Palestinian toll mounts as Israel steps up West Bank raids

Palestinian toll mounts as Israel steps up West Bank raids
Israel is also holding more than 600 Palestinians without charge or trial in what’s known as administrative detention — the highest in six years. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 29 August 2022

Palestinian toll mounts as Israel steps up West Bank raids

Palestinian toll mounts as Israel steps up West Bank raids
  • The military says the vast majority were militants or stone-throwers who endangered the soldiers
  • The dead include 17 teens under the age of 18, as well as six women

TUBAS, West Bank: At least 85 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year as Israeli forces have carried out nightly raids in cities, towns and villages, making it the deadliest in the occupied territory since 2016.
The military says the vast majority were militants or stone-throwers who endangered the soldiers. The tally, from the Palestinian Health Ministry, includes Palestinians who carried out deadly attacks inside Israel.
But it also includes several civilians, including a veteran journalist and a lawyer who apparently drove unwittingly into a battle zone, as well as local youths who took to the streets in response to the invasion of their neighborhoods.
The length and frequency of the raids has pulled into focus Israel’s tactics in the West Bank, where nearly 3 million Palestinians live under a decades-long occupation and Palestinians view the military’s presence as a humiliation and a threat.
Israeli troops have regularly operated across the West Bank since Israel captured the territory in 1967.
Israel says it is dismantling militant networks that threaten its citizens, and that it makes every effort to avoid harming civilians. Palestinians say the raids are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military rule over territories they want for a future state — a dream that appears as remote as ever, with no serious peace negotiations held in over a decade..
Israel stepped up the operations this past spring after a string of deadly attacks by Palestinians against Israelis killed 17 people, some carried out by militants from the West Bank. There have been no deadly attacks since May, but the relentless military operations have continued.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has reported 85 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem since the start of the year.
With four months to go this year, that already is the highest number since 2016, the tail-end of a previous wave of violence, when 91 Palestinians were killed, according to yearly data compiled by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
The ministry’s tally includes attackers and known militants, but also the veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and a 58-year-old man who was shot in the head outside a bakery earlier this month. The Israeli military says both might have been hit by Palestinian gunfire but has not provided evidence to substantiate its claims.
The dead include 17 teens under the age of 18, as well as six women, according to the ministry. Israel says that teenagers and women are often involved in violence, while critics accuse the army of using excessive force in many cases.
Israel is also holding more than 600 Palestinians without charge or trial in what’s known as administrative detention — the highest in six years.
Amir Avivi, a retired Israeli general who now heads the Israel Defense and Security Forum, said the heightened pace of operations is the result of the recent wave of attacks and the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to crack down on militants in the areas it administers.
The Palestinian Authority is mired in a crisis of legitimacy largely stemming from its cooperation with Israel on security matters. Palestinian officials say they will not help police the occupation, especially if there is no hope that doing so will lead to independence.
Rights groups say that while some Israeli missions are aimed at combatting specific threats, others are intended as a show of force, or to protect the growing population of Jewish settlers.
Ori Givati is the head of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group opposed to the occupation that gathers testimonies of former Israeli soldiers. Some soldiers recall carrying out mock arrests, in which fully armed soldiers raid a home in the middle of the night — for training purposes.
Even more common, Givati says, are so-called “stimulus and response” operations, which he said he took part in himself when he served in the West Bank. In those, Israeli troops roll through Palestinian areas, sometimes with lights and speakers on, hoping to lure stone-throwers or gunmen into the streets so they can arrest or confront them.
“The way we occupy the Palestinians is by creating more and more friction, making our presence felt,” Givati said. “We invade their towns, their cities, their homes.”
In a statement, the army denied the allegations, saying it acts “solely against threats and terrorist operatives who pose a security threat” in Israel and the West Bank.
Israel says it investigates all cases in which Israeli troops are suspected of killing civilians, but rights groups say most of those investigations are quietly closed with soldiers rarely facing serious repercussions.
There were two notable exceptions this year.
The killing of Abu Akleh, a veteran on-air correspondent, prompted numerous independent investigations that concluded she was likely killed by Israeli fire. Israel denies targeting her and says it is still investigating.
There was also the death in January of Omar Assad, a 78-year-old who died shortly after Israeli soldiers bound and blindfolded him and left him in the cold. In that case, senior officers were reprimanded and stripped of leadership roles.
Both were American citizens, and the US raised both cases with Israel. Last week, Israel discharged four soldiers after they were caught on camera beating and kicking two detained Palestinians.
There was no such uproar over Salah Sawafta, who was shot outside the bakery as he returned from dawn prayers in the West Bank town of Tubas earlier this month. Israeli troops, who had gone to arrest suspected militants, were engaged in a firefight with Palestinian gunmen.
His family believes he was killed by an Israeli sniper in a building across the street. Zakreya Abu Dollah, the bakery owner who witnessed the shooting, said he saw Israeli soldiers fanned out on the street but no Palestinian gunmen or stone-throwers in the immediate area.
The military says it is investigating and that Sawafta might have been hit by a stray bullet fired by Palestinian militants.
Jehad Sawafta said his late brother, who made a living trading animal feed, had no connection to any political faction or militant group.
Salah had a son and four daughters, one of whom was engaged to be married this past Friday. The father of the bride was killed a week before the wedding.
“His second daughter was supposed to be married on Aug. 26, but then everything got turned upside down,” Jehad said. “Those girls adored their father because he provided a good and dignified life for them.”


Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body

Updated 9 sec ago

Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body

Over 200 killed in Iran protests: top security body
TEHRAN: More than 200 people have been killed in Iran since nationwide protests erupted over the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, the country’s top security body said Saturday.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died on September 16 after her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s dress code for women.
Quoted by the official IRNA news agency, the country’s Supreme National Security Council said the number of people killed during unrest sparked by her death “exceeds 200.”
It said the figure included security officers, civilians and “separatists” as well as “rioters” — a term used by Iranian officials to describe protesters.
A general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week, for the first time, said more than 300 people had lost their lives in the unrest.
The security council said that in addition to the human toll, the violence had caused millions of dollars in damage.
Oslo-based non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights on Tuesday said at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.”
UN rights chief Volker Turk said last week that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the protest crackdown.

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general
Updated 03 December 2022

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general

Iran’s hijab law under review: attorney general
  • Protesters have burned their head coverings and shouted anti-government slogans
  • "Both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue)", of whether the law needs any changes, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said

TEHRAN: Iran’s parliament and the judiciary are reviewing a law which requires women to cover their heads, and which triggered more than two months of deadly protests, the attorney general said.
The demonstrations began after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died in custody on September 16 after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for an alleged breach of the dress code.
Protesters have burned their head coverings and shouted anti-government slogans. Since Amini’s death a growing number of women are not observing hijab, particularly in Tehran’s fashionable north.
The hijab headscarf became obligatory for all women in Iran in April 1983, four years after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed monarchy.
“Both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue),” of whether the law needs any changes, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said in the holy city of Qom.
Quoted on Friday by the ISNA news agency, he did not specify what could be modified in the law.
The review team met on Wednesday with parliament’s cultural commission “and will see the results in a week or two,” the attorney general said.
President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday said Iran’s republican and Islamic foundations were constitutionally entrenched.
“But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible,” he said in televised comments.
After the hijab law became mandatory, with changing clothing norms it became commonplace to see women in tight jeans and loose, colorful headscarves.
But in July this year Raisi, an ultra-conservative, called for mobilization of “all state institutions to enforce the headscarf law.”
Many women continued to bend the rules, however.
Iran accuses its sworn enemy the United States and its allies, including Britain, Israel, and Kurdish groups based outside the country, of fomenting the street violence which the government calls “riots.”
A general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps this week, for the first time, said more than 300 people have lost their lives in the unrest since Amini’s death.
Iran’s top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, on Saturday said the number of people killed during the protests “exceeds 200.”
Cited by state news agency IRNA, it said the figure included security officers, civilians, armed separatists and “rioters.”
Oslo-based non-governmental organization Iran Human Rights on Tuesday said at least 448 people had been “killed by security forces in the ongoing nationwide protests.”
UN rights chief Volker Turk said last week that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the protest crackdown.


Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant

Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant
Updated 03 December 2022

Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant

Iranian state media: Construction begins on nuclear plant
  • The announcement comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests
  • The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion

CAIRO: Iran on Saturday began construction on a new nuclear power plant in the country’s southwest, Iranian state TV announced, amid tensions with the US over sweeping sanctions imposed after Washington pulled out of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The announcement also comes as Iran has been rocked by nationwide anti-government protests that began after the death of a young woman in police custody and have challenged the country’s theocratic government.
The new 300-megawatt plant, known as Karoon, will take eight years to build and cost around $2 billion, the country’s state television and radio agency reported. The plant will be located in Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, near its western border with Iraq, it said.
The construction site’s inauguration ceremony was attended by Mohammed Eslami, head of Iran’s civilian Atomic Energy Organization, who first unveiled construction plans for Karoon in April.
Iran has one nuclear power plant at its southern port of Bushehr that went online in 2011 with help from Russia, but also several underground nuclear facilities.
The announcement of Karoon’s construction came less than two weeks after Iran announced it had begun producing enriched uranium at 60 percent purity at the country’s underground Fordo nuclear facility. The move is seen as a significant addition to the country’s nuclear program.
Enrichment to 60 percent purity is one short, technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90 percent. Non-proliferation experts have warned in recent months that Iran now has enough 60 percent-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.
The move was condemned by Germany, France and Britain, the three Western European nations that remain in the Iran nuclear deal. Recent attempts to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, have stalled.
Since September, Iran has been roiled by nationwide protests that have come to mark one of the greatest challenges to its theocracy since the chaotic years after its 1979 Islamic Revolution. The protests were sparked when Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody on Sept. 16, three days after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women. Iran’s government insists Amini was not mistreated, but her family says her body showed bruises and other signs of beating after she was detained
In a statement issued by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency on Saturday, the country’s national security council announced that some 200 people have been killed during the protests, the body’s first official word on the casualties. Last week, Iranian Gen. Amir Ali Hajjizadeh tallied the death toll at more than 300.
The contradictory tolls are lower than the toll reported by Human Rights Activists in Iran, a US-based organization that has been closely monitoring the protest since the outbreak. In its most recent update, the group says that 469 people have been killed and 18,210 others detained in the protests and the violent security force crackdown that followed.
The United States unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — in 2018, under then-President Donald Trump. It reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start backing away from the deal’s terms. Iran has long denied ever seeking nuclear weapons, insisting its nuclear program is peaceful.


