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Zuma, Abbas Sign Bilateral Agreements

President Jacob Zuma and Mahmoud Abbas meet for bilateral talks. (Photo: Veooz)

President Jacob Zuma today held private meetings with PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas, in Pretoria, South Africa. Zuma has joined world leaders in condemning Israel for defying calls to cease building new settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

President Zuma pledged South Africa’s support for a two-state solution to the Middle East crisis.

“The only way to everlasting peace lies in frank and genuine negotiations between Palestinians and the state of Israel with the two-state solution being the ultimate goal,” he said, adding that “South Africa is ready to assist with this process.”

Zuma expressed his opposition to the Israeli control of the occupied Palestinian lands stating that he and Abbas had reached an agreement that “the continuing building of settlements in occupied Palestinian lands is undermining prospects for a two-state solution as envisaged by the United Nations and the international community”.

Zuma has appointed former minister, Dr. Zola Skweyiya, and former deputy minister, Dr. Aziz Pahad, to engage on this matter with the state of Palestine and other relevant stakeholders in the Middle East region and the international community.

Both presidents agreed on ways to strengthen bilateral ties between South Africa and Palestine, and discussed how South Africa can continue its legacy of support for the struggle of the Palestinian people.



Abbas – Israeli Occupation a Hindrance to PA Hosting Refugees

Abbas blames Israel for not being allowed to host refugees. (Photo: Via Ma'an)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech on Tuesday morning that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would be ready to host thousands of refugees that have been displaced by violence in Syria and across the region, were it not for Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory.

In a speech at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, regarding the humanitarian situation in Palestine, Abbas maintained that the Palestinian people “will not accept to continue living under an occupation that despises their freedom, humanity, dignity, and basic rights.”

The Palestinian president also reiterated that the PA would continue to support the French initiative to organize an international peace summit to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his own rejection of the same initiative.

All past efforts towards peace negotiations have failed to end the decades-long Israeli military occupation or bring Palestinians closer to an independent contiguous state.



‘Subcontractors to the Occupation': B’Tselem Refuses to be Complicit in Israeli Violence

Israeli violence against Palestinians has been whitewashed. (Photo: Palestine News)

Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, announced on Wednesday that it will no longer continue their strategy of holding Israeli forces accountable for their crimes against Palestinians through internal military mechanisms.

B’Tselem focuses on collecting information and documenting Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. However, after 25 years of their work they have stated their refusal to be complicit in Israel’s military mechanisms.

The organisation has stated in a press briefing on Tuesday that Israel’s actions are “morally unacceptable”.

According to a new report released by the organization, Israeli military mechanisms fail to provide justice for Palestinian victims. Field Researcher for B’Tselem, Iyad Haddad, told Ma’an on Tuesday that it feels it has allowed the continuation of the nearly 50-year Israeli military occupation of the West Bank.

He added, “We provide them with all of our evidence, but we feel sometimes that they use the evidence and testimonies that we provide them to find a contradiction, not to find justice,” Haddad lamented. “Why should we give the Israeli investigators a gun with which to shoot the victims again?”

Since the start of the second intifada in late 2000, of the 739 complaints filed by B’Tselem of Palestinians being killed, injured, used as human shields, or having their property damaged by Israeli forces, roughly 70 percent saw no action being, or in an investigation never being opened.

According to the report, only three percent of cases resulted in charges being brought against the soldiers, according to the report.

“We became subcontractors to the occupation,” Yael Stein, a research director of B’Tselem, said, adding that the organization’s accountability work served to “legitimize the whole occupation.”



Israeli Report: Abbas Fearful of Dahlan’s Relationship with Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman (L) will endeavor to create the appropriate conditions for the return of his friend Mohammad Dahlan. (Photo: File)

Right-wing Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman will endeavor to create the appropriate conditions for the return of his friend, former Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan, as head of the Palestinian Authority, Israeli media sources have said.

Channel 10’s Arab affairs commentator, Zvi Yehezkeli, said there are reasons “to justify the rise in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ blood pressure. He is well aware of the special relationship between his mortal enemy Dahlan and the new defense minister in Israel.”

