Palestinian Plight: Updates & Discussions

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Trump Warns Gazans, Netanyahu Receives Supporting US Ambassadors
07 May, 2019

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian volunteer paramedic Sajed Mezher was killed by Israeli troops, during his funeral in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank March 27, 2019. (Reuters)

Tel Aviv – Asharq Al-Awsat

US President Donald Trump expressed his full support to Israel, meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received at his office a delegation of US ambassadors to Europe led by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Netanyahu briefed the delegation on the security situation and said Israel has the right to defend itself and that it will take all necessary measures to do so.

The meeting was attended by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, US Ambassador to France Jamie McCourt, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, US Ambassador to Portugal George Glass, and Special Envoy to Combating Antisemitism by the US State Department Elan Carr.

Netanyahu informed the ambassadors that Hamas is committing a double war crime by indiscriminately shooting at civilians from civilian centers, indicating that Israel has the right to defend itself and noting: “we will take all necessary measures to insure that.”

After the meeting, the ambassadors issued a joint statement asserting their support to Israel and considered Hamas and al-Jihad Movements as “terrorist organizations.”

"Enough is enough! Over the past 36 hours Israel has suffered from a barrage of over 600 rockets and mortars fired indiscriminately by terrorists in ‎Gaza,” the ambassadors wrote.

“Can one imagine rockets falling on Washington, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Bern or Lisbon today without an appropriately strong reaction?”

The ambassadors concluded their statement by affirming Israel's right to defend itself.

Trump called for putting an end of Palestinian attacks on Israel, warning Gazans that such actions will only bring them more misery.

“Once again, Israel faces a barrage of deadly rocket attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. We support Israel 100% in its defense of its citizens,” he tweeted.

“To the Gazan people, these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery. END the violence and work towards peace – it can happen!”


 

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Moratinos to Asharq Al-Awsat: Any Initiative Lacking 2-State Solution Will not Achieve Peace
08 May, 2019

High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Miguel Moratinos, Asharq Al-Awsat

Cairo - Sawsan Abu Husain

Any peace initiative between the Palestinians and Israel that “does not recognize the two-state solution will not achieve peace,” Miguel Moratinos, the High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), said.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the former EU envoy for the peace process in the Middle East called for “building on previous negotiations” and stressed that the entire international community should be involved in the solution, not only a third party.

Moratinos is visiting Cairo as part of his mission to support the dialogue of civilizations and religions worldwide.

He said he did not have details about the so-called US “deal of the century,” but only a reading of the ideas that are being put forward.

The former foreign minister of Spain emphasized that achieving peace was possible. “But it requires the involvement of the concerned parties in real peace, based on what has been achieved in the past… For this to happen, the international community must be fully concerned.”

Asked about the American “bias” towards Israel, Moratinos said he could not judge on this matter, adding that the mistake was the reliance on a single third party, the US, while the crisis required the presence of other international parties.

On UNAOC’s role in promoting dialogue among civilizations and peoples of the world, the UN official explained that the organization’s priorities were the prevention and the identification of the causes of conflict of a social, cultural and religious nature, and the activation of mediation to reduce conflicts before they begin.

He highlighted three main frameworks to target - the youth, education and media.

The Spanish diplomat stressed that fighting terrorism should come through “changing the thinking and hearts of extremists,” which is “necessary for a better life for all societies.”

On the Arab-European relations, the UN representative noted that his previous work in the region made him aware of the importance and specificity of those relations, which he described as “good,” but “lacking continuity and strategic plans for dealing in all political and economic fields.”

 

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Palestinians turn to EU to counter Kushner plan
8 May 2019

The Palestinians are asking the European Union to pick up the mantle in defense of the two-state solution if the upcoming US peace plan ditches Palestinian statehood, their UN envoy said Tuesday.

President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to unveil the long-awaited plan possibly as early as next month, but the Palestinians have already rejected it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.

Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters that he urged European officials during recent meetings in Brussels to seize the initiative and not allow the United States to be the preeminent player in the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinians urged the EU to call for an international conference that would reaffirm the global consensus of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reject the US approach.

“We are engaging them,” Mansour told reporters about his meetings with EU officials. “They have to act… We would be extremely happy to show that there is more than one player in the field, trying to determine how we move forward.”

