Friday, August 17, 2018 Last Update: 9:14 PM GMT

Anger as Israel Clears Soldiers over Deadly 2014 Attack

An Israeli artillery fires a shell towards the Gaza Strip from their position near Israel’s border. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

Hamas has condemned an Israeli decision to close a military investigation into an assault on August 1, 2014, in which 135 Palestinians were killed in Rafah, in the southern part of the besieged Gaza Strip.

In a report on Wednesday, the Israeli army cleared itself of wrongdoing and said it would not prosecute commanders who were involved, claiming its investigation found no reason to suspect criminal misconduct.

The attack referred to as “Black Friday”, was part of a seven-week assault on Gaza, which has been under an Israeli-imposed siege – aided by neighboring Egypt – since 2007.

Hamas’ spokesperson Hazem Qassem said the investigation had no “legal or political basis”.

Qassem told Al Jazeera:

“How can the offender be the judge of the very assault they committed? This was an attack that the whole world witnessed, and this is an attempt by the Israeli army to escape legal punishment.”

International rights groups such as Amnesty International had said the Israeli army indiscriminately and deliberately targeted civilians during “Black Friday”.

The group’s report cited “strong evidence” of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity on August 1, 2014, as Israeli forces bombarded residential areas in Rafah in retaliation for the capture of one of its soldiers.

The report read:

“There is overwhelming evidence that Israeli forces committed disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate, attacks which killed scores of civilians in their homes, on the streets, and in vehicles and injured many more … This includes repeatedly firing artillery and other imprecise explosive weapons in densely populated civilian areas … In some cases, there are indications that they directly fired at and killed civilians, including people fleeing.”

Allegations by Amnesty International and other local NGOs including B’tselem led to the launching of a preliminary investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

But the ICC was not able to open a fully-fledged war crimes investigation, as one of its criteria is whether a country is capable of investigating itself and prosecuting its own citizens.

The international community must now take action, said Qassem. He said:

“Israel must be tried before the ICC.”

The decision comes days after the United Nations and Egypt secured a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel in the hope of achieving a lasting truce following a series of Israeli attacks that killed three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old child, in Gaza last week.

According to Qassem, the inability of the international community to hold Israel accountable for the 2014 violence has allowed it to “continue killing Palestinian doctors, medics and civilians” over the past few months, referring to the Great March of Return rallies.

The 2014 attack came shortly after a ceasefire agreement was reached. It was quickly broken after Israeli soldiers clashed with Hamas fighters in Rafah.

Two Israeli soldiers and one Palestinian fighter died in the subsequent firefight, and Hamas fighters captured a third soldier, Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, who Israel later declared dead.

Following his capture, the Israeli army responded by implementing the “Hannibal Directive”, a controversial order that allowed soldiers to respond by “unleashing massive firepower on persons, vehicles, and buildings in the vicinity of the attack, despite the risk to civilians”, the Amnesty report had noted.

More than 2,250 Palestinians, including nearly 1,500 civilians, were killed and a further 11,000 were wounded in the July-August 2014 assault, according to Palestinian and UN estimates.

At least 18,000 Palestinian homes were completely destroyed, and 73 medical facilities were severely damaged. Most of the destruction resulted from more than 6,000 Israeli air strikes in less than two months on heavily populated areas.

On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians died.

(AJE, PC, Social Media)

Another Prisoner Dies in Palestinian ‘Abu Grahib’

Arab Organization for Human Rights called for the PA to end “systematic torture” of Palestinian inmates. (Photo: File)

The death of 28-year-old Palestinian Ahmed Abu Hamada in a Palestinian Authority jail has brought to the surface claims of torture in detention, Felesteen reported yesterday.

The PA had claimed that Abu Hamada had a heart attack however rights groups have said that many prisoners die as a result of torture in detention.

Abu Hamada was detained last year along with fellow member of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, Abdullah Daraghmeh, and charged with causing security chaos.

