HEBRON – A Swedish-owned church compound between Bethlehem and Hebron has not been sold to settlers contrary to media reports on Friday, the church’s lawyer told Ma’an on Saturday.
Israeli news source Haaretz reported Friday that right-wing Israeli Aryeh King had purchased the abandoned church compound from the church’s owners three years ago in order to build a settlement outpost.
However, local sources refuted the report, saying that such a sale had not been made and that the current owners are in fact carrying out refurbishments to turn the compound into a hostel.
“The church owns the compound, and is fixing up the existing building to serve as a hostel for Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are passing through,” the church’s Swedish lawyer Ari Souko told Ma’an.
The lawyer also reportedly told Muhammad Ayyad Awad, a spokesman of a local popular committee in nearby village Beit Ummar, that the church “has not been sold to settlers,” and that the Haaretz report was “far from the truth.”
Awad told Ma’an that the compound had been built decades after the owners bought 35 dunams (9 acres) of land from Beit Ummar resident Abd al-Latif Jabir Ikhlayyil.
The building then served as a hospital offering free medical treatment to local residents. The hospital continued to operate until the early 1980s but closed due to financial difficulties. Since then the building has been deserted, Awad said.
While Haaretz reported Friday that Aryeh King had recently started to refurbish it ahead of establishing a new settlement outpost in the area, Souko told Ma’an that such refurbishments were being carried out and funded by the church for the planned hostel.
Although the church remains in Swedish hands, the Haaretz report reflects a current trend in Israeli settlement practices, particularly in occupied East Jerusalem.
Aryeh King is founder and director of Israel Land Fund, an organization that buys Palestinian property and homes for resale to Jews with the aim of ‘Judaizing’ occupied East Jerusalem as well as Palestinian neighborhoods in Israel.
The church lies in a sensitive location, which if settled, would see Israeli settlements stretch all the way from the Gush Etzion settler bloc south of Jerusalem to the cluster of settlements around Hebron.
Currently Karmei Tzur is the only large settlement between the two.
Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem face ongoing threat of being pushed out by groups such as Israel Land Fund.
While Israeli government policies make it nearly impossible for Palestinian residents to obtain building permits, Jewish residents frequently take over Palestinian buildings with the protection of Israeli security.
Senior UN officials have urged the Israeli government to “halt plans to transfer Palestinian Bedouins” in the central West Bank.
In a joint press release Wednesday, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, James W. Rawley, and the Director of UNRWA Operations West Bank, Felipe Sanchez, expressed their “grave concern” about the proposed expulsions.
According to Rawley, “Israeli practices in Area C, including a marked increase of demolitions and confiscations of donor-funded structures in the first quarter of 2015, have compounded an already untenable situation for Bedouin communities.”
46 Palestinian Bedouin communities – some 7,000 people – are slated for transfer to three proposed “relocation” sites. In March, the UN Secretary-General expressed concern that the plans “may also be connected with settlement expansion”, and noted that “forcible transfer” is “a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The UN agencies contextualise the threatened expulsions with a “backdrop of a discriminatory zoning and planning regime that facilitates the development of illegal Israeli settlements at the expense of Palestinians, for whom it is almost impossible to obtain permits for construction.”
Sanchez warned that “we are fast approaching the point of irreparable damage.”
As occupying power, Israel is obligated to ensure the wellbeing of these communities and to respect international law. I strongly urge the Israeli authorities to halt all plans and practices that will directly or indirectly lead to the forcible transfer of the Bedouin and call on the international community to support the Bedouins’ wish to remain where they are, pending their return to the Negev, and prevent this transfer from occurring.
MPCID and the Military Prosecution refuse to do the bare minimum required in the investigation of the death of a protester: find out where the shooters stood
This blog has dealt more than once with cases in which MPCID negligence and intentional delaying seemed so exceptional, that you had to wonder whether they involved negligence or a calculated attempt to disrupt the investigation. The case before us, that of Palestinian protester Bassem Abu Rahmeh, moves in the same trajectory.
The Abu Rahmeh case, discussed here previously, is really quite simple. On April 17th, 2009, Abu Rahmeh protested near the separation wall in his village, Bil’in, in the West Bank. (We note that at the time, the wall followed a route that in 2007 the HCJ ruled to change, but the IDF was in no hurry and changed it only in 2011.) Abu Rahmeh was unarmed, and did not employ any violence, and yet, at the moment he protested the security forces shooting another demonstrator, an Israeli security forces personnel in uniform fired an extended-range tear gas grenade (a grenade used to disperse demonstrators from a distance) directly at him. The grenade hit Abu Rahmeh in the chest, and quickly led to his death.
