Analysis News

There are no good guys in Jerusalem

The attempt to assassinate a prominent right-wing Jewish activist in Jerusalem has brought the city to a boiling point. Now is the time for responsible leadership. 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the Israel Police’s decision to temporarily close the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount to all visitors — Jewish and Muslim — “a declaration of war” on the Palestinian people and the Islamic nation, speaking in the aftermath of an attempted political murder in the already tumultuous city.

Yes, the increasing and more frequent restrictions on Muslim worshipers’ access to the Aqsa Mosque is a valid and serious grievance. Those restrictions, coupled with more frequent and more bold visits to the site by Jewish extremists have been responsible for fueling much of the anger radiating from East Jerusalem in recent months.

Palestinians perform Friday Prayer at the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud in East Jerusalem due to Israeli Government's entrance restriction to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinians under the age of 40, October 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians perform Friday Prayer at the neighbourhood of Ras Al-Amud in East Jerusalem due to Israeli Government’s entrance restriction to the al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinians under the age of 40, October 24, 2014. (Activestills.org)

Nevertheless, describing Thursday’s closure — which was made purely to prevent clashes from escalating at a dangerous junction — as a declaration of war on all Palestinians and Muslims, is to provoke, not calm. Abbas should not be blamed for his frustration with Israel in almost every aspect of the relationship, but this is a time that calls for responsible leadership.

Abrogating responsibility, ignoring causation

Likewise, the Israeli leadership’s attempts to abrogate responsibility for the sources of anger and violence in Jerusalem, along with its campaign blaming it all on incitement by the Palestinians, makes one question how much they want to prevent another violent explosion.

To his credit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “we” must “lower the flames. “No side should take the law into its own hands.” In the same breath, however, he blamed the current situation on the incitement of “radical Islamic elements and by Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen who said that Jews must be prevented from going up to the Temple Mount by any means possible.”

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Segregating the evening commute to the West Bank

Jews and Palestinians who commute from the West Bank to work in central Israel each day will soon ride separate buses home. Let’s not give too much credit to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, however. The decision to segregate the evening commute wasn’t all that creative. He only completed his predecessors’ decision to segregate the morning commute.

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

Palestinian workers wait in line to board an Israeli bus line meant for Palestinians only after crossing the Eyal checkpoint from the West Bank into Israel proper. (Photo by Activestills.org)

It’s not really segregation. Not on paper at least. Or at least the paper doesn’t use the word “segregation.” In practice, however, people of one national origin will not be allowed to ride on the same bus lines as people of another national origin — for the benefit and at the request of one group, at the expense and against the desires of the other. Call that what you will.

Here’s how it works. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the de facto and de jure sovereign ruler of the West Bank, could have easily ordered his generals to revise Israeli military law to legally ban Palestinians from riding on the same buses as their Jewish Israeli neighbors. (It’s important to remember at this junction, no pun intended, that we are talking about two groups of people who live in the same place — the West Bank — and who each day commute back and forth to their workplaces in the same place — central Israel.)

If that military order had been issued so explicitly, however, it would actually be called segregation and understood to be segregation by the general public, which at least in theory, sometimes opposes segregation. If the defense minister had written such an order it probably would have even used the Hebrew word “hafrada,” which inconveniently means both separation and segregation. That wouldn’t have looked good. So Ya’alon found another way, one that didn’t require him to use such politically loaded words.

Read more on Palestinian laborers working in Israel

Instead, the defense minister ordered that Palestinian commuters return to their West Bank homes through a...

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews tear down 'bat mitzvah' ads in Jerusalem

Buses carrying ‘Women of the Wall’ advertisements are vandalized and attacked; until earlier this year the Egged bus company refused to run ads featuring photos of women in Jerusalem.

Unlike the majority of Jewish communities in western countries, most girls in Israel do not usually have bat mitzvah ceremonies. A new Jerusalem campaign promoting the right of girls to have the ceremonies at the Western Wall has been met with violence by ultra-Orthodox elements in the city.

Busses carrying the advertisements, paid for by Women of the Wall, have been vandalized and the posters themselves ripped off of public buses. Half of the ads were vandalized, according to the Egged public bus company’s advertising agency.

The posters, which carry Hebrew text saying, “Mom, I want a bat mitzvah at the motel, too,” also feature photos of a bat mitzvah-aged girl and her mother.

A damaged 'Women of the Wall' ad on an Egged bus in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

A damaged ‘Women of the Wall’ ad on an Egged bus in Jerusalem, October 21, 2014. (Courtesy of Women of the Wall)

Police reportedly had to extricate a bus carrying the ad that was attacked by ultra-Orthodox protesters in Jerusalem in recent days.

