Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver in disputed incident

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver in disputed incident
Israeli soldiers gather at a checkpoint near Nablus in the occupied West Bank where a Palestinian who shot at Israeli troops on November 4, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 April 2021

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver in disputed incident

Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver in disputed incident
  • The Palestinian health ministry said the man, identified as 42-year-old Osama Mansour

RAMALLAH: Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian motorist who they said tried to ram them at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday — an account disputed by his wife, who was with him in the car.
Salem Eid, the mayor of Biddu village, where the man lived, said Palestinians may raise the incident at the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor announced last month it would formally investigate war crimes in the Palestinian territories.
In a statement, the Israeli military said the vehicle accelerated toward a group of soldiers “in a way that endangered their lives” and they responded with gunfire “to thwart the threat.”
The Palestinian health ministry said the man, identified as 42-year-old Osama Mansour, had been killed and his wife had sustained bullet fragment injuries. The military statement said no troops were hurt in the late night incident.
“They told us to stop the car and we stopped and turned it off,” the man’s spouse, Sumaya Mansour, 35, told Palestine TV. “Then they looked at us and told us to go, we turned the car on and moved and all of them started shooting at us.”
Asked about the woman’s account, an Israeli military spokesman said: “The attempted car-ramming attack carried out earlier this morning is being investigated by the commander of the Binyamin Regional Brigade.”
Eid challenged the military’s accusation that the driver had carried out an attack, noting that he was a father of five and his wife was with him in the vehicle.
Citing security concerns, Israel maintains a network of military checkpoints in the West Bank, territory it captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Anti-Israeli violence in the West Bank has included car rammings as well as shootings. Rights groups have documented incidents in which they said Israeli troops were unjustified in opening fire at Palestinians they perceived as posing a threat at checkpoints.

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Suhaib Salem and Nidal Al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Giles Elgood)


Lebanese in war of words over Palestine action

Lebanese in war of words over Palestine action
Updated 6 min 55 sec ago

Lebanese in war of words over Palestine action

Lebanese in war of words over Palestine action
  • Former MP warns country ‘is neither a military base nor a missile platform for Palestinian, Iranian factions’
  • Power shortages add to woes as Turkish firm halts supply

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s response to the violence in Gaza and its relationship with Palestine is the subject of angry debate after rockets were fired from southern Lebanon toward Israeli settlements.

Former MP Nadim Gemayel warned that “Lebanon is neither a military base nor a missile platform for Palestinian factions or Iranian militias.”

He demanded that “the state and security services act quickly and strike with an iron fist, for Lebanon today cannot afford to repeat the experience of the 60s.”

Gemayel said the “number one cause today is the Lebanese cause only.”

MP Bilal Abdallah said that “Lebanon is facing an economic collapse and a vacuum in its political power, and the Palestine issue should not be put at the forefront.”

He told Arab News: “What is happening requires insight and calm.”

The remarks of both political figures came as Lebanese and Palestinian youths stormed a fence on the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel on Friday.

However, they were unable to cross the Israeli security barrier that stood in their way.

Groups of young men demonstrated near the border area facing the settlement of Al-Mutla, and attempted to cross a barbed-wire fence to gain access, but were met with tear-gas canisters fired by Israeli troops, forcing them to disperse and return to Lebanese territory.

The incident came after rockets were launched from southern Lebanon on Thursday toward Israeli settlements.

While Hezbollah denied any connection to the strikes, a statement hinted at the group’s potential involvement in the conflict if violence worsens.

The Lebanese army announced on Friday that “military units found three rockets in the vicinity of the Rashidieh refugee camp in the Tire region in southern Lebanon.”

At least four Grad missiles were fired from the vicinity of the Rashidieh camp, targeting the Israeli settlements of Shlomi and Nahariya. No party has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Maj. Gen. Subhi Abu Arab, commander of the Palestinian National Security Forces in Lebanon, told Arab News that he visited the Rashidieh camp on Friday morning for an inspection, and that “the situation was normal.”

He said: “No rockets were fired from the camp or its surroundings, but rather from an area further away.

“We do not know who fired the rockets, and we leave the matter to the Lebanese army, as this area falls under its responsibility, and the army units are carrying out their tasks in search of the rocket launchers.

“I have not received any information until now about the matter from Lebanese Army intelligence.”

