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.


Migrant killed during Libya disembarkation: UN

Updated 8 min 16 sec ago

Migrant killed during Libya disembarkation: UN

  • ‘This was tragedy waiting to happen’: International Organization for Migrationspokesman Leonard Doyle
  • IOM demands ‘immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants’

GENEVA: A Sudanese man was shot and killed Thursday as he and other migrants returned to shore by the Libyan Coast Guard tried to resist being sent back to detention, the UN said.
The International Organization for Migration strongly condemned the incident and demanded that Libyan authorities investigate and bring those responsible to justice.
“This was tragedy waiting to happen,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle said in a statement.
“The use of live bullets against unarmed vulnerable civilians, men, women and children alike, is unacceptable under any circumstances and raises alarms over the safety of migrants and humanitarian staff,” he added.
The UN agency said its staff had been on site at the Abusitta Disembarkation point in Tripoli when as many as 103 migrants returned to shore resisted being sent back to Libyan detention centers.
When several migrants tried to run away from the guards, “armed men began shooting into the air,” and one migrant was hit by a bullet in the stomach, according to the IOM staff accounts.
“Despite immediately receiving medical aid on the spot by an IOM doctor and then being transferred to a nearby clinic, he died two hours after admission,” the agency said.
The man’s death, it said, stood as “a stark reminder of the grim conditions faced by migrants picked up by the Coast Guard after paying smugglers to take them to Europe.”
The UN and aid groups have warned that rescued migrants returned to Libya face rampant human rights abuses in both official and illegal centers in the war-ravaged country.
According to the UN, some 5,000 migrant women, children and men remain detained in inhumane conditions in Libya — more than 3,000 of them in areas of active conflict.
In June, an airstrike on the Tajoura detention center killed 53 migrants, including six children.
“That facility remains operational to this day, despite persistent calls to end the arbitrary detention of migrants,” IOM said.
“Alternatives to detention must be found,” it said, stressing that the “increasing reports of abuse and human trafficking from detention centers are truly alarming.”
IOM demanded “immediate action ... to put an end to the suffering of civilians in Libya, especially detained migrants.”