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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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PHOTOS: Palestinians plant trees to defy Israeli land confiscation

Palestinian farmers and volunteers plant olive trees to protest an Israeli military order to confiscate Palestinian land for one of the most extreme settlements in the West Bank.

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

The Israeli army on Thursday tried to prevent some 50 Palestinian farmers and volunteers from planting olive trees and tilling the soil in their agricultural lands in the West Bank village of Asira Al-Qibliya, near Nablus.

The activity was organized to protest against the recent Israeli military order to confiscate over half an acre of private Palestinian land for the nearby settlement of Yitzhar for “security reasons.” The order was issued on January 12, 2017, and a military watchtower was recently installed on the land.

Yitzhar is known as one of the most radical West Bank settlements, and is home to Od Yosef Chai, considered the most extreme yeshiva in the occupied territories.

Although the planting took place in Area B (under Israeli military control and Palestinian civil control) — adjacent to the land slated for expropriation, which is classified as Area C (under full Israeli military and civil control) — Israeli soldiers promptly arrived to try to put an end to the activity. An Israeli officer informed farmers that “they should stop and leave since the activity has no prior arrangement with Israeli Civil Administration.” The farmers refused.

Volunteers and farmers managed to plant some 30 trees, before the soldiers forced them to leave.

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PHOTOS: Thousands of Palestinians and Israelis protest home demolitions

Over 5,000 Arabs and Jews gather in Wadi Ara, northern Israel, to protest against recent home demolitions in Palestinian communities.

Photos by Keren Manor, text by Yael Marom

More than 5,000 Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel converged on the town of Ar’ara in the Wadi Ara region of northern Israel on Saturday, to protest a recent slate of home demolitions targeting Arab communities in the country.

Particularly in focus were Wednesday’s demolitions in the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran, prior to which Israeli police shot to death village resident Yaqub Abu al-Qi’an as he was driving, and whose vehicle struck and killed Erez Levi, an Israeli officer.

Hundreds of police officers — some on horseback — met the demonstrators in Ar’ara.

Around two hours after the protest had begun, hundreds of protesters blocked the junction at the entrance to Ar’ara. Police threw shock grenades and fired “skunk” water at the demonstrators, injuring several. Some of the protesters responded by throwing stones.

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PHOTOS: Palestinians build village to protest West Bank annexation bill

Police arrest six Palestinians for building a protest village to demonstrate against a bill that would annex the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc to Israel.

Photos by Activestills.org, text by Yael Marom

Fifty Palestinian activists established a protest village Friday morning adjacent to the West Bank settlement bloc, Ma’ale Adumim, to protest a bill that would annex the area to Israel.

The activists re-erected the Bab al-Shams protest village, four years after it was first built to protest the planned expansion of settlements that would cut the West Bank into two and deny territorial contiguity to any hypothetical Palestinian state.

The protest village was timed to coincide with Sunday’s cabinet meeting, where Israeli leaders are set to discuss a bill that calls to apply Israeli civilian law over Ma’ale Adumim, including the ‘E1’ area, which Palestinians say is crucial for any two-state solution.

Shortly after the village was built, Israeli police and Border Police officers were called to the scene to take down the tents. The demonstrators then marched alongside the main road nearby. Six were arrested.

“We are standing on Palestinian land, which Israel claims is part of a park that belongs to Ma’ale Adumim,” one activist told +972. “We are here to say that we oppose the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim. This is Palestinian land, and the entire settlement must be removed from this land.”

The activists also hoped to send a message to the people of Umm el-Hiran in the Negev, showing their solidarity with the victims of home demolitions against Palestinians on both parts of the Green Line. “We hope to send a message of strength to our people in Umm el-Hiran, Al-Araqib, the Naqab, and Qalansuwa, who are victims of home demolitions, just like the Bedouin in East Jerusalem, who are struggling against Israel’s attempt to transfer them to E1.”

