PCHR: In new Israeli violation, Israeli naval forces wound 2 fishermen in northern Gaza sea
BEIT LAHIA 9 Apr — Israeli naval forces continue their attacks against Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea preventing them from sailing and fishing freely, accessing the zones rich in fish, despite the fact that fishermen posed no threat to the lives of Israeli naval forces deployed in Gaza waters … According to the investigations of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), at approximately 07:50 on Thursday, 09 April 2020, Israeli gunboats stationed northwest of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip chased Palestinian fishing boats sailing within the allowed fishing area (3 nautical miles) and opened fire at a fishing boat. As a result, two fishermen, Obai ‘Adel Mohamed Jarbou‘ (21) and Ahmed ‘Abed al-Fattah Ahmed al-Sharfi (23), were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets. The young men, from al-Shati’ [‘Beach’] camp in Gaza City, were taken to the Indonesian Hospital, where their injuries were classified as minor. It should be noted that Israeli gunboats conduct daily chases of Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and open fire at them in order to terrify them and prevent them from sailing and accessing the zones rich in fish.
The latest Israeli naval forces’ attack was on Wednesday, 08 April 2020, as Israeli gunboats stationed northwest of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip, chased Palestinian fishing boats sailing within the allowed fishing area (3 nautical miles) and opened fire at a fishing boat. As a result, a fisherman was shot and injured.
Report: 17 Israeli violations against Gaza fishermen
6 Apr by Ali Salam — The Gaza-based Palestinian Agricultural Union issued on Sunday a report outlining the amount of Israeli naval forces violations against Gaza fishermen, during March of 2020. According to the Department of Lobbying and Advocacy of the Palestinian Agricultural Union, Israeli naval forces, off the coast of Gaza, committed 17 violations against Gaza fishermen, last month. The department’s records suggested that among those violations were opening heavy fire, unleashing waste water cannons and ruining fishing nets. The violations also included damaging two boats, belonging to two different fishermen from Gaza City. The non-governmental agricultural organization also noted that the recent amount of violations against fishermen came while Palestinian fishermen and many other categories of Palestinian workers are coping with the spread of the coronavirus worldwide, by following the precautions put forth by concerned health bodies, as many of those fishermen stay indoors to protect themselves. Compliance by fishermen has been noted widely, despite the fact that fishing is the only source of income for them to provide for their families, with the Gaza Strip having been subject to a crippling Israeli blockade, for 13 years now.
Rights groups call on Israel to halt herbicide spraying in Gaza Strip during coronavirus outbreak
HAIFA, Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (WAFA) – Gisha–Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Adalah–The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter to Israeli authorities yesterday demanding an immediate halt to Israel’s aerial herbicide spraying in the eastern Gaza Strip as Palestinians in Gaza desperately fight to keep coronavirus at bay and prevent its outbreak into the wider population. On Sunday morning, Israeli crop-duster planes flew along the perimeter fence separating Gaza and Israel, spraying chemicals assumed to be herbicides. The spraying was conducted sporadically starting at 6:30 AM and lasted for almost three hours, first spraying the eastern parts of the Gaza City district, before commencing southward over the eastern areas of the Central Gaza district. The sprayed chemicals reached Palestinian farmlands in both districts, and the impact on crops will become apparent in the coming days. Palestinian farmers who were working the land east of the perimeter fence on Sunday morning told Al Mezan that at about 6:20 AM, they saw plumes of black smoke emanating from Israel’s side of the fence, a practice used by Israel in the past as a means to discern wind direction. A few minutes later, crop-duster planes flew along the perimeter fence spraying chemicals believed to be herbicides that were carried by the winds into the Gaza Strip. Similar rounds of spraying were carried out earlier this year, 14-16 January 2020, in areas adjacent to the fence from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza to Rafah in the south … Al Mezan’s documentation however indicated that the sprayed chemicals damaged crops at a distance of at least 600 meters from the perimeter fence, with the total area of damage to cultivated land surpassing 280 hectares. At least 350 Palestinian farmers sustained financial losses, collectively exceeding $1 million, from the January spraying ….data collected on the impact of aerial herbicide spraying since the practice was first recorded in 2014 strongly indicates that the spraying poses a serious threat to the right to life as it directly undermines food security and health….
Hamas arrests Palestinians in Gaza for Zoom video chat with Israelis
GAZA (Reuters) 9 Apr by Nidal al-Mughrabi — Hamas arrested a Palestinian in Gaza on Thursday, saying that he had taken part in a video conference with Israelis and describing his act as “treason.” The Gaza interior ministry identified the man as Rami Aman and said that some of his associates, whose details were not disclosed, had also been arrested. Aman describes himself as a freelance journalist and member of a group called The Gaza Youth Committee on his Facebook page. The meeting for which he was arrested was held on Monday on the Zoom video conference app. It appears to have been organized by Israeli peace activists, who could not be reached for comment. An invitation link to a Zoom conference entitled ‘Meet Gazan Activists’ was posted on a Facebook event page that has since expired. It read: “Finally, an opportunity to speak with Gazans who not only do not hate us but are working tirelessly to open channel of communication between Gazans and Israelis.” It also named Rami Aman and his group as participants. “Holding any activity or any contact with the Israeli occupation under any cover is a crime punishable by law and is treason to our people and their sacrifices,” Interior Ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozom said in a statement….