The Lebanese quandary over Palestine is a division that goes back to the demands of the Maronite Patriarchate for Lebanese neutrality.

Solidarity with Palestine dominated Friday sermons in mosques, and protests broke out around the country.

MP Bilal Abdallah told Arab News: “Emotionally, we are all in solidarity with the Palestinians and distressed by the killing that is taking place against the innocent. There is no arguing on this matter. But expanding the war zone is a matter that needs to be studied.”

Abdallah said: “If opening the Lebanon front is required, this has its own calculations and consequences.”

He added: “Let us look at the prospects of the ongoing clash, whether it is rectified with a cease-fire or if it escalates.”

The MP said that Lebanon “cannot afford any involvement in what is happening, so let it be a complete front and not only Lebanon, but rather open the Golan fronts all the way to Jordan.”

Abdallah added: “The existing communication in the region involves redrawing their map, and this presupposes the need to avoid rushing to judgment.”

However, another popular sentiment among the Lebanese public is that the issues facing their own country should be dealt with first, before foreign affairs are considered.

The Lebanese internal crisis was aggravated by the announcement of the Electricite du Liban (EDL) on Friday that electricity supply has begun to decline after Turkey’s Karpowership, which supplies the country through two floating stations, said it had “suspended supplies due to payment arrears, and after a legal threat to its stations.”

A spokesperson said that the company “regretted turning off the generators,” adding that it had “made every effort to avoid taking this decision.”

Lebanon receives 370 megawatts of electricity from the company, about a quarter of total supply.

The country may face critical electricity problems unless, according to the EDL statement, a speedy decision is made regarding a controversial treasury advance of 300 billion Lebanese pounds ($196 million) for the resumption of tenders for the buying of fuels, especially gas.

The EDL has also urged officials to secure hard currencies for production, transportation, and distribution, to ensure a minimum level of stability in Lebanon’s electricity supply.


Jordanians march to border in solidarity with Palestinians

Jordanians march to border in solidarity with Palestinians
Updated 5 min 8 sec ago

Jordanians march to border in solidarity with Palestinians

Jordanians march to border in solidarity with Palestinians
  • Protestors demand government open border to Palestinians, end diplomatic ties with Israel

AMMAN: Hundreds of Jordanians held an impromptu protest near the Jordanian border with the occupied Palestinian territories on Friday, calling on their government to take action over the escalating conflict in Israel.

The event, quickly organized on social media, was held near the village of Karameh in the Shouna governorate under the slogan “yalla (let’s go) to the borders.”
 
The protesters, waving Palestinian and Jordanian flags, gathered near the monument for the martyrs of the Battle of Karameh, and called on the Jordanian government to open the border. 

The monument is a poignant location, as the site of significant Jordanian-Palestinian military resistance against an Israel Defense Force (IDF) offensive in 1968, leading to the eventual Israeli withdrawal from the village on the eastern bank of the Jordan River.

Mohammad Hmeidi, a doctor who attended the protest, told Arab News: “Our goal … is to pressure the government of Jordan to cut off its relations with (Israel), to cancel the Gaza deal and to kick out the (Israeli) ambassador as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian people in the occupied territories.”

Protesters chanted slogans in support of Palestinians in Jerusalem and Gaza, shouting “millions are willing to die and become martyrs.”

They also chanted in support of Mohammad Deif, leader of Hamas’s Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, which are currently engaged in rocket attacks and counter strikes with the IDF.
 
Jordanian security forces broke up the protests when demonstrators came too close to the border. A spokesman for the police said they had used reasonable force with some of the protesters, after they entered several private properties and caused damage.
 
Adnan Abu Odeh, a former adviser to Jordan’s King Hussein, told Arab News that the protests are important for their symbolic value. 

“It is Friday and Jordanian youths are unemployed. This event is important, especially in that it gives emotional support to Palestinians, but the real problem for Israel is within — the crime of apartheid between Israelis and Palestinians, which had been hidden since 1948, is now obvious for all to see,” he said, referring to a recent report by Human Rights Watch accusing Israel of enforcing an apartheid system across the country.

Abu Odeh said he was unsure whether this would tempt Jordan to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv, however.

“Jordan had exhausted all its efforts at the UN. It has provided the defense team fighting the eviction of Palestinian families from Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, with all the documents in its possession,” he said.

