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'I was arrested for asking the PA to stop intimidating journalists'

Amro, a Palestinian activist known for opposing settlements in the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested by the Palestinian Authority for criticizing its recent arrests of journalists. Upon his release, Amro called on Mahmoud Abbas to revoke or revise a new law that’s been used to target journalists and activists.

By Oren Ziv/

A Palestinian Authority court on Sunday released prominent activist Issa Amro on bail following his arrest last week for criticizing the PA’s detention and intimidation of journalists. A host of international organizations and lawmakers had condemned the Palestinian Authority for arresting Amro and called for his release over the past week.

Amro was received Sunday afternoon by around 50 fellow activists and supporters outside the Hebron court and later at the headquarters of Youth Against Settlements, a local anti-occupation group he co-founded and runs.

Upon his release, Amro said he will not stop his work fighting the occupation and settlements, and defending Palestinian rights. “This detention will not stop me from resisting the occupation — or the freedom of speech of the Palestinian people,” Amro said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently signed an “Electronic Crimes” decree, effectively curtailing what little free speech existed for Palestinians under Palestinian law, and which was believed to target online dissent against the PA, particularly on social media. The new law was roundly criticized by rights groups in Palestine and around the world. Israel also regularly arrests Palestinians for posts on social media.

Amro called directly on Abbas to revise the new law so that it “respects freedom of speech and freedom of expression for all journalists and all Palestinians.”

Asked for which particular social media post he had been arrested, Amro said: “I was arrested for [publishing] a post on my Facebook account asking to stop intimidating Palestinian journalists and Palestinian human rights defenders.”

Amro was released on bail for 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,410 USD).

Amnesty International put out a statement last Monday calling for Amro’s immediate release, saying it was “outrageous that a prominent human rights defender has been arrested simply for voicing his opinion online.”

“Criticizing the authorities should not be a criminal offence,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty. “Issa Amro’s arrest is the latest evidence that the Palestinian authorities are determined to continue with their repressive campaign against free speech.”


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In Walajeh, Palestinian residents mobilize against Israeli demolitions

Villagers temporarily stopped one round of demolitions earlier this month by blocking bulldozers from entering the village, but local activists expect the demolitions will eventually take place.

Photos & text by: Ahmad Al-Bazz /

Dozens of Palestinian residents of Walajeh, a Palestinian village nestled between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, demonstrated last Friday against the planned demolition of 14 structures by Israeli authorities. According to the demolition notices, the structures were built without the necessary permits.

The villagers were first informed of the imminent demolitions on August 2, after which they declared they would resist any attempt to implement the orders. One such attempt earlier this month was indeed thwarted by residents who blocked Israeli bulldozers and jeeps entering the village.

Following the 1967 war, Israel annexed Walajeh’s land to Jerusalem — but not its residents. The vast majority of them are registered as West Bank Palestinians without Israeli residency rights part of the reason it is nearly impossible for the villagers of Walajeh to obtain building permits from the Jerusalem municipality.

Mohammed Abu Rezeq, whose home is under threat of demolition, told +972 Magazine that a court temporary halted the demolition orders until September 1. However, he expects the orders to be implemented piecemeal eventually, due to the relatively high number of structures slated for demolition.

Ali Araj, spokesperson for a local committee leading the struggle against home demolitions, told +972 Magazine that the demolitions of the 14 homes are ones that, at least so far, have been approved by Israeli courts. He expects the number to grow considerably, since many of the homes are currently under review.

“It’s not a building permit issue,” says Araj. “What we are seeing here is part of the Israeli project to implement ‘Jerusalem 2020’ project.’” Araj indicated, referring to a plan by the Jerusalem municipality to connect the Jewish neighborhoods of the city, while maintaining Jewish demographic domination. Walajeh, according to Araj, is one of the main obstacles facing the project.

Arab MK Ahmad Tibi, who took part in the protest, told the demonstrators: “They demolish in Walajeh, in Qalansuwa, in the Negev, because this is the Zionist ideology: a land without people.” According to Tibi, home demolitions across the country are an extension of Israel’s “settler colonial project.”

