Posts Tagged ‘West Bank’

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas plans anti-Hamas measures as split widens

January 13, 2019

The decade-long Palestinian split looks set to deepen in the coming months, with president Mahmud Abbas poised to take multiple measures against Gaza to squeeze its Islamist rulers Hamas.

The moves raise concerns of more suffering for Gaza’s two million residents, already under an Israeli blockade and facing severe electricity shortages, while a cornered Hamas could renew violence against Israel.

Analysts say the measures will also widen the gap between Hamas-run Gaza and the occupied West Bank, where Abbas’s government has limited self-rule.

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) prepare to take control of Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019 as Palestinian Authority personnel (L) pull out on orders from president Mahmud Abbas

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas (R) prepare to take control of Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt on January 7, 2019 as Palestinian Authority personnel (L) pull out on orders from president Mahmud Abbas AFP/File

Hamas and Abbas’s secular Fatah party have been at loggerheads since the Islamists seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s forces in a near civil war in 2007, a year after sweepinging parliamentary elections.

Hamas has since fought three bloody wars with Israel and fears of a fourth remain.

Multiple reconciliation attempts between the Palestinian factions have failed but Egypt thought it had made a breakthrough in late 2017 when the two sides agreed to eventually share power.

As part of that agreement Hamas withdrew from border crossings between Gaza and Egypt and Israel, allowing the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority to return and the Egyptian border to be reopened regularly.

The reconciliation agreement has since collapsed acrimoniously.

On Sunday, the PA announced it would withdraw from the Egyptian border crossing, creating a dilemma for Cairo about whether to leave it open with Hamas in control.

So far they have indicated they will.

Senior officials close to Abbas say he is looking for other measures to punish Hamas.

– ‘Very important decisions’ –

Among these could be removing staff from the crossings between Israel and Gaza — making it hard for the Jewish state to allow anything into the territory without dealing directly with Hamas, which it and many other countries label a terrorist organisation.

They could also include cutting salaries to families of Hamas prisoners or rescinding Palestinian passports for Hamas employees.

Abbas has also pledged to dissolve the Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament, which though it hasn’t met since the 2007 split is still nominally the basis for new laws.

“Very important decisions against Hamas are being discussed,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

It follows a series of arrests of those affiliated with Fatah in Gaza, according to Abbas allies.

The official said the PA spent around $100 million per month in Gaza, including for electricity subsidies, and was looking to cut back significantly.

“Those that want to rule Gaza must bear the responsibility of governing it,” the official said.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Abbas ally and negotiator of the 2017 reconciliation agreement, told AFP “the leadership is considering a number of measures”.

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim said the Islamists had seen similar threats before.

“Any type of sanctions such as electricity, preventing medicine, closing the border or cutting the salaries are intended to blackmail residents into rising against Hamas and they fail,” he told AFP.

“This is the most that Abbas can do.”

– ‘Short-term thinking? –

The Palestinians have faced stark challenges over the past two years, with US President Donald Trump leading what he has called the most pro-Israel administration in the country’s history.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has meanwhile continued to expand settlements in the West Bank.

Abbas?s government froze contacts with the Trump administration after it recognised the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel?s capital in December 2017.

The deepening split between the two factions weakens their ability to respond to such pressure, said Hugh Lovatt of the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

He said the PA withdrawal from the border crossings was part of a “package of measures designed to try and squeeze Hamas.”

“It is not irreversible but it is certainly a very negative step. This is short-term thinking triumphing longer-term strategy.”

Nadia Hijab, president of the Al-Shabaka Palestinian think-tank, said the infighting prevented a united front against Israeli policies.

“Palestinians fear that this latest move will cement the division and lead to a complete break between Gaza and the West Bank, something Israel has been pushing,” she said.

Both sides were “playing politics with people’s lives instead of taking on Israel’s 50-year-plus occupation,” she said.

At least 241 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since mass protests along the border began in March 2018. Two Israeli soldiers have been killed.

The protests had calmed in recent months after Hamas and Israel struck an agreement that saw Qatari aid allowed into the territory.

This week, it was reported that Israel had blocked a third tranche of Qatari funding, which could lead to increased tensions.

“If the Israelis do block the money, then I think it is almost a certainty you will see Hamas increasing the tension on the border,” Lovatt said.