Netanyahu office: Ready for ‘constructive action’ to bring back Israelis held by Hamas
Al-Manar TV 7 Apr — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday voiced readiness to take “constructive action” to bring back Israelis and soldiers’ remains held by Hamas Palestinian resistance movement in Gaza. In a statement, Netanyahu’s office said: “Israeli chief negotiator for the release of Gaza captives, Yaron Blum, in collaboration with the National Security Council and the defense establishment, is committed to acting constructively with the aim of bringing back the soldiers’ bodies and missing civilians and putting an end to the issue.” The statement added that the Israeli premier was calling “for immediate dialogue between mediators” to facilitate a deal, Times of Israel reported. Four Israelis, including two soldiers, are believed to be held by Hamas. Hamas issued a statement responding to Netanyahu, saying, “The ball was now in [Israel’s] court to take practical steps” toward a deal and that it would “reply responsibly to any real response” from the Zionist entity. Netanyahu’s statement appeared to be in response to an interview Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar gave last Thursday in which he revealed the terror group’s willingness to reach a deal. Addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza due to the coronavirus, Sinwar told al-Aqsa TV, “I want to take advantage of this opportunity. We have a possibility… There is an initiative to set this file in motion.” “The occupation [could agree to] more of a humanitarian measure than a ‘swap’ measure,” he continued. “It releases the ill inmates, the elderly, the female prisoners. There is a large number. We might be able to provide something partial in return regarding this issue.”
IN PICTURES: People in Gaza take no chances as virus threat looms
GAZA CITY (Al Jazeera) 9 Apr — An outbreak of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip would be catastrophic. Critical shortages of drugs, protective equipment, testing materials and ventilators in Gaza’s hospitals mean people would be quickly overwhelmed by an outbreak. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the healthcare system in Gaza would likely not be able to cope with more than 100 to 150 serious cases at any one time. So far, only 13 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Gaza, and all either remain in isolation or have recovered. But authorities and residents in Gaza are not taking any chances; even though the virus is not believed to be spreading in the community yet, much of the population is acting as if it is already a threat. “Prevention is better than cure, and I try to be careful while I interact with customers,” says Mohammed al-Masri, a 23-year-old fruit vendor wearing a mask and gloves at his stall in Gaza City … Although the authorities have not imposed a lockdown of the kind seen in many countries, including over the fence in Israel, they have closed places where people gather in large numbers, including mosques, markets and schools. As everywhere, many Palestinians have to learn to go about their everyday business online….
Gaza runs out of coronavirus tests, Palestinian health officials say
GAZA (Reuters) 8 Apr — The Gaza Strip has no more coronavirus test kits, Palestinian health officials said on Wednesday, amid fears of disaster if the illness spreads in the blockaded, densely packed enclave. “Testing at our central laboratory has stopped, after coronavirus test kits completely ran out,” Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said. The ministry is run by the enclave’s Islamist rulers, Hamas … Gaza has reported 13 cases of coronavirus infection, all of whom are at quarantine facilities. But officials have voiced concern that a shortage of critical equipment and medical supplies could set off a rapid spread among the enclave’s two million people. In a news briefing, Qidra said dozens of samples were awaiting testing, and that hundreds of people would likely have to remain in quarantine facilities as a result. He appealed to international organizations to provide Gaza with testing kits as well as 100 ventilators and 140 beds for intensive care units….
BGI, AID Genomics partner to build lab in Gaza which will test 3000 a day
JPost 7 Apr by Idan Zonshine — Israeli medical technology company AID Genomics and [Chinese] DNA company BGI announced their plans to set up an emergency lab for residents of Gaza and the PA. The state-of-the-art lab will be capable of testing approximately 3,000 people for coronavirus every day. Prior to the announcement on Monday, AID Genomics’ parent company AID Group and BGI had been collaborating on cancer genomics for two years, and AID Group has already supplied hundreds of thousands of BGI coronavirus test kits to Israel. Nir Zeno, CEO of AID Genomics World Group said, “In recent months, I have been working hard alongside the chairman of AID Genomics, Mr. Calvin Wu, to help a large number of countries in the world. To my delight as an Israeli, our proposal, which included setting up one laboratory on the Israeli side and another on the Palestinian side, was approved by both the Palestinian side and in coordination with Israeli security forces.”
In late March, BGI, the world’s largest DNA and genetics company, announced it would be working alongside Israeli company MyHeritage to build a lab capable of testing up to 10,000 people a day. The lab on the Israeli side is scheduled to open April 9 and plans on eventually doubling its capacity to 20,000 daily coronavirus tests.
While there is no word on when exactly the Gaza lab will be open and operational, the companies said they have already begun preparations to send the equipment to the area, which is expected to depart from China in the coming days.
Snapshots from Gaza in the time of coronavirus
NH 6 Apr by Mohammed Zaanoun — Over the past week, Palestinian [photo]journalist Mohammed Zaanoun has been documenting how COVID-19 has changed life in Gaza. As the streets are sprayed down, artists look to raise public health awareness through messaging on murals, and quarantine facilities fill up, his photographs offer a glimpse of what the global pandemic looks like in his hometown.