In a report aired by the channel on Sunday, Yehezkeli pointed out that Lieberman “greatly improves Dahlan’s prospects of returning to the internal Palestinian arena. Credit for bolstering the relationship between the two men goes to the role played by their mutual friend, billionaire Swiss Jewish businessman Martin Schlaff.”

He explained that what improves Dahlan’s chances is the special relationship he has with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi in addition to his position as adviser to the ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

Lieberman has openly expressed his plan to get rid of Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip. He is also interested in imposing an international mandate over the Strip before handing it over to a Palestinian or Arab party.

In an article published by Haaretz, former Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens called for seeking Egypt’s assistance in finding an Arab or Palestinian party to take charge of matters in the Gaza Strip once Hamas is toppled.



Palestinian Authority Rebuffs Netanyahu Call for ‘Dialogue’ with Abbas

Rami Hamdallah.(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday rebuffed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest call for direct talks, opting instead to join a French-led multilateral peace initiative.

According to an AFP report, Hamdallah said, “Netanyahu is trying to buy time… but this time he will not escape the international community.”

Hamdallah made the remark during a meeting in Ramallah with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is in the region this week to promote the French peace initiative.

The initiative which is opposed by Israel calls for a multilateral international conference later this year to jump-start peace talks. If the initiative fails, France has said it will recognize a Palestinian state.



Qatar Tells Forum, End Israel’s Occupation of Palestine

Qatar Minister of Foreign Affairs underlined that Qatar sticks to the need for the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, especially through mediation. (Photo: Doha Forum)

The 16th Doha Forum organized by Qatar’s foreign ministry, was attended by heads of state from South Africa, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mauritius, and Niger, as well as Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.

The foreign minister of Qatar, SheikhMohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani , stressed the need to support human rights and increase security for the people of the Middle East and around the world.

In a speech he said: “Repression, tyranny, double standards and violating human rights and basic freedoms constitute the underlying threats to elements of human security.”

Sheikh Mohammed stressed that achieving peace within the Middle East is directly linked to ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.

He also made it clear that the main foreign policy instrument of his country is the soft diplomacy of “mediation” efforts, while at the same time “discouraging the use of force to resolve disputes”.

Many Arab leaders and governments have come to view Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its behaviour towards the Palestinians as strictly an Israeli-Palestinian problem, not an Arab one.

It is for this reason that Qatar’s official foreign policy towards the occupation and the plight of Palestinians sets it apart from the majority of the Arab world.



Israeli Minister Orders Bodies of Palestinians to Be Withheld

Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister of Public Security, announced that Palestinian bodies of those killed by Israeli forces will not be returned. (Ma'an)

Palestinian bodies of those killed by Israeli forces will not be returned, announced Gilad Erdan, Israeli Minister of Public Security.

Luba al-Samri, an Israeli police spokeswoman reported on Tuesday that Erdan watched footage of the funeral of Alaa Abu Jamal in occupied East Jerusalem, which caused his “anger, disapproval and condemnation.”

Abu Jamal, 22, was killed by Israeli police on October. His body was released for burial after more than seven months on Tuesday. His family was required to pay a 40,000 shekel ($10,353.30) deposit and only 40 people attend the funeral.

However, Abu Jaml’s body was held back for almost two hours due to the large number of people around the cemetery, despite heavy deployment of Israeli security forces.

Palestinian bystanders chanted “God is great,” and “with our souls, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for you, martyr.”

Erdan accused the crowd of “incitement,” calling the scene “inadmissible by all standards and measurements everywhere, the more so in the capital Jerusalem.”

Israel currently holds the bodies of at least a dozen Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since October.

Although Addameer and the Israeli minority rights group, Adalah, condemned Israel’s practice of withholding bodies as “a severe violation of international humanitarian law as well as international human rights law, including violations of the right to dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to practice culture,” Israel continues with this practice.



