Israeli settlers’ aggression fuels tension in occupied territories

Israeli settlers’ aggression fuels tension in occupied territories
A masked Israeli settler stands by while Palestinians and Israeli soldiers scuffle during clashes in the town of Hawara in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/File)
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Updated 25 May 2023
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Israeli settlers’ aggression fuels tension in occupied territories

Israeli settlers’ aggression fuels tension in occupied territories
  • Palestinians from Jerusalem said that Israeli authorities had been preventing the entry of worshipers to Al-Aqsa Mosque since Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday
  • The Israeli armed forces also launched a massive campaign of arrests and raids on citizens’ homes in the cities of the West Bank, rounding up 17 Palestinians

RAMALLAH: The far-right Israeli government was on Thursday accused of taking advantage of the Jewish holidays to turn the Palestinian crisis into a religious conflict.
Palestinian National Council President Rawhi Fattouh made the remarks to Arab News as Israeli authorities closed the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings with the Gaza Strip from Thursday until Sunday, citing the Jewish holidays.
Jewish settlers performed collective rituals in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday. Fattouh criticized the action as an attempt to transform the area into a place of worship for Jews as well.
Palestinians from Jerusalem said that Israeli authorities had been preventing the entry of worshipers to Al-Aqsa Mosque since Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday, which they say happens on all Jewish holidays and occasions.
Dozens of settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa compound on Thursday under protection from the Israeli police, performing Talmudic rituals at the gates of the mosque.
The Israeli armed forces also launched a massive campaign of arrests and raids on citizens’ homes in the cities of the West Bank, rounding up 17 Palestinians.
Eight citizens were injured during the Israeli army’s raid at dawn on Thursday on the Aqbat Jaber camp in Jericho.
The armed forces also notified the owners of 17 agricultural facilities, mobile homes, roads, and electricity grid lines in the town to stop construction in Aqraba, south of Nablus.
Citing settler violence as the main reason, 178 people, including 78 children, began dismantling and leaving their homes in the Palestinian herding community of Ein Samiya in eastern Ramallah on Thursday.
“These families are not leaving by choice,” said Yvonne Helle, UN acting humanitarian coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“The Israeli authorities have repeatedly demolished homes and other structures they own and have threatened to destroy their only school,” said Helle.
“At the same time, land available for livestock grazing has decreased due to settlement expansion.
“Both children and adults have been subjected to settler violence.”
The coordinator added: “We are witnessing the tragic consequences of longstanding Israeli practices and settler violence.”
Repeated demolitions, settlement expansion, loss of access to grazing land, and settler violence continue to cause concern about the coercive environment Palestinians are subject to, which is leading to increased humanitarian troubles.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh described the Israeli authorities’ displacement of the residents of Ein Samiya and the displacement plans that affect about 250 communities along the eastern slopes of the West Bank as a form of ethnic cleansing.
The actions fall within a systematic policy of expansion, through which the Israeli occupation authorities aim to seize Palestinian land to expand their settlements.
Shtayyeh pointed out that residents of the Palestinian villages that are targeted now live in fear of occupation soldiers and settlers.
Settlers from the Karmi Zur settlement near Hebron destroyed five planted dunums (1.2 acres) south of Beit Ummar by spraying them with toxic pesticides, which destroyed the entire crop.
They also attacked Palestinian homes in the village of Burqa, northwest of Nablus, and burned sheep pens and olive groves.
They fired live ammunition under the protection of the Israeli army while bulldozers leveled lands belonging to Palestinians.
Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Party, told Arab News that what is currently taking place is part of an Israeli war to break Palestinian resistance and advance the occupation’s plan to annex and Judaize the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Barghouti added that “what happened in Ein Samiya...reminds us of the Israeli massacres committed against the Palestinians in 1948.”
He said that the Palestinian leadership must respond to these challenges without hesitation, unite Palestinians and take effective measures to stop the perpetuation of violence.


Another Yemeni prisoner dies in Houthi detention, fourth in month

Another Yemeni prisoner dies in Houthi detention, fourth in month
Updated 7 sec ago
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Another Yemeni prisoner dies in Houthi detention, fourth in month

Another Yemeni prisoner dies in Houthi detention, fourth in month
  • Houthis requested that the family of Yanouf Hassan Ali Al-Batenah collect his remains without providing details regarding the cause of death
  • Al-Batenah, a soldier of the Yemeni army’s 7th Military Region, was seized by the Houthis in November 2020 while fighting with Yemeni government troops in Mas in Marib proviince

AL-MUKALLA: A Yemeni government soldier has died of torture inside a Houthi detention facility in Sanaa, the fourth confirmed prisoner dying as a result of torture in less than a month, Yemeni government officials and activists said.