Virus Diary: Isolation and patience on a quiet Gaza farm
BEIT LAHIYEH, Gaza Strip (AP) 9 Apr by Fares Akram — I haven’t spent more than a single night at my family’s farm on the northern edge of Gaza since an Israeli airstrike killed my father there more than a decade ago. But the arrival of the coronavirus has upended our notions of danger and refuge. During the three wars and countless skirmishes fought between Israel and Hamas since the militant group seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007, the borderlands were the front line. Israel would carry out airstrikes, shelling and sometimes full-scale incursions, usually in response to Palestinian rocket fire. During the wars, Israeli strikes could happen anywhere, at any time. But I felt a little safer in Gaza City. I assumed that media offices were less likely to be targeted. The virus has different rules of engagement …
I stocked up on food and cleaning supplies and returned to the farm, where I am isolating with my mother and sister. It’s a pleasant change from the city, where I live in a small apartment and the power is out for more than 10 hours a day. We awaken to the smell of orange and clementine blossoms from the orchards outside, and songbirds instead of car horns. Nearby, the heavily guarded frontier is quiet. In the pandemic, Israel and Hamas appear to have found a common foe …
As tranquil as the farm is now, I cannot forget that it was here where my father, Akram al-Ghoul, was killed. He was a judge with the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and stopped working when Hamas took over. He retired to the farm, where he tended to his flower garden and raised cattle. During the war, he insisted on staying to feed the animals. On Jan. 3, 2009, an Israeli bomb landed on the farmhouse, killing him and another relative. Human Rights Watch, where I was employed at the time, sent a letter to the Israeli military seeking an explanation. We have yet to receive a response. Gaza contains many stories like mine. We’ve been trained by hard experience to expect the worst, and we’ve mastered the art of patience along the way. Now, facing a very different threat and waiting here on our farm — this farm that was my father’s — I hope that patience will see us through.
West Bank / Jerusalem
‘Barriers of love’: Palestinian civilians set up virus checkpoints
EIN YABROUD, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 7 Apr — Wearing a face mask and an orange vest while brandishing a thermometer, Palestinian Moayad Samha looks similar to the countless others manning COVID-19 checkpoints across the world. But Samha does not work for the Palestinian Authority — he is a lawyer and one of dozens of civilians deployed along rural roads in the occupied West Bank to enforce coronavirus controls. Some fear the civilian checkpoints will foster resentment among Palestinians, as villages with no COVID-19 cases turn away residents from places that have recorded an outbreak. But Samha told AFP that he and others doing roadside monitoring were striving to protect the whole territory from a full-scale epidemic. “We are trying to detect the virus as much as is possible with our limited means,” Samha said at the checkpoint in his home village of Ein Yabroud.
Following agreements with Israel in the 1990s, the Palestinian government controls major cities in the West Bank, but the Israeli army controls 60 percent of the territory. Palestinian police cannot enter many rural villages without first coordinating with the Israelis, who can refuse permission. Those Israeli restrictions, and chronic cash shortages faced by the Palestinian government, have hindered efforts to contain the virus. So the Palestinian police have called on volunteers to help do the job. The Palestinian interior ministry has approved the scheme, calling it key to containment efforts.
The West Bank, which has been under near total lockdown for weeks, has 250 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Ein Yabroud has no confirmed cases but the village of Dayr Jarir, roughly 1.5 kilometres (one mile) to the east, has several coronavirus patients. Drivers who approached the Ein Yabroud checkpoint on Monday were all stopped …
At the Ein Yabroud checkpoint, a key priority has been preventing the Israeli army from entering the village during patrols or raids. There are more than 9,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel and Palestinians fear that troops from the Jewish state might cause further West Bank infections. Hawih claimed to have forced soldiers to turn back by blocking their path on several occasions….
An ‘extraordinary’ Easter in Jerusalem amid coronavirus closures
JERUSALEM (Al Jazeera) 9 Apr by Rosie Scammell — Friars in dark robes and face masks walked solemnly through the empty streets of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, marking an “extraordinary” Easter as worshippers are kept away because of the coronavirus pandemic. The procession along Via Dolorosa in pre-pandemic times would be followed by thousands of pilgrims, retracing the steps they believe Jesus took ahead of his crucifixion. But this year, the footsteps and prayers of the faithful have fallen silent, as flights are grounded and churches closed. Just a handful of friars were allowed to walk the traditional route through the rain-soaked Old City, passing souvenir shops whose doors were firmly shut. “This time is extraordinary, we cannot compare it to any other time,” said Wadie Abu Nassar, an adviser to Jerusalem’s church leaders. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and burial, was closed more than two weeks ago. One of the most important sites in Christianity, the church is home to multiple denominations while the keys have for centuries been held by a Muslim family. “I consider the Holy Sepulchre as my second home and it’s very hard to see it closed, especially during this blessed time,” said keyholder Adeeb Jawad Joudeh al-Husseini. He told Al Jazeera the heavy wooden doors of the church were last shut during Easter in 1349, while a plague known as the Black Death raged.
With all churches closed, religious leaders are encouraging Christians to tune in to Easter services streamed live on Facebook or other websites. Some have drawn tens of thousands of viewers, with people checking in from around the world and leaving prayer emojis. Christian communities internationally have been publishing prayer booklets online, while some priests have posted videos showing parishioners how to carry out the foot-washing ceremony at home….