Walajeh is no stranger to crises. During the 1948 events, all of its 1,600 inhabitants were displaced from their original village, and 75 percent its land...

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Two years after stabbing, 20,000 participate in J'lem pride march

Police arrest man carrying a knife, two years after 16-year-old Shira Banki was stabbed to death at the Jerusalem pride march.

Over 20,000 people took part in the annual Jerusalem pride march on Thursday afternoon, two years after 16-year-old Shira Banki was murdered at the march by a religious extremist.

Hundreds of police officers were on hand, forcing every participant to undergo inspection before entering Liberty Bell Park, where the march to was set to begin. Police arrested 22 people at the march, one of whom was carrying a knife. According to Haaretz, police summoned right-wing activists classified as “under watch” for clarification and warning talks prior to the march.

A 33-year-old man was banned from Jerusalem on Thursday afternoon after police said he had published a Facebook post he had made that potentially threatened the march’s security.

Meanwhile, radical right-wingers, led by Kahanist activist Benzi Gopstein held a protest against the parade across from the park.






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PHOTOS: Palestinians return to Al-Aqsa after week of violence

On Thursday, thousands of Muslim worshippers entered the compound for the first time in almost two weeks, where they clashed with Israeli security forces after boycotting the site due to Israeli restrictions.

Photos by Faiz Abu Rmeleh, Martin Barzilai, Yotam Ronen, Heidi Motola, Oren Ziv /

Protests and clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City over tensions at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif calmed on Friday, after a week of violence claimed the lives of six Palestinians and three Israelis in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

Police announced for the second straight week that men under 50 would not be allowed in, closing several gates to the compound. Meanwhile a 25-year-old Palestinian who was shot by Israeli forces in Ramallah earlier this week succumbed to his wounds. Israeli soldiers also reportedly shot and killed a protester near the border with Gaza.

Israeli authorities removed controversial metal detectors at the entrance to Al-Aqsa compound earlier this week, following intervention by Jordan. On Thursday, thousands of Muslim worshippers entered the compound for the first time in almost two weeks, where they clashed with Israeli security forces, after boycotting the site. Some 115 Palestinians were treated for wounds both inside the compound and in the surrounding area, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Israel installed metal detectors and at the mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims, after an attack by three Palestinian citizens of Israel on July 14, in which they fatally shot two Israeli Border Police officers.

Palestinians viewed the restrictive measures as an encroachment of Israeli control over the holy site and a form of collective punishment.







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Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem clashes, three settlers stabbed to death

At least two Palestinians are killed by Israeli security forces during demonstrations over the closure of the Al-Aqsa compound. One Palestinian was reportedly shot dead by an Israeli settler. Updated below: Later Friday night, three Israeli settlers were stabbed to death in a West Bank settlement.

Photos by Oren Ziv, Yotam Ronen /

Three Palestinians were killed and hundreds of others were wounded in clashes with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on Friday. Clashes erupted following a mass prayer in the Palestinian neighborhoods surrounding the Old City, after Israeli authorities placed restrictions on entry to Haram al-Sharif compound for prayer for second straight Friday, leaving in place new contentious metal detectors.

Among those killed were 17-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Sharaf, who was reportedly shot dead by an Israeli settler in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ma’ale HaZeitim, adjacent to the Palestinian neighborhood Ras al-Amud, outside the Old City. Israeli forces also shot and killed another Palestinian during demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur.

Palestinians retrieved the body from Makassed Hospital, sneaking it out of the hospital without the police noticing and bringing it to a-Tur for a quick funeral, after it was reported that security forces had raided the hospital, where dozens of wounded Palestinians had been evacuated. It has become common in recent years for Israeli police to seize and refuse to release for burial the bodies of Palestinians killed by security forces.

Israeli forces also shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis.

Thousands of Palestinians marched toward the Old City on Friday to demonstrate against increased Israeli security measures outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, following a deadly attack at the site by three Palestinian citizens of Israel last week, which left two Israeli Border Police officers dead. Worshippers held peaceful mass prayers in the neighborhoods surrounding the Old City, adhering to calls for civil disobedience by Palestinian leaders, refusing to pass through the new metal detectors. Following the prayers, clashes broke out in the neighborhoods of A-Tur, Wadi Joz, Silwan, Abu Dis, Azariya.