The Houthis recently requested that the family of Yanouf Hassan Ali Al-Batenah collect his remains without providing details regarding the cause of death.

Al-Batenah, a soldier of the Yemeni army’s 7th Military Region, was seized by the Houthis in November 2020 while fighting with Yemeni government troops in the Mas area in the province of Marib.

For three years, the Houthis had forcefully disappeared the Yemeni soldier and refused his family’s repeated requests to see him or learn his location.

Yemeni human rights advocates and authorities reported that the 26-year-old soldier was mercilessly tortured to death in a notorious Houthi intelligence jail in Sanaa.

Al-Batenah’s death occurred only days after the Houthis said that Yemeni government soldier Mohammed Ahmed Wahban, who was captured by the Houthis during the same fight in Mas, committed suicide inside the military prison in Sanaa by hanging himself.

Yemeni activists, citing a Houthi death sentence against him, contradicted the Houthis’ assertions, saying that the Houthis brutally tortured and murdered Wahban.

Two more inmates have died within Houthi detentions since late last month, including a Yemeni citizen working for the international organization Save the Children.

The Houthis repeatedly rejected pleas from Save the Children, local and international rights organizations, and foreign envoys in Yemen to provide explanations for the deaths of captives in their hands.

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said on Monday that 350 inmates died of abuse within Houthi detention facilities out of 1,635 recorded cases of torture since 2015 and that the Houthis maintain 237 official jails and another 128 hidden prisons throughout territories under their control.

“We reaffirm our request to the International Committee of the Red Cross and international and local human rights groups to launch an open inquiry into the crimes of murder and torture committed by Houthi militia in detention facilities,” the Yemeni minister said on X.

Meanwhile, a delegation of EU ambassadors to Yemen completed their visit to Yemen’s temporary capital, Aden, on Tuesday by expressing their support for the Presidential Leadership Council and the Yemeni government’s efforts to improve revenues and combat corruption.

“They praised the government’s work aimed at raising revenue and stabilizing the economy, continuing implementing reforms and improving service delivery under extremely challenging circumstances in a very complex regional context,” the EU ambassadors to Yemen said in a joint statement.


Jordan explores feasibility of green hydrogen projects

Jordan explores feasibility of green hydrogen projects
Updated 13 min 1 sec ago
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Jordan explores feasibility of green hydrogen projects

Jordan explores feasibility of green hydrogen projects
  • MoU focused on annual production of 180,000 tons of green ammonia

AMMAN: Jordan’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Saleh Kharabsheh signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday with Ahmad Saleh, the chairman of Mass Group Holding, to conduct feasibility studies into the development of green hydrogen projects in Jordan, the Jordan News Agency reported.

Kharabsheh said that the memorandum focused on annual production of 180,000 tons of green ammonia. Once the preliminary studies are completed, and depending on the results, the ministry is to construct a framework agreement to lead to the final investment deal for the project.

Kharabsheh said that it was the ministry’s eighth agreement of its kind regarding the production of green hydrogen and green ammonia, and highlighted the importance of forming partnerships with the private sector.

He expressed optimism about Jordan becoming a regional and global hub for hydrogen production and export, as envisioned by the ministry and the energy sector.

The minister reaffirmed the commitment of the ministry and the sector to streamlining the green hydrogen investment process. He spoke of the importance of the opportunity for both Jordan and investors.

Kharabsheh said that the memorandum was consistent with the government’s efforts to harness significant renewable energy resources, and Jordan’s strategic location in the region, in line with the country’s Economic Modernization Vision for 2023-2033.
 


