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.


500,000 children face ‘immediate danger’ in Libya capital: UN

Updated 29 sec ago
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500,000 children face ‘immediate danger’ in Libya capital: UN

TRIPOLI: Half a million children are in “immediate danger” in Libya’s capital Tripoli due to fighting, the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF said on Monday.
Clashes that broke out between rival militias in late August had killed at least 115 people and wounded nearly 400 by Saturday night, according to Libya’s health ministry.
UNICEF said more than 1,200 families were displaced in the past 48 hours as the clashes intensified in southern Tripoli before pausing on Monday.
That put the total number of people displaced by the recent fighting at over 25,000, half of whom were children, it said.
The UN agency’s Middle East and North Africa director, Geert Cappelaere, said children were paying a “heavy toll” and were increasingly being recruited by armed groups.
“We see children being prevented from going to school, we see children not having the vaccination that they urgently need,” he said.
Those whose parents came to Libya with the hope of migrating to Europe by sea suffered doubly, said Cappelaere.
“They are already facing dire living conditions, many of them are held in detention,” a situation made worse by “the violence that is happening today,” he said.
UNICEF also said schools are increasingly being used to shelter displaced families, which is likely to delay the start of the academic year beyond October 3.
It said residents are facing food, power and water shortages, adding that the clashes had exacerbated the plight of migrants.
“Hundreds of detained refugees and migrants, including children, were forced to move because of violence. Others are stranded in centers in dire conditions,” Cappelaere said.
Despite a UN-brokered cease-fire on September 4, fighting broke out again last week in southern districts of the capital.
The clashes have pitted armed groups from Tarhuna and Misrata against Tripoli militias nominally controlled by Libya’s UN-backed unity government.
The Libyan capital has been at the center of a battle for influence between armed groups since dictator Muammar Qaddafi was ousted in a NATO-backed 2011 uprising.
The country’s unity government has struggled to exert its control in the face of a multitude of militias and a rival administration based in eastern Libya.