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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 / Activestills.org

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/Activestills.org

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 / Activestills.org

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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PHOTOS: Palestinians protest in support of hunger-striking prisoners

Hundreds of Palestinians in Bethlehem protest in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners and to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Photos and text: Oren Ziv and Faiz Abu Rmeleh

Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in Bethlehem on Monday afternoon in order to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, marching to Checkpoint 300 and Rachel’s Tomb in solidarity with the 1,100 Palestinian prisoners who had launched a hunger strike earlier that day.

The demonstrators held up photos of Marwan Barghouti, the most visible of the roughly 6,500 Palestinians currently imprisoned in Israel, as well as of members of their families who are also political prisoners.

Once they had arrived at the section of the separation wall that cuts off Bethlehem from Jerusalem, a few protesters started pushing at the iron gate. Israeli soldiers and Border Police officers opened the gate and fired tear gas at the demonstrators.

Afterwards several Palestinian youths started throwing stones and the army shot sponge-tipped bullets in response, injuring at least three protesters.

Unlike in most other demonstrations, the IDF seemed to be operating under instructions to remain “restrained,” firing tear gas and then retreating behind the iron gate in the wall. The intent behind this was likely to keep the protest under control so as not to give the impression that the hunger strike had succeeded in igniting the Palestinian street.

Demonstrations to mark Palestinian Prisoners’ Day also took place in Nablus and Ramallah.

A version of this article also appears in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here

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PHOTOS: Thousands of Palestinians march to commemorate Land Day

Thousands march across Israel and the occupied territories to commemorate 41 years since security forces shot dead six Palestinians for protesting land expropriations.

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in marches across Israel on Wednesday and Thursday to mark “Land Day,” commemorating the six Palestinian citizens killed by Israeli forces in 1976. The events began on Wednesday in a torch-lit march in the northern village of Deir Hanna, and continued Thursday, when hundreds marched in Sakhnin, Araba and Deir Hanna, as well as in the occupied territories.

Thursday began with vigils for the six Palestinians who were shot dead in 1976 while protesting land expropriation, while members of Knesset from the Joint List laid flowers at the memorial for the dead in Sakhnin.

On March 30, 1976, Palestinian citizens of Israel declared a general strike and set out to protest against a decision by Yitzhak Rabin’s government to expropriate nearly 5,000 acres of private Palestinian land in the Galilee. IDF and police forces suppressed the demonstrations, which took place in Sakhnin, Deir Hanna and Araba, shooting and killing six protesters, and wounding over 100 others. Since then, Land Day has become one of the symbols of the Palestinian struggle, both in Israel and abroad, against dispossession, land expropriation and discrimination.

In the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev Desert, residents and activists built a memorial for Yacoub Abu al-Qi’an, who was shot dead by Israeli police in January. MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), who joined the event, explained why he chose to come to the village: “This place is the clearest symbol for the story of Land Day: in 1976 Arab citizens came out to struggle for their land, for justice and equality in this land, and six of them were shot dead by the police and the army.”

“This past year saw another victim. This is the memorial for Yacoub Abu Al-Qi’an, who was shot dead here on the land of Umm al-Hiran — a small village that the government has decided to demolish,” Khenin said.

At around noon, hundreds marched from the northern city of Saknin to Deir Hanna, where the main rally was held to mark 41 years since the first Land Day. Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh told the crowd: “Land Day is the most important day in the history of the Arab public’s struggle for equality in Israel.”

“This year,” he continued, “in the shadow of government’s wild...

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WATCH: Police suppress ultra-Orthodox demo against arrest of IDF deserter

Police arrest 15, use water cannons against hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators who hit the streets of Jerusalem to protest the jailing of an IDF deserter. 

Text by Eli Bitan, photos by Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Hundreds of young ultra-Orthodox men protested Thursday night in Jerusalem against the jailing of ultra-Orthodox IDF deserters.

The demonstration is part of a larger protest movement against the arrests of Haredi deserters, which began immediately following the Jewish holiday of Purim by a radical faction of the ultra-Orthodox movement. On Thursday the protesters blocked central roads in Jerusalem, including the main entry to the city. The police used water cannons that fired blue liquid against the demonstrators and arrested 15.

Although they are exempt from IDF service, for decades Israeli society has debated over whether ultra-Orthodox Jews studying at religious seminaries should be enlisted. In November 2015, lawmakers passed legislation extending their exemption from duty, reversing a law passed in 2014 that would have seen it expire. However, the ultra-Orthodox must go to the enlistment office to qualify for exemption — which some refuse to do because of their rejection of the state.

