Israeli War Crimes: West Bank plagued by travel troubles
- West Bank plagued by travel troubles
UN says Israel has set up 543 road obstacles in the occupied West Bank, limiting travel for Palestinians.
Last Modified: 22 Mar 2013 03:53
Hundreds of checkpoints, political trouble and stones thrown at Palestinian truck drivers working in the occupied West Bank contribute to many difficult and delayed journeys.
The United Nations says Israel has set up 543 obstacles on roads, hindering travel for Palestinians who can never guarantee how long each trip will take.
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports from the West Bank.
Palestinian lawyers fight Israel military law
Under Israeli military law, freed Palestinian prisoners can be sent back to jail based on secret evidence.
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2013 22:20
At least 1,000 Palestinians were freed from prison in 2011, as part of an exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
But under Israeli military law they can be sent back to jail based on evidence that they are under no legal obligation to reveal.
Palestinian lawyers are now fighting the law in the Supreme Court.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston reports from Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank.
Bedouins accuse Israel of planning new town
Lawyers for Palestinian Bedouins tell of alleged Israeli plan for new town to clear clan from land.
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2013 08:24
Lawyers for Palestinian Bedouins say they have seen an unofficial Israeli plan for a new town, which will house thousands forced to leave their land in the West Bank.
But Bedouins say the move is a first step towards clearing an area of Palestinian land controlled by Israel known as the Ma'ale Adumim bubble.
The Jahalin tribe that lives in the Ma'ale Adumim bubble say Israel has told them they’ll be moved to an area near Jericho, along the border with Jordan.
Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reports.
Israel accused of abusing detained children
UN report says Palestinian minors, most arrested for rock-throwing, face systemic ill-treatment by Israeli authorities.
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2013 23:54
Palestinian children detained by Israeli authorities face systematic abuse that violates international law, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said in a report.
UNICEF estimated that 700 Palestinian children aged between 12 and 17 were arrested by Israeli security forces every year in the occupied West Bank.
The world organisation said it had identified some examples of practices that "amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture".
According to the report, which was released on Wednesday, most of the youths are taken into custody for throwing stones at Israeli security forces. Tel Aviv says it takes such incidents seriously, noting that rock-throwing has caused Israeli deaths.
Ill-treatment of Palestinian minors typically begins with the arrest itself, often carried out in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers, and continues all the way through prosecution and sentencing, according to the report.
"The pattern of ill-treatment includes ... the practice of blindfolding children and tying their hands with plastic ties, physical and verbal abuse during transfer to an interrogation site, including the use of painful restraints," the report said.
It said minors suffered physical violence and threats during their interrogation, were coerced into confession and not given immediate access to a lawyer or family during questioning.
"Treatment inconsistent with child rights continues during court appearances, including shackling of children, denial of bail and imposition of custodial sentences and transfer of children outside occupied Palestinian territory to serve their sentences inside Israel," the report said.
Such practice "appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised", it added.
UNICEF based its findings on more than 400 cases documented since 2009 as well as legal papers, reports by governmental and non-governmental groups and interviews with Palestinian minors and with Israeli and Palestinian officials and lawyers.
Qadoura Fares, chairman of the Palestinian Prisoners Club which looks after inmates and their families, praised the report and called for Israel to be held accountable.
A spokeswoman for Israel's Prison Service said there were currently 307 Palestinian minors in Israeli custody, 108 of whom are serving a prison sentence. Most of them are between the ages of 16 to 18 and the rest are under 16.
UNICEF said Israel had made some "positive changes" in recent years in its treatment of Palestinian minors, including new hand-tying procedures meant to prevent pain and injury.
It also noted a 2010 military order that requires Israeli police to notify parents about the arrest of their children and to inform minors they have the right to consult a lawyer.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said officials from the ministry and the Israeli military had cooperated with UNICEF in its work on the report, with the goal of improving the treatment of Palestinian minors in custody.
"Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect," he said.