AFP

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Israel opens ‘Apartheid road’ in occupied West Bank

January 11, 2019

A new road with brick and steel barrier separates Palestinian and Israeli traffic between villages of Anata and Azzayim.

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The new road is believed to be linked to Israeli settlement plans in highly contested E-1 area [Megan Giovannetti/Al Jazeera]
The new road is believed to be linked to Israeli settlement plans in highly contested E-1 area [Megan Giovannetti/Al Jazeera]

Anata, occupied West Bank – A newly-opened highway in the occupied West Bank has been hailed by Israelis but condemned by Palestinians, who are calling it the “Apartheid Road“.

It’s the first operational section of an eastern ring road around Jerusalem that could deny Palestinians access to parts of the West Bank and threaten a future Palestinian state.

Route 4370 has a high wall in the middle, topped with fencing that segregates the road into two separate two-way lanes.

The western side is for Palestinians in the West Bank to use to go around Jerusalem, which they cannot enter without an Israeli military-issued permit, while the eastern side serves Israeli settlers going to and from Jerusalem.

Palestinians from the village of Anata, which lies on the outskirts of Jerusalem but is separated from the city by Israel’s barrier wall, say part of the highway is built on Anata’s land.

‘They want to take that land’

“Anyone can see the Israelis’ plan,” said resident Ahmed Rifea. “A few months ago they wanted to take Khan al-Ahmar”, a the Bedouin village that garnered international attention after the Israeli government issued a demolition order against it. “Now they build this new road? They want to take that land,” Rifea said.

Originally encompassing 35,000 square km of land, Anata has shrunk to a little more than 1,000 square km because more than 90 percent of it lies in Area C as agreed by the Oslo Accords, that puts it under total Israeli civil and security control.

The Rifea family owns hundreds of dunams (tens of hectares) of land in Anata, but almost all of it has been confiscated by Israel for road and illegal Jewish settlement construction.

The road has red “dangerous for Israelis to enter” signs that signal a Palestinian-only route [Megan Giovannetti/Al Jazeera]

Route 4370 runs northeast of Jerusalem past Khan al-Ahmar and the illegal Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim – in a controversial area known as E-1, which lies on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities want to annex E-1 as part of their “Greater Jerusalem” plan to redraw the borders of the city –  Khan al-Ahmar, stands in the way, which may be why Israel ordered it demolished.

Expanding Jerusalem further east would create room for more settlement growth, connect Maale Adumim to the city as a suburb, and ease the housing crisis for Jewish Israelis in Jerusalem.

The annexation of E-1 would also displace about 140,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem towns and villages, like Anata.

Moreover, it would continue Israel’s fragmentation of the West Bank by bisecting the northern Palestinian cities from the south, making any potential future state of Palestine less viable.

A ‘gift’ from Israel

According to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) spokesperson’s office,”The construction of the new road was intended to shorten and optimise travel times for Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria,” – using the biblical name for the West Bank.

Israel Afrayat, the transportation coordinator of the Israeli civil administration appeared in a promotional video explaining the purpose of the new road and why Israel has ‘gifted’ it to the Palestinians.

The road is meant to “serve all people”, Afrayat said in the video, which is published on the Arabic language Facebook page of COGAT.

“Our goal is safety first – to protect your children,” Afrayat said.

Representatives in both the Palestinian ministry of public works and housing as well as the ministry of transportation said they were not notified and had no information about the opening of the new road.

The old road offered Palestineans access to Jerusalem  [Megan Giovannetti/Al Jazeera]

“The main purpose of this road is to connect Maale Adumim with Jerusalem and to separate Palestinians from their land, especially people from Anata,” Jihad Shobaki, an officer at the Palestinian ministry of public works and housing, told Al Jazeera.

The Israeli activist group Ir Amim agreed and said that the highway “eliminates one of the obstacles to settlement construction in E-1 and should signal cause for heightened vigilance”.

According to Ir Amim, the northernmost part of this “Apartheid Road” was always intended to “solve” the dilemma of maintaining at least transportation contiguity between northern Palestinians cities with the south while diverting them from the E-1 and Jerusalem areas.

The highway was initially conceived more than a decade ago by the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. International pressure delayed construction for years.