The Palestinians have also urged European countries, in particular, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg, to recognize Palestine as a state.

UN resolutions have advocated a two-state solution providing for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and stressed that this outcome is to be agreed on by the parties.

Mansour said the Palestinians also wanted Russia to step up its Middle East diplomacy and suggested that the United Nations could convene the Middle East peace quartet.

Deal of the century
The US peace plan is expected to feature proposals for regional economic development that would include Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, but the Palestinians have been adamant that it will fail.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is the chief architect of the proposals. Mansour said the US plan, which he has not seen, appears to be aimed at providing a “pretext” for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to annex more Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu promised during the election campaign to annex West Bank settlements, a move that would kill off prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

Mansour said he was convinced that the Palestinians still enjoyed “massive support in the international arena”, but suggested that if diplomacy failed, the battle could then turn to demographics.

“If this is what they want to force on us, one-state reality, the Palestinian people will accelerate their reproduction machines and increase the number of Palestinians to face apartheid,” he said.

 

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Palestinian Factions in Gaza Call for Forcing Israel to Respect Truce
09 May, 2019

A Palestinian man sells olives and pickles on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in the southern Gaza Strip May 6, 2019. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Gaza - Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat

Palestinian factions have called on forcing Israel to respect the truce that was mediated by Egypt and the UN in the Gaza Strip.

Following a meeting for their representatives, the ‘resistance’ factions in Gaza hailed the UN and Arab stances that contributed to ending the Israeli aggression on the enclave.

Their statement affirmed the necessity of pushing the occupation into implementing the latest decisions that resulted in the truce without any procrastination.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources revealed that the Israeli authorities banned Palestinians from fishing off Gaza for a fifth straight day but allowed Gazans to bring in fuel exceptionally.

A new ceasefire was announced between Israel and the Palestinian factions on Monday, following a deadly escalation that left 31 Palestinians, including two women and a child, dead. Four Israelis were also killed.

Despite the agreement between Palestinian leaders in Gaza to a ceasefire with Israel, Danny Danon, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN, said: "The time has come for the UN Security Council to designate Hamas a terror group.”

"Hamas commits double war crimes, it hides behind civilians in Gaza,” Danon added.

Also Wednesday, the Palestinian Society Prisoners Club reported that two Palestinian detainees remain committed to a hunger strike that they launched in Israeli prisons 37 days ago.

The prisoners club, a non-governmental body, said in a statement that the prisoners reject their administrative detention.

The Israeli prisons administration moved them repeatedly despite their critical health conditions in an attempt to pressure them to end their strike, it said.

According to Palestinian data, Israel holds around 5,700 Palestinians as prisoners with around 500 of them being placed under administrative detention that permits open detention without charges.


 

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US Mideast Peace Plan Starts Argument Before It’s Released
May 09, 2019
Associated Press
Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, Northern Gaza Strip, May. 6, 2019.

Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, Northern Gaza Strip, May. 6, 2019.

A key architect of the long-awaited U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace lashed out at the U.N.’s “anti-Israel bias” Thursday while urging support for the Trump administration’s “vision.” But the Palestinian foreign minister dismissed the U.S. peace effort, saying all indications are it will be “conditions for surrender.”

The speeches by U.S. envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and top Palestinian diplomat Riad Malki at an informal Security Council meeting ended up focusing on much broader issues than the chosen topic — Israeli settlements at the “core” of the “obstruction of peace.”

Greenblatt said it was “surprising and unfair” that Indonesia, Kuwait and South Africa organized the council meeting and condemned Israel’s behavior when it “was not even invited to speak at this session.” He added that it was “inspiring” to see Israel celebrate the 71st anniversary of its independence Thursday, calling it “a small brave country” that grew to a “thriving, diverse economically vibrant democracy,” the only one in the Mideast.
Jason Greenblatt attends the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards gala at Carnegie Hall, March 28, 2019, in New York.


Jason Greenblatt attends the Champions of Jewish Values International Awards gala at Carnegie Hall, March 28, 2019, in New York.

He called the council’s “obsessive” focus on Israeli settlements a “farce,” saying settlements aren’t keeping Israel and the Palestinians from negotiating peace, and said the council should instead condemn Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad for recently firing hundreds of rockets into Israel from Gaza.