Isolation a double-edged sword for West Bank’s Bedouin herders
AL UBEIDIYA, West Bank (Reuters) 6 Apr by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh, Adel Abu Nemeh — Bedouin herders in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, already isolated by virtue of their nomadic lifestyle, have become more cut off than ever from ordinary Palestinian life since the coronavirus outbreak began. That isolation is a double-edged sword. They say their mobility makes them less vulnerable to catching the infection, but a territory-wide lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the disease means they are no longer able to sell their farm produce in local villages. Some 30,000 Palestinians live in the pastoral encampments scattered across the West Bank, where sheep are herded along uninhabited hills and rocky valleys. They have largely been spared the restrictions imposed in towns and villages, where 240 cases of COVID-19 and one fatality have been documented. “This is why the Bedouin lifestyle is better than the cities,” said Salameh Safi, 75, a shepherd on a donkey tending his flock near Bethlehem and sporting a red-and-white keffiyeh to shield his eyes from the early spring sun. But Mohammad Ishak, 53, a Bedouin near Jericho in the Jordan Valley, said he could no longer gain access to nearby communities to sell cheese and other sheep products. “We will suffer losses because the farming sector has taken a hit,” he said. “We can’t reach Ramallah or any other city to sell,” added Sulaiman al-Zaher, 65, another Bedouin near Jericho.
Virus outbreak poses dilemma for Palestinians working in Israel
Agencies and Times of Israel staff 9 Apr — At the construction site in Tel Aviv, Jamal Salman and the other Palestinian workers wore gloves and masks, and their employer provided apartments for them to stay overnight. But his wife, alarmed by the news about the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, called him every night from the West Bank, begging him to come home. He came back early this week. Now he sits alone in his basement all day, quarantined from his wife and five children and wondering how he’ll make ends meet. In Tel Aviv he earned $1,500 a month, enough to support his family. Now he’s unemployed. “Coronavirus is like an all-out war,” he said. “Everyone is suffering.” The coronavirus outbreak poses a dilemma for tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers working inside Israel who are now barred from traveling back and forth. They can stay in Israel, where wages are much higher but the outbreak is more severe, or they can return home to quarantine and unemployment in the West Bank. Authorities on both sides are wrestling with similar trade-offs as they confront a virus that blithely ignores the barriers erected over the course of the decades-old conflict …
The Palestinian Authority, which has reported around 250 cases and one fatality, says 73% of the infections have been linked to workers returning from Israel, which is battling a much larger outbreak. Israel has more than 9,400 confirmed cases, including at least 74 fatalities. Last week, Israel sent around 250 Palestinian workers back to the West Bank after a virus outbreak at a chicken slaughterhouse near Jerusalem, where nine workers tested positive. “With the borders closed, and no tourists or travelers, the only remaining source for coronavirus infections is Israel, where the outbreak is huge,” said Dr. Kamal al-Shakhra, an official in the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry. The Palestinian Authority is stopping workers after they cross through Israeli checkpoints and taking their temperatures. Those with fever or other symptoms are taken to hospitals while the rest are ordered into 14-day home quarantine….
Israel opens wastewater tunnels to smuggle Palestinian workers into West Bank
[with photos] Palestine Chronicle 10 Apr — Despite the coronavirus outbreak in Israel, with over 9,500 cases and nearly 80 deaths reported so far, Israeli occupation forces today opened several wastewater tunnels near the West Bank city of Qalqiliya to smuggle Palestinian workers back into the West Bank. Governor of Qalqiliya, Rafi’ Rawajbeh, said that opening the sewage tunnels was an attempt by Israel to undermine the efforts of the Palestinian government to contain the coronavirus pandemic in Palestine, as most of the 266 cases confirmed in Palestine so far came from Israel. Rawajbeh added that the Palestinian security forces were deployed near the tunnel openings on the Palestinian side to prevent the smuggling of workers and to test Palestinian workers before they can return home….
Armed settlers attack man, abduct his 2 sons near Ramallah
9 Apr by Ali Salam — UPDATE: The two Palestinians were taken to Halamesh illegal colony, which was built on Palestinian lands, and are under interrogation by Israeli soldiers there.
Israeli settlers on Tuesday attacked a Palestinian man in the village of Kobar, northwest of Ramallah, and kidnapped his two sons, according to Kobar mayor, Izzat Badwan. Badwan told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that around 10 armed settlers from the illegal settlement of Halamish, built on Palestinian lands near Kobar. The mayor added that after the illegal colonists attacked Samir Zeebar, they kidnapped his two sons, Abdul Fattah and Mahmoud, while they were plowing their farmland, and brought them inside the settlement.
Important to note that despite the coronavirus pandemic and the high incidence seen in Israel, settlers and soldiers continue to harass and terrorize Palestinian farmers and other civilians in the West Bank.
Jewish settlers vandalize Palestinian cemetery in West Bank
[with photo] Palestine Chronicle 9 Apr — A group of Jewish settlers vandalized last night several tombstones in a Palestinian cemetery in the village of Burqa, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus. The Jewish settlers sneaked into the village from the evacuated settlement of Homesh and vandalized several tombstones in the village cemetery, said Ghassan Daghlas, who is monitoring settlers’ activities in the northern West Bank. The settlers took advantage of the lockdown and orders to stay home in several West Bank villages in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly global coronavirus disease to sneak into the village and vandalize the cemetery.
VIDEO: Jewish settlers attack Palestinian homes in Hebron
Palestine Chronicle 6 Apr — A group of Jewish settlers today attacked Palestinian homes in the occupied part of the southern West Bank city of Hebron (Al-Khalil), according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA. One of the house owners, Zaidan Sharabati, told reporters that the Jewish settlers sneaked onto the roof of the house where he and his brother and their families live, under Israeli army protection, damaged the rooftop water tanks and removed a Palestinian flag and raised an Israeli flag in its place. When the family confronted them, the settlers ran away to a nearby settlement….. Settlers on 5 Apr also attacked Issa Amro’s house in Tel Rumeida, breaking in to damage the flag and graffiti on private walls.
