Palestinian mother fights to stave off punitive home demolition

Sanaa Shalaby, displays a picture of her estranged husband, Muntasser Shalaby, center, who Israeli security forces accuse of carrying out a May 2 shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded two others in the occupied West Bank. (File/AP)
Sanaa Shalaby, displays a picture of her estranged husband, Muntasser Shalaby, center, who Israeli security forces accuse of carrying out a May 2 shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded two others in the occupied West Bank. (File/AP)
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Updated 07 June 2021

Palestinian mother fights to stave off punitive home demolition

Palestinian mother fights to stave off punitive home demolition
  • HaMoked, an Israeli rights group seeking to halt punitive demolitions, says such petitions rarely succeed
  • Of 83 cases brought since 2014, only 10 demolitions were prevented

TURMUS AYYA, WEST BANK: Sanaa Shalaby says she had no idea what her estranged husband was up to until Israeli soldiers raided her home in the occupied West Bank last month.

Now she’s waging a legal battle to prevent Israel from demolishing the two-storey villa where she lives with her three youngest children. It’s drawing attention to Israel’s policy of punitive home demolitions, which rights groups view as collective punishment.

Israeli security forces arrested her husband, Muntasser Shalaby, and accuse him of carrying out a May 2 drive-by shooting that killed an Israeli and wounded two others in the occupied West Bank. Israel says demolishing family homes is one of the only ways to deter attackers, who expect to be arrested or killed and who are often glorified by Palestinian factions.

The US State Department has criticized such demolitions, and an internal Israeli military review in the 2000s raised questions about their effectiveness. The case of the Shalabys — who all have US citizenship — could reignite the debate. Israel’s Supreme Court is expected to issue a final ruling on the demolition next week.

Sanaa and her husband had been estranged for nearly a decade. He lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he ran a profitable smoke shop and married three other women in private Muslim ceremonies not recognized by US authorities.

“It’s allowed in our religion,” Sanaa said. “I didn’t agree to it.”

He came back to the West Bank in April for what she says was one of his yearly visits to see the children. He had also sought treatment for paranoia after having been institutionalized in the US in recent years, according to a deposition he gave to her lawyer.

Sanaa said she knew nothing about the attack and had no indication he was planning anything.

“People commit crimes far worse than this in America and they don’t demolish their homes,” she said. “Whoever committed the crime should be punished, but it’s not the family’s fault.”

When the soldiers showed up after the attack they ransacked the home and briefly detained her 17-year-old son. She said they had a large dog that terrified her and her two younger children, a 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl. The soldiers came back weeks later to map out the house for demolition.

Now Sanaa says her children spend all day in bed and refuse to go to school. “I know my children and they were never like this,” she said. “My son, Ahmed, has to take his final exams and he can’t study. He opens his book, reads a couple pages and then he walks off.”

An Israeli official said the security agencies believe home demolitions are an effective deterrent. The official declined to comment on the Shalaby case, but said everyone is notified in advance and given the right to contest demolitions in court. Someone in Sanaa’s situation would have a “good legal case” if her account is independently verified, the official said.

“There are clear checks and balances,” the official said. “We are using it only when we feel that it is necessary, and only because we understand that this is an effective deterrent.”

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss security procedures.

HaMoked, an Israeli rights group that has represented dozens of families seeking to halt punitive demolitions and is currently representing Sanaa, says such petitions rarely succeed. Of 83 cases brought since 2014, only 10 demolitions were prevented, it said. In the remaining cases, homes were partially or completely demolished, or apartments in multi-story buildings were permanently sealed off.

Jessica Montell, the group’s executive director, says that from a legal perspective the question of whether it serves as a deterrent is irrelevant.

“You don’t collectively punish innocent people just because they’re related to a criminal in the hope that that will deter future criminals. It’s an illegal and immoral policy regardless of the effectiveness,” she said.

The Israeli military prepared a report on punitive home demolitions in 2004 that led to a moratorium on the practice the following year, according to HaMoked, which received a Power Point presentation of the classified report in 2008 through a court petition.

The presentation raises concerns about the legality of such demolitions and international criticism of them. It also questions their effectiveness, saying the demolitions might even motivate more attacks. Such demolitions were mostly halted until 2014, when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the occupied West Bank.

A campaign by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families from their homes in east Jerusalem was one of the main causes of last month’s 11-day Gaza war, in which Israeli airstrikes demolished hundreds of homes in the militant-ruled territory.

Both forms of displacement summon bitter memories of what the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” when some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.

Shalaby said she has been in continual contact with the US Embassy but was told it couldn’t do anything about the demolition.

The State Department declined to comment on the case, citing privacy concerns. But it said it was opposed to the punitive demolition of Palestinian homes. “The home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual,” it said in a statement.

The Israeli Supreme Court will hear Sanaa’s case on June 17.

She hopes she will be able to remain in the house that she and her husband built in 2006. She said she had sold her bridal jewelry to help finance the construction. She raised her youngest children in the house, and an older daughter had her wedding there last year during a pandemic lockdown.

“My daughter got married here during the time of the coronavirus,” she said, pointing to the front courtyard and smiling at the memory. “It was better than any wedding hall.”


Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official
Updated 15 sec ago

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

MOGADISHU: A suicide car bomb killed at least seven people in the Somali capital on Saturday at a street junction near the president's residence, an official said.
"A suicide car bomb that exploded at Ceelgaab junction killed seven people and injured eight others," Muawiye Mudeey, district commissioner of Mogadishu's Hamarjajab district told Reuters.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow the government and impose its interpretation of Islamic law, frequently carries out such bombings.
A Reuters witness at the scene of the blast reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood. 


Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
  • Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish stat

IRBIL: More than 300 Iraqis, including tribal leaders, attended a conference in autonomous Kurdistan organized by a US think-tank demanding a normalization of relations between Baghdad and Israel, organizers said Saturday.
The first initiative of its kind in Iraq, where Israel’s sworn enemy Iran has a very strong influence, the conference took place on Friday and was organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC).
The CPC advocates for normalizing relations between Israel and Arab countries, alongside working to establish ties between civil society organizations.
Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Four Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — last year agreed to normalize ties with Israel in a US-sponsored process dubbed the Abraham Accords.
“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” said Sahar Al-Tai, one of the attendees, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil.
“Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel,” she said.
“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.
The 300 participants at the conference came from across Iraq, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a US citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin.
They included Sunni and Shiite representatives from “six governorates: Baghdad, Mosul, Salaheddin, Al-Anbar, Diyala and Babylon,” extending to tribal chiefs and “intellectuals and writers,” he told AFP by phone.
Other speakers at the conference included Chemi Peres, the head of an Israeli foundation established by his father, the late president Shimon Peres.
“Normalization with Israel is now a necessity,” said Sheikh Rissan Al-Halboussi, an attendee from Anbar province, citing the examples of Morocco and the UAE.
Kurdish Iraqi leaders have repeatedly visited Israel over the decades and local politicians have openly demanded Iraq normalize ties with the Jewish state, which itself backed a 2017 independence referendum in the autonomous region.


Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
Updated 41 min 34 sec ago

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
  • Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders

RABAT: Morocco took delivery earlier this month of Turkish combat drones, the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news reported.
The report, also carried by several local media outlets, comes as tensions have spiked between Morocco and neighboring Algeria in recent weeks.
The two countries are mainly at odds over the disputed Western Sahara territory, and Algeria severed ties with Morocco in August claiming “provocations and hostile” action by its neighbor.
Relations took another blow this week when Algeria on Wednesday said it has closed off its airspace to all Moroccan civilian and military traffic.
According to Far-Maroc, the North African kingdom ordered 13 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey in April and a first batch of the unmanned aircraft arrived this month.
Rabat, said the report, seeks to “modernize the arsenal of the Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) in order to prepare for any danger and recent hostilities,” but did not elaborate on these topics.
It did however add that Moroccan military personnel have trained in Turkey in recent weeks to work with the drones.
Media reports said Morocco signed a $70 million contract with the private Turkish company Baykar.
The firm is run by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-laws and has been exporting its Bayraktar TB2 model to Ukraine, Qatar and Azerbaijan for some years.
According to the company’s website, the Bayraktar TB2 is a “medium altitude long endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armed attack missions” with a range of up to 27 hours.
Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders, according to military experts.
The Western Sahara dispute pits Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front which fought a war of independence with Rabat from 1975 to 1991.
Morocco laid claim to the former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975, and controls around 80 percent of it.
Rabat has offered autonomy there and maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination, in line with the terms of a 1991 UN-backed cease-fire deal.
Tensions rose sharply in November when Morocco sent troops into a buffer zone to reopen the only road linking Morocco to Mauritania and the rest of West Africa. The road had been blocked by the separatists.


UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
  • The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275

DUBAI: The UAE’s daily coronavirus cases continue to decline, with health officials on Friday confirming 303 new infections and three virus-related deaths.

The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275 with 2,086 fatalities related to the disease. 

The government’s inoculation program, coupled with an active testing policy for the early detection and intervention for coronavirus cases, has provided at least a dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 90.8 percent of the UAE population.

The recent decline in daily infections comes just days before the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai, which the emirate hopes will draw millions from around the globe.


’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Updated 25 September 2021

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Saturday that when his government says it will return soon to talks on resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, it means when Tehran has completed its review of the nuclear file.
On Friday, Amirabdollahian told reporters in New York that Iran would return to talks “very soon,” but gave no specific date.
In remarks broadcast on state TV channel IRINN on Saturday, Amirabdollahian said, “People keep asking how soon is soon. Does it mean days, weeks or months?”
“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot. To us,‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time — when our reviews (of the nuclear file) have been completed. What is important is our determination to return to the talks, but those that are serious and guarantee the Iranian nation’s rights and interests,” Amirabdollahian said.
He was speaking to IRINN in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
On the other hand, he said: “I remind you of the West’s promises, such as repeatedly promising they would ‘soon’, ‘in a few months,’ implement the Instex” — a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after the US withdrawal from the deal.
Iran has said the channel with Europe has been ineffective.
Under the 2015 deal that Iran signed with world powers, it agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions. Washington abandoned that deal in 2018 and unilaterally reimposed financial sanctions.
Talks that began in April between Iran and the five other nations — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — to revive the deal have been stalled since hard-line cleric Ebrahimi Raisi was elected president in June.
European diplomats have served as chief intermediaries between Washington and Tehran, which has refused to negotiate directly with US officials.