The marginalization of women in public spaces

At issue is more than just the idea of young women partaking in bat mitzvah ceremonies. Placing images of any women on public advertisements has been a point of serious contention in Jerusalem for years, part of a larger public struggle against pressure from ultra-Orthodox Israelis to marginalize women in public spaces.

For years, Egged, Israel’s most prominent public bus company, had refused to carry advertisements that featured images of women on bus lines in cities with large ultra-orthodox populations like Jerusalem. Ultra-Orthodox communities claim that just displaying photos of women is “indecent.”

Only half a year ago did the company agree — as part of a high-profile court settlement — to begin accepting advertisements featuring women. The settlement was only possible because the state agreed to cover physical damage to Egged’s buses caused by vandalism related to ads featuring women.

Two years earlier, the bus company decided to stop running advertisements featuring any people, men or women, in order to avoid being accused of discrimination while appeasing the ultra-Orthodox community.

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West Bank mosque set ablaze in suspected settler attack

The olive harvest is historically a period when settler violence against Palestinians and their trees increase. The name of a local settlement from which two youths were arrested last week is spray painted onto the mosque’s wall.

Palestinians survey the damage inside Aqraba's mosque, which was set on fire early Tuesday morning, October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

Palestinians survey the damage inside Aqraba’s mosque, which was set on fire early Tuesday morning, October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

A West Bank mosque was set on fire and vandalized early Tuesday morning in what on the surface appeared to be a hate crime attack by Jewish settlers.

A local Palestinian official, Hamza Dereya, said that Israeli settlers entered the village of Aqraba before dawn, according to official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

The vandals set fire to the village’s mosque and spray painted nationalist and racist graffiti, including the name of a nearby Israeli settlement, Tapuah. The mosque’s floor, walls and holy books were damaged by the fire and smoke.

Two settlers from Tapuah were arrested in recent days on suspicion beating a Palestinian women harvesting olives in the nearby village of Yasuf. Olive trees were also vandalized in Aqraba and Burin, a village that has taken the brunt of harvest-related violence in recent years.

Read also: Settler violence: Think of it like burning down a Jewish business

Graffiti left at the scene of the mosque arson in Aqraba reads: "Price tag; Tapuah is Kahane", October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

Graffiti left at the scene of the mosque arson in Aqraba reads: “Price tag; Tapuah is Kahane”, October 14, 2014. (Photo by Rabbis for Human Rights)

The olive harvest, which began earlier this month, is historically a time when settler violence against Palestinians increases.

“From the moment the olive harvest begins, we witness a series of serious incidents involving attacks on harvesters and damage to trees,” explained Noa Cohen, a researcher for Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din. “This recurring phenomenon is a result of failure to enforce the law.”

Since 2005, according to Yesh Din data, police failed to prosecute 99.6 percent of all reported cases of damage to Palestinian olive groves and...

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British Parliament recognizes Palestinian state in non-binding resolution

The British lower house of Parliament passed a non-binding resolution recognizing the State of Palestine late Monday night. The measure passed 274 to 12, with most Tories abstaining.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron clarified ahead of the vote on Monday that the resolution would not change the country’s diplomatic stance. Cameron stated his intention to abstain ahead of the vote.

Ahead of the vote, Israel’s Labor party attempted to sway votes in the UK Labour party against the resolution, bringing allegations that the Israeli opposition was serving as Netanyahu’s unofficial foreign office.

Read more on the vote here.

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What to expect from Netanyahu at the UN

In the past three years we’ve gotten crocodiles, Medieval villains, cartoons and unnaturally pointy pearly whites.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the UNGA plenary, September 23, 2011. (Photo by UN/Marco Castro)

What should you expect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say in his speech to the UN on Monday?

Seven words: Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.

Okay, he’ll probably say a few more things than that: Iran. (It will be interesting if Netanyahu accidentally completes his logic game and concludes that if ISIS = Hamas, and Iran = Hamas, then it must hold that ISIS = Iran. Spoiler alert, Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post last week that, “The biggest threat without question is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, which means Iran.”)

Let’s take a look back at the past three speeches Netanyahu has given at the annual UNGA General Debate.

In 2011, the prime minister took a stab at animal allegory in an attempt to show the world just how silly its demands on Israel are, and of course to impress upon us that militant Islam is no joking matter (although he provided plenty of fodder for comedians and single-issue Twitter accounts):

In 2012, Benjamin Netanyahu went medieval on all of us to drive home just how bad these primitive forces of radical Islam really are, and that Israel is the polar opposite. (2012 was also the year of the classic ACME bomb cartoon):

[T]oday, a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval. The forces of modernity seek a bright future in which the rights of all are protected, in which an ever-expanding digital library is available in the palm of every child, in which every life is sacred.

