Palestinians in the West Bank pushed to the brink as Israeli assault on Gaza keeps tensions high

Special Palestinians in the West Bank pushed to the brink as Israeli assault on Gaza keeps tensions high
Since Oct. 7, Israeli settlers have carried out 603 attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank (AFP)
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Updated 06 May 2024
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Palestinians in the West Bank pushed to the brink as Israeli assault on Gaza keeps tensions high

Palestinians in the West Bank pushed to the brink as Israeli assault on Gaza keeps tensions high
  • Jewish settlers in the West Bank together with Israeli troops ramp up hostilities against Palestinians, especially rural communities in Area C
  • Attitude of Israeli authorities blamed for emboldening violent Jewish settlers to attack and expel Palestinians from the West Bank with impunity

LONDON: Shockwaves from Israel’s military operation in Gaza have reverberated into the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where security forces and emboldened Jewish settlers have reportedly ramped up attacks on Palestinian communities.

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack sparked the conflict in Gaza, Israeli settlers have carried out 603 attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, expelling 1,222 people from 19 herding communities, according to UN figures.

Armed settlers have also killed at least nine Palestinians, while Israeli security forces have killed 396 others in the past few months.

Likewise, the Israeli army has intensified raids. On May 4, Israeli forces raided Tulkarem and killed five Palestinians, including four Hamas members. On April 20, Israeli forces carried out a raid in the same governorate, home to more than 6,400 refugees, killing 14 Palestinians.

Abeer, who runs a small business in Jenin, has observed a “surge in settler attacks, the proliferation of checkpoints, daily raids on Palestinian homes, infrastructure destruction, killing of Palestinian youths, and increased Israeli military airstrikes.”




The Israeli army has intensified raids in parts of the West Bank. (AFP)

While similar attacks regularly took place before Oct. 7, she told Arab News that “they have doubled and become more horrific” since the onset of the Gaza war.

Jenin “has for about two years been specifically a target for the Israeli military, as it’s home to a few resistance groups,” she added.

According to a report by the UN Human Rights Office published in March, the “drastic acceleration” of long-standing patterns of discrimination, oppression, and violence against Palestinians has pushed the West Bank to the “brink of catastrophe.”

Israel, at “one of the fastest rates on record,” has demolished 917 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank since Oct. 7, displacing 1,015 Palestinians. Of these structures, 210 are in East Jerusalem and 285 are residential buildings, the report added.

Yasmeen El-Hasan, international advocacy officer at the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a nongovernmental organisation supporting rural Palestinian communities, described the situation in the West Bank as “absolutely horrendous.”

“The Israeli expansion of its settler colonial enterprise in the West Bank is happening parallel to the genocidal war on Gaza,” she told Arab News.  

“The occupation has established numerous new settler outposts, settler roads within the West Bank,” she said, adding that the Israeli government “has approved thousands of new settler units within the West Bank.”




Since Oct. 7, Israeli settlers have carried out 603 attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank (AFP)

While casualties from Israeli violence in the West Bank have not reached the scale of those in Gaza, she said the “intensity of Israeli settler colonial violence in every part of historic Palestine has amplified, increased, been exacerbated in the past six months.”

The “impunity” granted by Israeli authorities has further emboldened Jewish settlers in the West Bank, El-Hasan said.

Settlers attacking Palestinian communities are “increasingly armed by the government of the Israeli occupation and there are no consequences for what they’re doing,” she said.

Addressing the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in March, Nada Al-Nashif, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights, said that after Oct. 7, the OHCHR documented “cases of settlers wearing full or partial Israeli army uniforms and carrying army rifles, harassing and attacking Palestinians, including shooting at them at point-blank range.”

She also said that by Oct. 31, Israeli security forces had reportedly distributed about 8,000 weapons to “settlement defense squads” and “regional defense battalions” in the West Bank.

INNUMBERS

• 700,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

• 300 Illegal settlements or outposts on Palestinian territory.

Source: OHCHR

An incident in which the Israeli military purportedly enabled settler violence took place in mid-April, when about 50 settlers attacked the northern West Bank village of Aqraba “protected by the Israeli occupation army,” according to WAFA, the Palestinian news agency.

Two Palestinians were killed in the settler attack, according to the mayor of the village, Salah Bani Jaber, who witnessed the incident. He said the Israeli soldiers at the scene “stood idly, watching the settlers.”

“The absence of accountability for settler violence is a key factor in the ongoing coercive environment,” Al-Nashif told the president of the UN Human Rights Council.