The council should also focus on the Palestinian practice of paying the families of “terrorists” rather than on how the United States could support the Palestinian Authority’s budget, Greenblatt said. The Trump administration has drastically cut its support for the Palestinians to try to spur their return to negotiations.

The Palestinians pre-emptively rejected any peace proposal floated by the Trump administration amid concerns it would fall far below their hopes for an independent state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, which they want as their capital, and Gaza, lands captured by Israel in the 1967 war. Their demand for a two-state solution is supported by the U.N. and almost all of its 193 member-states.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaks during a press conference at the International Criminal Court, May 22, 2018.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki speaks during a press conference at the International Criminal Court, May 22, 2018.

Malki told the council that after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel “in blatant violation of international law, it is not possible to have faith” in the peace plan, which was crafted over two years by a team led by Greenblatt and the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

“Every decision the U.S. administration has taken since has simply confirmed its disregard for Palestinian lives, for Palestinian rights” and for the two-state solution, he said.

“We cannot afford not to engage with any peace efforts, but the U.S. efforts cannot be characterized nor can qualify as peace efforts, unfortunately,” Malki said. “All indicates this far that this is not a peace plan, but rather conditions for surrender — and there is no amount of money can make it acceptable.”

Tight-lipped about the plan
Greenblatt and Kushner have been tight-lipped about the peace plan’s contents.

Last week, Kushner said the blueprint attempts to ensure security for Israel and provide economic opportunity to improve the lives of Palestinians. The plan won’t be released before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends during the first week of June, and perhaps not even then.

Greenblatt told the Security Council “the vision for peace that we will soon put forward will be realistic and implementable” and “lay out the core issues of the conflict in enough detail that everyone will be able to imagine what peace could look like.”

“This is the right package of compromises for both sides to take in order to leave the past behind and start a new chapter, where there could be tremendous hope and opportunity in the region,” he added.

Speaking truth vs. no hope
Greenblatt called on council members “to support the parties to get together to get behind this opportunity.”

In the meantime, he said, “we will continue to speak the truth even when it is not welcome,” starting with the U.N.’s failure to condemn the “vicious, cynical, unprovoked attack” from Gaza a few days ago “that was intended to terrify, kill and maim Israelis.”

Malki, who spoke before Greenblatt, told reporters afterward that the U.S. envoy’s remarks gave him no hope for the U.S. peace plan.

“I thought I was listening to an Israeli speaker ... rather than an American official,” he said. “It seems that the American position has been totally taken by the Israeli position and right now the U.S. administration has no independent position.”

Malki said Greenblatt “attacked the Palestinians and nothing else” and called Israel the only Mideast democracy while forgetting that Israel is the “only occupying power ... in the world.”

“It’s very clear that his thinking, his mind, is well set to be exclusively anti-Palestinian, anti-peace and anti-logic, and anti-international law,” Malki said.


 

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US Accuses Palestinian Authority of Killing Peace Plan
12 May, 2019


US President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. (AP file photo)

Ramallah - Asharq al-Awsat

The Palestinian leadership is trying to kill the peace plan of US President Donald Trump, referred to as “deal of the century”, even before its unveiling, warned Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt.

He urged the authority to hold fire until they see the details, saying it would be a mistake to declare it “dead on arrival.”

In an interview with Reuters, Greenblatt pushed back against Palestinian officials’ rebuke of the coming peace proposals that they believe will be heavily biased in favor of Israel and deliver a blow to their goal of statehood.

“The Palestinian Authority is trying to kill a plan they haven’t seen,” said Greenblatt, who has openly exchanged criticism with senior Palestinian officials.

Greenblatt and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner are heading a team preparing to roll out the plan as early as June. The two intend to proceed despite deep skepticism among experts that they can succeed where decades of US-backed efforts have failed. However, further delays are always possible, given Middle East volatility, including tensions from recent Gaza violence.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has boycotted US peace efforts since late 2017 when the US president decided to move his embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in violation of a decades-US policy.

President Mahmoud Abbas had reiterated the firm Palestinian position rejecting the “deal of the century”.

He asserted that the PA does not expect US officials to offer anything important, because the “important things they have offered are all against us.”

“We reject everything that Kushner says, and we reject everything they [the Americans] have presented, be it with regard to Jerusalem, the refugees, borders, settlements or any others,” he was quoted as saying by the Wafa news agency.

