Tuesday, October 19, 2021 Last Update: 7:43 PM GMT

Syria Accuses Israel of Assassinating High-Ranking Government Official near Golan Border

Midhat Al-Saleh, 54, was assassinated near the Golan border. (Photo: via Social Media)

Syria has accused Israel of being behind the assassination of a high-ranking government official near the border of occupied Syrian Golan Heights on Saturday, Syrian media reported.

Midhat Al-Saleh, 54, an intelligence officer, was the head of Syria’s Golan Affairs Office and a former lawmaker.

According to the state-run SANA news agency, Saleh was shot outside his home near the village of Ain Eltineh, situated opposite the Druze town of Majdal Shams.

AlJazeera reported that he was killed by an Israeli sniper, although the Israeli military has not confirmed or denied the incident in line with a longstanding policy.

“The cabinet stressed, in a statement, that those terrorist acts will only increase the determination of the Syrian Arab people to continue resisting the occupier and liberating the occupied Syrian Golan,” SANA reported. The Syrian cabinet also condemned the “cowardly criminal act”.

Saleh was from Majdal Shams and served 12 years in an Israeli prison on security-related charges. He was released in 1997, and the following year he travelled to Syria, becoming a member of parliament in 2000.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the Golan is a “strategic goal” for his government and that he intends to quadruple the Israeli settler population there. “The Golan Heights is Israel, period,” he said to applause during an address at the Makor Rishon Golan Conference in Haspin, an illegal settlement in the southern Golan Heights.

In response to Bennett’s remarks, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that his government is “unable to change the eternal fact that Golan was and still remains an Arab and Syrian land” and stressed that the Syrian army is “determined to liberate the Golan Heights from the Israeli occupation and foil the Israeli plots”.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

WATCH: Jewish Settlers Attack Palestinian Homes near Nablus

Armed Jewish settlers escorted by Israeli soldiers in West Bank. (Photo: ISM, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jewish settlers attacked on Sunday Palestinian homes in the village of Burin, south of Nablus, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activities in the north of the West Bank, told WAFA that more than 30 settlers – residing in nearby illegal West Bank settlements built on Palestinian land – attacked Palestinian homes in the village of Burin but were confronted by the village residents who were able to fend them off.

Clashes reportedly broke out between the village residents and Israeli soldiers who provided Jewish settlers with protection. A local resident was reportedly struck with a rock and injured during the clashes.

Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is routine in the West Bank and is rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)

Facebook to Allow Independent Investigation into Pro-Palestine Content Suppression

A campaign against Facebook censorship of pro-Palestine content. (Photo: File)

Facebook will allow an independent investigation into content moderation of Arabic and Hebrew posts after the social media giant has been accused of removing and suppressing pro-Palestine content, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

“We have partnered with a non-profit organization expert in business and human rights, BSR, to conduct human rights due diligence of Facebook’s impacts during May-June’s intensified violence in Israel and Palestine,” Facebook said in a statement on Friday.

“BSR will examine relevant internal Facebook sources and engage with affected stakeholders. We will implement the board’s recommendation in our due diligence, defining and prioritizing all salient human rights issues according to the guidance of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”

The tech company added that it will publicly communicate the results of the investigation in 2022.

Activists and rights groups have accused the social media giant, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, of censoring Palestinians and supporters following the removal of pro-Palestinian posts.

Last week, Human Rights Watch accused in a report Facebook of wrongfully removing and suppressing content by Palestinians and their supporters, including about human rights abuses carried out by Israel during the May 2021 aggression on Gaza.

Human Rights Watch also documented that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, removed posts, including reposts of content from mainstream news organizations.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)

WATCH: Jewish Settlers Attack Palestinian Olive Farmers in West Bank

Jewish settlers have ramped up attacks against Palestinians throughout the West Bank. (Photo: Oren Ziv, via Activestills.org)

A group of Palestinian farmers harvesting their olive trees in the occupied West Bank were attacked Friday by around 30 settlers, leaving four people with minor injuries, according to the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The attack, which comes amid an uptick in settler violence in recent months, began when illegal Jewish settlers descended from a nearby settlement hurling stones and spraying pepper spray at Palestinian olive pickers near the town of Salfit, WAFA reported.

The Palestinian town’s authorities reported the attack in a posting on Facebook.

The Jewish settlers smashed cars and stole olives, as well as some of the belongings of one of the female pickers, WAFA said, quoting Youssef Hammouda, a local farmer.

Israeli police confirmed they arrested four Jewish settlers near the settlement of Rechelim in connection with a Palestinian woman’s stolen goods.