The “drastic acceleration” of long-standing patterns of discrimination, oppression, and violence against Palestinians has pushed the West Bank to the “brink of catastrophe,” said a UN report. (AFP)

She described this lack of accountability as a “manifestation of a dual system of criminal justice that has had discriminatory effects on Palestinians.”

Yesh Din, an Israeli NGO that documents abuses by Israeli civilians against Palestinians in the occupied territories, concluded in its December data sheet that “the Israeli-law enforcement system fails in fulfilling its duty to protect Palestinians from Israeli violence.”

The report emphasized that the continuation of “this systemic failure” for at least two decades “evinces that the State of Israel normalizes and supports ideologically motivated violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.”

The data sheet showed that in the past 20 years, 93.7 percent of all police investigations into settler offenses against Palestinians were closed without an indictment, while only 3 percent led to a full or partial conviction.

Yesh Din also noted that Palestinians tend to mistrust Israeli authorities, making victims of settler violence reluctant to report offenses.




In July last year, at least 3,000 Palestinians fled their homes in the Jenin refugee camp after a large Israeli military operation. (AFP)

Between January and September 2023, more than 57 percent of the victims chose not to file a complaint. Of these, 54 percent said they feared retaliation or did not trust the Israeli authorities to apprehend offenders.

Palestinians in the West Bank’s rural areas are particularly vulnerable to expulsion from their lands by Jewish settlers.

El-Hasan of UAWC said: “Israeli settlers, often accompanied by or protected by the Israeli occupation forces, very frequently target Palestinian agricultural lands and critical infrastructure, as well as the communities.

“This includes vital resources like water wells, roads, greenhouses, sanitary facilities, land where crops are grown, herds, herding enclosures, cars, and houses.”

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The OHCHR report found that from January 2022 to early September 2023, 1,105 Palestinians from 28 herding communities (about 12 percent) were forcibly displaced due to settler violence and prevention of access to grazing land.

Palestinian farmers and rural communities in Area C, which constitutes 61 percent of the West Bank territory, have been specifically targeted by Israeli settlers, El-Hasan said.

“Area C is the majority of the West Bank, the most resource rich, and it’s also, according to the Oslo Accords, under Israeli military and civil administration,” she added.




Israeli security forces have killed 396 Palestinians in the West Bank in the past few months. (AFP)

The Oslo Accords, signed on the White House lawn in September 1993, were the first direct peace agreement between Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. They sought to pave the way for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Stressing the importance of talking about Area C in the context of Israeli settlement expansion, El-Hasan pointed out that this “very fertile” area is “directly tied to Palestinian livelihood.”

It is “where most of the settlements are,” she explained, adding that “the Israeli occupation is trying its hardest to take” this area.

“Land and livelihood are directly tied to Palestinian food systems. This targeted disruption and destruction of Palestinian food systems is a tactical strategy of Israeli settler colonialism that is attempting to sever the indigenous relationship with interdependence on the land, no matter the consequences.

“And that includes humanitarian targeting, like the tens of thousands of murdered Palestinians, or environmental, like the hundreds of thousands of metric tons of planet-warming emissions produced by Israel in the past few months.”

On April 29, Washington said five Israeli security force units committed “gross violations of human rights” against Palestinians in the West Bank before Oct. 7, yet it has not barred any of the units from receiving US military support, Reuters reported.




The Oslo Accords sought to pave the way for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. (AFP)

On May 3, two “extremist” groups and four individuals in Israel who it blamed for violence in the West Bank, as part of a fresh package of measures against settlers.

Referring to Jewish settlers living in occupied West Bank, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains that “the vast majority of residents of Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens ... Israel acts against all violators of the law in all places and therefore there is no place for drastic steps on this matter.”

In July last year, at least 3,000 Palestinians fled their homes in the Jenin refugee camp, home to about 18,000 people, after the Israeli military launched what Palestinian officials described as the largest operation in the area in two decades.




Israel has proved over the past 76 years that it “will do whatever it takes to forcibly take that land,” said Yasmeen El-Hasan. (AFP)

Israel said it was targeting a Palestinian militant command center.

Saying that “the basis of settler colonialism is land theft,” El-Hasan accused Israel of proving over the past 76 years that it “will do whatever it takes to forcibly take that land, and that includes destroying it, exploiting it, and committing genocide.”

“Palestinian communities are physically rooted in our land,” she told Arab News. “Our relationship with this land is not just symbolic, it’s symbiotic. It’s not transactional, it’s reciprocal. And as the indigenous people to this land, we are its caretakers.”