In Gaza, little solace in truce as people endure grief and deprivation

In Gaza, little solace in truce as people endure grief and deprivation
Updated 28 November 2023
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In Gaza, little solace in truce as people endure grief and deprivation

In Gaza, little solace in truce as people endure grief and deprivation
  • “The struggle for water happens daily, since we were first displaced until now,” said Rami Al-Rizek
  • Now in its fifth day, the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas has allowed an increased number of aid trucks to enter Gaza from Egypt

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip: Carting heavy cans of water through muddy streets, searching mounds of rubble for clothes, mourning lost relatives and homes — Gazans reprieved from Israeli bombardment during the truce with Hamas were still facing the daily hardships of war.
At a water station in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, people filled plastic containers and lugged them to homes or shelters using carts pulled by donkeys or by hand, bicycles, a shopping trolley, a wheelbarrow, even a wheelchair.
“The struggle for water happens daily, since we were first displaced until now. Even during the cease-fire, they didn’t find a solution to the water problem,” said Rami Al-Rizek, displaced with his family from their home in Gaza City.
Now in its fifth day, the pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas has allowed an increased number of aid trucks to enter Gaza from Egypt, but the humanitarian needs are so immense that many Gazans have felt little or no impact.
“Whether there is a truce or not, we still have no electricity, no water, and none of life’s basic necessities,” said Muath Hamdan, another man waiting at the water station.
It had rained, and a steady stream of children and adults trudged through mud and puddles in sandals and flip flops on their way to the water station. The quest for water was the main activity that could be seen on the streets.
In a different area of Khan Younis, Maryam Abu Rjaileh had returned to her home, reduced to rubble by an Israeli air strike, to search for clothes for her children. The family are now sheltering at a school, in a classroom shared with many others.
“We see our homes getting destroyed, our dreams getting destroyed, we see the efforts we put into our homes all destroyed,” said Abu Rjaileh.
“How can I describe our situation? They gave us a four-day truce, what are these four days? We come here, feel sorry for ourselves and turn back.”

PAINFUL MEMORIES
In another part of town, Yasser Abu Shamaleh paced over the pile of debris that used to be a block where many of his relatives lived. He said more than 30 of them had been killed — his parents, sisters and brothers, nieces, nephews and cousins.
“Two things made me come to this area. First, my cousin is still under the rubble and no-one has been able to get him out. Second, my painful memories,” he said.
Abu Shamaleh, who said he survived because he, his wife and their five children live in a different building, picked up chunks of concrete and tossed them aside. A rag doll could be seen in the rubble.
“As much as you try to retrieve things, it’s useless. We need machinery and tools to get things out,” he said.
“The truce is the time to lift the rubble and search for all the missing people and bury them. We honor the dead by burying them. What use is the truce if the bodies remain under the rubble?” he said.
The war began when militants from Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, including babies and children, and seizing about 240 hostages, according to Israeli figures.
Israel responded with aerial bombardment and a ground assault on Gaza, killing more than 15,000 people, around 40 percent of them children, according to Gazan health officials.
Another Khan Younis resident, Ahmed Al-Najjar, said of the truce: “Four days are not enough, and forty days are not enough, and four years will not be enough to get over the pain.”


US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement
Updated 28 November 2023
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US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has told Israel that it must work to avoid “significant further displacement” of Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza if it renews its ground campaign aimed at eradicating the Hamas militant group, senior US officials said.
The administration, seeking to avoid more large-scale civilian casualties or mass displacement like that seen before the current temporary pause in the fighting, underscored to the Israelis that they must operate with far greater precision in southern Gaza than they did in the north, the officials said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.
Amid mounting international and domestic pressure about the rising Palestinian death toll, the White House has begun to put greater pressure on Israel that the manner of the coming campaign must be “carefully thought through,” according to one of the officials. The Israelis have been receptive when administration officials have raised these concerns, the official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that Israeli Defense Forces will eventually restart military operations after the conclusion of the current, temporary ceasefire that has allowed for an exchange of hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The two sides agreed Monday to extend the truce for an additional two days and to continue swapping hostages for prisoners.
President Joe Biden has said he would like to see the pause — which has also allowed a surge of much-needed humanitarian aid to get into Gaza — continue as long as feasible. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return this week to the Middle East as the US hopes to find a way to extend the ceasefire and get more hostages released, the State Department said Monday. It will be his third trip to the region since Israel’s war with Hamas began last month.
Still, Biden and top officials have also been clear-eyed about Israel’s desire to continue operations focused on Hamas that over the last seven weeks have largely focused on the north. They have said they support Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas’ control over Gaza and the threat it poses to Israeli civilians, but have grown more vocal about the need to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians. Hamas has been known to seek shelter among the territory’s civilian population, and Israeli officials have released videos from northern Gaza of what they said are weapons stockpiles and firing locations placed among civilian infrastructure.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. More than 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial attack. At least 77 soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground offensive.
The US believes roughly 2 million Palestinians are now in south and central Gaza. Biden administration officials have made clear to the Israelis that an already stretched humanitarian support network would be unable to cope with the sort of displacement that those from northern Gaza have endured in Israel’s retaliatory strikes and ground operations.
Biden administration officials have also told the Israelis they expect them to conduct operations in a way that will be “maximally deconflicted” with the operation of humanitarian aid facilities, United Nations-supported shelters and core infrastructure, including electricity and water.
The World Health Organization has warned that the war has caused a burgeoning public health crisis that is a recipe for epidemics as displaced Palestinians have been forced to take shelter in cramped homes and camps.
One administration official said vaccines are among the medical goods flowing into Gaza, but there has also been a focus on potable water supplies and sanitation to prevent outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. To that end, the White House has also pushed to get as much fuel into Gaza as possible — something the Israelis resisted, particularly in the first weeks of war, citing concerns that it would be siphoned by Hamas.
The officials said the US on Tuesday would dispatch the first of three US military humanitarian aid flights to northern Egypt carrying medical supplies, food aid and winter items for Gaza’s civilian population.