The PA launched a major campaign against the plan and sent letters to delegations of various countries explaining the conditions and mechanisms of implementation of the decisions of the Central Council, in response to the US peace plan.

The Committee decided to disengage with Israel and redefine the relationship with it through the elimination of agreements and the embodiment of the Palestinian state under occupation.

 

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Israel reopens Gaza crossings as calm restored
12 May 2019
AFP

  • Both the Erez crossing for people and Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were open and operating
  • Both had been closed on May 4, when Gaza rulers Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel
JERUSALEM: Israel reopened Sunday its crossings with the blockaded Gaza Strip after closing them during a deadly escalation earlier this month, an official said, as a fragile truce held.

Both the Erez crossing for people and Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were open and operating, a spokeswoman for COGAT, the defense ministry unit that oversees the crossings, said in a statement.

Both had been closed on May 4, when Gaza rulers Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, with the army striking dozens of targets in Gaza in response.

Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in the two-day flare-up, which ended on Monday in a tentative truce.

Palestinian officials said Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm.

Israel did not publicly confirm the deal, but on Friday lifted the ban it had imposed on Palestinian fishing boats operating off Gaza.

Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Gaza’s militant rulers Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.

But critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents.

 

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Economic conditions ‘suffocating the joy of Ramadan’ in Gaza
HAZEM BALOUSHA
May 14, 2019

  • Palestinians face Israeli aggression, poverty and salary crisis during the holy month
GAZA CITY: Ramadan has arrived under very harsh conditions in the Gaza Strip, the result of the 13-year siege and waves of Israeli military escalation, as well as the internal division that has existed since mid-2007.

Gazans began the first day of Ramadan by burying the victims of Israeli airstrikes, which targeted hundreds of homes and public and private facilities over two days.

Israeli military escalation has increased the suffering of the Gazans, who have been denied the joy of Ramadan due to widespread poverty, high unemployment, the salary crisis and the inability of citizens to purchase items.

Employee Mohammed Sultan said that he was unable to provide for his seven-member family because of the delay in paying employees’ salaries in Gaza.

“We received the last salary about a month ago, and we expected to get our salaries before the month of Ramadan, but that did not happen,” Sultan said.

Employees of the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by President Mahmoud Abbas are no longer better off than their Hamas counterparts.


Since March 2017, the PA has deducted more than 60 percent of the salaries of about 50,000 of its employees in Gaza. The PA says the measure is due to a financial crisis, but Palestinian factions and employees see it as “sanctions” to pressure Hamas “and to destabilize the Gaza Strip since it took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June 2007.”

“We did not feel the month of Ramadan, nor did we feel happy,” said Amal Al-Sattari, an employee of the PA.

“We lost the holy month and we did not feel it because of the salary crisis and our inability to shop for the needs of Ramadan, as we always used to do.”

“How are we going to provide iftar and suhoor? And we do not have one shekel in our house. It’s a real tragedy,” she said.

Al-Sattari, who is raising six children after her husband’s death seven years ago, asked how her children could be responsible for the political differences that were causing such suffering.

“Instead of taking into consideration our circumstances for the month of Ramadan, paying our full salaries, the PA increased the deduction rate, and about 40 percent of our salaries were paid to us a few days before Ramadan,” she said.

The suffering of workers is even more severe, with 52 percent unemployment and more than half of Gaza’s 2 million people dependent on humanitarian aid from UN and other charities.

“We have received Ramadan and the refrigerator is empty, and my sons cry, they want the lantern of Ramadan,” said Mohamed Allawi, a construction worker who is unemployed.

“The lowest price for the Ramadan lantern is NIS5 ($1.40), and if I had (the money), food and drink would be the first (items) to buy. We are in a situation that does not allow us and our children even a simple joy.”

Allawi said: “People everywhere are thinking about cooking the best food in Ramadan, and our iftar was beans and some rice on the first day, the same as the day before.”

Adnan Ahmed was forced to borrow money from a friend before Ramadan for shopping and celebrating with his nine-member family.

Adnan, a cleaner in a hospital in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, said that he and many of his acquaintances had to sell their wive’s jewelry to overcome the economic crisis. However, the crisis went on longer than expected and there was nothing left to be sold.

