Palestinian killed in clashes as tensions rise over US plan

Relatives of 17-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Al-Hadad react at a hospital in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Feb. 5, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 05 February 2020

Palestinian killed in clashes as tensions rise over US plan

  • The 17-year-old was killed in Hebron during clashes with demonstrators
  • The shooting came hours after Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian during clashes with demonstrators in the West Bank on Wednesday, the first death since tensions rose following the release of President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan, according to Palestinian officials.
The shooting came hours after Israel struck Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire toward Israeli communities overnight.
The teenager was killed in Hebron, where a few hundred hard-line Jewish settlers live in a heavily guarded enclave in the heart of a Palestinian city. Violent protests have broken out across the occupied West Bank since the Trump plan was unveiled last week.
The Palestinian health ministry said Mohammed Al-Haddad was shot in the chest and succumbed to his wounds after being taken to a hospital. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
The Palestinians have roundly rejected Trump’s Mideast proposal, which offers them limited self-rule in scattered chunks of territory with a capital on the outskirts of Jerusalem while allowing Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank.
Protesters have burned US and Israeli flags as well as posters of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Stones and firebombs have been hurled at Israeli troops, with one exploding and lightly wounding a soldier. The Israeli military has instructed troops to “contain” the protests and not respond forcefully, concerned that Palestinian casualties would set off further violence.
In Gaza, the military said it targeted a Hamas weapons manufacturing site. There were no reports of casualties. The exchange comes amid an uptick in cross-border rocket and “explosive balloon” launches from the Hamas-controlled territory.
The Gaza Strip has been relatively calm in recent months as part of an informal truce between its Hamas rulers and Israel, but tension has increased since President Donald Trump unveiled his plan, which heavily favors Israel, last week.
Under the plan, Israel would be allowed to annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley. The Palestinians were offered limited self-rule in Gaza, parts of the West Bank and some sparsely populated areas of Israel in return for meeting a long list of conditions. The Palestinians, as well as much of the international community, view the settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem — territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war — as illegal and a major obstacle to peace.
Hamas had recently curbed rocket fire from Gaza and rolled back weekly protests along the frontier that had often turned violent. In return, Israel eased the blockade it imposed with Egypt on Gaza after they seized power from forces loyal to the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Hamas rejected the Trump plan and vowed that “all options are open” in responding to the proposal, but the group is not believed to be seeking another war with Israel.
Following the latest rocket fire, the military said it viewed the incident with “great severity and is prepared for various scenarios.” It said the zone available for fishing off the coast of the Palestinian territory would be tightened from 15 nautical miles to 10 in response to the rocket fire and explosive balloons.
Meanwhile, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank announced it has stopped importing Israeli vegetables, fruits, beverages and mineral water. That’s the latest step in a brewing trade war with Israel that began in September, when the Palestinians decided to stop importing beef from Israel.
The P.A. claimed most of the 120,000 head of cattle the Palestinians import monthly from Israel was itself imported and that they therefore prefer to import directly from abroad. The move appeared aimed at reducing the Palestinians’ economic dependence on Israel.
Shortly after the September announcement, Israeli cattle ranchers saw a drop in their market and pressured Israeli authorities to take action. Defense Minister Naftali Bennett retaliated with a ban on Palestinian beef and other products, triggering the Palestinians to expand their boycott.
The Palestinian minister of economy, Khaled Al-Osaily, said the latest decision was meant to pressure Israel into revoking its ban on importing vegetables. He said the P.A. annually imports from Israel some $300 million worth of fruits and vegetables while exporting only $55 million.
“We told them this decision has come as a response to the Israeli decision and will be revoked the moment they back off,” Al-Osaily said. “We have chosen these products since we have an alternative or we can live without them.”


‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 53 sec ago

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”