Daraghmeh also died in detention, with the PA claiming he died of natural causes.

Noting that most of them do not file complaints because they are afraid of revenge, member of Freedoms Committee in the West Bank, Khalil Assaf, said:

“Based on complaints from people who were detained, we found that they were exposed to different forms of torture.”

Assaf said that Jericho Prison is the most notorious because Palestinians are brought there for investigation.

The Arab Organization for Human Rights based in London has several times called for the PA to immediately stop the political detention and stop practicing “systematic torture and humiliation” of Palestinian inmates.

Rights groups documented cases of Palestinians tortured to death inside PA prisons, including Farid Jarbou, 28, who died in July 1994 – less than a year after the establishment of the PA.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Palestinian Journalist Being ‘Tortured’ in Israel Jails

Palestinian journalist and writer Lama Khater bids her child goodbye as Israeli forces raided her home last night to arrest her. (Photo: via Social Media)

Female Palestinian journalist, Lama Khater, has said that she is being exposed to “torture” by Israeli interrogators who are attempting to get “baseless confessions” from her, Felesteen reported yesterday.

A lawyer from the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club (PPC) who visited Khater said:

“Interrogators threaten to arrest relatives if she does not confess.”

Khater did not give in to the pressure, the lawyer added.

The journalist spends all the time in jail sitting on a small chair, handcuffed and with her legs-chained in the investigation room. She is not allowed to leave except to go to the toilet.

The PPC stressed the 42-year-old mother had been subjected to “harsh and continuous” interrogation from the minute she was detained, noting that some interrogation sessions lasted up to 20 hours.

An active columnist who is critical of the occupation and the Palestinian Authorities’ cooperation with it, Khater is being held because Israel believes her work is a “time bomb”.

Her husband, Hazim Al-Fakhouri, said that his wife told him during the court hearing two days ago that she had started to suffer from severe pains in her back due to the prolonged hours sitting on the interrogation chair.

He stressed that the Israeli occupation is putting pressure on his wife in order to get confessions that it could use to indict her.

Al-Fakhouri said that the Israeli interrogators also threaten to harm her two-year-old son.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel Reopens Gaza Commercial Crossing after 45 Days of Closure (VIDEO)

Karam Abu Salem border crossing. (Photo: File)

Israel reopened the Karam Abu Salem border crossing, known as Kerem Shalom in Israel, the primary passageway that transfers necessities to residents of the besieged Gaza Strip.

The lifting of the closure on Wednesday will allow the flow of vital products such as cooking gas, wheat, and flour into Gaza – home to nearly two million people. Clothing and construction materials such as plastic can also now be transferred.

The crossing, which would usually be sealed off during official Israeli holidays and on weekends, also aids in the delivery of foreign aid to Gaza, an official responsible for coordinating the movement of cargo through the border previously told Al Jazeera.

Israel sealed off the border last month. After partially lifting the closure, Israel blocked the supply of fuel into Gaza two weeks ago.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday if “calm” near the Israeli fence was maintained, the border would reopen, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

Israel will also expand the fishing zone that it enforces in the waters off the Gaza Strip from six nautical miles to nine. Expansions occasionally occur and usually last for only three months at a time with the objective of boosting Gaza’s economy, which is heavily reliant on the fishing sector.

Although the expansion allows the Gaza Strip’s 4,000 registered fishermen to reach a wider array of fish, the nine-mile nautical border is still not enough to serve some 1,000 boats, according to Nizar Ayash, head of Gaza’s fishermen’s union.

The developments follow more than 140 Israeli air attacks and artillery shelling that killed three Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her 18-month-old child, in Gaza last week.

Since then, the United Nations and Egypt secured a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel in the hope of achieving a lasting truce.

Jamal al-Khoudary, a Palestinian parliamentarian and the head of the Popular Committee to End Gaza’s Siege, said the decision to reopen the commercial crossing wasn’t considered a “lifting of the siege”.