Mohammed Saleh, a cheese seller, complained of customers’ reluctance to buy, despite the cheapness and variety of goods offered, adding that he had been hoping for an economic rebound by the end of Ramadan.

Saleh said: “Although I arrived early on the first day of Ramadan and wanted to offer different types of cheeses, which are usually more popular in Ramadan, this was not enough to attract customers because of the deteriorating economic conditions of most people.”

He added that although many people visited the market, the majority could not afford to buy anything.

It was no different for the seller of sweets and nuts, Mohamed Taha, who confirmed that for the third year in a row, Ramadan was one of the most difficult times for the people of Gaza, because of poverty and unemployment. The situation had deteriorated more with the salary crisis of employees at the Palestinian Authority.

He said that he had been selling in the market for many years, but had not seen a recession like the one that was currently being experienced.
Shopper Hisham Madi complained about the rise in the price of many goods, increasing the burden placed on heads of households this month.

 

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UN Envoy to Mideast Warns of War Between Israel, Hamas
13 May, 2019
Gaza- Asharq Al-Awsat


In this Jan. 15, 2017 file photo, a Palestinian family warm up outside their makeshift house during a power cut in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra, File)



The United Nations envoy to the Mideast says it's the "last chance" to prevent an all-out conflict between Israel and Gaza militants.

Nikolay Mladenov said on Monday that the "risk of war remains imminent," a week after a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers ended the worst fighting since a 2014 war.

The spate of violence killed 25 Palestinians, including 10 militants, and four Israeli civilians.

Mladenov, inaugurating a solar power plant for a Gaza hospital, said parties must "consolidate the understandings" of the ceasefire.

The deal, mediated by Egypt and the UN, promises to let in fuel and humanitarian aid and ease the movement of people from the blockaded territory.

A Qatari cash infusion, meant for thousands of needy families as part of the cease-fire understandings, arrived Monday.

In a related development, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received extra time on Monday to form a new government, Israel's president announced, granting the right-wing leader a two-week extension until May 29.

In office for a decade, Netanyahu won a record fifth term in an April 9 parliamentary election, largely seen as an effective referendum on his leadership since he faces possible indictment in three corruption cases. He denies the charges.

Netanyahu is negotiating terms with nearly all the right-wing, nationalist, and religious parties that form his outgoing government. No party in Israel has ever won an outright majority in the 120-seat Knesset, making coalition governments the norm with political negotiations often dragging on. One issue in the current talks is the Gaza Strip.

Former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party is negotiating with Netanyahu, said on Monday after the extension was announced that talks would continue, but strategy over the Gaza Strip remained a sticking point.

Accusing Netanyahu of appeasing Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers by allowing Qatari donations into the enclave, Lieberman said in public remarks: "On the matter of the Strip I think that our stance is very clear and to my regret the rifts there are still very wide."

Lieberman, whose party has five seats in parliament, said he wanted to be reappointed defense chief. In accordance with Israeli law, Netanyahu received an initial 28-day period to form a government, with a 14-day extension possible and traditionally granted. The initial period ends on Wednesday.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Netanyahu said the prime minister would seek the extra time, citing a heavy schedule that included Jewish holidays, national memorial days and a surge of deadly fighting with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip earlier this month as some of the reasons for the delay.

"Meeting with ... Netanyahu today, who explained the need for additional time to form a government, I acceded to his request and granted an additional 14 days to the time allocated," President Reuven Rivlin wrote on Twitter, setting May 29 as the new deadline.

If Netanyahu fails to put together a coalition by then, Rivlin can ask another member of parliament to try. Benny Gantz, a former military chief whose centrist Blue and White party won 35 seats in the 120-member legislature, would likely be next in line.

Netanyahu's right-wing Likud also captured 35 seats but has more political allies in parliament than does Blue and White, and Rivlin subsequently tapped him to form an administration.

In a letter to Rivlin requesting the extension, Netanyahu wrote that his negotiating team had already made "significant progress" towards forming a government.

Among the most pressing issues awaiting the new government will be US President Donald Trump's plan to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Washington has said it will be unveiled in June. So far prospects for the plan appear dim.

A right-wing coalition in Israel would likely oppose any proposed territorial concessions to the Palestinians, who are boycotting the Trump administration over what they see as its pro-Israel bias.