The forces of medievalism seek a world in which women and minorities are subjugated, in which knowledge is suppressed, in which not life but death is glorified. These forces clash around the globe, but nowhere more starkly than in the Middle East. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity.

In 2013, the Israeli prime minister took it old school and brought back the animal characters we got to love two years earlier. The new radical...

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A slightly ‘less crazy’ Israel

A few thoughts on the decision to shut down Israel’s detention facility for African asylum seekers, what the High Court ruling says about the gratuitous and political arrests of Palestinian protesters in Israel, and the assassination that only took place if you read Hebrew.

Darfuri refugees pose for a poster against their deportation from Israel. (Activestills.org)

Darfuri refugees pose for a poster against their deportation from Israel. (Activestills.org)

 

1. A slightly ‘less crazy’ Israel

Following the Israeli High Court decision on Monday to shut down Holot and cancel the piece of legislation that permitted the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers (the way the law was written, non-African asylum seekers were never in danger of indefinite detention), Darfuri refugee Mutasim Ali wrote in +972: “I am not celebrating this, because this is normal — what should happen.”

I believe what Ali means is that it would have been absolutely crazy if the High Court of Justice, the body to which one turns when seeking justice in this land, had said: “Actually, it’s okay to lock up black people indefinitely and without charge. No problem.” (Let’s forget for a second the fact that the High Court has upheld administrative on numerous occasions.)

Mutasim Ali’s sentiment reminded me of an interview with Chris Rock, in which the comedian says he refuses to describe the current state of race relations in the United States as “progress.”

“When you say it’s progress you’re acting like what happened before wasn’t crazy … We’ve made a lot of progress and we got rid of segregation … but segregation is crazy!” The people who were denying black people their rights, Rock explains, have simply become less crazy.

Of course, it is also crazy that for 47 years millions of people have been living with no civil rights under military occupation with separate and unequal legal systems. We can only look forward to a little less insanity on that front. But hey, a start’s a start.

2. Freedom, dignity and Palestinian protesters in Israel

Out of roughly 1,500 Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel who were arrested by Israeli police this summer during protests and demonstrations, the state has only indicted 350, according to a press release by Adalah – The Legal Center...

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Israel's High Court orders closure of 'Holot' refugee detention facility

Asylum seekers imprisoned in Holot celebrate the ruling but warn that it’s not clear what will happen next.

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot detention center protest behind the prison's fence, as other asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the facility, in Israel's southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

African asylum seekers jailed in Holot detention center protest behind the prison’s fence, as other asylum seekers take part in a protest outside the facility, in Israel’s southern Negev desert, February 17, 2014.

Israel’s High Court of Justice on Monday struck down key parts of a law that allows the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers in Israel’s ‘Holot’ detention facility, also striking down a section that permits the automatic year-long detention of newcomers. The court ordered the state to shutter Holot within 90 days.

Almost exactly a year ago, the court struck down a previous version of the law that authorized the detention of asylum seekers, prompting lawmakers to quickly draft a replacement — one that led to the creation of the Holot facility and permitted indefinite detention.

Read a response from a refugee detained in Holot

In the ruling, Justice Fogelman explains that imprisonment inherently infringes on the right to human dignity and that,

One asylum seeker imprisoned in Holot whom +972 spoke to sounded overjoyed but warned about celebrating too early.

Read +972′s full coverage of the refugee issue

“We can celebrate but not too much because we don’t know what will happen next,” he said, adding, “we need to make sure that the Interior Ministry doesn’t create a new mechanism for imprisoning us.”

A consortium of civil and refugee rights organizations who were the petitioners that challenged the law, wrote in response to the ruling:

Both the refugee and the Hotline made conciliatory statements toward the residents of south Tel Aviv, who have been the most vocal opponents to granting any rights to African asylum seekers and who have held sometimes-violent demonstrations against them.

The majority of Israel’s refugee population lives in south Tel Aviv and the neighborhood’s already inadequate infrastructure has been severely stressed by the influx of newcomers.

“We need to wait and see what the reaction is in south Tel Aviv,” one Sudanese asylum seeker in Holot added. “We know that there...

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High Court to rule on indefinite detention of African asylum seekers

The amendment to the Prevention of Infiltration Law permits the state to indefinitely detain African asylum seekers whom it cannot deport. A previous version of the law was struck down.