Note and this is important: these facts are not being disputed. Even so, six years and counting after Abu Rahmeh’s death, the IDF – through MPCID and the Military Prosecution – is still doing its best to avoid trying the man who shot him. To quote the appeal we submitted to the HCJ with B’Tselem in April 2015, “From the chain of events, it is evident that this is (at best) a case of severe negligence on part of the respondents, and contempt of a most severe case of killing an unarmed protester, who was protesting peacefully. Military and civil law enforcement entities have allowed the case of a killing of an innocent man to fall through the cracks time and again, requiring the court to intervene repeatedly… Abu Rahmeh was killed by IDF soldiers who – at best – shot him negligently, and the investigation of the responsibility for his death was smothered for years by the investigative and prosecutorial bodies’ inexcusable red-tape behavior”.
Here is the chain of events, in chronological order:
17.4.2009 – An Israeli security forces personnel in uniform shoots Abu Rahmeh. The shooting is documented by three separate video cameras.
Due to the investigation policy at the time – which was changed only in 2011 – MPCID does not automatically investigate in case of death, unless explicitly ordered to by the Military Prosecution. The latter refuses to order an investigation of this case.
28.3.10 – Ten months after Abu Rahmeh’s death, the Military Prosecution provides an unusual argument for its refusal to order an MPCID investigation: the possibility that the grenade hit the fence and then ricocheted at Abu Rahmeh; the chance that the fact that Abu Rahmeh was standing on a rock when he was shot caused him “to converge” with the grenade’s course.
A reasonable person might think this is precisely what an investigation is supposed to find, since an unarmed demonstrator was shot during a non-violent demonstration, but apparently reasonable persons need not apply for work at the Military Prosecution.
3.6.10 – In response to the Military Prosecution’s peculiar statement, human rights organizations Yesh Din and B’Tselem do their work for them, and send the prosecution an expert opinion based on forensic architecture. As noted, Abu Rahmeh’s death was documented by three separate cameras, and the experts used the three videos to build a simulation showing where the shooter stood. According to this expert opinion, we don’t know the shooter’s identity, but we know where he was standing.
11.7.10 – Based on the expert opinion – new evidence obtained 15 months after the shooting – the Prosecution orders an MPCID investigation.
28.6.11 – Nearly a year after an MPCID investigation it initiated and 26 months after the killing, the Chief of the IDF Ballistics Department informs MPCID that “the only way such ordnance reached the target is if it was fired directly”, rather than above or below the target. That is, MPCID’s expert contradicts the Military Prosecution’s position from March 2010. We learned this bit only after the investigation was closed.
3.2.13 – Chief of the IDF’s Photo Reconnaissance Department informs MPCID that IDF orders forbid shooting directly at persons with this ordnance, and recommends the MPCID reconstruct the scene to establish where each of the shooters stood at the time of the shooting. MPCID refrained from conducting this elementary investigation. The Chief’s opinion came almost four years after the killing of Abu Rahmeh and almost 20 months after the Chief of the IDF’s Ballistics Department rules that the tear gas canister was indisputably fired directly at Abu Rahmeh.
3.3.13 – Some three years after the beginning of the MPCID investigation, we petition (with B’Tselem) the HCJ, demanding the Military Prosecution conclude the unending investigation and serve indictments – at the very least for negligent manslaughter.
September 2013 – The Military Prosecution closes the investigation, claiming it is unable to determine who shot Abu Rahmeh.
29.10.13 – Given the Prosecution’s decision to close the case, the HCJ rules that our petition is no longer relevant, but rules that “we are of the opinion that if there is an appeal, it must be dealt with speedily, so as not to delay proceedings further”.
4.11.13 – We request the investigative materials for preparation of an appeal.
27.3.14 – Five months pass before we receive part of the materials – not all of it.
7.4.14 – We request the missing material. Ten days before the fifth anniversary of Abu Rahmeh’s death.
27.5.14 – The missing material arrives.
24.7.14 – We appeal, with B’Tselem, including an expert opinion responding to the IDF’s opinion.
Our demands in the appeal were fairly simple: there are three suspects who admitted to firing extended-range tear gas grenades, and we wanted MPCID to carry out a complimentary investigation and implement the Chief of the Photo Reconnaissance Department’s recommendation to reconstruct the scene of the shooting to determine where each suspect stood. According to the data we gave MPCID, this would be enough to determine the identity of the shooter who killed Bassem Abu Rahmeh.