Netanyahu's desired coalition would also be less likely to pressure him to step down if he is eventually indicted for corruption. The prime minister is under no legal obligation to resign if charges are brought against him.

 

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Nearly 50 Palestinians wounded in 'Catastrophe' anniversary protests on Gaza-Israel border
Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli troops wounded nearly 50 Palestinians at the Gaza border on Wednesday during protests to mark the 71st anniversary of the “Nakba”, or catastrophe, when many Palestinians lost their homes in the fighting around Israel’s creation, Gaza officials said.

Thousands had gathered at the coastal enclave’s frontier with Israel, the scene of bloodshed over the past year that has raised international concern.

Groups approached the border fence, planting Palestinian flags and throwing stones toward Israeli soldiers on the other side despite the efforts of marshalls in orange vests to keep protesters away from the barrier, witnesses said.

Israeli troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to repel them, but also live ammunition, the witnesses said.

The Gaza Health Ministry said at least 47 people were wounded, though it was not clear how many of those were hit by live ammunition or were hurt by rubber bullets or by inhaling tear gas.

The Israeli military said about 10,000 rioters and demonstrators gathered in several places along the Gaza Strip fence.

“The rioters are setting tyres on fire and hurling rocks. A number of explosive devices have been hurled within the Gaza Strip, as well, and a number of attempts have been made to approach the security fence. IDF troops are responding with riot dispersal means.”

Wednesday’s rallies were called to mark Nakba Day, what Palestinians term the catastrophe that befell them at Israel’s creation in 1948, when hundreds of thousands fled or were expelled from lands in what is now Israel.

“Our people rise today to announce their rejection to this crime and to assert their right in Palestine, all of Palestine,” Islamic Jihad leader Khader

Habib said at one demonstration, referring to Israel and the territories it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

“Palestine is ours, the sea is ours, the sky is ours and the land is ours, and those strangers must be removed,” he said.

Another protester, Jamila Mahmoud, 50, said her family had originally come from Asqlan, now the Israeli city of Ashkelon, near Gaza.
“If we don’t return, maybe our children and grandchildren will do, one day we will get our rights back,” Mahmoud said at the border protest site.

Palestinians also held rallies in the occupied West Bank but no major clashes with Israeli forces were immediately reported.

This year’s Nakba protests were preceded by a surge in deadly cross-border fighting between Gaza militants and Israel which ended in a ceasefire on May 6.

Israeli troops have killed more than 200 Palestinians and wounded thousands in regular border protests since March 2018, according to human rights groups. U.N. investigators have said the Israeli military might be guilty of war crimes for using excessive force.

Israel has said it is defending its border against attacks against its troops and infiltration attempts by gunmen.

Israel has rejected a Palestinian right of return as a threat to maintaining a Jewish majority in a country it describes as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Frustration is growing among Palestinians as hopes fade for a two-state solution to the conflict which would give them an independent country. President Donald Trump’s announcement in December 2017 of U.S. recognition of disputed Jerusalem as Israel’s capital also fueled Palestinian anger.


Editing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem and Angus MacSwan


 

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Israeli Security Warns of PA Collapse, Tension in West Bank
15 May, 2019 -


Ramallah - Kifah Zboun

Israeli intelligence said their security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) could deteriorate within three months due to Ramallah’s economic woes.

Intelligence sources have warned Israeli officials of the potential for escalating tensions in the West Bank and the undermining of the PA’s status as a result of the economic crisis.

According to security assessments, the PA will struggle to govern the territories under its control, increasing the likelihood of confrontations of unpredictable intensity between West Bank Palestinians and Israeli forces, Haaretz reported.

The sources added that Israel and other countries must take steps to prevent the PA’s economic collapse.

The coming three months will be the “hardest for the Palestinian nation,” said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who called for “national unity” to face the current financial crisis.

During an Iftar meal on Monday, he stated the PA is dealing with challenges on “several fronts,” most of which are imposed.

He added Israel has been waging a geographic war on Palestinians by confiscating “our lands on a daily basis and has built more than 196 settlements on them, in which 711,000 settlers make up 24 percent of all those living in the West Bank alone.”

It has also been waging a demographic war, which aims to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem using all means, he added.

