Abbas calls on UN to protect Palestinians after Israeli troops kill 16 protesters

1 / 5
Medics try to evacuate a wounded youth during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
2 / 5
Protesters cover themselves from Israeli soldiers during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, on March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
3 / 5
Palestinian protesters take cover from Israeli troops during a demonstration near the Gaza Strip border with Israel, in eastern Gaza City, Friday, Mar. 30, 2018. (AP)
4 / 5
Palestinian demonstrators at the border with Israel, Mar 30 2018. (AP)
5 / 5
Palestinian demonstrators at the border with Israel, Mar 30 2018. (AP)
Updated 31 March 2018

Abbas calls on UN to protect Palestinians after Israeli troops kill 16 protesters

GAZA CITY: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the United Nations on Friday to take measures to protect Palestinians after Israeli forces opened fire on a huge protest in Gaza, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 1,000. 
Abbas declared Saturday a day of national mourning.
The dead and wounded were shot with a mixture of live ammunition, rubber-coated steel pellets and tear gas fired from drones, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and eyewitnesses.
But the bloodshed failed to deter the demonstrators, many of whom told Arab News they would continue to camp out near the border for the next six weeks.
“We have nothing to lose. We are already at the bottom and we need a better life,” said 18-year-old Emad Abu Asser.
The UN Security Council is holding closed-door emergency talks about the situation in Gaza, a diplomat said on Friday. The meeting is being held at the request of Kuwait, the diplomat said.
Friday’s protest was supported by all of Gaza’s main political factions and was timed to coincide with “Land Day,” an annual event when Palestinians remember the deaths of six Arab citizens killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations over land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976.
The tens of thousands of Gazans who attended the rally traveled in buses from across Gaza to five locations along the border.
“We are here to deliver a message to the world that we deserve life and we want a decent life,” said Samir Al-Madhoun, 45, as he sat with his family about 800 meters from the border. He added that he hoped the protest would unite people in Gaza again, after years of tension between Hamas and Fatah.
“This day brings the compass back to the main issue, to the issue of the conflict with the Israeli occupation, which is the cause of the crisis we are living in. The world must intervene to restore our rights.”
Israel's military said in a statement that "thousands of Palestinians are rioting in six locations throughout the Gaza Strip, rolling burning tyres and hurling stones at the security fence and at (Israeli) troops, who are responding with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators."
Israeli forces have threatened to fire live bullets at any Palestinian who tries to cross certain border checkpoints.
Turkey accused Israel of using "disproportionate force" against the Palestinians. "We strongly condemn Israel's use of disproportionate force against Palestinians during the peaceful protests today (Friday) in Gaza," the Foreign Ministry said.
Earlier Friday, before the main protests began, a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli tank fire near the border.
The Israeli military said the tank fire came after "two suspects approached the security fence ... and began operating suspiciously."
Israel's military said in a statement that "thousands of Palestinians are rioting in six locations throughout the Gaza Strip, rolling burning tIres and hurling stones at the security fence and at (Israeli) troops, who are responding with riot dispersal means and firing towards main instigators."
Israeli forces have threatened to fire live bullets at any Palestinian who tries to cross certain border checkpoints.
Earlier Friday, before the main protests began, a Palestinian farmer was killed by Israeli tank fire near the border.
The Israeli military said the tank fire came after "two suspects approached the security fence ... and began operating suspiciously."
The march kicks off up to six weeks of protests dubbed "The Great March of Return," in the runup to the inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem around May 14.
Among those taking part on Friday was Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist movement Hamas that controls Gaza.
"There is no alternative to Palestine and no solution except to return," he said in a statement, referring to Palestinian refugees seeking to go back to land they fled or were expelled from in 1948 that is now inside Israel.
Israel has accused Hamas of seeking to stir up protests to encourage violence.