Israeli Organisation Exposes Indiscriminate Warfare During Gaza War

Soldiers tell Breaking the Silence how they fired randomly at Palestinian homes.  (Photo:, Flicker)

Breaking the Silence is an Israeli organization that publishes anonymous testimony from soldiers regarding the use of excessive force against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The organization appeared in court on Sunday to counter the state of Israel’s demand by its prosecutor that the group reveal its sources.

Breaking the Silence comprises of current and former soldiers who released an enlightening report last year on the 2014 Gaza war that included anonymous testimony suggesting that indiscriminate artillery fire contributed to large-scale destruction and a high number of civilian casualties in the area.

The organisation which is funded by foreign donors has been branded as traitors by many Israeli leaders.

Michael Sfard, a lawyer representing Breaking the Silence, told the judge on Sunday that the group would be destroyed if it broke promises and exposed soldiers who provided testimony, arguing that these testimonials work in the interests of the public by exposing ordinary Israelis to the actions of their forces in the field.

Israel’s state attorney is seeking a court order to force the group to reveal names of soldiers whose testimonies appear in the Gaza report.

The hearing on whether to compel the group to reveal its sources will continue in July.

The Breaking the Silence website contains dozens of videotaped interviews with soldiers remaining anonymous, in which, for example a young tank gunner describes how his commander told them to fire at random buildings during the Gaza war.

While Israeli officials denied that such acts were committed, Breaking the Silence activists say that all of their reports are reviewed by the military censor before release.



Stand up for Freedom: Message from Mohammed Al-Qeeq

Cartoon depicting  Mohammed al-Qeq in his hospital bed. (Image: Mohammed Sabaaneh)

Mohammed Al-Qeeq, the 33-year-old Palestinian journalist who waged a 94-day hunger strike while in Israeli custody was finally released last week. His message to his fellow prisoners is: stand up to Israel’s unjust detention policies.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency he referred to his imprisonment as, “a bitter experience, but it taught me to stand up for my rights and my freedom in the face of the [Israeli] occupation.”

He added, “Our hunger-strikes have broken Israel’s arrogance and shown that a belief in the justice of our cause will ultimately lead to victory.”

Al-Qeeq said that Palestinian prisoners would continue to resist until they received their legitimate rights and that “the Israeli occupation tried – in every way – to break my hunger-strike, but it failed to do so.”

He went on to commend the role of the Palestinian people in supporting him during his months-long hunger-strike.

“Popular solidarity played a significant role in making the Israeli authorities sign the deal [for my release],” he said.

Al Qeeq asserted that “Israel has raided TV channels and arrested dozens of reporters — but it will never silence Palestinian journalists,” Al-Qeeq said.



Israel Interrogates 2 Palestinian Children for Alleged Stone Throwing – for 6 Hours

Two Palestinian children were detained for six and a half hours for allegedly throwing stones at settlers. (Photo: Via Ma'an)

Two Palestinian children were detained for six and a half hours for allegedly throwing stones at settlers in the village of al-Tur in occupied East Jerusalem,

Muhammad Samih Ulayan, 10, and Mustafa Abu al-Hawa, 12, were arrested by Israeli forces while walking in al-Tur, before being transported to a nearby illegal Israeli settlement, then to the al-Tur police station and finally to the Salah al-Din police station. Here they were interrogated for six and a half hours, as reported by the Wadi Hilweh Information Center.

The center added that the Israeli police interrogated the children without a guardian present. It added that Abu al-Hawa was put under house arrest for five days and fined 500 shekels following his release.

In July, legislation was passed in the Israeli Knesset allowing sentencing for up to 20 years for someone convicted of throwing stones at vehicles, with the possibility of receiving a 20-year sentence if intent can be proven. However, the law allows the Israeli state to imprison someone for up to 10 years without proof of intent.

In November, Israel established legislation sentencing Palestinians to a minimum of three years in prison for the act of throwing a stone at an Israeli.

Hundreds of alleged stone-throwers are detained every year by Israel police very year, and Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported that from 2005 to 2010, “93 percent of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months.”


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