Sunday, October 21, 2018 Last Update: 11:31 PM GMT

UNRWA Will Continue to Provide Services in Occupied Jerusalem

UNRWA has been helping Palestinian refugees since 1949. (Photo: via Facebook)

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) dismissed, on Thursday, threats by the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, to close down its operations in occupied East Jerusalem.

In early October, Nir Barkat announced that he plans to remove the UN agency for Palestinian refugees from occupied East Jerusalem, which he accused of “operating illegally and promoting incitement against Israel.”

Barkat also said that schools, clinics, and sports centers, among other services operated by the UNRWA in East Jerusalem, will be transferred to the Israeli authorities.

UNRWA spokesperson, Sami Mshasha, said that,

“While these threats are worrying, they will not change facts on the ground since UNRWA exists based on international resolutions and binding bilateral agreements.”

Mshasha added that,

“UNRWA is going to continue with its mandate in East Jerusalem and anywhere else where it operates and will provide these services to Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem regardless of Barkat’s threats.”

He added that the threats are nothing new to the agency.

UNRWA currently provides services to some 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the occupied Palestinian territories, and the besieged Gaza Strip.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

Israel Limits Palestinian Access to Farmland (VIDEO)

Jewish settlers constantly harass Palestinian farmers and residents in the village, in an attempt to force them out of their lands. (Photo: via Twitter)

West Bank farmers seeking access to their farmland located behind Israel’s illegal Separation Wall are facing intimidation and further access restrictions by Israeli occupation forces.

One eyewitness said:

“When you go to that gate, there is a group of Israeli soldiers and the settlement guards. They keep people’s ID cards when they enter and hand it back to them on their way out.”

Farmers are forced in the system of so-called “prior coordination” ahead of the olive harvest, meaning that they seek approval from the Israeli occupation authorities in order to access their farmland which is surrounded by illegal settlements or which is located behind the illegal Separation Wall.

As a result of restrictions to access, farmers arrive at the Wall’s gates in the early hours of the morning and wait until occupation forces come to open them. The situation is worse when farmers try to return to their homes, the eyewitness told MEMO,

“Farmers wait there at 4 pm to leave, tired after a long walk and a long day working when I was there the army opened the gate for them at 5:30 pm”.

Salfit is surrounded by one of the largest illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank, Ariel, which is home to 41,000 settlers. The Palestinian town is home to 74,000 people.

The olive harvest season runs from mid-October to mid-November, some 100,000 families are said to rely on olives and olive oil as main sources of income.

Earlier this month settlers were filmed stealing olives from Palestinian trees near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

According to Israeli human rights, NGO Yesh Din incidents like these are repeated every year. Last year thousands of kilograms of olive crops were stolen by settlers in the Nablus area, the group said.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

New York Gala Raises $32m for Israeli Army

Israeli soldiers beating a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

A New York City gala held by the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) yesterday evening raised $32 million for members of Israel’s occupation forces.

The event was attended by 1,200 US business people, as well as key figures from the Israeli establishment, including Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon and Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan. Army Chief of the General Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, was also slated to attend but was called back to Israel amid an escalation of Israeli air strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip yesterday.

Among the biggest donors to the gala were Or Lachayal – an organization which works to “strengthen the Jewish identity of the Israeli army” – which pledged $2.5 million and Nefesh B’Nefesh – which promotes Jewish immigration to Israel – which pledged $1.3 million, Arutz Sheva reported.

FIDF has a long history of fundraising for Israel’s occupation forces, the proceeds of which it then spends on “educational, cultural, recreational, and social services” for Israeli soldiers. It operates 20 offices across the United States and Panama, according to its own website.

Support for the army from US organizations and the US government has been a cornerstone of Israel’s ability to continue its now 50-year-old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Earlier this month the largest ever US military aid package to Israel – worth $38 billion over a ten year period – entered into force.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Theresa May Condemns Israel’s Planned Demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar (VIDEO)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May. (Photo: FIle)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has condemned Israeli authorities’ planned demolition of Palestinian village Khan Al-Ahmar, reported the Jewish Chronicle.