Over the past week, Military Police arrested a number of deserters, leading to an even greater presence of ultra-Orthodox men at the protests. Last Friday, demonstrators disrupted the annual Jerusalem Marathon, after which Mayor Nir Barkat suspended Deputy Mayor Haim Epstein, whose constituents made up the bulk of the demonstrators.

The mainstream ultra-Orthodox community, especially supporters of the United Torah Judaism and Shas parties, does not support the demonstrations, which also target its leaders.

The deserters who were arrested and sentenced to prison time chose not to show up at the military recruiting office to protest a law to draft ultra-Orthodox men and increase the enlistment quotas for Haredim, which were intended to harm the mostly ultra-Orthodox periphery — in accordance with the instructions of Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach.

Auerbach told his students that every arrest of a deserter will be answered by demonstrations. Ultra-Orthodox journalist Eli Shlezinger revealed that in the wake of the demonstrations, the police decided not to hand over deserters to the Military Police.

For now, it seems that the sides won’t be able to reach a compromise that will send the protesters home and prevent another round of conflagration. The question is whether a growing protest movement will force the ultra-Orthodox politicians, who thus far have remained silent, to...

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PHOTOS: Palestinian village protests 17 years of military closure

The main entrance to the West Bank village of Qalqas has been closed since the Second Intifada. The residents are having none of it.

Photos and text: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org

Some 250 Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Qalqas, south of Hebron, protested on Friday against the Israeli military’s closure of their village’s main entrance, which has been in place since the Second Intifada — which started 17 years ago.

Before the protest, the demonstrators held the Muslim Friday noon prayer beside the large rocks and cinder blocks placed by the Israeli army at the entrance to the village. Children held signs, some of which read “End the siege of Qalqas,” and “17 years of blockade is enough.” Other signs blamed the municipality of Hebron for “not intervening.”

According to one resident, there was never any good reason for the army to target Qalqas, but the closure was part of a strict set of controls that were imposed on the West Bank during the the violent confrontations between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army during the Intifada.

Due to the Israeli closure, the residents of Qalqas are forced to use alternative routes to leave the village, which are often between 3-4 miles longer than the main one.

Israeli soldiers tried to keep protesters away from Route 60, the main road that cuts across the West Bank from north to south and which is used by both Israeli settlers and Palestinians, until the demonstration ended peacefully without any clashes or arrests.

Yousef Abu Sneneh, an activist from the village of Qalqas, told Activestills that the protest was organized by residents following the death of Haytham Irfa’iya, who was killed after being hit by a vehicle while crossing Route 60 last week. “Five residents of Qalqas have been killed since 2000 while crossing the road on foot due to the Israeli roadblock,” Abu Sneneh mentioned.

He added that many promises have been received from the Israeli authorities to solve the issue, such as building a bridge or a traffic circle and digging a tunnel, but “none of them were implemented.”

Yahia Abu Sneneh, another Qalqas resident, told Activestills that the checkpoints are “frequently being set up by the dirt mounds.” He pointed out that the adjacent Israeli settlement of Beit Hagai has its own junction connecting it to Route 60 and is served by public buses, unlike his village.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli army’s military government in the West...

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PHOTOS: Thousands mourn Palestinian killed by Israeli army

Palestinians from across the West Bank flock to the village of Al-Walaja to pay their final respects to Basel al-Araj, who was killed by the Israeli army last week near Ramallah. 

Photos and text by Anne Paq and Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org

Thousands of Palestinians came from across the West Bank on March 16 to attend the funeral of Basel al-Araj, a 31-year old Palestinian activist and writer from the village of Al Walaja, near Bethlehem. Al-Araj was killed by the Israeli army on March 6th in a house in the city of Al-Bireh, where he had been hiding in for month. The army claimed he was killed after opening fire on Israeli forces. 

According to Ma’an News Agency, Israeli authorities handed over his remains Friday afternoon at Israel’s 300 Checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem, after which the Palestinian Red Crescent transferred the body to Beit Jala Governmental Hospital.

An autopsy determined the main cause of death to be a bullet to the heart, although at least nine other bullet wounds were identified, according to a statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Basel was previously arrested by the Palestinian Authority in April 2016, after the PA accused him and five others of possessing illegal weapons and planning an attack on Israelis. Following a hunger strike, they were released and went into hiding.

