Monday, March 08, 2021 Last Update: 9:35 PM GMT

Abbas Battles Growing Discord in Fatah Party ahead of Palestinian Elections

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo: Mahmoud Abbas Facebook Page)

Facing elections for the first time in 15 years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is battling a growing rift within his powerful Fatah party that poses a new threat to his dominance over Palestinian politics, reports Reuters.

A breakaway bid by one of Abbas’s party allies has intensified speculation he might cancel a presidential vote planned for July, fearing a potential challenge by Marwan Barghouti, a popular Palestinian leader detained by Israel.

Abbas’s office denies he has plans to delay or scrub the presidential vote.

Barghouti, now 61, was a driving force in Palestinians’ 2000-2005 uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. He was sentenced by an Israeli court in 2004 to life imprisonment after being convicted of multiple lethal attacks on Israelis by Palestinian militants. Barghouti has always denied the charges.

Abbas, 85, has ruled the Palestinian Authority (PA) in self-rule areas of the West Bank by decree for over a decade. In January, he announced presidential and legislative ballots – a move largely seen as a response to domestic and Western criticism of his presidency’s democratic legitimacy.

Barghouti has not said if he will join the list or run on the presidential ballot. He and his lawyer declined a request to interview him. But opinion polls suggest he would win comfortably against Abbas and leaders from Hamas, the Islamist movement that seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007.

Aides to Abbas point to the split with Hamas as having contributed to the long delay in holding new elections.

The Palestinians’ last parliamentary ballot, in 2006, resulted in a surprise victory by Fatah’s main rival Hamas. That created a rift that deepened when the group wrested military control of Gaza from the Fatah-led PA two years after Israel withdrew settlers and soldiers from the territory.

The elections are part of a broader push for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, seen as vital to building broad popular support for any future statehood talks with Israel, frozen since 2014.

Party lists for the legislative ballot are due by March 20.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Three Fishermen Killed in Southern Gaza (EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS)

Three Palestinian fishermen were killed on Sunday morning while fishing in an area adjacent to the town of Khan Younes. (Photo: The Palestine Chronicle, Supplied)

Three Palestinian fishermen were killed on Sunday morning while fishing in an area adjacent to the town of Khan Younes, in the southern Gaza Strip, Wafaa Aludaini, Palestine Chronicle correspondent from the Gaza Strip, reported.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted Nizar Ayash, the head of the Fishermen Union in the Strip, confirming the death of the three fishermen.

They have been identified as Yahya Mustafa al-Laham, Hamdi Hijazi al-Laham, Zakarya Hijazi al-Laham. 

The agency also reported that a committee, which documents Israeli human rights violations in Gaza, confirmed that the three fishermen were killed as a result of Israeli shelling. 

The spokesman for the Israeli army, however, claimed that “our forces did not carry out any attacks near the Gaza coast.”

More updates on the story to follow. 

(All Photos: The Palestine Chronicle)

(Ma’an, The Palestine Chronicle)

Blinken Criticized for Opposition to ICC Investigation into Israeli War Crimes

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) Meets with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (Photo: Ron Przysucha, via US State Department Website)

This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was met with criticism for his opposition to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) announcement of its investigation into Israeli war crimes.

“The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter. Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the Court’s jurisdiction, and we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” read a press statement issued by Blinken’s office on the matter, which was titled: “The United States Opposes the ICC Investigation into the Palestinian Situation.”

Civil rights groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), denounced the secretary’s statement, noting that the investigation was for war crimes in illegally occupied territories. They also took issue with Blinken’s characterization of Israel’s occupation as the “Palestine situation.”

After a five-year initial investigation, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated on Wednesday that the court has jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territories and would open an investigation.

Even US Vice President Kamala Harris, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, reaffirmed Washington’s opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe of possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Palestine was accepted into the United Nations General Assembly as a non-member observer state in 2015. That same year, it joined the ICC, which has jurisdiction over its 123 signatory countries, which do not include Israel and the United States. On February 5, the ICC concluded that they had jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories.