Police decided Friday morning that the metal detectors installed at the entrance of the Al-Aqsa compound earlier this week would remain in place, following overnight discussions by the Israeli security cabinet. The decision came despite recommendations by both the IDF and the Shin Bet to remove them. Israeli police also decided to prevent Palestinian men below the age of...

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PHOTOS: Palestinians protest new security measures at Al-Aqsa

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated against the use of metal detectors outside the holiest Muslim site in the country, following a lethal attack on Israeli security forces late last week.

Photos by Faiz Abu Rmeleh and Oren Ziv, text by Oren Ziv

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers held a mass prayer outside the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday, after Israeli authorities forced them to pass through metal detectors at the entrance to the compound’s gates.

The measure was put in place after the area was closed off for nearly three days, following a lethal attack by three Palestinian citizens last Friday morning, which killed two Israeli police officers at the entrance gates to the holy site. Authorities quickly sealed off all entrances to the compound, the first time in decades it was closed on a Friday, as well as the streets leading to the Old City. Security forces reopened the site to Muslim worshippers on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.

The attempt to place metal detectors at the entrance to the holiest Muslim site in the country was seen by many Palestinians as a cynical move that was meant to exploit instability and change the status quo at the compound.

Under the status quo, established after Israel captured the site during the 1967 War, Haram al-Sharif, where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located, is managed by the Waqf, an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan. Israel maintains control over access to the site.

The Waqf called on Muslims “to reject and boycott all the Israeli aggression measures, including changing the historical status quo including imposing the metal detectors.” Throughout the day, hundreds took part in prayers and protests were held outside the gates leading to the compound as well as in the streets leading to the Old City.

A local Palestinian journalist said that the residents did not understand why they were being forced to pay the price for something they did not do. “I don’t understand why they are shutting down the Old City, when tens of thousands of people live here, adding that “those who carried out the attack are from Umm al-Fahm. I don’t understand why they are punishing all the worshippers.”

According to Israel Radio, 10 people were injured and three were arrested for throwing stones in overnight scuffles with security forces close to the Old City’s Lion’s Gate, near one of the Temple Mount’s nine...

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PHOTOS: How Israel's wall keeps Palestinian farmers off their land

Palestinian farmers, along with Israeli and international activists, demonstrate in front of a military gate in the northern West Bank, calling to relax Israeli restrictions on access to their land.

Photos and text by Ahmad Al-Bazz and Haidi Motola /

Approximately 100 Palestinian farmers protested on Sunday morning in front of an Israeli military gate in the northern West Bank, calling on the army to ease restrictions on their daily journey through the gate, which separates them from their land.

Joined by some 10 anti-occupation Israeli activists and several international human rights observers, the farmers refused to cross through Military Gate 623, part of Israel’s separation barrier, instead calling on the army to renew expired entry permits for their family members, to issue permits for their workers, and to open the gate earlier than 7 a.m. on a daily basis, due to the recent heatwave.

After an hour of protesting, Israeli soldiers closed the gate and declared that the time to cross has passed. Later, an Israeli officer came to listen to the farmers’ complaints, under the condition that photographers journalists stay away. Following the discussion, the Deir Al Ghusun municipality announced that the military promised to resolve the problems as soon as possible.

Gate 623 is used by the famers of the towns Deir Al Ghusun and Attil, and separates the towns’ built-up areas from 500 acres of agricultural fields — despite the fact that both are located in the West Bank.

The gate is opened by soldiers three times a day at 7 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m, and is kept open for approximately half an hour to allow farmers to cross back and forth.

Adulrahman Aref, an 82-year-old agricultural engineer and farmer, owns 10 acres beyond the fence. “I cross to secure the land from being confiscated, although I am losing it,” he told +972 Magazine. Aref says that around 35 percent of his olive trees went unpicked last season due to the lack of workers permits.