Lebanese border town sounds alarm over Syrian ‘takeover’

Members of Syria's opposition National Liberation Front take part in a military training in the northern countryside of Idlib province, on July 1, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 1 sec ago

Lebanese border town sounds alarm over Syrian ‘takeover’

  • Tfail resembles a peninsula within Syrian territory, and there is no access to the town from the Lebanese side

BEIRUT: Residents of Tfail, a Lebanese farming community on the border with Syria, say they are powerless to stop their farmland being destroyed by bulldozers watched over by gunmen who appear intent on taking control of the town.

According to anxious residents, confusion over the boundary between Lebanon and Syrian is adding to the problem, with many sections of the border yet to be demarcated.

The issue has drawn the attention of Lebanese leaders, with former prime minister and head of the Future Parliamentary Bloc Saad Hariri last Tuesday voicing his “deepest concerns” over developments in the village.

Hariri suggested the threat to Tfail might be part of “a dark scheme of displacing its inhabitants as part of plans to make demographic changes in the region.”

The Lebanese-Syrian border is 380 km long, but only a 40 km section was demarcated in 1935 after greater Lebanon was established. The war in Syria has stalled attempts to demarcate the rest.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallem said 10 days ago that his country “will not demarcate the borders with Lebanon, neither will it accept the deployment of international forces on the borders, for this is only done among enemies.”

Tfail resembles a peninsula within Syrian territory, and there is no access to the town from the Lebanese side. In order to get to other Lebanese cities or towns, residents have to go to Damascus before heading to their destination in Lebanon and vice versa.

However, the war in Syria, and particularly the battles in the Syrian Qalamoun mountains, led to the displacement of Tfail’s residents, Lebanese or Syrian refugees who headed to various Lebanese regions via the town of Brital.

Tfail residents work in agriculture or serve in the Lebanese army. Most of the townsmen are Sunnis.

Three Syrian towns lay near Tfail: Hosh Arab to the east, Assal Al-Ward to the north and Rankous to the south. Ham is the closest Lebanese town to Tfail and is linked to the village via rugged roads. Tfail gets basic services from Syria, including telecommunications and electricity.

Arab News investigated what was going on in the town. Sheikh Ayman Al-Rifai, former mufti of Baalbek-Hermel governorate, said that: “The Lebanese central bank owns 1,800 shares of the town’s lands, after having confiscated properties owned by MEPCO Bank, while there are other lands owned by various people.

“Meanwhile, there are people who have encroached on these lands, cultivated, and inherited them without having legal documents of ownership. It seems a Lebanese citizen from the town bought land where there was previously a Syrian checkpoint, and started cultivating it, which infuriated Tfail residents.”

Al-Rifai said that he had contacted the Lebanese army to find out what was going on and pointed out that “the officer in charge informed him that the leveling of the land enabled the army to set a checkpoint, which was for the benefit of Lebanon.”

Rumours are suggesting that the buyer was a Syrian man linked with the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Arab News contacted the new land owner, Mohammed Hassan Diqqo, 35, a Lebanese businessman who lives in Tfail.

Diqqo said he bought 20,000 dunums (equivalent to 20,000 square meters) from Mahmoud Ali Khanafer, a Lebanese from south Lebanon, and that he has title deeds issued by Lebanese authorities.

However, he refused to reveal the amount he paid for the land, noting that he is a “partner with the Lebanese central bank in owning the town.”

Diqqo said that “there are 70 houses in Tfail, 45 of which are owned by Syrians and 25 by Lebanese, while only 10 houses are permanently inhabited by Lebanese.”

He said that “neither Hezbollah nor the Syrian regime have anything to do with what he is doing in the town,” and insisted that he is “executing a developmental project to plant 100 fruit and forest trees over a period of five years as part of an investment plan to set a water-filling factory, as water resources are abundant in Tfail.”

Diqqo said that he has provided jobs for 200 Lebanese and Syrian nationals.

He said that a road that was repaired to link the town with Lebanese territory is illegal since it was set without securing land acquisitions.