Rifea said he found out about the road being opened through the COGAT Facebook page. Other Anata residents learnt through the notice distributed to them by COGAT stating that it is forbidden to build on their own land within 300 metres of the new road.

“If they close the road, they shut off people from their land. As always, when Israelis open one thing, they close another,” Shobaki said.

“In the end, we will use [the road]. What can we do?” Rifea said.

The Anata-Azzayim road became the first operational section of the Eastern Ring Road in the West Bank – also known as the ‘Apartheid road’ [Megan Giovannetti/Al Jazeera]

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/israel-opens-apartheid-road-occupied-west-bank-190110051605433.html

Israel says arrests Palestinian suspect in deadly shootings

January 8, 2019

Israeli forces arrested overnight a Palestinian accused of shooting dead two soldiers in the occupied West Bank last month and involvement in another attack that caused a baby’s death, authorities said Tuesday.

Assam Barghouti is accused of shooting the soldiers at a bus stop near the Givat Assaf settlement in the Ramallah area on December 13, police said.

At least two other people — including another soldier — were wounded, the army said at the time.

Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, also accused him of involvement along with his brother in another shooting attack nearby, close to the Ofra settlement, that caused the death of a baby and wounded seven.

Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinian protesters during an incursion into the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 7, 2019

Israeli soldiers clash with Palestinian protesters during an incursion into the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 7, 2019.  AFP

In the December 9 shooting, a pregnant woman was seriously wounded and her baby was born prematurely and later died.

Barghouti’s brother, Salah, 29, was killed during an arrest raid on December 12.

Asem (L) and Salih (R) Barghouti at a rally in Kobar after the former was released from Israeli prison in April 2018 (screenshot: Twitter)

Asem (L) and Salih (R) Barghouti at a rally in Kobar after the former was released from Israeli prison in April 2018 (screenshot: Twitter)

The armed wing of Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, had claimed Salah Barghouti as one of its “fighters.”

The attacks boosted tensions and led to Israeli raids in parts of the West Bank, including in Ramallah, where Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has his base, triggering Palestinian protests.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Twitter saluted the arrest of a “vile terrorist”.

 

Jewish settlers and their right-wing supporters had held angry demonstrations over the December attacks.

A Kalachnikov assault rifle, magazines full of ammunition and night-vision equipment, which Israeli security forces believe a Palestinian terrorist, Asem Barghouti, was planning to use in an attack, found during an arrest raid in the West Bank village of Kobar on January 8, 2019. (Israel Police)

Assaf Barghouti was arrested at the home of an alleged accomplice in the West Bank village of Abu Shukheidim near Ramallah and was allegedly preparing more attacks, the Shin Bet said.

An AK-47 rifle, night-vision equipment and ammunition were seized during his arrest, according to the Shin Bet.

AFP

 A photo composite shows Sgt. Yosef Cohen, left, and Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef of the IDF’s Kfir Brigade. The two were killed on December 13, 2018, in a terrorist shooting attack outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the central West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)
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https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-nabs-suspected-givat-assaf-terrorist-after-nearly-month-long-manhunt/

Abbas says he will dissolve Palestinian parliament — “Islamic Jihad, Hamas are running the show now”

December 23, 2018

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Saturday he intended to dissolve the largely defunct Palestinian parliament controlled by his rivals Hamas following a court decision ordering the move.

Abbas did not say when the Ramallah-based Palestinian Constitutional Court issued the ruling that includes holding elections within six months of the Palestinian Legislative Council being dissolved.

“The issue reached the Constitutional Court which issued a verdict to dissolve the legislative council and call for legislative elections within six months, and this is what we must implement immediately,” Abbas said when meeting members of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

A handout picture released by Jordan's Royal Palace on December 18, 2018, shows King Abdullah II (C-R) meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) in Amman

A handout picture released by Jordan’s Royal Palace on December 18, 2018, shows King Abdullah II (C-R) meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (C-L) in Amman /AFP

The step would allow Abbas to further pressure Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip.

Though the parliament has not met since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian law allows for its speaker to act as interim president should 83-year-old Abbas die in office.

Hamas won the last parliamentary elections in 2006 in a landslide, resulting in an electoral dispute with Abbas’s Fatah.

The split between them persists and has defied several reconciliation attempts.