Shtayyeh explained that there are 112,000 people from Jerusalem who live behind the wall, stressing that Palestinians will remain here and will not leave despite attempts to falsify the history.

In addition to the geographic and demographic wars, the PM said Israel has been waging a financial war against Palestinians as wanted by the United States to extort Palestinians to agree to the Trump administration's so-called “deal of the century” peace deal.

“This US administration and its ally Israel believe that they are defeating us with the financial siege, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington and draining UNRWA's financial resources so we surrender and accept the deal of ‘Shame,’ not knowing that this won’t happen.”

The PA reaches out in national unity to anyone who recognizes the PLO as the only representative of the Palestinian nation and who recognizes PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as the only leader, he stressed.

The PA has been facing a severe financial crisis due to its refusal to receive its tax revenues from Israel after deductions.

Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports, and then it transfers the money to the PA.

In February, it decided to deduct around $10 million a month from those revenues, corresponding to the amount it said the PA paid families of prisoners or directly to inmates serving time in Israeli jails.

Palestinians responded by saying they would refuse any funds from which unilateral deductions had been made.



 

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Palestinian’s suspicious death in Turkey: ‘Those who did this to my brother are not human’

Arab News
May 16, 2019

  • Brother of deceased said Turkish authorities emptied the body of organs
  • Turkish medical report confirms the presence of injuries on the body
DUBAI: Those who defiled the body of his brother are not human, lamented the sibling of a Palestinian who died while in Turkish custody for allegations of espionage.

Those who committed this are not human, Zakariya Mubarak told Al-Arabiya in a live interview.
“The tongue was not inside the body, it was stuffed with cotton,” he said.

Worse, it is now impossible to reinvestigate the stated reasons for Zaki’s death, as the cadaver’s current state makes it hard to perform autopsy again.
“I was just told that it is impossible to rerun the autopsy, as there is nothing inside the body, it was completely emptied,” Zakariya explained.

Turkish authorities have claimed that Zaki died in custody after committing suicide on April 28, but his family believes he died of torture in Turkish prisons. He was earlier detained along with another Palestinian on charges of espionage.

Zakariya told Al-Arabiya that he was shocked when he first saw the body of his brother, as the injuries Zaki suffered made him even unsure if it was him.
“Until his two daughters came and recognized him by the special markings on his body,” he added.

Zakariya described his brother as a trusting person who was betrayed by the same people he trusted.
“Zaki had great trust in the Islamic system in Turkey,” he said.

The man said his brother believed that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was supportive of Palestinians, which encouraged him to enter Turkey with his Palestinian passport.
“He could have entered with the Bulgarian refugee document, it could have protected him from what he went through,” he explained.

Zakariya said his brother was betrayed because he was Palestinian, “as if the Palestinian blood is cheap.”

He said the Palestinian embassy has not provided much help or support, he had to move the body to Egypt on his own.
“We are very grateful to Egypt for providing the moral support, however, what they can do is limited,” Zakariya said.

A physical examination is the solution the deceased’s family decided to follow, as an autopsy would not reveal the cause of death due to the body’s state.
“I am sure we will win in the international courts,” Zakariya said.

Zakariya also claimed the Turkish medical report contradicts itself, and confirms the presence of injuries and wound marks on the body.


 

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Zaki Mubarak’s Family: Turkish Authorities Tortured him before his Death
18 May, 2019


The sister of Zaki Mubarak shows his picture during an interview in their family home in Gaza on April 30. (AFP)

Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat

The family of a Palestinian detainee, who died in custody in Turkey, said his body was badly mutilated before his death.

Zaki Mubarak’s tongue was removed, there were effects of blows to his head, deep cut in his foot and an impact of strikes to his chest.

Mubarak was accused by Ankara of espionage in favor of the United Arab Emirates and was allegedly found hanging in a Turkish prison three weeks ago.

His brother Zinedine Mubarak Abu Sbitan told AFP that the family had received the body in a moldy coffin. The body has been since Monday at Palestine Hospital in Cairo and will be transferred to Gaza to be buried.

Zinedine held Turkish authorities responsible for this crime and demanded an impartial international committee to investigate it, denying all charges against his brother.

Another brother Zakaria, who is in Cairo, said he did not want to return his brother's body to Gaza until "we get a doctor's report showing he died due to torture and not suicide."