Furthermore, during the investigation of one of the three soldiers, he said that he not only fired tear gas grenade but he also took photos of the incident, and since MPCID did not bother to locate those photos, we wanted them to make an effort to. Let’s consider this for a moment: the Military Police’s Criminal Investigative Division heard, during an investigation of a killing, about the existence of evidence – and made no effort to obtain it.
A third point made in the appeal is the commanders’ responsibility for Abu Rahmeh’s death. An extended-range gas grenade is to be used at range of 200 meters or more; the demonstrators were much closer. From the investigation files we received we learned that most of the soldiers suspected of firing tear gas grenades during the demonstration complained during the investigation that they did not receive proper training on using the weapons they used, and furthermore, that they complained about this to their commanders previously. MPCID did not bother to investigate the commanders about this matter. Given that the investigation meandered on for more than three years, it’s will to be difficult to claim it was for lack of time.
Although the HCJ ordered that in the event of an appeal against the decision to close the case “it must be dealt with speedily,” and although our appeal included rather simple and clear demands, eight months have passed without any response from the prosecution.
Therefore, at the end of March, 2015 – nearly six years after Bassem Abu Rahmeh was killed – we were forced to petition the HCJ again, this time demanding a decision on the appeal.
During these six years, the Military Prosecution did its best not to investigate a relatively simple case of a man killed; six years in which human rights organizations had to provide the Prosecution with the evidence it itself did not bother to collect. During these six years, against the recommendation of IDF officers, MPCID did not reconstruct the scene of the crime to determine who stood where. In these six years, the IDF’s official investigative bodies did their negligent best to prevent the trial of a man who killed a non-violent protestor.
But when MPCID and the Prosecution carry out an investigation so unwillingly and so negligently it can barely be called an investigation, they put the soldiers at risk. To avoid a situation in which soldiers are tried outside their country, the investigation of the crime they carried out must be thorough and swift. No reasonable person would call the farce carried out by MPCID and the prosecution in the Abu Rahmeh case thorough or swift. If this is how they handle an investigation of a death, how do they investigate lesser offenses?
Natalie Abed Rabbo
JERUSALEM – A young Palestinian woman from occupied East Jerusalem has accused security guards at an Israeli light rail station, along with Israeli police officers, of physically and verbally assaulting her on Thursday.
Natalie Abed Rabbo, 18, told Ma’an that she had bought a light rail ticket and was boarding the tram, when “all of a sudden, a security guard approached me and accused me of boarding the tram without a ticket.”
She said that she showed her ticket to the the guard, but that he ignored it. She added: “I asked him to check the surveillance cameras to make sure that I had bought a ticket, but he refused.”
Abed Rabbo said that she then asked to speak to an officer to submit a complaint, but before she was able to do so, “eight security guards attacked me and pushed me into a corner, grabbing me by the neck.”
She said that a female Israeli police officer tried to take away her handbag, but that she held onto it.
Abed Rabbo said she was able to use her mobile phone to call her family, and that her mother and brother soon arrived on the scene.
However, she said: “Special force officers then arrived and they beat my mother and brother, and they cuffed my hands and my feet.”
The young woman said she was taken to the Russian Compound police station where she said she was again physically assaulted.
The interrogator “accused me of boarding the tram without a ticket, as well as assaulting security officers and police personnel,” she said.
Abbed Rabbo was released several hours later having paid a bail of 3,000 shekels. She said she was also forced to pay a fine of 200 shekels for breaching tram regulations.
On Monday, a Palestinian man was shot in the foot by a security guard at a light rail station near the illegal Israeli French Hill settlement in East Jerusalem.
The security guard alleged that Hatem Salah had been attempting to stab passengers, although police later withdrew the allegations after it became clear that Salah had not been in possession of any sharp objects at the time.
Early investigations showed that Salah had been physically assaulted by two Israeli light rail guards on Sunday, the day before he was shot.
The light rail service began operating in 2011 along a 14-kilometer (nine-mile) route which begins at Mount Herzl and passes through West Jerusalem before heading through the Palestinian east of the city and ending at the illegal settlement of Pisgat Zeev.
Land belonging to Palestinians in Shuafat was confiscated in 2001 by the Jerusalem Municipality for the construction of the light rail, which will eventually link more illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem to West Jerusalem upon its expected completion in 2016.
Operation Dove | May 5, 2015
At-Tuwani, Occupied Palestine – The entire Palestinian village of Susya is in danger of demolition and expulsion. By refusing to issue an interim order preventing preemptive demolitions before their case is heard, the Israeli High Court is allowing for the demolition of the entire Palestinian village of Susya and subsequent expulsion of its 340 residents. The refusal of the State to commit to not demolishing before the conclusion of proceedings suggests it has plans to destroy the village in the near future.