The issue was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday by Scottish Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, who told the House of Commons that the “forcible removal” of those deemed a protected people by the United Nations would “constitute a war crime”.

In response, the prime minister said:

“I once again call on the Israeli government not to go ahead with the demolition of the village, including its school, and displacing its residents.”

May confirmed that Alistair Burt, the minister for the Middle East, had met with the Israeli ambassador to discuss the issue on October 11.

May has described Israel’s planned demolition of the community in the occupied West Bank as a “major blow for the prospects of a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital”.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda yesterday warned Israel that the demolition of Khan Al-Ahmar would constitute a war crime.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

ICC Prosecutor: Displacement of Occupied Population Constitutes War Crime

Tensions heightened in Khan al-Ahmar, as Israeli forces entered the village with bulldozers. (Photo: via ActiveStills.org)

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, warned, on Wednesday, that transfer of population in an occupied territory constitutes a war crime.

Bensouda said in a statement regarding the situation in Palestine:

“I have been following with concern the planned eviction of the Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar, in the West Bank. Evacuation by force now appears imminent and with it the prospects for further escalation and violence … It bears recalling, as a general matter, that extensive destruction of property without military necessity and population transfers in an occupied territory constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute.”

Bensouda said she was also alarmed by the continued violence at the Gaza border with Israel, revealed that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories remains under preliminary examination by her office.

She concluded,

“I continue to keep a close eye on the developments on the ground and will not hesitate to take any appropriate action, within the confines of the independent and impartial exercise of my mandate under the Rome Statute, with full respect for the principle of complementarity.”

The Israeli High Court had approved the demolition of the Khan al-Ahmar village, east of Jerusalem, which would displace 181 residents, half of whom are children, as part of an Israeli settlement expansion plan.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)

Study: Polluted Water Main Cause of Death in Gaza

Polluted water is the leading cause of child mortality in Gaza. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

More than a quarter of illnesses in Gaza are caused by water pollution, a new study has said, noting that this is the main cause of mortality in the coastal enclave that has endured an Israeli siege since 2007.

The study, which the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a copy of, was carried out by RAND Corporation, an American NGO. It said that it reached these findings four years ago and that “since that time these numbers have continued to grow”.

Based on the report, Haaretz said that the collapse of water infrastructure has led to a sharp rise in germs and viruses such as rotavirus, cholera, and salmonella.

The report said the situation is worsening due to repeated Israeli operations in Gaza which started in 2008.

Haaretz reported:

“Today, 97 percent of drinking water in the Strip is not drinkable by any recognized international standard.”

The Israeli newspaper continued:

“Some 90 percent of residents drink water from private purifiers because the larger installations have been damaged by fighting or have fallen into disuse since they couldn’t be maintained.”

The study concluded that the current situation is that “Gaza is incapable of supplying enough water for its 2 million inhabitants”.

“Gaza schools have one toilet per 75 pupils and one sink for washing hands per 80. Most of this water is either recycled or from a reservoir. As a result, the very presence of children in these schools puts them at risk of contracting gastrointestinal diseases.”

It also said:

“Schools, public buildings and hospitals are only cleaned when necessary in order to conserve water. Hospital staff only wash their hands when it’s essential and not on a regular basis when going from one patient to another, in order to conserve the water for life-saving treatment.”

The study said that the average cost of water use per capita in the West is 0.7 percent of monthly wages, but in Gaza a third of monthly wages goes toward the purchase of water, pointing out that the high rate of unemployment makes many people unable to buy clean water.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

UN Allows Palestinians to Act More like Full Member in 2019

UN General Assembly holds the 37th plenary meeting of the tenth emergency special session on Dec 21 2017. (Photo: Atılgan Özdil, Anadolu Agency, via MEMO)

The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday allowed the Palestinians to act more like a full U.N. member state during meetings in 2019 when they will chair the group of 77 developing nations.

The United States, Israel, and Australia voted against the move, which won 146 votes in favor. There were 15 abstentions and 29 countries didn’t vote.

The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally.

In 2012, the U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine when it upgraded the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. observer status to non-member state from entity.