Abbas, whose Fatah is based in the occupied West Bank, has sought to pressure Hamas in recent months by reducing salaries in the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli blockade, among other moves.

His administration has opposed recent arrangements that have seen Israel allow Qatar to provide millions of dollars (euros) in aid for salaries and fuel in the Gaza Strip, bypassing Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

Egypt has been seeking to reconcile Hamas and Fatah, but a range of issues have kept the two sides apart, including Hamas’s refusal to disarm its military wing.

Abbas’s term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

AFP

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Hamas Leader Erekat on final meeting with Kushner: He shouted, warned ‘Don’t threaten me’

December 17, 2018

A official describes angry conversation as Trump’s special adviser informed him US would recognize Jerusalem, move embassy

Senior Adviser to the President of the United States Jared Kushner, is pictured before being decorated with the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle by Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018, in the sidelines of the G20 Leaders' Summit. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Senior Adviser to the President of the United States Jared Kushner, is pictured before being decorated with the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle by Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018, in the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Top Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat has described his combative last meeting with US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, before Washington announced it was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of last year.

On November 30, 2017, less than a week before Trump announced he was recognizing Jerusalem and relocating the US embassy there — a move that led the PA to sever its ties with the administration — Kushner met with Erekat at the White House, Erekat told the Doha Forum on international policy in Qatar on Sunday, in comments provided by Buzzfeed.

Erekat said that during the meeting he reminded Kushner that Trump was due to sign a presidential waiver delaying the move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which had been decided on by the US Congress in 1995.

Kushner, he said, then told him: “We’re not going to sign.”

“I said, ‘what do you mean we’re not going to sign? The president promised us in the White House that he would not take any step that may preempt or pre-judge Jerusalem, not before negotiations,’” Erekat recalled.

Saeb Erekat speaks to journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on September 1, 2018. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, responded, “It’s our business and we will conduct our policies according to our interests,” Erekat said.

Erekat then declared that if the embassy move went ahead, the US would have “disqualified” itself from any role in the peace process.

Kushner responded: “Don’t threaten me,” to which Erekat retorted: “Read my lips. You will have disqualified yourself from any role in the peace process.”

“You don’t know the changes that are happening around you in the Arab world,” Kushner reportedly said.

“The best thing for me is to be a student, so teach me,” Erekat answered. Kushner allegedly shouted back: “Don’t be sarcastic!”

Erekat told the forum he then tried to explain his point of view and warn of the potential dire consequences to moving the embassy.

“Do you think Arab countries will open embassies in Tel Aviv and accept Jerusalem, with the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as Israel’s capital?” he recounted telling Kushner. “To them Jerusalem is a red line — all of them! Saudis, Qataris, Egyptians, Jordanians, Bahrainis. So what are you talking about?”

Kushner wouldn’t explain. “This is our business, our policies,” he reportedly said.

“If you do this, you will bring Israelis and Palestinians to brink of disaster,” Erekat said he warned Kushner.

US President Donald Trump signing a proclamation that the US government will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, December 6, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via JTA)

On December 7, 2017, Trump announced that he was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that he had instructed the State Department to begin preparation to relocate the US embassy there. The Palestinian Authority has boycotted Washington ever since and on May 14 the new embassy opened in the Arnona neighborhood of Jerusalem.

In a twist of bureaucratic red tape, hours after his December declaration, Trump did in fact sign the waiver and then signed it again in June 2018.

Trump’s move was necessitated by the fact that the ambassador’s official residence has not yet been relocated to the capital.

The US decision led relations with the PA to spiral downwards. In light of Ramallah’s severing of ties, Washington has cut all aid to the Palestinians this year with the exception of some $42 million it gives them for ongoing security cooperation efforts. It also closed the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington DC.

The Trump administration’s plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace is expected to be rolled out in the coming months. Although the Trump administration has been long touting its peace plan, details of it have been scant, and the Palestinians have vowed not to cooperate with US efforts.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/erekat-on-final-meeting-with-kushner-he-shouted-warned-dont-threaten-me/

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UN, Palestinians launch humanitarian appeal after funding cuts

December 17, 2018

The United Nations and the Palestinian Authority on Monday appealed for $350 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians next year, saying that they needed more but had to be realistic in the face of “record-low” funding.

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The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan outlined 203 projects to be carried out by 88 different groups, including UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.