Israel's Palestinian-only buses 'torched'
Two buses torched a day after Israel began running separate bus lines for Palestinian workers and Jewish settlers.
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2013 14:41
Unknown assailants have set fire to two buses which Israel began operating as Palestinians-only lines to be used by Palestinian labourers travelling between the West Bank and Israel.
"Two buses were apparently set on fire but we are looking into all possibilities," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP news agency on Tuesday, saying the incident took place in the Arab-Israeli town of Kfar Qassem which lies very close to the Green Line.
Police sources quoted by army radio said the buses had been torched as a protest against the new transportation system which came into effect on Monday.
The incident took place just hours after Israel began running separate bus lines for Palestinian workers and Jewish settlers, in a move which was bluntly denounced by an Israeli rights group as "segregation" and "simple racism."
But Israel's transport ministry denied the charge, saying Palestinians with a permit to work in Israel were allowed to travel "on all public transport lines."
The controversy over the separate bus lines continued to draw sharp criticism from Palestinian officials on Tuesday.
"This is a racist policy of segregation," deputy labour minister Assef Said told AFP.
His remarks were echoed by the Palestinian Workers' Union which also denounced it as "a racist measure" and said the buses would become an easy target for attacks by settler extremists.
The new bus route ferries Palestinian workers from the Eyal checkpoint just north of the West Bank city of Qalqilya to several cities in Israel where they have permits to work.
The transport ministry says the new lines are to serve Palestinian workers entering Israel in a bid "to replace the pirate operators who transport the workers at inflated fares."
But Israeli media reports said the service was launched after Jewish settlers complained that forcing them to share public transport with Palestinians was a security risk.
Until now, the workers have been reaching Israel by catching buses which run from outside Jewish settlements which they would ride alongside settlers travelling to Israel.
Ron Nahman, the late mayor of Ariel settlement, had in November said he was in talks with the army, the police and the transport ministry to find ways of "stopping Palestinians from boarding the buses that go to Ariel."
"All of them are working on this problem, and we hope that they will soon find a solution to the reality that is bothering our people," he wrote on his Facebook page.
Palestinians wounded by Israeli gunfire
Gunfire in Gaza and clashes in the West Bank as Palestinians mark eight years of protests against separation wall.
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2013 22:24
Israel's migrant dilemma
Repatriation of African migrants in Israel sparks international concern.
How Israel legitimises torturing Palestinians to death
Israel's policy of torture has left many dead and completely lacks accountability.
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2013 11:25
Six days after Arafat Jaradat was arrested by the Israeli army and the Shin Bet, he was dead. Between the date of his arrest - February 18 - and the day of his death - February 23 - his lawyer Kamil Sabbagh met with Arafat only once: in front of a military judge at the Shin Bet's Kishon interrogation facility.
Sabbagh reported that when he saw Jaradat, the man was terrified. Arafat told his lawyer that he was in acute pain from being beaten and forced to sit in stress positions with his hands bound behind his back.
When it announced his death, Israeli Prison Service claimed Arafat - who leaves a pregnant widow and two children - died from cardiac arrest. However, the subsequent autopsy found no blood clot in his heart. In fact, the autopsy concluded that Arafat, who turned 30 this year, was in fine cardiovascular health.
What the final autopsy did find, however, was that Jaradat had been pummelled by repeated blows to his chest and body and had sustained a total of six broken bones in his spine, arms and legs; his lips lacerated; his face badly bruised.
The ordeal that Arafat suffered before he died at the hands of Israel's Shin Bet is common to many Palestinians that pass through Israel's prisons. According to the prisoners' rights organisation Addameer, since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinians have been killed as a result of torture and 53 due to medical neglect. Less than a month before Jaradat was killed, Ashraf Abu Dhra died while in Israeli custody in a case that Addameer argues was a direct result of medical neglect.
The legal impunity of the Shin Bet, commonly referred to as the GSS, and its torture techniques has been well established. Between 2001 and 2011, 700 Palestinians lodged complaints with the State Attorney's Office but not a single one has been criminally investigated.