On one hand, the High Court of Justice is willing to hear the village’s petition to legitimize its status, but on the other hand, the court allows the village to be destroyed before even deciding on the case.
On May 5 2015, High Court Judge Noam Solberg rejected the request for an interim order by the Palestinian village of Susya, represented by Rabbis for Human Rights, in a petition against the Civil Administration’s decision to reject the master plan prepared by the village and subsequent demolition of the entire village.
The village argued that their plan was rejected for non-professional reasons and that the village should be legalized due to its unique history. The residents sought an interim order to freeze the implementation of the demolitions until the petition is heard, as is standard practice in these sort of cases.It was against this request for an interim order that Justice Solberg, without even conducting a hearing on the request, made the unusual move of granting the state’s request not to freeze the orders. This decision means that the Civil Administration can now destroy Susya at any time. The demolition of the village will lead to hundreds of residents living in the desert with no roof over their heads and may result in their displacement. The state’s refusal to commit to waiting for a conclusion to the court proceedings raises great alarm that it intends to implement the demolition order in the near future; tragically, it seems the villagers are in real danger.
In the petition, Susya’s residents claimed that the army is obliged to legalize their village as it was the one to confiscate their land and their caves in 1986, leaving them without a housing solution and forcing them to move to their adjacent agricultural lands. As evidence to the life in the village prior to the expropriation, various testimonials and photographs of life in caves were presented to the judge. Among other things, there were documented photos of a visit by the US Consulate to the village at the beginning of 1986. The photos and testimony clearly shows that the Palestinian village of Susya is an old village formed prior to the Israeli occupation and the declaration of the area as an archaeological site.
Among the evidence was the opinion of the late governmental legal adviser Plia Albeck (considered to be very pro-settlement and who wrote in her memoirs that she tried to find legal ways to declare Palestinian land as State land), indicating the existence of a Palestinian village in 1982 where today the archaeological site stands.
Despite the evidence presented before him, revealing the many injustices done to the villagers – from the expropriation and dispossession of their lands, to the refusal by the state to recognize the status of the village in its new location – Judge Sohlberg did not agree to hear the case before allowing the demolition of the village and setting the fate of its inhabitants.
Attached to the petition, inter alia, was an expert opinion by Prof. Eyal Benvenisti, a renowned expert in international law, stipulating that the demolition of the village of Susya constitutes a war crime.
This week, a report by radical right-wing NGO “Regavim” (which has close ties to the settlement enterprise) was exposed indicating that in the nearby Jewish settlement, also called Susia, there are 23 illegal homes built on private Palestinian land. We have no indication of any attempt by the state to demolish these illegal structures in the settlement Sussia or in its nearby outposts. We see in this current situation that this Jewish settlement, whose very existence is prohibited by international law, and where some of its homes are sitting on private Palestinian land, is prosperous, while the Palestinian village of Susya, whose inhabitants are on their own private land, is at risk of displacement and loss of their entire village.
In 1986 the village of Susya was declared an archaeological site, its land expropriated, and its inhabitants, who lived in caves, were deported. While the Palestinians were told that they could not reside in an archeological site, Israeli settlers live in an illegal outpost located inside the archeological site.
After the expulsion, villagers were forced to move to their neighboring agricultural plots. Because there was no willingness to grant a zoning plan, they involuntarily became illegal builders. Dozens of villagers followed procedures in attempts to obtain building permits, but those attempts were rejected. In 2012 the villagers raised funds and submitted a proposed master plan, drawn up by Professor Rassem Khamaiseh, for the Civil Administration for review. The plan would authorize construction in the village according to accepted standards of professional planning.
The plan was rejected in 2013 on very questionable grounds, indicating a double standard in planning, and blatant discrimination against the Palestinian population. For example, it was argued that the number of residents in the village, which is a few hundred people, is not substantial enough to grant it independent planning as its own entity. On the other hand, dozens of unauthorized outposts which are built housing only a handful of residents are approved by the Civil Administration’s planning body. In addition, it was argued that the plan will prevent the population from properly developing and moving out of poverty, and therefore, they should be moved to an adjacent city. It should be noted that the city is, of course, in Area A, and what actually prevents the progress of Susya is the lack of infrastructure which they are prevented from building. Also important to note is that Israelis are permitted to choose their preferred way of life – be it urban or rural, and are not forced by the state into one or the other.