Palestinians take part in a protest against the US move to freeze funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on February 6, 2018. (File/AFP)

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The plan prioritized 1.4 million Palestinians most in need of food, health care, shelter, water and sanitation, said Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

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“Humanitarian actors are facing unprecedented challenges, including record-low funding and a rise in attacks to delegitimize humanitarian action,” he said in a joint statement issued on Monday, ahead of the appeal’s launch in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniya waves upon his arrival at a rally in Gaza City on December 16, 2018 to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamist Palestinian movement

Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniya waves upon his arrival at a rally in Gaza City on December 16, 2018 to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamist Palestinian movement.  AFP

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Although “much more assistance is needed,” McGoldrick said, the plan was “reflecting what we can realistically accomplish in this highly constrained context.”

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Over the past year, the United States has slashed its funding to the Palestinians, including to the UN agency that provides services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.

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The United States promised $365 million to the agency in 2018, but paid only a first instalment of $60 million before announcing in August that it would halt all future donations.

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The move was widely seen as a means of pressuring the Palestinian leadership to enter peace negotiations with Israel.

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The Palestinians want to establish a state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — territories that Israel captured and occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

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US-brokered peace talks between the sides collapsed in 2014 and a bid by US President Donald Trump to restart them has so far showed little progress.

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Around 77 percent of the funds sought in the 2019 plan would go to Gaza, the appeal organizers said, because the densely populated coastal strip faced a “dire humanitarian situation” after years of an Israeli-led blockade, internal Palestinian political divisions and casualties from demonstrations and recurring hostilities.

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“The humanitarian context in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is still deteriorating due to the Israeli occupation violations in a time of lack of resources and declining funds because of the politicization of the humanitarian aid,” Palestinian Social Development Minister Ibrahim Al-Shaer said in the statement.

Reuters

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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a session of the Doha Forum in the Qatari capital on December 15, 2018. (AFP)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a session of the Doha Forum in the Qatari capital on December 15, 2018. (AFP)
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U.S. envoy Kushner calls UNRWA corrupt, inefficient, unhelpful for peace

A Palestinian woman takes part in a protest against possible reductions of the services and aid offered by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in front of UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City August 16, 2015. (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

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Hamas chief praises West Bank ‘resistance’ after deadly attacks on Israelis

December 16, 2018

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya praised “resistance” in the occupied West Bank in a speech to tens of thousands on Sunday after recent deadly attacks against Israelis.

Haniya made the comments at a rally in Gaza City for the 31st anniversary of the Palestinian Islamist movement’s founding.

“We place our hopes in the West Bank, which is the main area where events are occurring and the most appropriate area to resolve the conflict with our Zionist enemy,” he told the crowd, which waived green Hamas flags.

Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniya waves upon his arrival at a rally in Gaza City on December 16, 2018 to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamist Palestinian movement

Gaza Hamas leader Ismail Haniya waves upon his arrival at a rally in Gaza City on December 16, 2018 to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamist Palestinian movement.  AFP

“The West Bank has shaken and stood up with glory, strength and skill, as if it wanted to say to our people on the occasion of this glorious anniversary that it was with the resistance, in total harmony.”

Members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, participated in the rally in camouflage and carrying rifles, while presenting a range of weapons.

Hamas runs the Gaza Strip but also has a presence in the West Bank, where its rivals from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah are based.

Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas, have fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

The group has claimed two recent deadly shootings in the West Bank, which has seen an upsurge in violence over the past week.

They included a December 9 attack near a settlement that led to the death of a baby prematurely delivered after his mother was shot and wounded. A total of seven people were wounded in the attack.

An October 7 shooting in the West Bank that killed two Israelis was also claimed by Hamas.

In another attack on Thursday, two soldiers were shot dead at a central West Bank bus station near a settlement.

The two Palestinians behind the attacks claimed by Hamas were shot dead by Israeli forces during arrest raids last week, Israeli officials said.

Israel’s security forces have also carried out raids in Ramallah and say they have also arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had issued a warning to Hamas after the recent attacks.

He referred to a controversial Gaza ceasefire in November that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war.

“I conveyed a clear message to Hamas — we won’t accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, using the biblical name for the West Bank, as is Israel’s policy.

“We will exact a high price over them,” he said of the attacks.