(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)

86% of Asylum Seekers in Israel Suffer Food Insecurity

African asylum seekers take part in a protest in Tel Aviv in 2014. (Photo: Oren Ziv, via Activestills.org)

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed asylum seekers in south Tel Aviv into “genuine hunger,” an official survey found, as experts said there is a “severe humanitarian crisis”.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz on Friday, unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic had driven 86% of asylum seekers into “genuine hunger”, which matches the descriptions of both the asylum seekers themselves and aid organizations.

The findings of the survey were shown to senior officials from the health, education, justice, and social affairs ministries as well as the Tel Aviv municipality.

“In any other population group, findings like these would spark an emergency campaign by government agencies,” a government official said.

According to Haaretz, the Justice Ministry said it was “aware of and troubled by” the asylum seekers’ situation and is “making every effort to help them.”

The Health Ministry also said a professional committee was discussing possible solutions and that the government was committed to helping, “within the existing budgetary limitations.”

The Tel Aviv municipality said it had launched an emergency fund and solicited donations to finance food vouchers, food packages, and would continue to try “to find solutions that could ease the foreign community’s situation.”

Some 40,000 people with no legal status in Israel live in Tel Aviv. Of these, around 6,500 are minors. The number of people seeking help from Mesila, an aid agency in Israel, has doubled.

Since the pandemic began, Mesila has distributed over 10,000 food vouchers and 3,750 food packages, but these are far from meeting the needs.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Prison Service Imposes Punitive Measures against Palestinian Detainees

The Israeli Ofer military prison. (Photo: Oren Ziv, via Activestills.org)

Israeli Prison Service (IPS) at Ofer prison threatened today to intensify its punitive measures against Palestinian prisoners, which would aggravate the already poor health conditions in Israeli prisons amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) reported that Palestinian prisoners in Ofer threatened to consider a set of measures starting next week in protest of IPS’ escalated measures against them – which could amount to launching a gradual hunger strike – after talks with the Israel Prison Service have failed to meet their key demands.

Prisoners are protesting a recent surge in maltreatment and suppression by IPS, including the escalated provocative searches and repeated raids on prisoners’ rooms; as well as transfers of prisoners from one prison to another.

Prisoners have complained that the prison service has been cutting off the water to their cells and depriving them of essential hygiene and cleaning materials amidst the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Around 5,000 Palestinians, including numerous women and children, are currently detained in
Israeli prisons.

(PC, WAFA, Social Media)

Report: Israel Deported 29 Palestinians from Jerusalem, Demolished 20 Facilities in February

The occupation forces storm the neighborhood of Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem at dawn. (Photo: via Twitter)

Israeli authorities deported 29 Palestinians from the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the occupied city of Jerusalem in February, Wadi Hilweh Information Centre announced yesterday.

“The Israeli decisions included preventing 27 Palestinians from entering Al-Aqsa and another from entering Jerusalem for allegedly residing illegally in the city, despite the fact that he was born and raised in the city,” the organization said in its monthly report which monitors Israeli violations in Jerusalem. It added that the deported local had applied for “family unification requests multiple times to no avail.”

The report added that Israeli forces had demolished “20 facilities in Jerusalem, eight of which were self-demolished [by Palestinians] following a decision by the occupation’s municipality,” adding that the buildings were located in “Silwan, Tire Baher, Sheikh Jarrah, Jabal Al Mukaber and Anata” neighborhoods.

“Some 1,987 settlers and Jewish students stormed Al-Aqsa last month during their Purim Masquerade celebrations,” Wadi Hilweh said, noting that the raiders had “deliberately performed prayers in the vicinity of the holy mosque.”

Occupation forces, it noted, had continued excavation work in Al-Buraq Square and the Al-Mughrabi Gate near the Western Wall of the mosque.

“On Fridays, the Israeli forces continued arresting and deporting Palestinians from the West Bank, preventing them from performing Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa, deporting them by special buses to the military checkpoints at the entrances to the city, and detaining them for several hours,” the local center said.