In recent days, hard-line settlers have clashed with Israeli troops and vandalized Palestinian property in what is known as “price-tag” attacks – retaliations against perceived efforts by Israel to limit settlement expansion.

Last month, dozens of Israeli settlers attacked a Bedouin village in the southern West Bank, smashing cars and homes and leaving several injured, including a Palestinian toddler who was hospitalized with head injuries.

Settler attacks on Palestinians and their olive tree groves are common during the autumn harvesting season.

(The New Arab, PC, Social Media)

More Palestinian Prisoners to Join Hunger Strike

Protest in support of Palestinian prisoners in Ramallah. (Photo: via Social Media)

More Palestinian prisoners will join the hunger strike, should the Israel Prison Service (IPS) not meet their demands and lift its sanctions, Quds Press reported on Friday.

The Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said in a statement that the “resistance program” for the prisoners inside Israeli prisons “is escalating”.

“If the IPS does not meet the demands of the hunger strikers and lift its sanctions imposed on the prisoners affiliated with the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, prisoners from other groups will join the hunger strike,” the statement read.

On Wednesday, the PPS announced that 250 prisoners from the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine started a hunger strike protesting against Israeli punitive measures and sanctions imposed, following the escape of six Palestinian prisoners from Israeli Gilboa prison on September 6.

Meanwhile, the PPS reported that prisoners Mohammad Al-Amoudi and Hosni Issa escalated their hunger strike and stopped drinking water. As a result, their health conditions deteriorated and they were admitted to the prison clinic.

The PPS announced that the hunger strike is supported by all prisoners inside Israeli prisons and by all Palestinian factions, who insist that the IPS must stop punitive measures against prisoners.

(MEMO, PC, Social Media)

UNESCO Approves Two Pro-Palestinian Resolutions

UNESCO meeting room. (Photo: via MEMO)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted on Wednesday two resolutions in favor of Palestine at the 212th session of its executive board held in Paris, Anadolu news agency reported.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the resolutions on occupied Palestine and cultural and educational institutions were unanimously adopted by members of the organization’s executive council.

The resolutions affirm the status of East Jerusalem as an occupied city and call for an immediate halt to illegal measures taken by Israel in the holy city of Jerusalem, according to Anadolu.

Welcoming the resolutions, the ministry called on the international community and UNESCO to put pressure on Israel to stop its illegal actions, Anadolu reported.

(AA, PC, Social Media)

Israel, US Stop Jewish Families from Moving to Iran as Asylum Seekers

Members of a Lev Tahor family try to reach Iran. (Photo: Video Grab)

Israeli authorities have stopped dozens of Jewish families of the Lev Tahor ultra-Orthodox group from fleeing to Iran where they had applied for asylum, Israeli media reported.

“Israel and the US are working to prevent members of an extremist ultra-Orthodox sect from moving to Iran, amid fears they could be used as a bargaining chip by Tehran,” the Times of Israel newspaper reported, noting that the group; which is anti-Zionist, applied for political asylum in 2018.

The paper said documents presented at a US federal court in 2019 showed that leaders of the Hasidic community requested asylum in Iran and swore allegiance to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to the Ynet News site, concerns were building that hundreds of members of the group, mainly based in Guatemala, could be trying to move to Iran after dozens of families were spotted at the airport in Guatemala, apparently on their way to the Kurdistan-Iran border.

The report said their relatives contacted the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Justice Department and asked them to urgently contact their Guatemalan counterparts to prevent the families from leaving.

According to reports, the Guatemalan authorities detained a number of the group’s members who hold American citizenship.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Teen near Bethlehem

Amjad Abu Sultan, 16, was killed by Israeli forces near Bethlehem. (Photo: via Social Media)

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead on Thursday night by the Israeli occupation forces during an Israeli raid of Beit Jala town, in the occupied West Bank province of Bethlehem, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Eyewitnesses told WAFA that clashes broke out between local residents and the Israeli occupation forces in Bir Ouna neighborhood, on the outskirts of Beit Jala, during which a Palestinian was shot dead and another one arrested by the Israeli forces.

The Palestinian killed by the Israeli occupation forces was later identified as 16-year-old Amjad Abu Sultan, according to Al Mayadeen website.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)

Report: Palestinian Teen Kidnapped, Tortured by Jewish Settlers near Jenin

Tareq Zubeidi, 15, was kidnapped and tortured by Jewish settlers. (Photo: Oren Ziv, via ActiveStills.org)

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has detailed the horrific story of a Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and tortured by a group of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank about two months ago, in a report released last week.