As part of efforts to restore calm in Gaza, Israel has allowed Qatar to bring fuel and tens of millions of dollars to the besieged territory for salaries.

AFP

Netanyahu warns Hamas after deadly West Bank attacks

December 16, 2018

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he had issued a warning to Hamas after recent deadly attacks in the occupied West Bank, including two shootings claimed by the Islamist movement.

Netanyahu referred to a controversial Gaza ceasefire in November that ended the worst escalation between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war.

“I conveyed a clear message to Hamas — we won’t accept a situation of a truce in Gaza and terror in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting, using the biblical name for the West Bank, as is Israel’s official policy.

“We will exact a high price over them,” he said of the attacks.

Hamas runs the Gaza Strip but also has a presence in the West Bank.

Mourners attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Yosef Cohen who was killed in a gun attack in the West Bank

Mourners attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Yosef Cohen who was killed in a gun attack in the West Bank Mourners attend the funeral of Israeli soldier Yosef Cohen who was killed in a gun attack in the West Bank AFP

Netanyahu’s comments came after two soldiers were shot dead at a central West Bank bus station near a settlement on Thursday.

On the same day, a baby prematurely delivered after his mother was shot and wounded in a separate attack nearby on December 9 also died.

Hamas claimed responsibility for the December 9 shooting and another in the West Bank on October 7 that killed two Israelis.

The two Palestinians behind those attacks were shot dead by Israeli forces during arrest raids last week, Israeli officials said.

Israel’s security forces say they have also arrested at least 37 Hamas operatives in connection with recent violence.

The attacks came after a deal to restore relative calm to the Gaza Strip that included Israel enabling Qatar to bring fuel and tens of millions of dollars to the besieged territory for salaries.

Hardline Israeli politicians opposed the Gaza agreement and have also criticised Netanyahu over the recent West Bank violence.

On Sunday, hundreds of settlers protested outside Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem to call on the government to increase security measures as well as settlement construction.

Those moves would make Palestinian militants understand that “there’s no point to terror and hope in it,” said Hananel Dorani, chairman of settler group the Yesha council.

Participating in the protest were a number of ministers, including Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home.

A ministerial committee headed by Shaked later gave initial approval to a bill that would help legalise settlement homes built on state land without government approval.

“The terrorists will know that we’re here to stay,” she said following the vote. “We won’t be deterred by attacks.”

On Thursday, Shaked said that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had also approved of a way to help legalise some 2,000 West Bank homes considered illegal by Israel as they are located on privately owned Palestinian land.

Right-wing Israelis often call for increased settlement construction and approvals following Palestinian attacks.

All Israeli settlements are viewed as illegal under international law, but Israel differentiates between those it has approved and those it has not.

Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Settlements there are seen as major stumbling blocks to a peace deal since they are built on land the Palestinians want for their future state.

Former Hamas chief calls for guerrilla warfare to ‘liberate West Bank’ and ‘all Palestine’

December 15, 2018

Khaled Mashaal says ‘resistance’ is ‘pinnacle of life’ and defines Palestinians: ‘I resist, therefore I am’

Khaled Mashaal speaks in Doha, Qatar, August 28, 2014. (AP/Osama Faisal)

Khaled Mashaal speaks in Doha, Qatar, August 28, 2014. (AP/Osama Faisal)

The former leader of the Hamas terror group has called on West Bank Palestinians to prepare for “guerrilla warfare” in the West Bank and ongoing “resistance” to force Israel to retreat from the territory.

Khaled Mashaal said this would be a step on the way to its retreat from “all of Palestine.”

Speaking on the Al-Jazeera TV network on December 2, Mashaal, in a play on René Descartes’ famous philosophical proposition, said: “The Palestinians say ‘I resist, therefore I am.’”

In comments translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Mashaal said that according to the Quran, “Jihad, resistance, and self-defense [are] the essence of life.

“The abandonment of Jihad leads to humiliation and death. Hence, resistance is the pinnacle of life. A person who lives under occupation, and who does not resist, is in fact dead.”

Mashaal, who headed Hamas’s political bureau between 1996 and 2017, claimed there was no alternative way to “liberate” the Palestinian nation.

