Israel jails Palestinian lawyer over shootings

A Palestinian protester waving the national flag as an Israeli military vehicle fires teargas from behind a fence during a demonstration in West Bank. (AFP)
Updated 30 July 2019

Israel jails Palestinian lawyer over shootings

  • Barghout fired at Israeli buses and at security forces on a number of occasions

JERUSALEM: An Israeli military court jailed a prominent Palestinian lawyer for 13-and-a-half years on Tuesday for shooting at Israeli vehicles in the occupied West Bank, the army said.

Tareq Barghout, a Ramallah-based lawyer who represented Palestinians accused by Israel of security-related offenses, was himself arrested in February, along with Palestinian Authority official Zakaria Zubeidi.

The army said in a statement that Barghout was convicted as part of a plea bargain.

“Barghout fired at Israeli buses and at security forces on a number of occasions,” it said.

Zubeidi, a former head of a militant group who later became an official of the PA commission for Palestinians in Israeli jails, is still awaiting trial.

Both men were charged in May with carrying out shooting attacks in the Ramallah area between November 2016 and January 2019, in which three Israelis were slightly injured.

According to Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency the pair used Zubeidi’s official PA vehicle for transport.

Israeli lawyer Leah Tsemel, representing Barghout, said that he alone fired the shots.

“He said in his statement that he opened fire after feeling that Palestinians were being treated very unjustly by Israeli courts,” she told AFP.

She said that he was also distressed by having to accompany bereaved Palestinians to receive from Israeli authorities the bodies of loved ones killed in conflict with Israeli forces.

“Once, Barghout fired from a distance at a settlers’ bus to make them understand that they can never feel secure in the occupied territories,” Tsemel said.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, more than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank alongside more than 2.5 million Palestinians.

International law considers the settlements to be illegal and a barrier to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

They are built on land Israel seized in the Six-Day War of 1967, which the Palestinians claim as part of their future state.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.