Rather, he said, it only brought back the situation as it was prior to July 10, when Israel sealed off the border.

Palestinians have been protesting since March 30 east of the Gaza Strip, calling for their right of return. More than 164 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and 18,000 more wounded.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel to Build Military Colleges on Palestinian Land in Jerusalem

A protest against land confiscation in the West Bank. (Photo: ActiveStills.org)

Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality’s Planning and Construction Committee has approved a plan to build military colleges on Palestinian land located in Ein Karem village, southwest of the holy city, Safa reported yesterday.

According to the news site, the Israeli Broadcasting Committee said that the plan was approved despite strong opposition by the Franciscan Church and its followers who fear the construction will drown Mary’s Spring, which is a holy site for Christians.

Ein Karem is one of the biggest and most important villages in Jerusalem. It lies along the highway that connects Jerusalem with Yaffa. Palestinians who inhabited the village were forced out of their homes during the 1948 Nakba.

Occupation forces continue to target Islamic and Christian sites in the occupied Palestinian lands through land expropriation and allocating areas as “military zones”.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

US Wants Gaza Ceasefire ‘With or Without PA’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Donald Trump. (Photo: Issam Rimawi via MEMO)

The USA will continue to work for a ceasefire in Gaza “with or without” the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority (PA), a spokesperson for the National Security Council has told Haaretz.

The spokesperson explained that the US administration under President Donald Trump “would like to see an end to fighting with or without the PA,” but emphasized that the administration still believes “it would be best if the PA reasserts control in Gaza so we can get on with making lives better,” Haaretz revealed.

The spokesperson added that the US “supports Egypt’s efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza” and “remains in close communication with Israel, Egypt, and the UN with respect to Gaza”.

The announcement will likely be seen as a blow to the PA, which has been marginalized from the Gaza Strip since it lost control of the territory in the 2006 Palestinian elections. Since then, the PA has repeatedly tried to reassert its authority over the enclave.

In July, the PA’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah told donor countries that any aid to the besieged Strip must first pass through Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. The PA’s Labour Minister, Mamoun Abu Shahla, explained that:

“There is only one government in Palestine. It is the National Agreement Government which was accepted by all parties. It is the sole [government] responsible for working in the Gaza Strip and West Bank”.

The leader of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ahmad Sa’adat, in July, called on the PA to lift its punitive measures on Gaza and accept the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation. Sa’adat was referring to the PA’s decision to impose a series of sanctions on the Gaza Strip in 2017, which included deducting about 50 percent of Gaza civil servants’ salaries and halting the payments to families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip.

Also last month, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to protest the PA’s punitive treatment of the Gaza Strip. The protesters held placards that read “lift the sanctions imposed on Gaza” and “shame on You Abbas”.

The US has been monitoring attempts to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The exact details of the negotiations as yet remain unclear, but the UN and Egypt have spoken of a need to improve the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza, stem cross-border hostilities that have flared in recent months and work towards reconciliation between Hamas and Israel.

It was revealed yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Cairo in May to discuss the ceasefire. Netanyahu reportedly met with the Egyptian Prime Minister, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, to discuss the possibility of easing the ongoing blockade of Gaza by the two countries.

Palestinian factions in Gaza have also traveled to Cairo to join the ongoing discussions, representing the first time these groups have traveled to the Egyptian capital to take part in national dialogue discussions since 2012.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israel to Confiscate Private Palestinian Land in Einabous, Nablus (VIDEO)

Israeli settlers attacking the Palestinians, as an Israeli soldier stands nearby. (Photo: Ma’an)

Israeli forces have begun leveling land in a village in the occupied West Bank in preparation to expand a nearby illegal settlement.

Israeli forces armed with machinery invaded the Palestinian village of Einabous, south of the occupied city of Nablus on Tuesday, and began to raze lands owned by a Palestinian civilian to expand the illegal settlement of Yitzhar, which is notorious for being the largest settlement in the area.