Sweden extradites outlawed PKK member to Turkiye: report

Sweden extradites outlawed PKK member to Turkiye: report
Updated 03 December 2022

Sweden extradites outlawed PKK member to Turkiye: report

Sweden extradites outlawed PKK member to Turkiye: report
  • Mahmut Tat, who was sentenced to six years and 10 months in jail for PKK membership in Turkiye, fled to Sweden in 2015

ISTANBUL : Sweden has extradited a convicted member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to Turkiye as Ankara presses Stockholm for further steps in return for its membership in NATO, state media reported on Saturday.
Mahmut Tat, who was sentenced to six years and 10 months in jail for PKK membership in Turkiye, fled to Sweden in 2015 but his asylum request was rejected.
Tat arrived in Istanbul on Friday night having been detained by Swedish police, the Anadolu news agency reported.
He was taken by Turkish police soon after arriving at Istanbul airport and referred to court on Saturday, the private NTV broadcaster reported.
Turkiye has accused Finland and Sweden in particular of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish groups it deems “terrorists,” and held back on ratifying their NATO bids despite an agreement in Madrid in June.
Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and sought to join NATO in May, after Russia invaded Ukraine.
The decision requires a consensus within the US-led defense alliance, but only Turkiye and Hungary are yet to ratify their membership.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu held trilateral talks with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts on the margins of a NATO meeting in Bucharest this week.
“The statements (coming out of Sweden) are good, the determination is good but we need to see concrete steps,” Cavusoglu said.
Ankara has said it expects Stockholm to take action on issues including the extradition of criminals and freezing of terror assets.


Conservative women join Iran protests for Amini

Conservative women join Iran protests for Amini
Updated 03 December 2022

Conservative women join Iran protests for Amini

Conservative women join Iran protests for Amini
  • Canada slaps more sanctions on regime

JEDDAH: Black-clad women in Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province on Friday joined nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death.

Online videos showed dozens of women on the streets of the provincial capital Zahedan holding banners that declared “Woman, life, freedom” — one of the main slogans of the protest movement that erupted in mid-September.

“Whether with hijab, whether without it, onwards to revolution,” women dressed in body-covering chador garments chanted in videos posted on Twitter.

Women-led protests have swept Iran since Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died following her arrest in Tehran for an alleged breach of the country’s dress code.

Security forces have killed at least 448 protesters, with the largest toll in Sistan-Baluchistan on Iran’s southeastern border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based non-governmental organization.

“It is indeed rare,” IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said of the protests by women in Zahedan, which has seen men take to the streets after Friday prayers for more than two months.

“The ongoing protests in Iran are the beginning of a revolution of dignity,” he said.

“Women and minorities, who have for more than four decades been treated as second-class citizens, are empowered through these protests to come out to the streets and demand their fundamental human rights.”

Baluchi women were among the “most oppressed” in Iran and their protests were the most organized by them so far since demonstrations broke out across the country, Amiry-Moghaddam added.

Scores of men also took to the streets again on Friday, chanting “we don’t want a child-killing government,” footage posted online by activists showed. Security forces were seen opening fire with bird shots and tear gas on male protesters in Taftan, a locality in Sistan-Baluchistan, in a video published by IHR.

A prominent Sunni cleric said it was wrong to charge protesters with capital offenses. Molavi Abdolhamid, a powerful dissenting Sunni voice in the Shiite-ruled country, said it was wrong for the hardline judiciary to charge protesters with “moharebeh” — a term meaning warring against God — which carries the death penalty.

Meanwhile,  Canada has issued additional sanctions against Iran over its denial of rights for women and girls and for cracking down on peaceful protests, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly said.

The latest sanctions target four individuals and five entities that Ottawa said were tied to Tehran’s “systematic human rights violations” and actions that “threaten international peace and security.” She added that Canada “will not stand idly by while the regime’s human rights violations increase in scope and intensity against the Iranian people.”