Palestinian farmers near Hebron suffocate after Israeli forces, settlers attack
9 Apr by Ali Salam — Palestinian farmers on Tuesday suffered inhalation injuries during an attack by illegal Israeli settlers in Ash-Shuyukh town, near the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, according to local sources. Ahmad al-Halayqa, media activist, told Palestinian WAFA News Agency that colonial settlers, under Israeli military protection, attacked Palestinian farmers in She’ib At-Tina and al-Majalis areas in the southern West Bank, in an attempt to force them out of their lands.
Al-Halayaa added that Israeli soldiers fired tear-gas and concussion grenades towards the Palestinian farmers causing some to suffer the toxic effects of tear-gas inhalation.
Israeli soldiers, colonists invade Qusra town
IMEMC 6 Apr — Many illegal Israeli colonists and soldiers invaded Monday the town of Qusra, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Mohammad Jaber, the Mayor of Qusra, stated that the invading colonists came from Esh Kodesh illegal colony, which was built on private lands south of the town.Jaber added that the colonists attacked a few homes before residents of the Emergency and the Neighborhood Watch Committee intercepted them. He stated that Israeli soldiers invaded the town and fired many live rounds and gas bombs at the Palestinians, leading to protests.
Jaber said the colonists invaded the town while the residents continue to observe “stay at home orders,” which were handed down by the Palestinian Authority as a precautionary measure to prevent further infections of the Coronavirus. It is worth mentioning that Israeli military bulldozers also invaded Palestinian lands in the area, and started bulldozing them, without proving any reasons for this violation.
Amid coronavirus outbreak, Israeli soldiers dump trash, spit on Palestinian cars in West Bank
Palestine Chronicle 6 Apr — As Palestinians are trying to fight the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, , Israeli soldiers today dumped trash and spat on doors of vehicles and homes in the southern West Bank town of Beit Ummar, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA. Local activist Muhammad Awad told WAFA that a large group of Israeli soldiers broke into a section of Beit Ummar – located near the illegal settlement bloc of Gush Etzion – and threw glares contaminated with an unknown substance, as well as trash, needles and used gloves between village homes. Israeli soldiers also spat on the doors of vehicles and homes, and insulted residents using racist terms, Awad said, raising concern that the soldiers intentionally want to spread coronavirus among the Palestinian civilians of that area. After the soldiers had left the town, local volunteers of Beit Ummar Emergency Committee sterilized the two areas and destroyed and burnt all the materials that the soldiers had thrown….
Jan-Feb 2020: Military blocks five West Bank villages as collective punishment
B’Tselem 9 Apr — In January and February, before the corona crisis, the military blocked the entrances to five Palestinian villages in the West Bank for varying durations, collectively punishing the entire population. Blocking roads has become a routine method of oppression Israel uses against Palestinians in the West Bank. This form of collective punishment, which forces residents to live in uncertainty and frustration and waste precious time and money, is completely unjustifiable and an abuse of military force. Blocking access to West Bank villages has long since become a routine method of oppression that Israel uses against Palestinian residents of the West Bank. The military usually blames the blocks on alleged actions by young men from the particular village – throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at Israeli vehicles, or shooting at Israeli security forces or civilians. In one fell swoop, the military punishes all residents of the village and those near it, who use these roads, even though they have done nothing wrong nor are they suspected of anything. Over the course of January and February 2020, the military blocked the entrances to five villages in the West Bank …
Yusef Asmar, 52, a married father of five from Beit Rima, works as a caretaker at the Deir Nidham high school. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 17 February 2020, he said: I have to be at work every day at 7:00 A.M. Since the military closed the gates at the entrances to the villages on my way to school, my routine has been completely disrupted. Usually, I drive from my village, Beit Rima, through a-Nabi Saleh and from there to Deir Nidham, where I work. It takes about 15 minutes. On Monday morning, 10 February 2020, I suddenly discovered the military had closed the gate at the entrance to a-Nabi Saleh, and I found out the gate at the entrance to Deir Nidham was also closed. I called the school administration and a few teachers who come from my area to find out if there were alternative routes. We discovered the military had closed the gates in other villages, where the alternative roads are, such as ‘Abud and Deir Abu Mash‘al. We couldn’t get to school that day and we all went home….
Israeli troops seize Palestinian-owned tractor in Hebron
IMEMC/Agencies 8 Apr — Israeli troops reportedly seized on Wednesday, a Palestinian-owned tractor in the northern Hebron city, southern West Bank. Palestinian chief of the local committee for resisting the Israeli Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem city, Hassan Braiga, told media outlets that the troops broke into the Aseer farmland, near the Israeli colonial settlement of Mitsad Nokdeem. He said that the invading troops seized the tractor of local farmer, Hamed Alababda, while the latter was cultivating his farm land, earlier Wednesday morning. Breaiga noted that local Alababda owns the land and has all documents confirming ownership.
Shipping container confiscated by Israeli forces near Hebron
7 Apr by Ali Salam — Israeli forces Monday seized a shipping container and tore down a stall in the Palestinian village of Khirbet Qalqas, south of Hebron city, Palestinian WAFA News Agency reported. WAFA correspondent confirmed that Israeli forces escorted heavy equipment into the village, in the southern occupied West Bank, where the heavy machinery confiscated a shipping container and dismantled a stall for selling scrap, belonging to Palestinian resident, Mohammad Abu Sneineh. It is important to note that Israeli forces also ordered many Palestinians to halt construction of their homes, in the Jordan Valley, on Monday. According to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Israel has demolished 6,539 Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank since 2009, displacing 10,139 Palestinian people.
