Monday, May 27, 2019 Last Update: 6:49 PM GMT

Reporters Without Borders: Israel Shot Journalists Intentionally

Yasser Murtaja was one of the journalists shot dead by Israeli forces while covering the Great March of Return. (Photo: via Facebook)

The director-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said yesterday that the Israeli army had deliberately targeted journalists in the occupied Gaza Strip.

Christophe Deloire was speaking to the Jerusalem Post, having received the Dan David Prize in Tel Aviv on behalf of the international press freedoms watchdog.

Deloire told the paper:

“It is a war crime to target journalists because they are journalists. When Israel shot those journalists [during the Great Return March protests], it was intentional.”

He added:

“The journalists could be clearly identified as journalists, with cameras and jackets and it could not be just by chance.”

Referring to the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry into the Gaza protests, Deloire pointed out that the report “confirmed what we already considered a fact”.

According to the Jerusalem Post, last week RSF formally asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate suspected war crimes by the Israeli military against Palestinian journalists covering protests in Gaza since March 30, 2018.

The RSF chief also had a warning for Israelis about deteriorating press freedoms at home.

Deloire told the paper, a reference to Likud election posters:

“I am sure it does not happen in many countries that you have billboards with faces of journalists mentioning that they will not decide.”

Deloire also criticized the prohibition on Israeli journalists entering the Gaza Strip.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Palestine Refuses to Attend ‘Peace’ Conference in Bahrain

New Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh. (Photo: via MEMO)

Palestinian officials will not attend a US-led economic conference in Bahrain next month, a Palestinian cabinet minister said on Monday.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Majdalani, who is also a member of the executive committee of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, told Reuters:

“There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop … Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.”

The Trump administrations long-awaited blueprint for Middle East peace – known as “The Deal of the Century” – will be unveiled at the conference.

The plan, which has been two years in the making, envisions large-scale investment and infrastructure work in the Palestinian territories but the central political elements remain mostly unknown.

The economic workshop, set for June 25-26 in Bahrain, will not address the most contentious parts of the conflict: borders, the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and Israel’s security.

The Palestinian leadership has also said they were not consulted about the conference in Bahrain.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh told Palestinian ministers:

“The cabinet wasn’t consulted about the reported workshop, neither over the content, nor the outcome nor timing.”

The Trump administration has said the deal and the conference will focus on economic benefits that could be reaped if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.

The Palestinians, who severed ties with the US over a year ago, have repeatedly expressed fears that the White House will try to buy them off with large sums of investment in exchange for freezing their demands for an independent state. They believe the US is trying to rally support from other Arab countries to bully them into accepting a plan they see as unacceptable.

(Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Officials to Travel to Bahrain for ‘Peace’ Conference

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. (Photo: File)

Israeli officials will travel to Bahrain for next month’s “peace” conference, where the first stage of the US’ “deal of the century” is set to be revealed.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 13 yesterday, a senior Israeli official revealed that the US has invited Israeli delegates to attend the meeting, which is to be held in the Bahraini capital Manama on June 25-26.

The Times of Israel reported:

“The official told the network the invitation was sent as a hardcopy, which is en route to Israel in diplomatic mail channels.”

The report added:

“Israel [is] expected to accept the invitation”.

A separate report by the Israeli daily today noted that Israel’s Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, is among the Israeli delegates invited to attend. Kahlon’s spokesman, Omri Sheinfeld, said that while Kahlon has not yet received a formal invitation to the event, he expects one to arrive on his desk “in a matter of days”.

If Kahlon attends the summit, it will represent the first time a high profile Israeli official has visited the Gulf state.

The two countries do not hold formal diplomatic relations, with Bahrain adhering to the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative which calls for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) as a precondition for normalizing relations.

However, in recent months Bahrain has pursued a number of normalization initiatives with Israel.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Two Palestinian Prisoners Continue Their Hunger Strike for 49 Days

Administrative Detention allows Israel to hold Palestinian prisoners without charge. (Photo: ActiveStills.org, file)

Two Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger for 49 days to protest their administrative detention, the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said today.

Odeh Hroub and Hasan Awawi are having serious health issues as a result of their long strike.

The PPS said the Israel Prison Service is ignoring the two prisoners and stalling regarding their demands.

Hroub, 32, is from Deir Samet village near Hebron (Al-Khalil) and a father of 10. He has been in detention since December 2018.