“It all depends on whether the Israelis will continue their onslaught, or accept the offers for a ceasefire.”


US report blasts Turkey for restricting religious minorities

US report blasts Turkey for restricting religious minorities
Updated 14 May 2021

US report blasts Turkey for restricting religious minorities

US report blasts Turkey for restricting religious minorities
  • Non-Muslim religious groups face challenges in operating houses of worship, holding board elections, and exemptions from mandatory religion courses in schools
  • Report adds to concerns raised when Erdogan reconverted the historic Chora Church and famed Hagia Sophia into mosques last summer

ANKARA: A new report released Wednesday follows a trend from the US State Department in criticizing Turkey for restricting the rights of non-Muslim religious groups in the country.

The latest report focused on the challenges non-Muslim religious groups have faced in operating houses of worship, holding board elections for their foundations, and obtaining exemptions from mandatory religion courses in schools, which are in violation of the European Court of Human Rights’ 2013 ruling.

The US also expressed concerns when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reconverted the historic Chora Church, one of Istanbul’s most celebrated Byzantine buildings, and the famed Hagia Sophia into mosques last summer.

In 2020, religious minorities had difficulties in obtaining exemptions from mandatory religion classes in schools while the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary remained closed, the report noted.

“The government continued not to recognize Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I as the leader of the world’s approximately 300 million Orthodox Christians, consistent with the government’s stance that there was no legal obligation for it to do so,” the report said.

According to the report, the US criticized the difficulties that Protestant communities faced in training indigenous Turkish clergy in their congregations as “they relied on foreign volunteers to serve them in leadership capacities.”

However, “they could not operate training facilities in-country,” the report added.

Another annual report for 2021 released last month by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom found that an independent government panel urged Ankara to address longstanding religious freedom issues. It said the religious freedom conditions in Turkey were on a “troubling trajectory.”

The commission, which criticized the vandalism of places of worship in Turkey, also recommended that the US State Department include Turkey on the special watch list for religious freedom violations, and criticized the Turkish government for being “divisive and hostile” against its own religious minorities.

The trial of an Assyrian priest, Sefer Bilecen, who was sentenced to two years in jail on terrorism charges, was also described by the commission as a politically motivated move.

Anna Maria Beylunioglu-Atli, a lecturer at MEF University in Istanbul, said the problems that Turkey’s religious minorities have been facing are directly linked with the authoritarianism trend in the country.

“What the religious minorities experienced over the past year is the inevitable continuation of the general trend of hate speech and discrimination in line with the rising Islamic rhetoric within the society,” she told Arab News.

She added: “Since the foundation of the republic, there was a similar trend in Turkey to restrict the religious freedoms of minorities. But, the recent Islamist rhetoric in the overall politics consolidated it further.”

Such international reports do not have a transformational effect on Turkish domestic politics anymore, Beylunioglu-Atli said.

“What Turkey needs is an indigenous transformation by providing its religious minorities with citizenship rights,” she said. “Otherwise, such reports do not push the rulers to change the living conditions of the minorities in the country.”

US President Joe Biden and his administration have put the fight against all forms of religious discrimination at the center of their agenda. It also reflects the effort of the US State Department in highlighting the status of religious freedom in several countries around the world, including Turkey.

Dr. Mine Yildirim, head of the Freedom of Belief Initiative and Eurasia Civil Society Program at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, said measures taken by the authorities in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had an impact on the religion or belief communities in interesting ways.

“Our observations and interviews indicated that in 2020 some communities felt that when the public authorities took measures related to curfews and lock-downs, the functioning and use of mosques were taken into account whereas the days of worship of other places of worship were not considered,” she told Arab News.

Yildirim said that there have been fewer attacks or vandalism against churches in 2020, mainly due to the fact that churches have been closed, and as such Christians were less visible.

“Some Alevi and Christian religious leaders have observed that the pandemic has also exasperated the inequalities in the context of public funding for religious services which is solely provided for such services provided through the Presidency of Religious Affairs,” she said.

“As they were not being able to come together in their places of worship some communities received fewer donations whereas their costs for rent and utilities and salary of religious leaders continued.”