African Asylum seekers march out of the Holot ‘open prison,’ where they were being held, and march along the highway from Beer Sheva in southern Israel on their way to Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

African Asylum seekers march out of the Holot ‘open prison,’ where they were being held, and march along the highway from Beer Sheva in southern Israel on their way to Jerusalem, December 16, 2013. (Photo: Activestills.org)

Israel’s High Court of Justice was expected to decide whether to uphold or strike down key parts of a law that allows the indefinite detention of African asylum seekers in its ‘Holot’ detention facility.

The court struck down a previous version of the law, prompting lawmakers to quickly draft a replacement — one that introduced even more severe problems.

A key intention and consequence of the new law that the justices will have to reckon with is the pressure Israeli authorities put on asylum seekers to return to the countries from which they fled. Justices were critical of the state’s arguments when it heard the case in April of this year.

Read +972′s full coverage of the refugee issue

With a sensitivity toward the court’s international standing, justices may have noticed a number of events overseas in recent months.

In one rebuke of Israel’s asylum policy, a Swiss court granted asylum to an Eritrean refugee — on the grounds that he had been ordered to appear at Israel’s desert detention facility.

A far more public criticism of Israel’s asylum policy, at the center of which lies Holot, came in the form of an 83-page Human Rights Watch report that documented some 7,000 African asylum seekers whom the state has coerced into “voluntarily” leaving the country.

International refugee law is clear that a decision to return to the country from which one fled cannot be considered “voluntary” if the only other option is remaining in prison.

Two successive Israeli interior ministers, along with a number of other politicians, have stated quite clearly that they see their goal as encouraging those African asylum seekers — whom it can’t deport — to...

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How do you stop Palestinians unionizing? Cancel their entry permits

An Israeli employer of Palestinians inside a West Bank settlement, with the help of Israeli authorities, is exploiting the military permit regime in order stop his workers from unionizing, a High Court petition alleges.

Employees at the Zarfati Garage in Mishur Adumim vote to strike on July 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ma’an workers union)

Employees at the Zarfati Garage in Mishur Adumim vote to strike on July 22, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Ma’an workers union)

In order to sabotage the unionization of Palestinian workers, the owner of an Israeli car garage filed a false police complaint against one of the union organizers, a High Court petition filed Monday by the Ma’an Workers Advice Center alleges.

Hatem Abu Ziadeh, the leader of the Palestinian workers at Zarfaty Garage, located in the West Bank Mishor Adumim industrial park, had his permit to enter his workplace revoked by the Israel Police and Civil Administration after his employer filed a complaint alleging that he was intimidating other employees, the petition states.

The High Court petition seeks an injunction ordering the Israeli army to reinstate Abu Ziadeh’s permit to enter the Israeli-controlled industrial zone. According to a 2007 High Court decision, the protections of Israeli labor law apply to Israeli businesses operating in the West Bank and their Palestinian employees.

In Depth: A journey into the dark heart of Israel’s permit regime

“This petition is about the improper use of the West Bank permit regime in order to harm the Zarfaty Garage’s employees’ [ability] to organize,” Ma’an wrote in a statement.

Abu Ziadeh has worked at the Zarfaty Garage for 17 years. Ma’an alleges that the police complaint and subsequent revocation of Abu Ziadeh’s permit was an attempt to circumvent labor laws that forbid the dismissal of union leaders in order to stop workers from organizing.

“It is entirely clear that the complaint, on the basis of which the Zarfaty Garage workers’ leader’s permit was revoked, was a false complaint [made] by an interested party, who changed his version of events three times in one week,” a statement by Ma’an said.

The following video report was produced by Israel Social TV earlier this summer, after Zarfaty’s Palestinian employees launched a labor strike.

Related:
The cynical use of Palestinian workers in the...

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Everything Elliott Abrams knows about Israeli settlements is wrong

The Israeli government uses the pretext of the two-state solution’s inevitability to justify building settlements on Palestinian land, all without ever earnestly seeking a two-state solution.

Elliott Abrams (Photo by Miller Center / CC 2.0, cropped)

Elliott Abrams (Photo by Miller Center / CC 2.0, cropped)

Imagine that the Palestinian Authority announced that based on an offer made by Israel in past peace negotiations — and irrespective of the result of those negotiations — it was launching a program to send Palestinian refugees to resettle inside Israel proper. Indeed, there is documentation that former prime minister Ehud Olmert made a concrete offer to absorb 10,000 Palestinian refugees as part of a two-state agreement. The only problem, Israel points out, is that no peace deal has been reached. In fact, there are not even any plans for negotiations to resume.

That scenario is imaginary for countless reasons, but the tactic described is identical to that which Israel is employing today.

