Israel carries out ‘large-scale’ raids on Palestinian media firms

An employee of Palestinian production firm Palmedia arrives at work in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 18, 2017 to find it sealed by the Israeli army. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2017
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Israel carries out ‘large-scale’ raids on Palestinian media firms

HEBRON, Palestinian Territories: Israeli forces raided Palestinian media offices across the occupied West Bank overnight in what a military spokeswoman on Wednesday called a “large-scale operation” against incitement.
The raids on eight companies came hours after the Israeli government declared that it would not deal with an emerging Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the Islamist group made radical changes.
Israeli officials said the raids targeted companies that provide services to Hamas television stations. Notices were posted saying the companies were to be closed for six months.
“Israeli army forces last night raided eight Palestinian production and media companies that provide services to Al-Aqsa and Al-Quds TV channels,” the head of an Israeli defense ministry unit known as COGAT, Yoav Mordechai, wrote on Facebook, referring to Hamas channels.
“These two channels broadcast constant incitement against the state of Israel. It is no secret that these two channels inspired, several times, terrorists to go out and commit terrorist attacks against innocents.”
Israeli officials provided no specific examples of the alleged incitement. At least one of the companies targeted provides various services to a range of local and international news media.
The Palestinian Authority said it condemned the raids “in the strongest terms.”
“Occupation forces committed a blatant aggression and gross violation of all international laws when they stormed Palestinian cities and raided media offices,” PA government spokesman Yusef Al-Mahmoud said in a statement.
He said the measures were a “clear challenge to the international efforts, especially the American efforts, to seek an opportunity for compromise and lay the foundations for peace and security with the agreement of all sides.”
US President Donald Trump has been seeking ways to restart long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
A Palestinian journalists’ union official in the southern West Bank city of Hebron said that the offices of three companies providing production services to Hamas television channels were closed and equipment and documents seized.
They were named as Palmedia, Ramsat and Transmedia, a satellite broadcasting facility where two members of staff were arrested, the union official said.
An official with Palmedia told AFP that three of its five offices in the West Bank were closed, including its headquarters in Ramallah as well as in Hebron and Nablus.
Some 50 people were out of work due to the Palmedia closures, he said. The company provides services to a range of local and international media.
A military spokeswoman told AFP that security forces “searched a number of media and production offices suspected of broadcasting inciting content, encouraging, celebrating and promoting violence and terrorism against Israelis.”
“During the large-scale operation, media stations such as Ramsat and Transmedia were closed,” she added.
“In addition forces seized equipment and documents from media companies that provided services to Al Aqsa and Al Quds — TV channels that are illegal organizations.”
Last week, rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas signed a landmark unity deal aimed at ending a decade-long split.
Israel said on Tuesday it would not negotiate with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if the Islamist movement does not disarm, recognize the country and renounce violence.
The government statement also demanded that president Mahmud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority “continue to act against Hamas terror infrastructures” in the West Bank.
Hamas has run the Gaza Strip for a decade, but also has a presence in the West Bank, where Abbas’s Fatah is based.
Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008, and the Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade.
Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007 in a near civil war with Fatah that followed an electoral dispute after polls won by the Islamist movement.


Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

Updated 40 min 27 sec ago
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Palestinian pupils scrap school holidays to save village

  • Israel says the Bedouin village was constructed illegally
  • The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities

KHAN AL-AHMAR, Palestinian Territories: Under the sun’s harsh glare, dozens of students sing the Palestinian national anthem — beginning a new school year early as part of efforts to keep their village from being demolished.
The students of Khan Al-Ahmar went back to their village school in the occupied West Bank on Monday, while Israeli authorities seek to evict them.
“We are starting the school year earlier because the Israelis want to destroy the school,” said Amani Ali, 11.
“So when they come to demolish it, we will be here.”
Israel says the Bedouin village, located in a strategic spot east of Jerusalem near Israeli settlements and on the road to the Dead Sea, was constructed illegally and is seeking to move its 191 residents elsewhere.
The residents of the village point out that it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits from Israeli authorities in around 60 percent of the West Bank where they maintain full control.
On May 24, Israel’s supreme court allowed authorities to go ahead with demolition of the small hillside village that sits between a highway, the desert and two Israeli settlements.
Since then, two new court challenges have been filed on behalf of the village, temporarily suspending demolition plans, and the court plans to hold another hearing by August 15 at the latest, activists say.
European countries have rallied to support the villagers, calling for demolition plans to be canceled.
“The fact that the students are at the school can prevent the decision from being carried out because they are going to see that there are classes, life, people,” said Ghadir Darsya, who has taught in Khan Al-Ahmar for three years.
“No one knows what’s going to happen,” she added, while sorting books with her colleagues amid the sound of children’s voices from an adjacent playground.
The school was constructed in 2009 with the support of NGOs and the European Union. Largely built with tires, sand and mud, it serves 170 students from various Bedouin villages, according to the principal.
“There are about 50 families with many children. Where are they going to go?” said Darsya.
The rest of the village is made up of homes of metal sheets, cardboard and wood, as is common in such Bedouin communities.
“We are always afraid. I cannot sleep at night,” said Raya Jahalin, as her grandchildren played on a large carpet behind her that serves as a living room devoid of furniture.
“It is our land. I have lived here for 50 years. I was born here. My children were married here.”
The villagers say Khan Al-Ahmar has been located there since 1952.
It was established after Bedouins from the Jahalin tribe were, according to rights activists, expelled from the Negev desert in the south after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Israeli authorities now want to relocate them to an area near Abu Dis in the West Bank, but the villagers are refusing, saying that the site is near a dump and in an urban environment where their animals cannot graze.
For Eid Abu Khamis, a village spokesman, forced eviction of Bedouins throughout the area would put in peril the possibility of a future Palestinian state.
If they are replaced with Israeli settlers, Khamis and rights groups say the West Bank could be cut in two, dividing the half north of Jerusalem from the southern one.
Israeli rights group B’Tselem says around 180 communities are threatened with eviction in the West Bank.
B’Tselem spokesman Amit Gilutz says Israel has for decades pursued a policy of trying to evict Palestinians from the part of the West Bank where it exerts full control.
It has sought to avoid forced transfers, he said, but applies enough pressure on the villagers in hopes that they finally decide to leave on their own.