He told AFP he had seen the body in a Cairo hospital and confirmed the evidence of torture.

Zaki was arrested last month and charged with "military and political" and "international espionage".

The Istanbul Public Prosecutor's Office revealed that the suspect, who was arrested along with another on April 28, was found hanging in front of the bathroom in his solitary confinement cell at Silivri Penitentiaries Campus.

Turkish newspapers claimed the two men had links with UAE. The media, further, accused a Palestinian leader of spearheading the coup attempt in Turkey in June 2016, but Zaki’s family denied him having any ties with that official.

 

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PA, US Administration Clash over Economic Workshop
22 May, 2019

A Palestinian youth and child at a beach kiosk in Gaza City, Monday, May 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Ramallah - Kifah Zboun

US Peace Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt slammed Tuesday the Palestinian Authority (PA) after Palestinian officials announced they would not participate in the economic workshop in Bahrain.

Dubbed the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop, the gathering will take place on June 25-26 in Manama, during which the administration of US President Donald Trump will unveil the first part of the Deal of the Century, a proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It’s difficult to understand why the Palestinian Authority would reject a workshop designed to discuss a vision with the potential to radically transform lives and put people on a path toward a brighter future,” said Greenblatt.

“History will judge the Palestinian Authority harshly for passing up any opportunity that could give the Palestinians something so very different, and something so very positive, compared to what they have today.”

His comments came in response to PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh’s announcement on Monday that Palestinians and their leaders were not seeking an improvement of living conditions “under the occupation.”

Shtayyeh along with other Palestinian officials said the PA would not participate in the Manama conference for not being consulted.

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat responded to Greenblatt's comments by wondering why he has expressed surprise at the Palestinian position.

“The political aspect of the US deal was implemented by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving the US embassy, dropping the refugee case and the Palestinian people's right to self-determination, closing the PLO's headquarters in Washington and the US consulate in Jerusalem, not to mention cutting aid and considering settlement a legitimate act and approving the annexation of large parts of the West Bank,” he said.

“After all these moves, they come now to strike the deal in order to determine the price to be paid to Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Resurrection,” Erekat stressed, noting that Palestinians will certainly refuse to attend the workshop.

Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa reiterated his country's support for “an independent [Palestinian] state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

He said the conference comes as part of Bahrain’s efforts to help Palestinians boost their resources in order to “fulfill their legitimate aspirations.”


 

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US Calls for Dissolving UNRWA
Wednesday, 22 May, 2019

Asharq Al-Awsat

US adviser Jason Greenblatt called on Wednesday for dissolving the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, saying it has failed the people.

Addressing the UN Security Council, he said UNRWA was a "bandaid" and that it was time to hand over services assured by the UN agency to countries hosting the Palestinian refugees and NGOs.

"The UNRWA model has failed the Palestinian people," Greenblatt told the council.

Last year, President Donald Trump's administration cut all funding to UNRWA, arguing that it was flawed as Washington pressed ahead with work on proposals for an Israeli-Palestinian solution.

Greenblatt, who along with Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner is drafting the peace proposals, said it was time to "start a conversation about planning the transition of UNRWA services to host governments, or to other international or local non-governmental organizations, as appropriate."

Founded in 1949, UNRWA provides education and health services to some five million Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The agency has long been a thorn in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's side and he has called for UNRWA to be shut down, arguing that it is anti-Israeli and perpetuates the refugee problem.

The United States will hold a conference in Bahrain on June 25-26 focused on the economic aspects of the peace plan that Greenblatt said has the "potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinians."

The Palestinians have rejected the US peace plan and cut off contacts with the Trump administration after it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, ignoring Palestinian aspirations for a future state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Greenblatt pressed the US argument that the peace plan could bring prosperity to the Palestinians.

UNRWA chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl told the council by video-conference from Gaza that the agency had managed to plug a $446 million deficit last year through budget cuts and new donor contributions.

"At a time when Palestine refugees face a near complete absence of a political horizon, I am strongly convinced that preserving UNRWA's services is a crucial contribution in terms of human dignity and regional stability," said Kraehenbuehl.

France echoed that stance and warned that a failure to support Palestinian refugees would turn camps into prime recruitment ground for terrorist groups in the region.


 

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