Hundreds of African migrants protest Israel detentions

African migrants march from Holot to the Saharonim Prison, an Israeli detention facility for African asylum seekers, where at least nine others have been incarcerated as part of Israel’s new policy of prison or deportation for migrants, in Israel’s southern Negev desert. Israel is preparing to deport thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered the country illegally and who do not have asylum claims under examination. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2018
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Hundreds of African migrants protest Israel detentions

Holot, ISRAEL: Hundreds of African migrants protested Thursday outside an Israeli prison where at least nine others have been incarcerated under Israel’s controversial new policy of expelling or imprisoning them.
They marched a short distance from the Holot open detention center to Saharonim Prison, chanting slogans and carrying signs demanding the prisoners’ release.
They said they were on a hunger strike and vowed to continue it until a solution is reached.
Israel is preparing to deport thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who entered the country illegally and who do not have asylum claims under examination.
The government has offered them a choice: leave by early April to their homelands or a third country, or face indefinite detention in prison.
As many could face danger if returned to their home countries, Israel is proposing to send them to an unnamed third country, which migrants and aid workers say is Rwanda or Uganda.
Israel plans to start by tackling the cases of single men who have not submitted asylum applications, or whose applications have been rejected.
Authorities on Tuesday transferred the first Eritrean detainees, detained at the Holot open detention center, to Saharonim Prison after they refused to leave the country.
Israeli authorities said nine had been jailed, while migrants said the number was 12.
Hundreds of detainees at the Holot center went on hunger strike Tuesday night in protest at the move.
Clasping their hands over their heads, protesters on Thursday chanted: “We are not criminals, we are refugees! No deportation, no more prison, we are not for sale, we are asylum seekers! Bring back our brothers!“
Muluebrhan Ghebrihimet, a 27-year-old Eritrean, said that when he arrived in Israel six years ago, he had filed an asylum application, but it was rejected.
“We are here to seek asylum, not to work or become rich,” he said.
He did not know when he would be sent to prison.
A wave of African migrants arrived in Israel after 2007, crossing the border from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
The porous border has since been largely sealed off, putting an end to arrivals.
Migrants settled in the poor neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial capital, but their presence has caused friction with some Israelis.
Religious and conservative leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have presented Muslim and Christian migrants as a threat to Israel’s Jewish identity.
The government, considered the most rightwing in Israel’s history, has been roundly condemned by the United Nations’ refugee agency, academics and rights groups over its migrant plan.
According to interior ministry figures, there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families, who are not facing the April deportation deadline.
Israeli officials stress that no one they classify as a refugee or asylum seeker will be deported.


Israel army says delegation heading to Russia over Lebanon ops

Updated 11 December 2018
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Israel army says delegation heading to Russia over Lebanon ops

  • The Kremlin said on Saturday that Netanyahu had called Putin to discuss the operation against alleged Hezbollah tunnels
JERUSALEM: An Israeli army delegation will head to Moscow on Tuesday to brief their Russian counterparts on operations to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon, the military said.
“An Israeli army delegation composed of senior officers and led by the head of army operations, General Aharon Haliva, will fly to Moscow on Tuesday,” the military said in a statement.
“During the day-long visit, the delegation will brief their Russian counterparts on Operation Northern Shield and other operational issues,” said the statement issued on Monday.
The announcement came after a telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Israel on Wednesday launched an operation — dubbed Northern Shield — aimed at destroying alleged Hezbollah “attack tunnels” infiltrating its territory from Lebanon.
Ties between Israel and Russia have been strained since the accidental downing of one of Moscow’s transport planes on September 17 by Syrian ground batteries killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the incident on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian plane for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system.
The Kremlin said on Saturday that Netanyahu had called Putin to discuss the operation against alleged Hezbollah tunnels.
During the conversation, Putin stressed “the need to ensure stability along the dividing line between Israel and Lebanon,” according to Russia’s embassy in Israel.
Netanyahu for his part reaffirmed Israel’s policy of preventing the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to “act against the aggression of Iran and Hezbollah.”
Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement claimed credit for its withdrawal following persistent guerrilla attacks.
The two countries are still technically at war but the border has remained relatively calm in recent years.
Russia is fighting on the same side as Iran and Hezbollah in support of President Bashar Assad in Syria.