Iran’s Raisi not coming to Turkiye on Tuesday: Ankara

Iran’s Raisi not coming to Turkiye on Tuesday: Ankara
Updated 28 November 2023
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Iran’s Raisi not coming to Turkiye on Tuesday: Ankara

Iran’s Raisi not coming to Turkiye on Tuesday: Ankara
  • Analysts believe that Raisi will pressure Turkiye to move past the rhetoric and cut its blossoming trade and energy relations with Israel

ANKARA: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will not be making a previously announced visit to Ankara on Tuesday, the Turkish presidency said, without providing a reason.

The visit had been announced earlier this month by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said the two leaders would focus on forging a joint response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Erdogan has emerged as one of the Muslim world’s most vocal critics of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in response to Hamas militants’ October 7 attack.

He has branded Israel a “terrorist state” and called Iran-backed Hamas “a liberation group.”

Erdogan has also suggested trying Israeli politicians and military commanders in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

But past meetings between Muslim and Arab leaders — including talks this month in Riyadh — have failed to find common ground over what immediate economic and political steps to take.

Analysts believe that Raisi will pressure Turkiye to move past the rhetoric and cut its blossoming trade and energy relations with Israel.

“Iran expects Turkiye to end its direct and indirect trade with Israel,” Istanbul’s Center for Iranian Studies director Hakki Uygur said.

“Turkiye, on the other hand, has taken an attitude that cares about separating political and commercial issues.”

According to Gaza’s Hamas-led government, nearly 15,000 people — mostly civilians and including thousands of children — have died since Israel began to retaliate for Hamas’s unprecedented cross-border attacks in which Israel says 1,200 people, mostly civilians, died.

Raisi’s visit comes with efforts focused on extending a truce that has seen dozens of Israeli hostages freed in return for the release of more than 100 Palestinian prisoners.

Iran and Turkiye share a 535-kilometer border and a complex history of close economic relations and opposing views on regional disputes.

Turkiye backed rebel efforts to topple Iranian and Russian-backed President Bashar Assad during Syria’s civil war.

Ankara’s support for Azerbaijan’s two victorious wars over Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh also created deep unease in Iran.

Tehran fears that Baku’s resurgence in the Caucasus region could feed the separatist ambitions of Iran’s large ethnic Azerbaijani minority.

Iran is also anxious about a proposed trade route running along its northern border between Azerbaijan and Turkiye that could potentially complicate its access to Armenia.

“The most important conflict between Turkiye and Iran was over the Caucasus and Karabakh,” Ankara-based Iran expert Arif Keskin said.

“With the Gaza conflict, this issue was pushed to the back burner, but it still remains there as an important issue,” Keskin said.

The Turkish presidency said Erdogan discussed finding “a common stance against Israel’s brutality” by phone with Raisi on Sunday.

Analysts believe that Iran is trying to calibrate the extent to which it uses groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon to pressure Israel and the United States.

“Iran has been wary of intervening in the ongoing Middle East crisis and is likely to avoid any action that might escalate the conflict,” the Eurasia Group said in a report.

“As Iran does not have total control over its allies, there is a risk that unintended actions bring US retaliation and escalate the conflict,” it said.

Erdogan has also voiced repeated worries about the spread of war.

“Iran and Turkiye will continue to work in unity to make the temporary ceasefire permanent and achieve permanent peace,” Erdogan’as office said after his call with Raisi.