Awawi, 35, is from Hebron and a father of three. He has been in detention since January 15, and had previously served several years in Israeli prisons for resisting its occupation.

(Wafa, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Army Says ‘No Evidence’ Soldiers Killed Disabled Gaza Protester in 2017 (VIDEO)

Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, who was shot dead during a protest in the Gaza Strip in December 2017. (Photo: via Social Media)

An investigation by the Israeli army has found “no evidence” that it killed disabled Palestinian Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, who was shot dead during a protest in the Gaza Strip in December 2017.

The Israeli army’s criminal investigation division on Friday closed its probe into the killing of 29-year-old Abu Thuraya, claiming he was killed in a “violent riot” in the besieged Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army spokesman said the division had “questioned soldiers and commanders who had witnessed the incident and also examined video footage of the incident, but found no evidence that Abu Thuraya was killed by direct Israeli army fire,” Haaretz reported.

The closing of the probe will come as little surprise given the army’s repeated denial of wrongdoing in relation to Abu Tharayya’s death.

Just days after Abu Thuraya was killed on December 15, the army announced that it bore “no responsibility”, saying in a statement that “the initial investigation indicates that no moral or professional failures were identified”.

It added that “no live fire was aimed at [Abu Thurayya]” and it was “impossible to determine” exactly “what caused his death”.

Human rights organizations and Palestinian officials, however, contradicted the Israeli version of events, saying Abu Thuraya was shot by an Israeli sniper.

According to medical records obtained by the Associated Press (AP) in January 2018, the 29-year-old “died of bleeding in his brain after a bullet struck his head”.

The AP’s account was consistent with that of Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, which wrote shortly after Abu Thurayya’s killing that “he was shot in the forehead in what appears to have been a deliberate act”.

Al-Haq continued:

“Under international humanitarian and human rights law, [Abu Thurayya] was entitled to special protection not only as a civilian under the control of the occupying power, but also as a person with disability who moreover lost his legs as a consequence of a prior assault by Israel on the Gaza Strip.”

Abu Thuraya was an icon in Gaza, regularly participating in protests despite being wheelchair-bound since he lost both legs in an Israeli assault on the Strip during the 2008 war. On December 15, he had joined thousands of Gazans to protest against US President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the Holy City as Israel’s capital.

In the months that followed, hundreds of Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli live fire in what has since become known as the Great March of Return.

Between 30 March 2018 and 14 May 2019, 305 Palestinians, including 59 children, were killed by Israeli forces, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza. A further 29,000 were injured and scores left with life-changing injuries, UN OCHA reported.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

South Africa ANC Backs Minister on Israeli Embassy Downgrade

South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Lindiwe Sisulu. (Photo: via MEMO)

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has backed the country’s Minister of International Relations, Lindiwe Sisulu, who has come under attack for her role in downgrading South Africa’s embassy to Israel.

Sisulu has been attacked from a number of fronts, including by South Africa’s Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Vice-president of the SAJBD, Zev Krengel, last week accused Sisulu of being “the single biggest enemy” of South Africa’s Jewish community, claiming she is “obsessed with criticizing the Jewish state [Israel]”.

Krengel’s attack continued:

“Either the minister [Sisulu] was electioneering and trying to cozy up to the BDS-SA [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa] movement and other radical elements within the Muslim community, or she was adding to internal ANC struggles, and trying to embarrass the president [Cyril Ramaphosa].”

South Africa last week held its general election, during which President Ramaphosa and his ANC party were re-elected, but with a reduced majority of 58 percent.

Despite Krengel’s accusations that Sisulu was trying to weaken the ANC with her policies vis a vis Israel, the party yesterday publicly backed its minister. 

The ANC said:

“Minister Sisulu’s integrity is beyond reproach […] The ANC is satisfied that minister Sisulu has recalibrated South Africa’s foreign policy so that it reflects the people of South Africa’s profound opposition to gross human rights abuses and colonial occupation of Palestine.”

Meanwhile the ANC’s Secretary General, Ace Magashule, also expressed his support for Sisulu, saying:

“We congratulate you, because you are moving with the collective […] Stay resolute because you are implementing the decisions of the highest decision-making body of the ANC national conference.”

Sisulu has been at the forefront of South Africa’s downgrading of relations with Israel since 2017 when the ANC decided to implement a resolution directing the government to “immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office”. 