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here

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WATCH: Visual analysis undermines police version of events in Umm el-Hiran

A visual investigation of footage recorded in Umm el-Hiran during an incident that left a Bedouin man and an Israeli police officer dead shows that, contrary to police claims, Israeli forces opened fire on the vehicle before it sped up.

Video by Forensic Architecture / Activestills, text by Natasha Roth

A visual and aural investigation of two pieces of footage recorded in Umm el-Hiran on Wednesday, during an incident which left a Bedouin man and an Israeli police officer dead, appears to contradict the official police narrative of a car-ramming attack.

The Israeli authorities say that the driver of the car, Yaqub Musa Abu al-Qi’an, intentionally accelerated toward a group of police officers and plowed into them, killing Erez Levi. But eyewitnesses counter that the police opened fire on Qian’s vehicle before it sped up and that the car struck the police as a result of Abu al-Qi’an losing control.

Early on Wednesday morning, hundreds of Israeli police officers arrived in the unrecognized Bedouin village ahead of scheduled demolitions, as part of plans to replace Umm el-Hiran with a Jewish town, Hiran. Eyewitnesses in the village reported hearing a few single shots of live fire shortly after the Israeli forces arrived, before then hearing several longer bursts and shouts of people having been killed.

The visual analysis, conducted by Forensic Architecture and Activestills, assessed the sequence of events by comparing footage shot by Activestills photographers and police aerial footage of the incident. By synchronizing the clips and photos taken on the ground, while at the same time layering the sound from the Activestills video over the silent police tape, the investigators were able to determine that police opened fire on Abu al-Qian’s car before he sped up.

The footage begins with Abu al-Qian driving slowly in the general direction of the police, at which point three shots are fired. A further four gunshots are fired immediately afterwards.

According to the video, the car changes direction four seconds after the first shot, speeding up and heading toward the group of police officers. Six seconds after the first shot, Abu al-Qian’s car hits the officers. A longer series of gunshots is then heard, along with shouting and the car’s horn sounding continuously, which the investigators suggest may be due to Abu al-Qian being incapacitated. His car is finally brought to a halt...

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PHOTOS: Israel demolishes homes in Umm el-Hiran amid violence

Israeli authorities begin demolishing the Bedouin village of Umm el-Hiran in preparation for its replacement with a Jewish town, following violence which left a Bedouin man and an Israeli police officer dead, and a Palestinian MK wounded.

Photos by Keren Manor and Faiz Abu Rmeleh

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Two killed in Bedouin village slated to be demolished, replaced with Jewish town

Police shoot MK Ayman Odeh in the head with sponge-tipped bullet. Conflicting versions emerge of ‘car ramming’ and shooting that left one officer and a village resident dead.

By Yael Marom and Keren Manor

Two people were killed and several others wounded when large numbers of police officers entered the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in southern Israel, to demolish the village at dawn on Wednesday. Police fired tear gas, sponge-tipped bullets, and there were reports of live ammunition as well.

Police officers shot and killed a resident of Umm el-Hiran, Yaqub Musa Abu Qi’an, claiming he drove his vehicle and struck and killed at least one officer. Police also quickly claimed, without offering any evidence, that Abu Qi’an had “connections” to ISIS. The police officer who was killed was named as 34-year-old Erez Levy.

However, local residents and activists at the scene deny the police version of events, saying that Qi’an’s car veered toward the officers only after he was shot and lost control of the vehicle.

Among those wounded was Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh, who police shot in the head and back with sponge-tipped bullets. Odeh was brought to Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva in stable condition at the time of this report. The other casualties were both local residents and security forces.

 

Hundreds of fully armed police arrived at Umm el-Hiran around 5 a.m., pulling drivers out of vehicles, and attacking and threatening others, according to Israeli activist Kobi Snitz, who was in the village Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Shortly thereafter, shots were heard, Snitz said, adding that he saw a white pickup truck about 30 meters from police. “They started shooting at the car in bursts from all directions,” he said, adding that only after the driver appeared to have been wounded and lost control of his vehicle did it strike the police officers.

