on the plans for 4,500 additional units, which are expected to receive final approval by the Israeli Interior Ministry early next week.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered to be violations of international law.