“When did Israel withdraw from southern Lebanon? It wasn’t a result of negotiations — not in Madrid and not in Washington. It retreated as a result of resistance. When did it retreat from Gaza? After the (Second) Intifada in 2000 and the heroic resistance. Today we are being called and preparing to force Israel to retreat from Jerusalem and from the West Bank. Allah willing, this is on the way to its retreat from all of Palestine,” he said.

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MEMRI

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Former Hamas Leader Khaled Mashal Calls for West Bank “Guerrilla Warfare,” States: “I Resist, Therefore I Am”

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He called on the West Bank’s Fatah to join Hamas in popular resistance against Israel, saying it should take an examplefrom the people of the Gaza Strip.

“The West Bank spans over 5,600 square kilometers, and has mountains and valleys. I’m from there, I know the landscape. It has everything necessary for guerilla warfare. Why are we not preparing for that?”

A Fatah spokesman on Thursday called on Palestinians to ignore calls for a new armed uprising against Israel in the West Bank, urging them to instead step up peaceful protests against the Jewish state’s military rule.

“We need to be smart…and not listen to the talk of the demagogues about the necessity of going to an armed confrontation,” Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasma told Palestine TV, the official Palestinian Authority television channel, Thursday night. “My words are candid. We must escalate popular resistance in the Palestinian lands.”

Hamas has for years called on Palestinians to stir up a confrontation with Israel in the West Bank.

On Friday the Palestinian Authority police cracked down on a Hamas protest in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, beating demonstrators with batons and throwing stun grenades.

Some 50 Hamas activists confronted Palestinian forces after Muslim prayers on Friday, as the terror group marked the 31st anniversary of its establishment.

Palestinian security forces beat a Hamas supporter as they try to disperse a rally marking the 31st anniversary of the founding of the terror group in Hebron on December 14, 2018. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Hamas condemned the PA for suppressing the demonstrations. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement on the Hamas website that the “barbaric behavior” was proof the PA “denigrated the blood of the martyrs.”

The Palestinian Authority, led by president Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, cooperates closely with Israeli security, while Hamas has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.

Hamas cells continue operate in the West Bank despite PA and Israeli efforts to arrest them. The protests come amid a surge of terror attacks in the West Bank, some of them claimed by Hamas.

Two Israeli soldiers were killed Thursday and two other Israelis injured when a man opened fire at a bus stop at a settlement in the West Bank, before fleeing.

Hamas has claimed two other recent shooting attacks in the West Bank but has so far not taken responsibility for Thursday’s attack, near the settlement of Givat Assaf.

The Israeli military says it believes a Hamas cell conducted a drive-by shooting attack near the settlement of Ofra Sunday, in which seven people were wounded. Ove victim’s baby was delivered prematurely in an emergency operation, but died on Wednesday afternoon.

Agencies and Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/mashaal-calls-for-guerrilla-warfare-to-liberate-west-bank-and-all-palestine/

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Israel continues manhunt, braces for violence as Hamas calls for ‘day of rage’

December 14, 2018

Army arrests 40 Palestinians during raids in West Bank overnight during searches for terrorists behind Thursday’s deadly shooting

Israeli soldiers carry out searches for terror suspects in the West Bank on December 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli soldiers carry out searches for terror suspects in the West Bank on December 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

As Israel continued its manhunt Friday for the attackers who killed two soldiers in the central West Bank, security forces readied for possible further violence as the Palestinian terror group Hamas called for a “day of rage” to mark the anniversary of its founding.

On Thursday, a Palestinian opened fire at a bus stop outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the West Bank and killed Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, 20, and Cpl. Yosef Cohen, 19, while another soldier and civilian were wounded.

Troops searched for the terrorists overnight in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Soldiers arrested 40 Palestinians throughout the West Bank suspected of involvement in terror and rioting, 37 of whom the IDF said were known Hamas operatives.

“The IDF will continue to act to thwart terrorism and maintain security in the area,” the army said in a statement.

Israeli soldiers carry out searches for terror suspects in the West Bank on December 14, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

A senior Israel Defense Forces commander indicated the same Hamas terror cell was responsible for Thursday’s attack in addition to a shooting that wounded seven Israelis outside the Ofra settlement on Sunday night that led to the death of a baby boy who was delivered prematurely after his mother was critically hurt in the attack.