The status upgrade has allowed them to participate in some General Assembly votes and join some international bodies. However, as a non-member state the Palestinians cannot speak in meetings until after member states, diplomats said.

The Egyptian-drafted resolution allows them to procedurally operate like a member state when acting on behalf of the G77 and China – making statements, submitting and co-sponsoring proposals and amendments, giving rights of reply and raising points of order.

(Reuters, PC, Social Media)

One Palestinian Killed as Israeli Jets Pound Gaza (VIDEO)

Israeli airstrike on Gaza. (Photo: via Twitter)

Israel says its fighter jets have struck 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and injuring eight others.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Naji Ahmad al-Zaneen, 25, was killed in the attack in northern Gaza early on Wednesday.

Among the wounded are six children who were on their way to school in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Palestinian sources said several rockets fired by Israeli warplanes targeted sites south of Gaza City, while another blast rocked the central region of the Gaza Strip. A powerful explosion also rocked Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Israeli army stated that it carried out air raids in response to a rocket that hit a home in Beersheba in southern Israel, causing damage but no injuries.

In a joint statement with allied armed groups, Hamas said it rejected “all irresponsible attempts” to undermine Egyptian efforts to broker a new long-term truce.

(AJE, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Policewoman ‘Shot Palestinian for Fun’, Court Hears

Israeli border policewomen at a checkpoint. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

An Israeli policewoman is suspected of shooting an unarmed Palestinian “for fun” while on duty near a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.

The 20-year-old policewoman was arrested yesterday and appeared before Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court in a bail hearing. The court heard that the policewoman allegedly shot an unarmed Palestinian in the back with a sponge-tipped bullet “without any operational reason”, leaving him seriously wounded.

The court’s judge, Elad Persky, said the policewoman seemed to have shot the Palestinian “as a dubious form of entertainment”, before ordering that she be held for another three days.

The attack is believed to have occurred in May, while the policewoman was on duty near the Al-Za’im checkpoint, situated near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim in the occupied West Bank. However, Israel’s Justice Ministry only learned of the incident recently “while investigating another case in which members of the Border Police allegedly beat a Palestinian for no reason”, Haaretz reported.

The 20-year-old is now being “questioned on suspicion of assault and battery, [as well as] obstructing justice, since she allegedly told her friend—an IDF soldier who knew about the investigation and was summoned by the Police Investigation Unit to testify—she did not know anything about the incident,” according to Ynet.

Four other members of Israel’s Border Police – who are believed to have witnessed and filmed the shooting – were arrested alongside the woman in question. The four were released “with restrictions”, Haaretz added.

The policewoman’s attorney, Itzik Cohen, denied the charges against his client, saying:

“The policewoman categorically denies that she fired a sponge-tipped bullet at the Palestinian man. Needless to say that the defendant’s face does not appear in the video obtained by the Police Investigation Unit, and nor does her voice”.

Israeli violence against Palestinians while on duty is commonplace. According to Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 2017 report,

“Israeli security forces fatally shot 42 Palestinians and wounded at least 3,279, including passersby, demonstrators and those suspected of attacking Israelis”.

HRW adds that:

“In many cases, video footage and witness accounts strongly suggest that [Israeli] forces used excessive force”.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel Continues Airstrikes over Gaza

Amnesty: the use of force by Israeli military against protestors in Gaza is a war crime. (Photo: via AA)

An Israeli warplane carried out an airstrike, on Tuesday, targeting a group of Palestinians east of Beit Hanoun in the southern besieged Gaza Strip.

A Ma’an reporter said that an Israeli warplane fired one missile towards a group of Palestinian youths in northern Gaza; no injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, locals reported that Israeli military bulldozers entered dozens of meters into the south of Gaza City, razed and leveled lands.

A Ma’an reporter said that four Israeli bulldozers entered near the return camps, while drones flew overhead.

Israeli military incursions inside the besieged Gaza Strip and near the “buffer zone,” which lies on both land and sea sides of Gaza, have long been a near-daily occurrence.

(Ma’an, PC, Social Media)