The report added that Israeli forces had, on three consecutive occasions, attacked the monastery of the Roman Church in Jerusalem, by “setting fire to its door.”

The information center also registered a total of 135 arrests in Jerusalem in February, including 39 minors and 11 females.

“The arrests took place in the towns of Issawiya and At-Tur, as well as the Al-Aqsa surrounding roads,” the center said.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Kamala Harris Assures Netanyahu of US Opposition to ICC Investigation

US Vice President Kamala Harris calls Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Kamala Harris Twitter Page)

US Vice President Kamala Harris, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, reaffirmed Washington’s opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) probe of possible war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, Reuters reported the White House saying.

The call, the first between the two since Harris and President Joe Biden took office in January, came a day after the ICC prosecutor said she would launch the probe, prompting swift rejections by the US and Israel.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who will be replaced by British prosecutor Karim Khan on 16 June, said in December 2019 that war crimes had been or were being committed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She named both the Israeli army and armed Palestinian groups as possible perpetrators.

Harris and Netanyahu noted their governments’ “opposition to the International Criminal Court’s attempts to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel,” the White House said.

The two agreed to continue to cooperate on regional security issues, specifically Iran’s nuclear program and “dangerous” behavior, the White House statement said.

Harris “emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” the statement added.

Biden’s bid to revive a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers sets him and Netanyahu on a potential collision course. The Israeli prime minister opposed the nuclear deal and applauded former President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon it in 2018.

Harris also congratulated Netanyahu on Israel’s coronavirus vaccine program and they agreed to increase cooperation on the coronavirus, water, green energy, and other initiatives, the White House said.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Navy Targets Palestinian Fishermen Offshore Gaza, Injures Two

The Israeli army regularly detains and opens fire on unarmed Palestinian fishermen. (Photo: Fawzi Mahmoud, The Palestine Chronicle)

Israeli navy today targeted Palestinian fishermen offshore Beit Lahia town in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring two fishermen, according to the news agency WAFA.

The fishermen were sailing only three nautical miles offshore the area when Israeli naval boats opened gunfire towards them, injuring two.

The casualties were rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, east of the town, where medics described their condition as light and moderate.

Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.

Two million Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing and crippling Israeli blockade for 12 years and repeated onslaughts that have heavily damaged much of the enclave’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s 2-million population remains under “remote control” occupation and a strict siege, which has destroyed the local economy, strangled Palestinian livelihoods, plunged them into unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty, and cut off from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider world.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)

VIDEO: Israeli Forces Tear down Tent in East Jerusalem

Israeli forces tear down a tent, which was set up by members of the Elian family. (Photo: Video Grab)

Israeli occupation forces today tore down a tent, which was set up two weeks ago by members of the Elian family on the rubble of their home, which was demolished by the Israeli municipality in the occupied Jerusalem neighborhood of al-Isawiya.

Staff from the Israeli municipality of West Jerusalem accompanied by a police escort broke into the tent, cordoned off the area, asked its residents to leave, and proceeded to tear it down.

The family had set up the tent as a temporary shelter on the rubble of their demolished home.

Israel denies permits for Palestinians to build on their own land or to expand existing houses to accommodate natural growth, particularly in Jerusalem and Area C, which constitutes 60 percent of the occupied West Bank and falls under full Israeli military rule, forcing residents to build without obtaining rarely-granted permits to provide shelters for their families.

On the other hand, Israel builds thousands of housing units for Israeli-only illegal settlements spread throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)

Netanyahu Calls ICC Decision to Open Investigation ‘Outrageous’ (VIDEO)

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. (Photo: UN Website)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today condemned as “outrageous” a decision by the International Criminal Court prosecutor to formally investigate alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“I am going to fight this in every place,” he told Fox News.

Yesterday ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office will open a formal investigation into war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories which will examine both sides in the conflict.

“The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years,” the outgoing official said in a statement.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the prosecutor’s investigation.

It is “a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve”, the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.

While the US said it “firmly” opposes and is “disappointed” by the ICC’s announcement.

“We will continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, including by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a news conference.

Both Israel and the US do not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)