In 2014, Rabbis for Human Rights petitioned the High Court on behalf of the Susya village council and its residents against the decision to reject the village master plan (HCJ 1420/14). As mentioned, on May 5th the court rejected the request for an interim injunction, leaving the whole village vulnerable to imminent demolition.
The big picture:
The danger of demolishing and expropriating the village of Susya reflects the systemic problem of planning for Palestinian villages located in Area C; in these villages, planning is done by military planning committees, without representation of Palestinians, with the intent of preventing residents from building on their own land based on reasonable and professional planning standards. A recent High Court petition, submitted by the village council Dirat, Rabbis for Human Rights, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Society, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and St. Yves – Catholic Human Rights Center, demands planning authority be returned to Palestinian villages for their own communities in order to prevent the tragic demolitions of hundreds of homes every year due to the impossibility of obtaining building permits.
An Israeli Court ruled Monday on the removal of Susiya Bedouin village, in Masafer Yatta area, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, after colonists of the illegal Susya settlement, demanded the removal of the Palestinian enclave.
Coordinator of the Popular and National Committee in southern Hebron Rateb Jabour told the WAFA News agency that the Israeli decision could be enforced at any given moment, rendering dozens of residents homeless.
He added that the head of the Susiya Village Council Jihad Nawaj’a, received an official Israeli order informing him of the intention to remove the village.
Nawaj’a stated that the Susiya has been subject to dozens of violations and assaults by Israeli soldiers and fanatical colonizers.
“Our village is a historic area; Israel wants to remove us to control it,” he added, “There are many Islamic and Roman archeological sites here.”
The villagers have been constantly suffering, and literally fighting for their very existence, since Israel started the construction of Susya colony in 1983 on privately owned lands belonging to five Palestinian families from Yatta.
The villagers were forcibly removed from their village in 1986, and relocated to the current location, yet again, are facing the same fate.
Removing the village means displacing at least 50 families, and the illegal annexation of hundreds of Dunams of private Palestinian lands.
Nawaj’a said the residents have all deeds proving ownership of their lands, but Israel continues to displace them, in addition to constantly preventing them from having any access to running water, electricity and other basic services.
Several Palestinian, Israel and international human rights groups frequently warned of the Israel plans, and said Tel Aviv is planning to destroy 13 Palestinian villages in Hebron, under the pretext of “being located in military training zones.”
Removing the 13 communities would lead to the displacement of around 1,650 persons.
File photo IMEMC
We see how seriously the prosecution takes its role when we realize it closed a file for lack of evidence — without so much as noticing the evidence.
The location was Qusra, a village in the Shiloh Valley; the date, September 16, 2011. Fathallah Mahmoud Muhammad Abu Rhoda went out with his three sons to pick figs. A short while after reaching their land, they noticed about 10 Israeli civilians standing around their water hole. The Palestinians demanded the Israelis leave the place; the interlopers refused. The residents of Qusra — a village that has already proven it can defend itself against marauders — began heading to the area. An argument ensued, and according to Abu Rhoda’s testimony to the police, three of the settlers (who were armed) opened fire on the Palestinians. One bullet hit Abu Rhoda in the thigh.
Of the three, two were armed with rifles and the other with a handgun. From the police testimony, we see that the handgun’s owner also sicked a dog on the Palestinians. The complainants managed to photograph some of their attackers, among them the handgun owner.
Four days after the incident, Abu Rhoda filed a complaint with the police. Almost three years later, on August 6, 2014, the prosecution informed us that it closed the case for lack of evidence. After a series of 14 phone calls, we managed to photocopy the case file on December 15, 2014 — more than four months after the case was closed. However, it was immediately apparent some of the material was missing. We continued requesting it until February 2015.
From the evidence we finally received, it turns out that there is more than enough evidence to indict the handgun owner, E. As previously mentioned, E. was identified by the Palestinians victims, and they even supplied the police with photos of him at the scene, which clearly show him holding a handgun in one hand and the dog in the other. The police picked up cartridges from the scene, and a ballistic fingerprinting – which took place on September 27, 2011 – found that one of the cartridges came from a 9mm Glock pistol (the others were fired from rifles.) E. was summoned for an investigation, invoked his right to remain silent, but admitted he owned a Glock. The gun was duly turned over to the police, which sent it to a ballistic fingerprinting. In February 2012 the police expert reached the conclusion that there is a match between the cartridges fired from E.’s handgun and the those that were examined on September 27.