Ghassan Daghlas, Palestinian Authority official who monitors Israel’s illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, said the land was owned by Hashim Mustafa Al’an.

The village of Einabous has been targeted by settlers for arson attacks for some months pending to the expansion, according to Bethlehem based Ma’an News Agency.

In May, Israel announced its plan to confiscate 1,500 square meters of land from Palestinians in the village of Huwwara, to the south of Nablus.

At the time, Daghlas said the Israeli army announced to take over the land to supplement the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar.

In February last year, the Israeli Knesset passed a controversial law that would legalize the annexation of land privately-owned by Palestinians to benefit Israeli settlement enterprise in the occupied territories.

Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, committing various crimes against Palestinian civilians.

More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law.

Along with stealing land, occupying Israeli forces and settlers routinely torment Palestinians.

The corpse of a man from Nablus was recently held for three months before he was allowed to be laid to rest in July.

Mohammed Abdulkarim Marshoud a 30-year-old father of four died after a settler shot him in the head in April at the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

The settler who killed him alleged that he was about to be attacked by Marshoud with a screwdriver. Initially, the Israeli army said he was about to attack the settler with a knife but later retracted the statement.

After his death, Marshoud’s family told The New Arab that they were not informed when Israel would hand over his corpse for burial.

The Israeli police held the corpse for more than three months before returning it to the family for a burial at his hometown in Balata refugee camp in Nablus.

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

In July Alone, Israel Arrested 520 Palestinians

An Israeli occupation soldier arresting a Palestinian child in the West Bank village of Beit Omar. (Photo: Anne Paq, ActiveStills.org)

A total of 520 Palestinians were detained by Israeli occupation forces in July, human rights groups have said.

A report by the Palestinian Prisoners Society, Addameer, and the Prisoners Commission revealed that of those arrested, 69 were children and nine were women.

This included 122 arrested from Jerusalem; 100 arrested from the Governorate of Ramallah and Al Bireh; 75 arrested from the Governorate of Hebron; 52 were arrested from the Governorate of Jenin; 48 were from Bethlehem; 55 were from Nablus; 15 from Tulkarm; 31 from Qalqiliya; seven from Tubas; eight from Salfit; and eight others from Jericho Governorate.

In regard to the overall figures on prisoners, the number remained stable at around 6,000; including 53 women and three girls under the age of 18. The number of child prisoners totaled 300. The number of those being held under administrative detention is 430.

There were 86 administrative detention orders issued last month by the Israeli occupation.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Army Raids Palestinian School in West Bank (VIDEO)

Israeli Army Raided a Palestinian school in Al-Khader neighborhood in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. (Photo: via MEMO)

Israeli occupation forces yesterday raided a Palestinian school in Al-Khader neighborhood in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem, the Anadolu Agency reported.

Coordinator of the Popular Resistance Committees Ahmed Salah told Anadolu that the Israeli occupation force raided Said Bin Al-As School and detained teachers and students. It was not clear how many people had been held as a result of the raid.

He said that the Israeli occupation forces raided the school while students were sitting exams.

Occupation forces often raid the school claiming they are looking for Palestinian stone-throwers who target vehicles of illegal Israeli settlers in the area.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

Palestinian Dies from Wounds Inflicted during Gaza Protest in May

Wissam Yousef Hijazi, 30, succumbed to his wounds, after being shot by an Israeli sniper during protests in Gaza on May 14.

A Palestinian man who was shot by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return protest in May – on the besieged Gaza Strip’s border with Gaza – succumbed to his wounds on Monday, medical sources have said.

Wissam Yousef Hijazi, 30, was critically injured by Israeli forces on May 14, during the border crossing protests east of Khan Younis.

He continued receiving treatment at the hospital up until the gunshot wounds finally resulted in his death.

More than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began.

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