Israel agrees to halt most demolitions of Palestinian buildings during pandemic
Times of Israel 7 Apr by Jacob Magid — Israeli authorities agreed on Tuesday to halt almost all demolitions of illegal Palestinian structures in the West Bank for the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision was relayed to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which had appealed to the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body responsible for carrying out the demolitions. ACRI had called the practice “inhumane,” particularly in the midst of a public health crisis. ACRI reported that several demolitions and equipment seizures had taken place in the Jordan Valley late last month, including a tent that Palestinians say was going to be used as a medical clinic. The B’Tselem rights group also reported that demolitions continued in two Bedouin villages since the start of April. “There is no justification for confiscating clinics and medical equipment at this time, and certainly there is no justification [for the seizure of] a would-be clinic for a community detached from medical resources, while the whole world is dealing with a pandemic whose reach is still not known,” ACRI attorney Roni Pelli wrote.
In his Tuesday letter responding to Pelli, Civil Administration public inquiry officer Bar Yehudah wrote, “As a general rule, enforcement actions at the present time will focus on new illegal construction, in particular construction that was carried out to take advantage of the emergency situation.” “As a rule, no final demolition orders issued for populated buildings will be implemented at this time, and efforts will be made to reduce friction with the [Palestinian] population,” he said. He added that exceptions would be made for structures that are slated for razing due to security or public safety reasons. In addition, extensions would be granted for stop-work orders — a decree that often precedes a final demolition order.
In a statement, Pelli commended the decision while criticizing the recent demolitions of a water tank and an electricity line, which the Civil Administration officer admitted to carrying out in the memo. “The demolition of critical structures providing water and electricity are life-threatening [actions] during this crisis, as the most significant directive to prevent the spread of the virus after social distancing is to wash hands and maintain hygiene,” Pelli said.
Israeli army detains three Palestinian former prisoners in north of West Bank
JENIN, Monday, April 6, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli soldiers detained early this morning three Palestinian former prisoners from the north of the occupied West Bank, according to local sources. They told WAFA that soldiers detained one man from the city of Jenin after raiding his family home, another from the town of Ya‘bad and the third from ‘Arraba town, all in the Jenin district.
IDF lets 20 hilltop youth quarantine together against government guidelines
Times of Israel 8 Apr by Jacob Magid — The army on Monday night quarantined a group of 20 far-right activists together in a tent on a deserted West Bank hilltop, in violation of the government’s coronavirus guidelines, which require those who come in contact with confirmed carriers to isolate on their own. The move came after the extremist youngsters, known as hilltop youth, trashed a bus that was ferrying them to an isolation hostel in the south, police said, confirming a report by the Kan public broadcaster. The activists were transferred to a makeshift isolation site in Metzoke Dragot, near the Dead Sea. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed to the Times of Israel in a Tuesday statement that it was providing the group with food and lodging, but a spokeswoman added that the tent was a temporary solution. The group, from the Givat Ronen outpost in the northern West Bank, had initially been taken to a Jerusalem hotel on Monday morning after one of their peers tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to the 20 other inhabitants of the outpost, the teen forced the IDF’s Central Command head Nadav Padan into quarantine. When the group arrived at the state-run Jerusalem hotel, they were told that each of them would be required to stay in separate rooms like all other guests. When they refused, police decided to bus them to an alternative site in the south. One of the far-right activists filmed another on the bus saying they had not been told where they were being taken, and were concerned that their destination might be a detention center run by the Shin Bet internal security service. The hilltop youth subsequently wreaked havoc to the bus, shattering most of the windows. Several of the far-right activists managed to flee, but were apprehended by Border Police. Police said an investigation would be opened against the teens over the bus vandalism.
With Abbas absent, Palestinian premier is star of virus crisis
RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) 9 Apr –The contrast could hardly have been starker — an octogenarian Palestinian president giving a brief pre-recorded speech, and a prime minister talking in-depth and fielding questions about the coronavirus response. As the Palestinian government seeks to combat the spread of COVID-19, its long-time leader, president Mahmud Abbas, has been all but absent, with prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh instead in charge. Analysts say Shtayyeh has appeared in control of the detail while taking rapid measures that have so far limited the number of officially declared novel coronavirus cases in the occupied West Bank to around 250. Polling shows overwhelming support for the government’s response, and Shtayyeh’s impressive performance has increased talk of him as Abbas’s potential successor. “Shtayyeh is clearly the most prominent Palestinian politician” since the coronavirus outbreak began, said Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. With Palestinian politics dominated by those from the era of Yasser Arafat in the 1990s, at 62 Shtayyeh is among the youngest senior officials. He speaks fluent English, unlike Abbas, and having earned a doctorate in development in the United Kingdom has a strong grasp of the international aid system. “This is the first time Shtayyeh has acquired significant support among Palestinian people as a potential long-term successor to Abbas,” Zalzberg added.
When COVID-19 first arrived in Israel, the Palestinian government tasked individual ministries with tackling the crisis, Palestinian and international officials said. Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank for decades, but the Palestinian government has limited self-autonomy in cities. When the first cases were confirmed in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on March 5, Abbas tapped Shtayyeh to lead the government’s response. The premier formed an emergency committee superseding all ministries, locked down Bethlehem and announced a state of emergency in the West Bank, with schools closed and all but essential movement banned. “They took action very rapidly and really took the crisis management function to the highest level,” Gerald Rockenschaub, head of the World Health Organization’s Palestinian office, said….