On August 17, 15-year-old Tareq Zubeidi and five of his friends decided to go for a picnic near their village of Silat a-Daher, in the Jenin province in the northern West Bank.

When the Palestinian teens arrived at the area – located around 350 meters from the site of the illegal settlement of Homesh, evacuated in 2005 – they  noticed six Jewish settlers advancing towards them. The teens panicked and fled the scene. At least one of the settlers threw stones at them, according to the report.

Zubeidi, whose leg was injured just two weeks prior to the incident, couldn’t keep up with his friends, who managed to escape back to their village, B’tselem added.

“The settlers drove towards me and hit me with their car, and I fell to the ground. The car stopped, and four settlers got out. Some were holding sticks. They attacked me and hit me in the shoulder, legs, and back,” Zubeidi told the rights group.

According to Zubeidi, the settlers bound his hands and feet and chained him to the hood of their car, before driving him to Homesh. Then, they slammed on the brakes, causing him to fall to the ground.

“Some of the settlers who were there ran over to me and started kicking me. One settler approached me and pepper-sprayed me in the face. It hurt and stung, and I screamed in pain. Then one of the settlers brought a piece of cloth and tied it over my eyes,” Zbeidi recounted.

The Palestinian teen said he heard the Jewish settlers cursing at him in Arabic and Hebrew, and though his eyes were blindfolded, he felt some of the settlers spit on him.

The settlers then continued to kick a terrified Zubeidi, before hanging him from a tree, wounding and burning his feet.

“I was left hanging like that for about five minutes, with my eyes covered. I felt them cutting and rubbing the skin of my left foot with a sharp object. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t take it. Suddenly, I felt a strong burn on my right foot, from a lighter or something similar. It lasted a few seconds. I screamed and cried in pain and fear. It wasn’t until then that they took me down from the tree,” Zubeidi said.

That’s when one of the settlers struck Zubeidi in the head with a stick, causing him to lose consciousness.

According to B’Tselem, shortly after this, the settlers were approached by a group of Israeli soldiers in a military jeep. The settlers handed Zubeidi over to the soldiers, alleging that the former threw stones at them.

When Zubeidi regained consciousness, he was lying on the floor of the military jeep. At that point, he said one of the soldiers threatened him, saying that if he was throwing stones, the settlers would come to his house and arrest him, the report added.

The soldier then handed Zubeidi his phone, at which point an unidentified man who spoke Arabic — purportedly an Israeli intelligence officer, according to Zubeidi’s uncle — also threatened Zubeidi, saying that “they knew everything about me and that if anyone threw stones at the settlers, he’d come to my house and arrest me.”

A short while later, Zubeidi’s uncle and older brother came and got him from the soldiers, put him in a Palestinian ambulance, and took him to a hospital in Jenin.

“I was taken to the ER, where I was examined and X-rayed. They found bruises and wounds on my shoulder, back, and legs, as well as wounds and burns on my feet. I stayed there until the next afternoon, and then I was discharged,” Zubeidi said, adding that after he was discharged, his body was sore and he couldn’t walk because of the cuts and burns on his feet.

According to B’Tselem, while the Homesh settlement was evacuated in 2005, it has maintained a near constant presence of settlers in the area since, “with security forces allowing them to stay there and attack Palestinians.”

B’Tselem noted that the attack on Zubeidi was the tenth settler attack on Palestinians near the settlement documented by the group since the beginning of 2020.

(WAFA, PC, Social Media)

Israel Approves Thousands of New Settlement Units in East Jerusalem

The illegal Jewish settlement of Givat Hamatos, in occupied East Jerusalem. (Photo: via Wikimedia Commons)

An Israeli planning committee approved on Wednesday plans advancing the construction of thousands of homes in Givat Hamatos, in the occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli media reported. 

According to Peace Now activist Hagit Ofran, the Palestinian area of Khirbet Tabalya, southwest of the city, had already been allocated for use in Givat Hamatos.

“The expropriation is necessary to advance the plan. But the plan as a whole is hurtling forward – it seems to be very much a done deal,” Ofran said.

The illegal settlement, which threatens to cut off parts of the city from its Palestinian residents and the West Bank, currently consists of a set of caravans and mobile homes set up in the early 1990s.

“I was happy today to be a partner in advancing the construction plan of Givat Hamatos,” Israeli planning and building committee member, Yehuda Freudiger, said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “Jerusalem craves land for construction, Givat Hamatos is an ideal place that does not harm nature and is close to existing neighborhoods.”

The announcement of the expropriation comes just one day after Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Washington.

(The Palestine Chronicle, MEMO, Social Media)