 


Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state

Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state
Updated 14 sec ago
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Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state

Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state
JERUSALEM: An Israeli parliament vote to oppose a Palestinian state as an “existential threat,” just days ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, brought Palestinian and international criticism on Thursday.
The 120-member Knesset late on Wednesday passed by 68 votes to nine a resolution that said a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel would “perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”
The resolution is symbolic but lays down a marker before Netanyahu’s Washington trip as well as an opinion to be issued by the International Court of Justice over the legality of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
“The Knesset firmly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state (on land) west of Jordan,” said the resolution, referring to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which has been devastated by the war unleashed by the October 7 Hamas attacks.
“The creation of a Palestinian state in the heart of the land of Israel would constitute an existential danger for the state of Israel and its citizens, would perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”
It predicted that Hamas would take over the state and turn it into “a radical Islamic terrorist base” seeking to destroy Israel.
The resolution said “promoting” a Palestinian state was “a reward for terrorism and would only encourage Hamas and its supporters” after the October 7 attacks.
The Palestinian Authority said there would be “neither peace nor security for anyone without the establishment of a Palestinian state.” It accused Israel’s ruling coalition of “plunging the region into an abyss.”
The French foreign ministry expressed “consternation” at the resolution that it said was “in contradiction with resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council.”
The Knesset voted by an even larger majority in February against countries unilaterally backing a Palestinian state. Spain, Ireland, Norway and Armenia have since said they recognized a Palestinian state.
The latest Knesset resolution was proposed by a right-wing deputy in opposition to Netanyahu’s coalition of conservative and far-right parties. However, coalition deputies and some centrist lawmakers voted in favor.
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First Algerian presidential hopeful submits candidacy

Abdelaali Hassani, head of the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) party, was first to submit his candidacy on Thursday morning.
Abdelaali Hassani, head of the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) party, was first to submit his candidacy on Thursday morning.
Updated 20 min 11 sec ago
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First Algerian presidential hopeful submits candidacy

Abdelaali Hassani, head of the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) party, was first to submit his candidacy on Thursday morning.
  • Algerian president said he would seek a second term

ALGIERS: The leader of Algeria’s main Islamist party on Thursday kicked off the official candidate submissions for the upcoming presidential election in which the incumbent President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, 78, is the frontrunner.
Abdelaali Hassani, head of the Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) party, was first to submit his candidacy on Thursday morning, an AFP correspondent saw, hours before Tebboune was expected to do the same.
Tebboune, who was elected in 2019 following months of pro-democracy protests and the ousting of longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, said on July 11 he would seek a second term.
In March, he announced that the election would be held on September 7, three months ahead of schedule, but gave no reason for the decision.
Algeria, home to some 45 million people, is Africa’s largest country.
The hydrocarbon-rich nation is the continent’s main natural gas supplier, with neighboring Tunisia, Spain, and Italy heavily reliant on Algerian gas.
The final list of hopefuls for the election will be published on July 27.
To qualify to appear on the ballot, candidates are required to present a list of at least 50,000 individual signatures from registered voters or from 600 members from at least 29 of Algeria’s various provincial assemblies.
Ahmed Sadok, an MSP representative, told AFP that his party had already gathered “more than 90,000 petition signatures” in support of Hassani as well as the backing of “2,200 other elected representatives.”
With the Algerian Workers Party’s leader Louisa Hanoune dropping out of the race last week, only two female candidates — businesswoman Saida Nezgha and lawyer Zoubida Assoul — remain in contention.
But Tebboune is still the favorite, with endorsements from several political parties.
“Given the desire of many parties, political and non-political organizations and the youth, I announce my intention to run for a second term,” he said when announcing his candidacy.


Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament

Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament
Updated 18 July 2024
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Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament

Syrian President Assad’s Baath Party clinches control of parliament
  • Elections for 250 parliamentary seats were held Monday at 8,151 centers in government-held areas of the country
  • The voting was repeated in several districts after election officials said there had been irregularities