IDF Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan vowed the military would hunt down the terrorists, some of whom remain on the run.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that an IDF soldier’s rifle was snatched by the Palestinian gunmen during Thursday’s shooting attack.

A photo composite shows Sgt. Yosef Cohen (L) and Staff. Sgt Yoval Mor Yosef of the Israel Defense Forces’ Kfir Brigade. The two were killed on December 13, 2018, in a terrorist shooting attack outside the Givat Assaf settlement outpost in the central West Bank. (Israel Defense Forces)

Following the latest attack, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who also serves as defense minister — beefed up troop levels across the West Bank, ordered detentions of Hamas activists and called for demolishing the homes of attackers within 48 hours.

Netanyahu has said he would “settle accounts” with the attackers, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held Israel responsible for what he said was a violent environment.

Netanyahu also said he would legalize thousands of existing West Bank settlement homes whose status was in question, and ordered his attorney general to make arrangements for construction of 82 news homes in Ofra, the scene of one of this week’s attacks.

“Our guiding principle is that whoever attacks us and whoever tries to attack us will pay with his life,” Netanyahu said at a military ceremony.

Following Thursday’s shooting, Israel set up checkpoints on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, searching cars and checking the IDs of drivers entering the Palestinians’ typically quiet center of government and commerce. Some Israeli-controlled roads were completely blocked to Palestinian traffic.

Israeli soldiers stand guard at a West Bank junction, following a terror attack earlier in the day where two Israeli soldiers were shot dead by Palestinian terrorists, December 13, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said the measures were aimed at preventing “copycat” attacks. “We know that when there is one attack there may be others,” he said.

Inside Ramallah, streets were empty and shops were shuttered as the Palestinians called a general strike to protest Israel’s actions, including the killing of two wanted terrorists.

Abbas condemned the violence, criticizing both the terrorist attacks and the Israeli response, accusing Israel of creating a climate conducive to violence and alleging it was inciting against him.

“This atmosphere created by the frequent Israeli raids of the cities, and the incitement against the president and the absence of the peace hopes, led to this series of violence that both peoples are paying the price for,” he said in a statement.

Relatives of Amichai and Shira Ish-Ran attend the funeral of their baby, who was born prematurely after his mother was wounded in a terror attack outside the West Bank settlement of Ofra, at Mount of Olives ceremony in Jerusalem on December 12, 2018. (AFP)

Late Wednesday, Israel killed Salih Barghouti, one of the suspects in Sunday’s Ofra shooting.

Then overnight its forces killed Ashraf Na’alowa, wanted for killing two Israelis in a terror attack at the Barkan Industrial Zone in October.

Both men were said to have been armed.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, meanwhile, Israeli police killed a Palestinian assailant who stabbed two officers.

Late Thursday, the army said it shot and killed a Palestinian motorist in what it called an attempted car-ramming attack. Palestinians challenged the account, saying the motorist was a wealthy 60-year-old factory owner who had no incentive to carry out such an attack and had apparently panicked when he saw the soldiers.

An Israeli soldier stands next to the car of a Palestinian man who was killed in what the military said was a car-ramming attack near the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 13, 2018. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Israeli officials accuse Hamas of being behind the recent shootings. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said that Barghouti and Naalweh both were members, but stopped short of claiming responsibility for their attacks.

There has been an increase in the number of attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers in recent weeks, after months of relative calm in the area, raising concerns of a potential renewed outbreak of regular, serious violence in the region.

The military blamed the increase in attacks both on terror groups’ ongoing efforts, the “copycat” phenomenon and a number of significant dates coming up this week, notably the anniversary of Hamas’s founding.

The latest attacks also come amid the backdrop of months-long clashes along the Gaza border, which Israel has accused Hamas of using to carry out attacks on troops and attempt to breach the security fence. Hamas, an Islamist terror group, seeks to destroy Israel.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-continues-manhunt-braces-for-violence-as-hamas-calls-for-day-of-rage/

Related:

A poster published by Hamas claiming the December 9, 2108, Ofra terror attack and praising the 'martyr' Salih Barghouti, posted on Hamas's official Twitter account, December 12, 2108. (Twitter)

A poster published by Hamas claiming the December 9, 2108, Ofra terror attack and praising the ‘martyr’ Salih Barghouti, posted on Hamas’s official Twitter account, December 12, 2108. (Twitter)
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