Furthermore, Aref claims that the soldiers manning the gate usually arrive late. “If we arrive five minutes too late, we cannot cross, and nobody can ask soldiers to open the gate when they are late,” he continues.

Osama Abulmonem, a farmer from Deir Al Ghusun, told +972 that during the past six months, neither his sons nor his workers managed to gain permits to cross, leaving his greenhouses unattended.

The fence at Deir Al Ghusun, part of the 440 mile-long separation barrier, was constructed at the height of the Second Intifada in 2002, under the pretext...

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After Ramadan, back to your regularly scheduled occupation

During the month of Ramadan, Palestinians were more freely able to pass between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Now it’s back to the old rules of military occupation.

Text by Ahmad al-Bazz /

The final Friday of Ramadan was also the final day in which Israel temporarily “relaxed” its restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank.

Throughout the past month, which Muslims mark as the holiest time of the year, Israel allowed women of all ages, men over 40, and children under 12 to enter Jerusalem for Friday prayers without special entry permits. Palestinians were also granted permission to enter Jerusalem on Laylat al-Qadr last Wednesday, which Muslims mark as the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to Muhammad.

Over the past month, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians traveled through both Qalandiya checkpoint near Ramallah and the Checkpoint 300 outside Bethlehem. Some young Palestinians who were not allowed through the checkpoints used ropes and ladders to climb over the separation wall.


Over 250,000 Palestinians lost a rare chance to cross the Green Line after the Israeli government revoked their entry permits. The Israeli government revoked entry permits from 250,000 Palestinians last week following an attack three Palestinians against Israeli security forces in Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, which killed Border Police officer Hadas Malka. Those permits, which were granted for “family visits” during the month of Ramadan and the three-day holiday of Eid al-Fitr (which begins on Sunday), were meant to be valid throughout the entire month and during the holiday, aside from weekends.

The “relaxed” restrictions, as they are termed by the Israeli authorities, have come to an end. Palestinians in the West Bank will now return to the rules of military occupation, which control their movement in the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Until the next Ramadan.

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PHOTOS: Hundreds call for release of Ethiopian-Israeli held in Gaza

Hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to call for the release of Avera Mengistu, who has been missing in Gaza for 1,000 days. In nearby Petah Tikva, hundreds demonstrated against police brutality and threats to freedom of expression.

Photos: Oren Ziv / Activestills (Tel Aviv), Orly Noy (Petah Tikva)

Hundreds of people marched down Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard on Saturday evening in solidarity with Avera Mengistu, an Ethiopian-Israeli who entered Gaza in September 2014 and has been missing ever since. He is presumed to be in Hamas captivity.

Marking 1,000 days since his disappearance, protesters wore t-shirts bearing his image, and with the words “Where is Avera?” on them.

Since the gag order on Mengistu’s disappearance was lifted in July 2015, 11 months after he went missing, critics have publicly questioned the government’s inaction over trying to secure his release.

In nearby Petah Tikva, meanwhile, hundreds of people demonstrated on Saturday evening against police brutality and threats to freedom of expression.

Demonstrators held up signs protesting police violence and calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stand trial, as well as for the Attorney General to resign.

This post is also published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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PHOTOS: Who is and isn't allowed into Jerusalem on Ramadan

Tens of thousands of Palestinians crossed through Israeli checkpoints Friday morning to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Photos and text by Oren Ziv/

Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank crossed through Qalandiya checkpoint on their way to Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday to mark the first Friday of Ramadan. This year, the Israeli authorities allowed entry to women and girls of all ages, as well as men over 40 and boys under the age of 11. According to various sources, restrictions were eased due to pressure by the Trump administration.

Additionally, small groups of teenagers — who are barred from crossing the checkpoint — tried to cross over the separation barrier adjacent to the checkpoint using ladders. In response, Israeli soldiers crossed into Palestinian territory and confiscated the ladders.

On Thursday Israeli authorities announced that for the first time in a year and a half, a few hundred Palestinian men would be allowed to exit Gaza in organized rides and join the Friday prayers in Al-Aqsa. According to the IDF Spokesperson, since the early hours of the morning approximately 65,000 Palestinians crossed through Israeli checkpoints on their way to pray in Jerusalem.