In total, the following evidence was marshaled against E.:
A. He was identified and photographed by the complainants.
B. His handgun was identified as the one fired during the incident.
Despite the evidence, the police recommended that the case against E. be closed due to — get this — lack of evidence. The recommendation was accepted by the prosecution. Embarrassingly, the prosecution admitted this to us only in January 2015 — 10 months after it closed the case for lack of evidence. Only as a result of our request for more case files did the prosecution learn about the September 2011 memorandum, which identified the type of handgun owned by E. That is, when the prosecution decided to close the case for lack of evidence, it was lacking a major piece of evidence.
What about the two other shooters? I’m glad you asked. The police chased one of the suspects into the Esh Kodesh outpost, even so much as detaining him after he fled. However, despite the fact that the suspect fled arrest and refused to identify himself, there is no indication in the material we received from the police that any investigative action was taken against him. There is, for instance, no sign that he was even interrogated or gave testimony; he was detained, and immediately released.
The third suspect managed to flee in a vehicle and reach Esh Kodesh. The police identified the owner of the vehicle as well as another person who was with him in the car during the chase. But, lo and behold, the police neither bothered to interrogate them nor attempt to identify the third shooter.
This is how the police and the prosecution treat a violent incident, in which three Israeli civilians open fire on Palestinians who are on their own land. In a case that contains such clear forensic evidence, they managed, with extraordinary negligence, not to notice it. And in the other cases? They simply do not investigate.
In the beginning of March, our attorney Anu Deuel Lusky (briskly aided by Moriyah Shlomot) appealed the decision, asking the prosecution to bring E. to trial and conduct further investigations that would lead to the capture of the other two suspects. To quote the appeal:
“This appeal, in both its parts, raises a harsh and heavy feeling that both the police and the prosecution betrayed their duties as bodies entrusted with maintaining law and order. The current situation – in which the lives, bodies and property of Palestinians, considered protected persons by international law, can be harmed with impunity, both as a result of settler violence and as a result of law enforcement entities standing aside, not making the minimal effort to bring lawbreakers to justice – is intolerable, and undermines the rule of law.”
One wonders what is left of the rule of law after it has been so brazenly undermined.
The Ahrar Center for Detainees’ Studies and Human Rights issued its monthly report on Israeli violations against the Palestinians during April of 2015, and said that seven Palestinians were killed, and 375 were injured.
The report documents Israeli violations against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem.
Head of the Ahrar Center Fuad al-Khoffash said occupied Jerusalem remains the most targeted district compared to other Palestinian districts in the occupied West Bank, especially since the soldiers and police conduct daily violations against the Palestinians, their homes and property.
Three Palestinians were killed in the last week of April, while at least 39 others, including four children have been injured.
Two other children were also wounded due to the explosion of a remnant object of the Israeli military, south of Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank.
Two Palestinian civilians were killed in two separate incidents in Hebron and Jenin in the West Bank, while the third, who was a child, was killed at a military checkpoint in occupied Jerusalem.
In occupied Jerusalem also, 26 Palestinian civilians, including two paramedics, were wounded during protests that followed the killing of the child; 12 others, including three children, were wounded during other protests in the West Bank and the fourth child was wounded in the Gaza Strip.
Ahrar said the army kidnapped at least 19 Palestinian women, including legislator Khaleda Jarrar, and that most of the arrests took place in the courtyards of the al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem. It added that the army kidnapped at least 55 children, mainly in Jerusalem, followed Hebron and Bethlehem, during repeated Israeli military invasions and assaults.
In occupied Jerusalem, soldiers kidnapped at least 113 Palestinians (including the 55 children), 86 in the southern West Bank District of Hebron, 54 Palestinians in the northern West Bank district of Nablus, 40 in Bethlehem, 29 in Ramallah, 11 in Qalqilia, 4 in Tulkarem, and one in Salfit.
Palestinians Killed In April, As Documented And Reported By The IMEMC
On 27 April 2015, Israeli forces opened fire at 19-year-old civilian while he was in his farmland near the annexation wall in the west of Arqa village, west of Jenin. As a result, he sustained a bullet wound to the testicles due to which he suffered severe hemorrhage and died hours later.
On 25 April 2015, Israeli forces killed a 20-year-old Palestinian civilian crossing via an electronic gate at the entrance of the Ibrahimi mosque, south of the old city in Hebron, reportedly, after he stabbed an Israeli soldier at the said gate.
On April 24, soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian, near the Zaim military roadblock, east of occupied Jerusalem.
On April 14, a fighter of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, died of serious complications resulting from his injury by an Israeli missile during the Israeli onslaught on Gaza eight months ago.
On April 10, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man during the funeral ceremony of a former detainee, who was denied access to proper medical attention, while being held by Israel.