DAMASCUS: The results of Syria’s parliamentary elections, announced Thursday, showed that President Bashar Assad’s Baath Party has won a majority of seats, as expected.
The elections for 250 parliamentary seats were held Monday at 8,151 centers in government-held areas of the country, but the voting was repeated in several districts — including Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Daraa — after election officials said there had been irregularities, including voters casting ballots twice.
The heads of some electoral centers were referred to the judiciary for alleged electoral violations.
Altogether, 1,516 candidates were competing for the 250 seats. However, only 65 of those seats were seen as truly up for competition, as the Baath Party and allied parties presented a list of 185 candidates. Typically, all candidates who make it through the Baath Party primaries and appear on the final list win seats.
The results announced Thursday showed that all 185 candidates from the Baath Party and its allies won seats as expected, an increase from the 177 seats won by the coalition in 2020.
Turnout was 38 percent of the 19.3 million eligible voters, election officials said.
Unlike presidential elections, Syrians in the diaspora are not eligible to vote in parliamentary elections.
The head of the Supreme Judicial Committee for Elections, Jihad Murad, who announced the results, said they “reflected the broadest representation of the Syrian people in their various groups and sectors.”
The vote is the fourth since the country’s civil war began in March 2011.
With Assad facing term limits that would end his presidency in 2028, the next parliament is widely expected to try to pass a constitutional amendment to extend his term.
An amendment requires a three-quarters majority, or 188 votes, just over the number of seats held by the Bath Party and its allies. However, nominally independent candidates are also generally seen as loyal to the government.


Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah
Updated 18 July 2024
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Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah

Israel bombards central Gaza as tanks advance deeper in Rafah
  • One Israeli airstrike kills six people in Zawayda town in central Gaza
  • An Israeli airstrike killed three people in a car in Deir Al-Balah

CAIRO: Israeli forces bombarded the Gaza Strip’s historic refugee camps in the center of the enclave and struck Gaza City in the north on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, and tanks pushed deeper into Rafah in the south, health officials and residents said.
One Israeli airstrike killed six people in Zawayda town in central Gaza and two other people were killed in a strike on a house in Bureij camp. An Israeli air strike killed three people in a car in Deir Al-Balah, a city packed with people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza, health officials said.
In Gaza City in the north, medics said two Palestinians were killed in another airstrike.
The Israeli military said in a statement its forces killed two senior Islamic Jihad commanders in two airstrikes in Gaza City, including one whom it said had taken part in the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel that triggered the Gaza war.
In Rafah, residents said Israeli tanks advanced deeper in the western side of the city and took position on a hilltop there. The Israeli military said forces located several tunnels and killed several gunmen.
The armed wing of militant group Hamas and its allies said they fired mortar bombs at Israeli forces in southwest Rafah on Thursday.
More than a million people had sought shelter in Rafah from fighting further north, but most have scattered again since Israel launched an offensive in and around the city in May.
The fighting has pushed the 60-bed Red Cross field hospital in Rafah to the brink of capacity, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Thursday.
“The repeated mass casualty events resulting from the unrelenting hostilities have stretched to breaking point the response capacity of our hospital – and all health facilities in southern Gaza – to care for those with life-threatening injuries,” said William Schomburg, head of the ICRC’s subdelegation in Gaza.
CEASEFIRE EFFORTS STALLED
More than nine months into the war, Palestinian fighters led by Hamas are still able to attack Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, occasionally firing rocket barrages into Israel.
Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages in the Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli tallies. More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then, Gaza health authorities say.
On Tuesday, Israel said it had eliminated half of the leadership of Hamas’ military wing and killed or captured about 14,000 fighters since the start of the war. Israel says 326 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
Hamas doesn’t release figures of casualties among its ranks and said Israel was exaggerating to portray a “fake victory.”
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators to halt the hostilities, backed by the United States, appear on hold, though all sides say they are open to more talks, including Israel and Hamas.
A deal would aim to end the war and release Israeli hostages in Gaza in return for many Palestinians jailed by Israel.
Hamas was awaiting an Israeli response to a ceasefire offer drafted by the United States based on ideas announced by President Joe Biden, a Palestinian official close to the mediation effort said.
“The feeling in Hamas is that (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu is stalling and that he might not say anything before he goes to the United States next week,” said the official, who asked not to be named.


Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say
Updated 18 July 2024
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Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say

Omani brothers behind Shi’ite mosque attack, police say
  • The brothers were killed in a shoot-out with security officers

MUSCAT: Perpetrators in the shooting that targeted a Shi’ite mosque in Oman’s Wadi al-Kabir area near the capital Muscat were all Omani citizens, state news agency ONA said on Thursday.

The perpetrators were brothers and were killed in a shoot-out with security officers, according to a statement released by the Omani police.

Monday’s shooting killed at least six people -- four Pakistanis, an Indian and an Omani police officer -- and wounded 28, authorities have said.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a rare operation in one of the most stable countries in the Middle East, the group said in a statement on Telegram on Tuesday.

The police said in their statement on Thursday that the perpetrators “were influenced by misguided ideas.”