A new coronavirus recovery in West Bank raises total of recoveries in Palestine to 46
RAMALLAH, Saturday, April 11, 2020 (WAFA) – A new coronavirus recovery in Palestine yesterday raised the total of recoveries to 46, according to the Ministry of Health. It said that a young man from Tulkarm in the north of the West Bank has left the quarantine center in the city after three tests conducted for him came back negative. He will however remain in a home quarantine for 14 days. Of the total recoveries, 37 are in the West Bank out of a total of 254 corona cases, and nine in the Gaza Strip out of a total of 13 corona cases. Two deaths have been recorded so far in the West Bank while one patient remains in serious condition in the West Bank as well, as confirmed yesterday by government spokesman Mohammad Milhem.
PA repurposes West Bank hospital for virus cases after infected man visits site
Times of Israel 5 Apr by Adam Rasgon — Thabet Thabet is the sole government hospital in Tulkarem; official says carrier walked through several sections of the medical facility — The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry decided on Sunday to repurpose the Thabet Thabet Government Hospital in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem for coronavirus cases after an infected man entered the medical facility, the official PA news site Wafa reported. Patients seeking care at the hospital for reasons unrelated to the virus will be instructed to go to other medical institutions, the Wafa report said. Earlier on Thursday, Kamal al-Shakhra, the director-general of primary care in the PA Health Ministry, told a press conference in Ramallah that the man infected by the virus who entered the hospital had walked through several of its wards. “He caused some confusion for us,” the Health Ministry official said, noting that he was from Bartaa, a village in the Jenin area. Shakhra said while the man had been suffering from “ordinary inflammations” and “heart problems” for over a week, he only recently came to the hospital where he received a test for COVID-19. Thabet Thabet is the sole Palestinian government hospital in Tulkarem, which is located near the border between Israel and the West Bank. Footage posted on Facebook from outside the hospital early Sunday afternoon showed PA security forces blocking the entrance.
European diplomats in Jerusalem meet via video the city’s PA minister after arrest by Israel
JERUSALEM, Wednesday, April 8, 2020 (WAFA) – Diplomats from several European countries based in Jerusalem yesterday talked via video conference with the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi following his arrest for several hours by Israeli police, according to a tweet by the diplomats. Hidmi was briefly detained by police on Friday for his efforts to help Palestinians in the occupied part of Jerusalem fight the coronavirus outbreak. He was assaulted and treated badly during the arrest while forced to wear a contaminated face mask. His house on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem was also ransacked. Representatives of Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the European Union held a video talk with Hidmi, said the tweet by the UK Consulate General in Jerusalem. “They expressed concern at the 3 April raid by Israeli police on his home, his detention and questioning about his work to prevent the spread of Covid19 in East Jerusalem,” it said. Israeli police have been pursuing and arresting Palestinian activists and senior PA officials in the occupied city who try to look after the city’s 350,000 Arab population neglected by Israel in the efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
‘Arab students will pay the price’: Pandemic widens Israel’s education gaps
+972 Mag 7 Apr by Oren Ziv — Palestinian students in Israel are being disproportionately disadvantaged by the switch to remote online learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Supreme Court petition filed on Sunday by the Palestinian human rights group Adalah and other NGOs. The petition, which cites figures from the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education, notes that around half of Palestinian students in the country are unable to connect to online classes, while roughly a third do not have access to a computer or tablet. In unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab/Negev, the situation is even worse. The appeal seeks to compel the Israeli government to ensure that students in the Naqab are given the means to access online learning, and that homes in unrecognized Bedouin villages be connected to the internet immediately. More than 50,000 students in the Naqab’s 48 villages, recognized and unrecognized, have been cut off from their studies since schools shuttered across the country nearly a month ago and shifted to distance learning. The unrecognized villages in particular are already facing a potential humanitarian disaster in the face of the novel coronavirus, due to their lack basic infrastructure such as electricity, water, and sanitation. Just over half of the affected students live in 37 unrecognized villages, while the remainder live across 11 recognized villages. Despite repeated requests from Adalah, the Follow-Up Committee for Arab Education, and other groups, the Israeli Education Ministry has so far failed to ensure that these students are able to continue their studies uninterrupted….
BDS founder: Israel-invented virus vaccine would be OK for boycotters to use
JTA 7 Apr by Marcy Oster — The founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel said that if Israel invents a vaccine for the coronavirus, those who reject normalization with Israel by boycotting it can still be given the vaccine. Omar Barghouti made the comments in a Facebook live Arabic-language webinar Sunday titled “BDS and Anti-normalization: The most important strategies to fight against the deal of the century, even in the time of COVID-19.” Barghouti said that Israel should not be allowed to use the coronavirus crisis to maintain relations with the Palestinian Authority and with other Arab states. He also said, according to the Jerusalem Post: “if you use medical equipment from Israel — it’s not a problem. Cooperating with Israel against the virus – to begin with, we do not consider it normalization.” The same is true of other medical breakthroughs, he said. “If Israel finds a cure for cancer, for example, or any other virus, then there is no problem in cooperating with Israel to save millions of lives,” he said. He pointed out, the Jerusalem Post reported, that “up until now, we have not been in a situation where we need Israel urgently and no one else can save us but Israel. If that will happen, saving lives is more important than anything else.”….
