Israeli soldiers, settlers clash with Palestinians in West Bank’s Hebron

Palestinian chant slogans as they demand Israel re-open Shuhada Street, near a Jewish settler enclave in the West Bank city of Hebron, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 25 February 2017
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Israeli soldiers, settlers clash with Palestinians in West Bank’s Hebron

HEBRON/GENEVA/JERUSALEM: Hundreds of Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers on Friday in the West Bank city of Hebron on the anniversary of a 1994 massacre carried out by a far-right Jewish settler.
In another development, the UN said it’s “deeply disturbed” by the “lenient” 18-month prison sentence handed down by a Tel Aviv military court against an Israeli soldier who killed a badly wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground.
Soldiers fired tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the crowd as cannons doused them with stinking water, an AFP correspondent said. There was no report of injuries.
Jewish settlers hurled stones at the protesters who also pelted soldiers with stones.
Settler Baruch Goldstein on Feb. 25, 1994 mowed down 29 Palestinians inside Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, holy to Muslims and Jews alike, before being lynched.
Also on Friday, dozens of Palestinians staged a protest in Hebron against US President Donald Trump who has voiced strong support of Israel, pelting a huge portrait of America’s leader with shoes, an ultimate insult in the Arab world.
“This is a Palestinian product. He will get it in his face, him and everybody supporting him,” said activist Issa Amro.
“Today we are here to send the message to the Trump administration that we exist, we deserve full rights as everybody in the world. We disrespect this president who does not see us as equal human beings with everyone.”
Palestinians in Hebron have stepped up calls for the Israeli army to re-open a street near the Jewish settler enclave in the heart of the city that has been largely closed off to Palestinians for the past 23 years since the massacre.
Hebron has been at the center of a wave of deadly unrest since October 2015 that has killed 252 Palestinians, 36 Israelis, two US nationals, a Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count.

‘Culture of impunity’
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani of the UN human rights office said on Friday there was a “chronic culture of impunity” in Israel when it comes to soldiers involved in the conflict with Palestinians.
Sgt. Elor Azaria was sentenced Tuesday for manslaughter in the March shooting of Adbelfattah Al-Sharif, who was wounded after he stabbed a soldier in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron.
Israel has meanwhile denied a work permit to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, accusing the group of serving as Palestinian propagandists in a move the US-based organization called an “ominous turn.”
The US State Department said it strongly disagreed with Israel’s characterization of HRW, which it considers a credible human rights organization.
“Even though we do not agree with all of their assertions or conclusions, given the seriousness of their efforts, we support the importance of the work they do. We reference HRW reports in our own reporting,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

New Hamas leader
The new leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, made his first public appearance since his election for the inauguration of a mosque on Friday, winning praise from his predecessor.
His movement which has run the Gaza Strip for the past decade invited the media to attend the opening of the Gaza City mosque without announcing Sinwar’s participation.
Sinwar himself made no statement at the event, but his predecessor Ismail Haniya paid tribute to the former prisoner who spent 25 years “in the jails of the (Israeli) occupation.”
“This is a source of pride for Hamas and for its prisoners,” Haniya told the crowd.
“The Zionist media are trying to... make a distinction between the military and political figures (in Hamas), but we tell them we are all fighters and that in the face of the occupation we are all military,” the former premier said.
Haniya is considered a supporter of a relatively moderate element in Hamas, while Sinwar is a top commander in its armed wing and strong advocate of armed struggle against Israel.
The former premier is seen by many observers as the most likely successor to Hamas’s overall leader Khaled Meshaal, who currently lives in exile.


Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million have been uprooted from their homes. AP
Updated 16 July 2018
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Assad forces target fighters near Golan Heights

  • Regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside
  • In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces unleashed hundreds of missiles on an opposition-held area near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on Sunday, activists said, the latest phase in an offensive to clear southern Syria of insurgents.
The regime’s push came after it had secured control of most of Daraa province in an offensive that began in June. On Sunday, the first batch of armed fighters and their families left the city of Daraa, the provincial capital, in buses that would take them to the opposition-held Idlib province in the north.
Similar deals in other parts of Syria resulted in the evacuation of thousands of opposition fighters and civilians — evacuations that the UN and rights groups have decried as forced displacement.
Syrian President Bashar Assad said Sunday the success in driving the opposition out of Daraa embodies the will of his army and allied forces to “liberate all of Syrian territories” of “terrorism.”
In recent months and backed by Russian air force, the Syrian regime has restored control of over 60 percent of previously opposition-held territory across the country.
Assad spoke during a meeting on Sunday with visiting Iranian Foreign Ministry official Hossein Jaberi Ansari. Assad’s office said the two agreed that the “elimination of terrorism in most of the Syrian territory has laid the most appropriate ground to reach results at the political level” that could put an end to Syria’s war.
Syria’s regime refers to all armed opposition groups as “terrorists” and accuses the West, Turkey, Israel and regional countries of supporting them.
The statement came a day before President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are to meet in Finland. Syria is expected to feature highly on the agenda. Russia is a major Assad ally.
In Daraa, the evacuation deal will hand over areas held by the fighters for years back to regime control. Daraa, which lies on a highway linking Damascus with Jordan, was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Since early Sunday, regime forces turned their missiles toward a stretch of land controlled by the armed opposition in northern Daraa and the countryside of adjacent Quneitra.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said regime forces fired more than 800 missiles at an area between northern Daraa and the Quneitra countryside, about 4 kilometers, or 2.5 miles, from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
The Observatory said government forces advanced on Massharah, a village in Quneitra, and rebels fought back in intense clashes that killed several pro-government fighters. The pro-Syrian regime Central Military Media said a number of insurgents were killed in the clashes.
The Observatory reported airstrikes in Massharah, the first in over a year to hit the Quneitra countryside. It also reported airstrikes in a nearby village in northern Daraa, where regime forces have been trying to retake a key hill there after failing to reach a deal with the fighters. Capturing the hill would enable them to advance on militants in the area linked to Daesh.
Daraa activist Abou Mahmoud Hourani said an estimated 400 members of the armed opposition and their families will be evacuated out of Daraa.
Pro-regime TV Al-Ikhbariya said 10 buses carrying 407 people left for northern Syria.
The station said the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people was likely to be completed by Sunday.