UN chief appeals for halt to Israel-Gaza clash

UN chief Anotonio Guterres appealed on Friday for an immediate halt to fighting between Gaza and Israel. (AFP)
UN chief Anotonio Guterres appealed on Friday for an immediate halt to fighting between Gaza and Israel. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2021

UN chief appeals for halt to Israel-Gaza clash

UN chief Anotonio Guterres appealed on Friday for an immediate halt to fighting between Gaza and Israel. (AFP)
  • UN spokesman added that Guterres urged the parties to allow mediation efforts to intensify

NEW YORK: UN chief Anotonio Guterres appealed on Friday for an immediate halt to fighting between Gaza and Israel.

Secretary-General Guterres warned that the ongoing conflict could “unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism,” not just in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel but also elsewhere in the Middle East region.

A UN spokesman added that Guterres urged the parties to allow mediation efforts to intensify and end the fighting more quickly.

Stephane Dujarric said the UN was “actively involved” in those mediation efforts.

Guterres, who said only a sustainable political solution would lead to lasting peace, also reiterated his commitment to support Palestinians and Israelis in resolving the conflict, through the Quartet of Middle East mediators — the UN, US, EU and Russia — on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.

 


Save the Children urges end to Gaza violence as child deaths reach 31

Children watch the funeral of Palestinian boy Hussien Hamad, who was killed amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in the northern Gaza Strip May 11, 2021. (Reuters)
Children watch the funeral of Palestinian boy Hussien Hamad, who was killed amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in the northern Gaza Strip May 11, 2021. (Reuters)
Updated 14 May 2021

Save the Children urges end to Gaza violence as child deaths reach 31

Children watch the funeral of Palestinian boy Hussien Hamad, who was killed amid a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence, in the northern Gaza Strip May 11, 2021. (Reuters)
  • ‘If this does not end, more children will be killed,’ Gaza-based expert warns
  • Conflict could lead to ‘trauma, mental health issues’ for almost 1m children

LONDON: Children’s charity Save The Children has called for an immediate end to all hostilities in Gaza and Israel as the number of children killed by Israeli bombardment reaches 31.

“Save the Children is urging the international community to use its influence with parties to the conflict to seek an urgent path to de-escalation as fatalities in Gaza and southern Israel continue to soar,” said a statement issued by the charity to Arab News on Friday.

“Save the Children can confirm that at least 31 schools and a health facility in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes,” it said.

In total, 33 children have now died in the violence — 31 in Gaza, and another two in Israeli territory.

The total death toll from the fighting, which continues to escalate, has now reached 126, including 119 Palestinians and seven Israelis. Hundreds more Palestinians have also been injured in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Gaza-based Mazen Naim, a communications officer at Save the Children, told Arab News: “I’ve been talking to my family, consistently checking in with my friends and colleagues — the situation is very bad everywhere.

“The 2 million people living in Gaza do not feel safe at all in any way. There are explosions and airstrikes and attacks everywhere. There was houses that were hit, even some of them with people inside. Families were wiped out.”

Naim said that children will pay a “serious and lasting price” for the heaviest attack on Gaza in nearly a decade.

“Many children were alive yesterday that are not alive today. If this does not end, more children will be killed. If this continues, we could be looking at a huge humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.

Not only are dozens of children being harmed physically, he added, but the fighting is causing lasting mental distress to the Gaza Strip’s 800,000 children.

“Children are feeling fear, anxiety and sleeplessness. They are having nightmares at night — no one feels safe in any way, everyone is feeling like we could die at any moment.

“This might end soon, but they will still have nightmares for a long time. This will affect their personality, and their ability to cope and communicate. It will affect their education. Every time they will hear a loud noise — a door shutting, for example — they will have these memories brought back to them.”

Studies show that a large number of people still suffer from mental health issues rooted in previous violent flare-ups in Gaza and elsewhere, Naim said.

Densely populated Gaza has languished for over a decade under an Israeli blockade that has prevented the territory from developing its economy and has eroded critical infrastructure.

The healthcare system, in particular, suffers from a chronic lack of funding, a problem exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and compounded by the sudden influx of seriously injured people.

“The health system in Gaza was actually suffering because of the 14-years blockade on Gaza, but also from a shortage of staff, shortage of medical supplies and the coronavirus crisis,” said Naim.

“And now with this conflict happening, there’s a shortage of hospital beds, a shortage of drugs, and nobody knows when more supplies can enter the territory.”