Last month South Africa implemented the first phase of this decision, downgrading its formerly full-service embassy in Tel Aviv to a liaison office – a diplomatic mission with limited functionality. Sisulu explained in a statement at the time that this office “will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development-cooperation mandate,” adding that it would focus only on “consular [assistance] and the facilitation of people-to-people relations”.

South Africa’s Ambassador to Tel Aviv, Sisa Ngombane, was also permanently recalled as part of the downgrade.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Forces Evict Muslim Worshippers from Al Aqsa Mosque

Israeli forces forcibly evict hundreds of Muslim worshippers from the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. (Photo: via Social Media)

Israeli forces forcibly evicted hundreds of Muslim worshippers from the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem, on Saturday night. 

Israeli police prevented them from keeping an all-night worship vigil in it, according to local sources.

This is the fourth time Israeli forces evict worshippers from the holy site since the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Israeli police often close Al-Aqsa Mosque for non-Muslims and suspend all visits to it during Ramadan when tens of thousands of Muslims converge on this holy site for worship.

Fanatic Jewish groups, who seek to destroy the Muslim holy site and replace it with a Jewish temple, have strongly objected to the Israeli police decision and insist on visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

(Wafa, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Minister, Jewish Settlers Storm Al Aqsa Mosque

Uri Ariel, along with Jewish settlers, regularly raids the Al-Aqsa compound under armed security by Israeli forces. (Photo: via Social Media)

Israeli Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, headed today a group of extremist Israeli settlers in a provocative tour of the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem.

Ariel and dozens of settlers stormed the Islamic holy compound in groups, only hours after Israeli police forcibly evicted hundreds of Muslim worshippers from the holy site.

Similar tours by Israeli politicians and lawmakers in the past led to tensions and clashes between Israeli forces on the one side, and Muslim worshipers and the Jordan-run Islamic Waqf personnel in charge of running the compound on the other side.

(Wafa, PC, Social Media)

PA ‘Ready to Talk’ about Confederation with Jordan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) and Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy. (Photo: via MEMO)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has said that it is ready to talk about the prospect of a confederation with Jordan, drawing fierce condemnation from the Kingdom.

The PA’s Ambassador to Moscow, Abdel-Hafeez Nofal, said that the PA is “ready to talk about a confederal union” with Jordan, Al-Resala newspaper reported yesterday.

Secretary-General of the Jordanian Popular Unity Party, Said Thiyab, condemned Nofal’s remarks, saying: “The PA’s remarks about its readiness to talk about a confederation with Jordan undermines Palestinian rights in favor of passing the deal of the century,” referring to the long-awaited US peace plan slated to be released after Ramadan.

Thiyab stressed that Jordan’s stance regarding a confederation is clear, referring to a statement by Jordan’s King Abdullah in which he said:

“There is no alternative to the two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.”

Nofal’s comments come just six months after PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he would conditionally agree to such a US offer.

During a meeting with an Israeli delegation from Peace Now in February, Abbas said that “the confederal plan was proposed by Jared Kushner, son-in-law of US President Donald Trump and his adviser, as well as the US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt”.

Abbas told Peace Now that he would accept such an offer if Israel agreed to be part of the proposed conferral union as well. “They asked me,” Abbas said, “and I said: I believe in a tripartite confederal with Jordan and Israel”.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Palestinian Dies at Israeli Checkpoint While Trying to Reach Al-Aqsa (VIDEO)

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandiya checkpoint. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

A Palestinian man has died at an Israeli checkpoint while trying to reach Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers.

Sixty-three-year-old Sulieman Jamal Al-Harroub from West Bank city of Hebron (Al-Khalil) died while crossing an Israeli military checkpoint known as 300, located north of Bethlehem, Wafa reported yesterday.

BREAKING 🛑| Sulaiman Jamal Hroub, 63, died from a stroke which resulted from the overcrowding caused by Israeli movement…

Posted by Palestinian Street on Friday, May 17, 2019

Al-Harroub died while traveling to perform Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Palestinian medical sources said that he died due to a heart attack which occurred while he was waiting at the crossing.

It is worth noting that, at the start of Ramadan, Israel published videos and media reports claiming it had eased the passage for Palestinians through its crossings across the occupied West Bank so they could travel to Al-Aqsa Mosque for the holy month.

The videos showed Palestinians leaving the checkpoints easily, ignoring the long queues which force travelers to stand out in the sun before entering the checkpoint terminals.

In addition, the Israeli police have repeatedly attacked Palestinian worshippers inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, as have settlers who repeatedly storm the compound.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)