In a condescendingly titled article in Foreign Policy last week (“Everything You Know About Israeli Settlements Is Wrong”), former Bush advisor Elliott Abrams argues that the Israeli government’s latest land grab in the West Bank is actually not such a big deal because the land is part of an area that is “going to remain Israel’s no matter what.”

Yup. No matter what.

Israeli policy, and the thinking behind it, Elliott explains rather well, is that it can treat concessions it hopes to win in future negotiations as faits accompli and simply establish them as facts on the ground.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, like most of his predecessors, is playing a clever and time tested game. Netanyahu uses the pretext of the two-state solution’s inevitability to justify building settlements on Palestinian land — in areas he calls “consensus settlement blocs” that Israel expects to annex in a peace deal — without ever credibly and earnestly seeking such a two-state solution.

A policy of ‘restraint’

Israel’s separation barrier stands on land belonging to the Palestinian village of Bil’in; the wall was built surrounding the Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit (seen in the background). In a protracted court battle, Bil’in managed to win back some of its land but landowners are still cut off from a significant portion which has...</img></div><a href=Read More
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The occupation will last forever, Netanyahu clarifies

When Abbas joins the next UN body and signs the next international treaty or makes his next move aimed at advancing statehood, remember why he is doing so.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Haim Zach/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday put to rest any lingering speculation or hopes that the long-comatose two-state solution might ever be revived.

All of a sudden, the prime minister’s refusal to discuss borders or maps in negotiations with the Palestinians makes sense. After all, why negotiate over a map you have no intention of ever compromising on?

“I think the Israeli people understand now what I always say: that there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan,” Netanyahu said in a televised statement about the current Gaza military operation, the Times of Israel reported.

Yes. You read that right. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister for the coming years (unless he is unseated by a political opponent who outflanks him from the right) said that there is no way he would ever pull the Israeli army out of the West Bank.

It’s official, not that this should really surprise anyone: as long as Netanyahu is the Israeli prime minister, the occupation is forever and there will be no sovereign Palestine.

Click to read more on the diplomatic process

So when PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas takes his next international diplomatic step aimed at advancing Palestinian statehood and claiming a seat among the community of nations, remember why he is doing so. (Abbas is reportedly discussing joining the International Criminal Court.) It is not because negotiations broke down over some minor details, a clash of personalities or just bad timing.

No. It’s because at the negotiations table, Abbas was the only one even talking about a two-state solution. It’s now clear why U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was unable to draft an acceptable — to Israel — “framework” document in his efforts to budge negotiations along just a few feet further. Netanyahu outright rejects the most fundamental piece of the puzzle: the land on which it lays.

Denouncing the current violent escalation between Israel and Hamas Friday night, Mahmoud Abbas said: “The only solution to the...

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Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza

At the time of writing, Israeli air strikes and shelling had killed dozens of Palestinians since the start of Operation Protective Edge. There had been no deaths on the Israeli side.

Some of those killed by Israel were Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants, others were civilians, including women and children. The Israeli army has been bombing the family homes of militants, which it claims were also being used for military purposes. Many of the children killed thus far were related to individuals whose homes were targeted.

All too often, casualties on both sides of this conflict are remembered only as numbers. This post is a reminder that each one has a name.

Read +972′s full coverage of the Gaza violence

The following is a list of those Palestinians and Israelis. who have been killed thus far. The Palestinian names have been provided by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to Lebanese daily Al Akhbar.

Gaza Civil Defense Directorate crews remove the wreckage of a car targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip, July 10, 2014. The attack killed three men riding in the car who were taken to Kamal Udwan hospital. Two were identified as Mahmoud Waloud and Hazim Balousha. (Photo by Joe Catron)

Gaza Civil Defense Directorate crews remove the wreckage of a car targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip, July 10, 2014. The attack killed three men riding in the car who were taken to Kamal Udwan hospital. Two were identified as Mahmoud Waloud and  Hazim Balousha. (Photo by Joe Catron)

Palestinian casualties

Tuesday, June 8:
1. Mohammed Sha’aban, 24, was killed in a bombing of his car in Gaza City.
2. Ahmad Sha’aban, 30, died in the same bombing.
3. Khadir al-Bashiliki, 45, died in the same bombing.
4. Rashad Yaseen, 27, was killed in a bombing of the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
5. Riad Mohammed Kawareh, 50, was killed in a bombing of his family’s home in Khan Younis.
6. Seraj Ayad Abed al-A’al, 8, was wounded in the same bombing and succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday evening.
7. Mohammed Ayman Ashour, 15, died in the same bombing.
8. Bakr Mohammed Joudah, 22, died in the same bombing.
...








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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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