Al-Araj’s death has prompted a surge of anger against the Palestinian Authority and its policy of security coordination with Israel. Al-Araj was killed in Area A of the West Bank, supposedly under full Palestinian control. 

The five others released alongside al-Araj were immediately re-arrested by Israel after their release from a PA jail and are currently in Israeli custody. A small group of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah last Sunday to protest the PA’s decision to proceed with the trial was violently dispersed by Palestinian police. Hundreds hit the streets of Ramallah the following day to express their outrage.

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Israeli soldiers stand by as settlers attack civilians in West Bank village

Instead of attending to protesters wounded by settlers, including an Israeli photographer pushed off a five-foot terrace, a man dressed as a medic assaults another protester.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

[Updated below]

Video and photographs show Israeli settlers, including one wearing part of a uniform of Israel’s national emergency and ambulance services, seemingly attacking demonstrators and photographers on Friday during a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. Israeli soldiers present did nothing to prevent the violence.

After several months during which there were no weekly protests in the village, local residents, along with Israeli and international activists, marched toward the village spring, which was taken over by Israelis from the adjacent settlement of Halamish in 2009.

For years the army has prevented the weekly demonstration from reaching the spring, using closed military zone orders, tear gas, stun grenades, rubber-coated bullets, and live ammunition to do so.

Because there hadn’t been protests of late, it appeared the army was caught off on Friday, and the protesters managed to reach the spring, where they waved a Palestinian flag. Within a matter of minutes, settlers from Halamish arrived, and began to attack the protesters. Soldiers arrived shortly thereafter.

Israeli photographer Haim Schwarczenberg, who has long documented Nabi Saleh’s struggle, told +972 Magazine that a settler pushed him from one of the terraces, causing him to fall from a height of around five feet. He was left bruised, and some of his equipment was damaged. Video shot by self-styled village documentarian Bilal Tamimi shows one settler walking through a group of soldiers to push Schwarczenberg. The soldiers did nothing to stop the him. Later on the soldiers refused to detain or even write down the attacker’s information, he recalled.

WATCH: Photographer Haim Schwarczenberg is pushed by Israeli settlers (video by Bilal Tamimi)

Photographs from the incident also show appear to show an Israeli civilian armed with an M-16 assault rifle and wearing an official uniform of Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, and ambulance services, pushing protesters. Soldiers appear to be standing aside, doing nothing to stop the violence.

The Israeli in the photo at the top of this post is grabbing a left-wing Israeli protester while another settler attacks him. One need not imagine what would happen to a Palestinian medic who tried to...

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PHOTOS: Palestinian homes come down as settlements expand

Twelve homes in a West Bank village are handed demolition orders. Meanwhile, construction continues unabated in West Bank settlements.

Photos and text by Ahmad Al-Bazz / Activestills.org

Twelve Palestinian homes and structures in the West Bank village of Shufa are currently under the threat of demolition, after Israeli authorities handed out seven demolition orders on January 29. The orders previous come on the heels of five demolition orders handed out in the village earlier this month.

The orders were given under the pretext of illegal construction in Area C, which is under full Israeli military and civil control. Residents of the village said they still have 15 days to challenge the orders in Israeli courts.

Thaer Doroubi, whose new two-floor house is slated for demolition, said he is currently submitting documents to try to halt the order. “This is occupation,” he told +972, “I don’t expect to solve the case by courts, but I will try.”

Doroubi says that he decided to start a life for himself by building his own house in the Area C in his village where he owns a piece of land. “Thereis no more space in the Area B section of the village, that’s why we build in our homes in Area C.” Area B remains under full Israeli military control, although the Palestinian Authority is in charge of civil and administrative matters there.

It is almost impossible for Palestinians in Area C to obtain building permits. As Natasha Roth pointed out, between 2010 and 2014 the Civil Administration granted just 1.5 percent of requests.

On the adjacent hill, Israeli bulldozers continued their construction in the Israeli settlement of Avnei Hefetz. A new path cleared for the settlement’s fence could be clearly seen from Shufa, where residents say they are losing more and more land to the settlement.

Despite the passing of UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which demands Israel stop its settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel continues construction efforts in a number of Israeli settlements.

Last Tuesday, Israel approved the construction of approximately 2,500 new housing units in West Bank. On Wednesday morning it announced the construction of another 3,000 units in the occupied territories.

Related:
West Bank demolitions: Building up and tearing down on the way to annexation
Israel issuing Palestinian building permits to further West Bank land grab



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