On April 8, another Palestinian was shot and killed allegedly after stabbing two soldiers, north of the central West Bank city of Ramallah.
A protester holds a sign reading “No to collective punishment.” (MaanImages)
JERUSALEM – Israeli polices forces violently dispersed a Palestinian protest in the occupied East Jerusalem village of al-Tur on Wednesday, amid complaints that authorities’ closure of the village’s main road is a form of “collective punishment” against locals.
Sources told Ma’an that dozens of residents of the neighborhood on the Mount of Olives as well as foreign activists carried out a sit-in on al-Tur’s main street to protest Israeli authorities’ decision to shut down major thoroughfare Suleiman al-Farsi street with two concrete blocks.
The street was closed earlier this week when locals protested against the death of a 17-year-old boy from the area who was shot dead after a scuffle with a soldier at a nearby checkpoint.
Mufid Abu Ghannam, director of a local activist committee, told Ma’an that Israeli forces assaulted protesters on Wednesday and launched stun grenades at sit-in participants, injuring two people with shrapnel in their lower extremities.
Israeli forces also reportedly detained two Palestinian protesters, Amjad al-Shami and Youssef Khuweis.
Abu Ghannam said that even after protesters had dispersed, Israeli forces continued firing stun grenades at people in the area.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the incident, saying that police used stun grenades against protesters after they blocked roads in what he called an “illegal demonstration” in which “stones were thrown at police officers who were at the scene.”
Rosenfeld denied any injuries in the incident.
The sit-in on the main street of al-Tur was held concurrently with rallies at five schools in the village, where students carried out sit-ins in school yards in protest against the closure of the village’s entrance.
Suleiman al-Farsi Street is considered the main entrance to the village, and local activists told Ma’an that the closure of the road negatively affected the ability of 3,000 local residents to live normally. The closure also prevents ambulances and fire trucks from reaching the village.
The thoroughfare is also the main road leading to the Suleiman al-Farsi mosque, the village cemetery, and two elementary schools where some 1,200 students attend.
The closure of the roads followed widespread protests against the killing of Muhammad Abu Ghannam on Saturday as he crossed the al-Zayyim checkpoint on foot resulted in widespread protests.
A soldier at the checkpoint reportedly insulted Abu Ghannam’s sister, leading to a scuffle, while Israeli authorities have alleged the boy pulled a knife on the soldier.
Israeli municipal authorities routinely close and block major roads leading into Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem.
In addition to Al-Tur, another major road into the nearby town of al-Issawiya was also shut closed.
Abu Ghannam was one of three Palestinians shot dead by Israeli forces in the last week.
Although Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem live within territory Israel has unilaterally annexed, they lack citizenship rights and are instead classified only as “residents” whose permits can be revoked if they move away from the city for more than a few years.
Jerusalem Palestinians face discrimination in all aspects of life including housing, employment, and services, and are unable to access services in the West Bank due to the construction of Israel’s separation wall.
Tensions have been running high in East Jerusalem since last summer when Jewish extremists raided the area and kidnapped and murdered a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir.
Israeli forces have detained hundreds of Palestinians across East Jerusalem who have taken part in protests, especially against Israel’s summer assault on Gaza, including 600 alone in the two months after Abu Khdeir’s death.
TUBAS – A fire sparked by an Israeli military drill swept across thousands of dunams of Palestinian farmland in the northern Jordan valley on Monday, the Palestinian civil defense said.
Some 3,000 to 4,000 dunams of farmland in the Humsa area of eastern Tubas district were affected by the fire after Israeli forces opened fire during a military exercise.
The district of Tubas is one of the West Bank’s most important agricultural centers, and the civil defense said the land had been planted with wheat and barley.
Tubas Governor Rabih al-Khandaqji condemned Israeli “violations” in the area, aimed at “displacing people from their lands and deliberately inflicting grave losses to their resources.”
Civil defense crews arrived from Qalqiliya and Nablus to fight the fire but were prevented from reaching the area as Israel has declared it a closed military zone.
The majority of the Jordan Valley is under full Israeli military control, despite being within the Palestinian West Bank.
According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, more than 15,000 dunams of land in the Tubas district have been confiscated by Israel for military bases with a further 8,000 dunams seized for illegal Israeli settlements.
Aqraba, Occupied Palestine – On 25th April 2015 ISM volunteers met with the mayor of Aqraba, Ayman Bani Fadl, who has asked internationals to document the intrusive Israeli occupation forces’ actions over the past week. The Israeli forces have been using civilian farm land to carry out training operations. The military have an encampment where they have stationed around ten tanks and approximately fifteen more armored vehicles, as well as numerous troops.