This post is also published in Hebrew on Local Call.

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PHOTOS: A week of joint struggle in Sumud Freedom Camp

For over a week, Jewish activists from across the globe have joined Palestinians in an effort to rebuild a depopulated village in the West Bank. 

By: Ahmad Al-Bazz /

It has been over a week since 250 Palestinians, Israelis, and diaspora Jews came together to establish the “Sumud Freedom Camp” on the site of Sarura, a former Palestinian village in the West Bank, whose residents were expelled by Israeli forces between 1980 and 1998 (“sumud” is Arabic for steadfastness).

Organizers announced that the “camp will stand until the families can return to the homes.” In the daytime, activists worked together to reclaim land that had been taken, rebuild ancestral homes, rehabilitate historic wells, and advance the livelihood of the villagers.

So far the camp has twice been raided by the Israeli army. Soldiers arrived to demolish tents that had been erected by the activists and confiscate equipment. Currently, activists are focusing on rehabilitating the caves in the area in which Palestinians can live, instead of building new living quarters, which are easily dismantled by the Israeli army.

Sumud Freedom Camp is located in the south Hebron Hills, part of Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control. Area C covers over 60 percent of the West Bank and is home to an estimated 180,000-300,000 Palestinians, who suffer from discrimination in access to water and infrastructure, as well as building permits.















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PHOTOS: Hundreds attend May Day demonstration in Nazareth

Hundreds march through Nazareth to mark International Workers’ Day, including several members of the Joint List.

Photos and text: Maria Zreik / Activestills

Hundreds of people gathered in Nazareth on Saturday morning to take part in a May Day march. As well as marking International Workers’ Day, demonstrators also marched against the occupation and the Israeli government’s repression of Palestinians.

The demonstration also called for justice and peace, and for workers’ rights.

Several Joint List MKs were among the marchers, including party head Ayman Oden, Aida Touma-Suleiman and Yousef Jabareen.

The march ended around midday, and was followed by speeches and the singing of a Communist anthem by youth members of the Communist Party.

Some May Day events have taken place early this year, due to Memorial Day in Israel — which is scheduled according to the Hebrew calendar — falling on May 1.

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WATCH: This is what a stop-and-frisk in East Jerusalem looks like

When Israeli forces started body searching Palestinians outside Jerusalem’s Old City, an Activestills photographer on the scene started filming. They detained and searched him too.

Text and photography: Faiz Abu Rmeleh / Film editing: Keren Manor

Faiz Abu Rmeleh, an Activestills photographer and resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, was detained by on Thursday outside Damascus Gate, after he filmed Border Police officers carrying out a body search on a Palestinian man.

The police officers tried to prevent Rmeleh from filming, then asked him to identify himself and undergo a body search as well. When he refused, he was forcefully taken to a nearby police post, aggressively pressed up against a wall and struck by the officers. Below, Rmeleh recounts the incident in his own words.

“Yesterday [Thursday], at 4.30 p.m. I was sitting on the steps outside Damascus Gate with friends. We suddenly heard police officers shouting and saw them grab a guy, who we realized was from the [occupied] territories. The police were hitting him and shouting, and started carrying out a body search in the street.

“I started to film on my phone. Two police officers came over and stood in front of me so I wouldn’t be able to see what they were doing to the Palestinian guy. I told them that if they were blocking my view it meant they were doing something illegal that they wanted to hide. When they’d finished with the guy and allowed him to go, the same police officers came over to me with back-up, asked me for my identity card and said I had to accompany them to undergo a body search as well.

“I refused, and said they could either search me where I was or take me to the police station if I’d done something illegal.

“The officers started arguing with me and forcefully took me to a police stand next to Damascus Gate, where they began frisking and hitting me. They pushed me up against the wall and moved my hands and legs apart by force. After they let me go, I went to take my identity card from the officer at the police stand, and told him that the behavior of his officers was not acceptable — that it humiliates and angers people.

“As we were talking I heard a child crying, and saw that the soldiers were trying to take a...

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