Israel is obliged to take life-saving measures for West Bank, Gaza to combat Covid-19: groups
HAIFA, Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (WAFA) – With over 250 identified COVID-19 Palestinian patients in the West Bank and potentially dozens in the Gaza Strip, some 20 human rights organizations said today that Israel is obliged to take measures vis-a-vis the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to save lives in face of potential Covid19 coronavirus outbreak. The organizations expressed “grave concern in the face of a potential human catastrophe” in case “the Palestinian healthcare system, with a dire lack of equipment, medicines, and training, will be unable to deal with this outbreak.” They said in their joint statement, “We therefore urge the Israeli authorities to live up to their legal and moral obligations and assist the Palestinian health systems—in Gaza and the West Bank—both with combating the pandemic and caring for those patients who are in critical need of continuous health care that is unavailable in the Gaza Strip.” They called on Israel to remove the 13-year-long blockade on the Gaza Strip that has stifled life there….
Palestinian Americans send help to PA to fight COVID-19
The Media Line 6 Apr — The AFRHSN Medical Mission, a Palestinian American initiative based in the San Francisco Bay Area, has donated much-needed equipment to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry in the face of the global coronavirus crisis … The NGO has dispatched more than 300,000 pieces of medical equipment to the PA Health Ministry, including 10,000 COVID-19 test kits as wells as masks, other protective gear and disinfectants. The AFRHSN Medical Mission has raised about $190,000 of its $1 million target. The first shipment of $120,000 worth of material has reached Israel after receiving all the required approvals. Bajis Katwan, a U.S.-based Palestinian businessman who is a leader of the Palestine COVID-19 Relief Fund initiative, said that the AFRHSN Medical Mission launched the initiative after a group of Palestinians working in the medical sector in the US met a few weeks ago and decided to help their homeland with its scarce resources and densely packed population. “We contacted the Palestinian health minister to receive the shipment after a two-member logistics team worked on getting approval from the Israeli side with the help of the Heart of Mercy organization, which played a big role in facilitating this,” Katwan said … Raja’i Khoury, a doctor and leader of the Palestine COVID-19 Relief Fund initiative who is part of the AFRHSN Medical Mission, said that due to the global shortage, the first aid shipment didn’t include any ventilators, but the next ones will. … Khoury said the goal was to keep raising donations during the crisis to help Palestinians … Non-Palestinians contributed to the fund as well, he said. “We hope that part of the shipments goes to Gaza, which doesn’t have anything because of the 13-year blockade,” Khoury said. Ashraf Qudwa, a spokesperson for Gaza’s Health Ministry, said that the Strip might run out of COVID-19 test kits this week. “What we have will last for a few more days, depending on the cases we receive,” he said….
EU offers €71 million in coronavirus aid package to Palestinians
JERUSALEM, Thursday, April 9, 2020 (WAFA) – The European Union Representative announced today, during a meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammed Shtayyeh, an assistance package of around €71 million to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in Palestine. The European Union (EU) welcomes the preventive measures so far taken by the Palestinian Authority, as well as the COVID-19 Response Plan. The EU notes the challenges linked to implementing the response plan including the fact that the occupied Palestinian territory is economically dependent on Israel, restrictions on movement and access for Palestinians, and the complex challenges in the Gaza Strip under blockade. The EU’s assistance package, which also includes humanitarian aid, is a direct response to the Palestinian Authority’s COIVD-19 Response Plan …
Finally, the EU has made an early payment of its entire €82 million contribution to UNRWA’s programme budget in 2020. This will enable the Agency to keep addressing the challenges faced by Palestine refugees, today particularly hit by the pandemic. In this regard, a further €36 million for UNRWA in Jordan and Lebanon is also being reoriented to focus on immediate health needs.
ISM statement on reported FBI probe
7 Apr — Recently, The Intercept published a report of a surveillance investigation conducted by the FBI on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The highly invasive investigation targeted ISM activists, their associates, and other organizations ISM worked with, from 2004 – 2006, using informants as well as physical and telecommunications surveillance. We, at the International Solidarity Movement denounce this shameless abuse of power and misuse of public funds in an attempt to criminalize Palestinian solidarity and anti-occupation activism, as well as the current ongoing campaign in some American states to criminalize the BDS movement. ISM activists have been secretly spied on and targeted by various intelligence services, including British, Israeli, and U.S., for over 19 years, merely for standing up for the rights of Palestinians. We call on those who believe that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity to take action and raise awareness about local, state, and national attempts to criminalize nonviolent resistance such as BDS and Palestinian advocacy, and boycott those profiting off the Occupation of Palestine.
According to the Intercept report, an FBI investigation was launched after an American volunteer with ISM was shot and wounded by Israeli forces at a protest in Occupied Palestine. Instead of investigating the foreign army that injured an American citizen exercising his First Amendment-protected right to peaceful protest, the FBI’s response was to probe the survivor. While the 2 primary investigations were launched by the Los Angeles and St. Louis FBI Field Offices, agents from at least 11 cities were involved in spying on various ISM activists and related organizations. Using far right and extremist news sources, the investigation attempted to link ISM to international terrorism. After two years of investigation, multiple rights and privacy violations, hundreds of pages of reports and tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars wasted, the investigation only proved what we have always maintained: ISM is a non-violent movement committed to ending the Occupation of Palestine through non-violent means. Notably, the investigation began in March 2004, shortly after the murder of American Rachel Corrie and Briton Tom Hurndall (2003) by the Israeli army. The probe coincided with an Israeli government campaign to de-legitimize ISM and discredit Palestinian rights activists….