Israeli occupation forces present on Palestinian land near Aqraba (Photo by Aqraba Muncipality 24.04.15)
The military training in this area is hugely damaging to the farming economy, due to the fact that this seasons harvest began earlier in the month. Farmers are now prevented from carrying out their harvest by the presence of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). The mayor stated that it is likely the military chose the time and area in a deliberate attempt to disrupt the harvest and the livelihoods of the civilian population. He also claimed the actions of the IOF were strategically designed to expropriate the land, forcing the farmers to leave the area. He went on to say that the military have already designated 150,000 dunams of Aqraba land as a military zone. Meaning, the military have full control of the area. Despite this, the IOF have chosen to carry out their present training operations on the 10,000 dunams that remain accessible to the farmers.
These military operations occur on a regular basis and have a permanent and damaging effect on the community. Not least of which is the unexploded ordinance, carelessly left by the military, which has been responsible for killing four individuals and maiming tens of others, mostly children.
To add to the continuing persecution of Aqraba civilians, four months ago the electricity network, financed by the Belgian government, was demolished by Israeli forces. Due to a lack of funds, the municipality has only been able to temporarily reconstruct a portion of the network.
Furthermore, this continual land grab results in Israeli control over highly fertile agricultural soil and cuts off Palestinian access to the Jordan Valley, restricting freedom of movement and their right to cultivate their own farming land.
The present military operation in Aqraba is just one example of the ongoing violent harassment and disruption that is one of many tactics used by Israeli forces, to make life so intolerable for Palestinians they will leave and abandon their land. Oppressive tactics of a similar nature are rife throughout the West Bank, with towns and villages in and around the Jordan Valley being particularly subject to persecution from the Israeli forces.
BETHLEHEM – The US Court of Appeals in New York has rejected an appeal from a group of 13 Palestinians seeking damages for alleged “terrorist attacks” by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported Friday.
The complaint was filed against US-based charities that financially support settlements, alleging that such support leads to terrorist activity and is in violation of US anti-terrorism laws, reported Israeli news source Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The USA Patriot Act enacted in October 2001 prohibits citizens from “knowingly providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.”
Plaintiffs in the case argued that charities were financially supporting terrorist activity by funding settlers who have carried out acts of violence against Palestinians and their land, and desecrated houses of prayer.
Charities accused in the case included Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.
After District Judge Jesse Furman initially rejected the case last year, the appeal was rejected again this week by a panel of appellate judges.
“American federal judges recognize the difference between the financing of murder and violence… and legitimate bona fide financial support of the daily needs of peaceful Israeli settlements over the Green Line,” Israeli Haaretz quoted attorney Nathan Lewin, who represented the charities in the trials.
Privately funded violence
The dismissal of the case is a setback for those fighting to shed light on private US funding that is currently helping to sustain illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, as well as the violence that results from it.
While the U.S. government has condemned ongoing settlement expansion, its citizens have been able to freely donate millions to the illegal enclaves.
The New York Times identified at least 40 American groups in 2010 that had collected over $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank over the last decade.
Israeli watchdog Americans for Peace Now have long fought against tax-exempt donations to settlements.
Among other criticisms, the groups point out that IRS regulations exempting charities from tax deduction define a charitable organization as one that “includes relief of the poor and distressed or of the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening of the burdens of government; promotion of social welfare.”
Such a definition does not extend to charities funneling funds to the Jewish-only settlements of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the group argues, and such donations should not be tax-exempt.
The court ruling on the 13 Palestinians’ appeal is only the latest example of a number of cases in which Israeli settlers have gained legal backing from the US government for illegal practices.
Attacks carried out with impunity
Human rights groups in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have long fought for effective Israeli law enforcement against the type of violent acts committed by Israeli settlers that the 13 Palestinians were drawing attention to.
Such acts are often termed “price-tag attacks,” and are carried out to retaliate perceived pressure from both Israeli and foreign governments against settlements, most often with Palestinian civilians as their victims.
They are nearly always carried out with impunity from the law.
Following price-tag attacks on Vatican-owned offices in occupied East Jerusalem in May 2014, Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the government planned to begin using administrative detention against suspected extremists.
Although Israeli police had made scores of arrests before that time, there had been few successful prosecutions for price-tag attacks and the government was facing mounting pressure to authorize the Shin Bet internal security agency to step in.
The US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism discussed price-tag attacks for the first time in 2013, citing UN figures of some “399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage.”
The report said such attacks were “largely unprosecuted.”