Police reportedly sealed the village off and barred any additional journalists from entering by mid-morning.

Snitz said that state authorities had been pressuring residents to sign an agreement to leave voluntarily up until around midnight Tuesday night, but that negotiations broke down.

MK Odeh showed up at Umm el-Hiran early Wednesday morning in order to stand alongside the villagers, who were told by Israeli authorities that the demolition would take place imminently.

By late morning, bulldozers, trucks, and demolition equipment had begun preparing to clear and...

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PHOTOS: How the state builds a road for West Bank settlers

Israeli authorities continue to uproot Palestinian-owned olive trees in order to build a road for nearby settlers.

Photos by Keren Manor / Activestills, text by Yael Marom

Israeli authorities uprooted dozens of olive trees in order to build a settler road near the West Bank city of Qalqilya on Monday morning.

The Israeli army declared the area a closed military zone after the landowners, along with a number of Israeli activists, arrived in the area to protest and try to nonviolently stop the uprooting. Three of the demonstrators were arrested.

Israeli bulldozers accompanied by workers and private security personnel arrived at the village of Izbat Tabib in the early hours of the morning in order to uproot the trees, which belong to Palestinians in the area, and to pave the “Nabi Elias Bypass Road.” Approximately 700 olive trees are slated to be uprooted; last week authorities removed a total of 250 trees.

Shortly after the uprooting, the Israeli army was called to the area in order to prevent the activists from demonstrating. After declaring a closed military zone, the Israeli activists were removed from the area, while the Palestinian landowners were allowed to remain. The head of Izbat Tabib’s local council and another activist declared that they would refuse to leave and sat on an olive tree. The two were detained and later released. An Israeli activist was arrested was likely transferred to an Israeli police station in the settlement of Ariel.

On Sunday Civil Administration contractors came to survey the land to ask the locals where they would like their trees to be moved to. The residents responded that there was nowhere to move them to. On Monday, the majority of the uprooted trees were left in a giant pile.

The decision to build the settler road was made as part of a compromise with the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization that governs Jewish settlements in the West Bank. According to the text on the expropriation orders, paving the road is intended to “improve transportation between Nablus and Qalqilya.”

The Palestinian landowners previously unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court against the plan. According to the head of Nabi Elias’ village council Raed Khalif, those who will be able to prove ownership over the land will receive meager compensation for the property they lost — which makes up an essential part of their livelihood.

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PHOTOS: Israeli authorities uproot olive trees to build settler-only road

The Nabi Elias bypass road, which will serve Israeli settlers, requires the confiscation of 25 acres of Palestinian land.

Photos and text by Keren Manor / Activestills.org

Civil Administration contractors accompanied by Israeli soldiers uprooted around 250 Palestinian-owned olive trees Sunday near the West Bank city of Qalqilya, as part of a larger plan to build a settler bypass road in the area.

The Nabi Elias bypass road will include the expropriation of 25 acres of Palestinian land — including a total 700 olive trees — belonging to the Palestinian villages of Izbat Tabib, Azzun, and Nabi Elias, just east of Ramallah.

On Saturday the army prevented dozens of Israeli activists from joining a nonviolent Palestinian demonstration against the land confiscations. By Sunday only a small group of Palestinians came out to protest the uprooting.

The decision to build the road, which will serve settlers only, was made as part of a compromise with the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization that governs Jewish settlements in the West Bank. According to the text on the expropriation orders, paving the road is intended to “improve transportation between Nablus and Qalqilya.”

The Palestinian landowners previously unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court against the plan. According to the head of Nabi Elias’ village council Raed Khalif, those who will be able to prove ownership over the land will receive meager compensation for the property they lost — which makes up an essential part of their livelihood.

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