Writing in Adalah's 2012 publication, On Torture [PDF], Bana Shoughry-Badarne, an attorney and the Legal Director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, wrote, "The GSS's impunity is absolute."
Israel's High Court has been extravagantly helpful in securing the Shin Bet with its imperviousness to accountability to international law, and thus enabling widespread and lethal torture.
In August of 2012, Israel's High Court rejected petitions submitted by Israeli human rights organisations Adalah, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and PCATI to demand that Israeli attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, carry out criminal investigations into each allegation of torture by the Shin Bet.
And in the first week of February, two weeks before Arafat was killed, the High Court of Justice threw out Adalah's petition that demanded the GSS videotape and audio record all of its interrogations in order to comply with requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT) to which Israel is a signatory.
In May 2009, UNCAT condemned [PDF] Israel for exempting the Shin Bet's interrogations from audio and video recording, noting that such oversight is an essential preventative measure to curtail torture. Yet despite this admonition, in 2012 the Knesset extended the exemption for another three years.
Rationalising its failure to comply with this most basic requirement of recording interrogations, the State maintains that it is in the interests of "national security" that its interrogation techniques not be made public.
Arafat was killed under torture. Torture is routine. But the following is not routine: upon the announcement of his death, thousands of Palestinians, already unified in solidarity with the arduous struggle waged by Palestinian hunger striking prisoners, responded in force. At least 3,000 prisoners refused their meals; thousands poured into the streets of Gaza and impassioned demonstrations erupted across the West Bank. While the State of Israel continues to deploy its deadly arsenal of weapons to repress Palestinians, the banality of the evil of this regime is, as it will always be, eclipsed by the mighty Palestinian will for self-determination.
Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco and the West Bank. She is a graduate of Stanford University.
Follow her on Twitter: @CharEsilver
Palestinian prisoner dies in Israeli custody
Israel says thirty-year-old Arafat Jaradat died of natural causes, while Palestinians allege he died under questioning.
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2013 09:22
Plight of Palestinians in Israeli Prisons
By Khalid Amayreh
Journalist — Occupied Palestine
Thursday, 21 February 2013 00:00
As the agony of hunger-striking Palestinian inmates continues unabated, the Israeli government has surprised observers with a secretly-adopted new set of laws. The laws allow for the re-arrest and indefinite incarceration of Palestinian political and resistance prisoners released in a deal brokered by Egypt nearly a year and a half ago.
The Israeli justice system is widely thought to be a mere rubber stamp in the hands of the powerful security establishment, especially the domestic intelligence agency known as Shin Bet.
The Failure of the Israeli Justice System
Palestinian lawyers and human rights activists have called the Israeli feat "scandalous and immoral." The Palestinian Authority (PA) minister for Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karakei'a described the disclosed Israeli laws as "an immoral act befitting thieves and gangsters."
"This is a criminal and unethical act given a judicial facade. In any other country, the Israeli behavior would be viewed as an utter mockery of justice." The Palestinian minister called on the international community as well as human rights organizations to condemn Israel behaviors in the strongest terms. "It shows that non-Jews can't really find justice under the Zionist Jewish rule. It seems they view us as children of a lesser God or perhaps worse," Karakei'a added.
Ismael Haniyya, Prime Minister of the Hamas-run government in Gaza appealed to the Egyptian government to pressure Israel to end its "vengeful" conduct against Palestinian inmates.
Egypt is considered the main guarantor of the agreement reached through Egyptian mediation between Hamas and Israel in October 2011. According to that agreement, Hamas released from its custody an Israeli soldier who had been taken prisoner several years earlier. In exchange, Israel agreed to free hundreds of Palestinian inmates in Israeli jails, many with a little chance of ever getting free given the draconian judicial treatment meted out to Palestinians accused of involvement in resistance to the Israeli occupation.
Israel, observers believe, felt humiliated and that it acted under duress by releasing a significant number of Palestinian "heavy weights." Hence, the Jewish state's sullen hostility and hatred.
Israeli officials have been indifferent to inmates' suffering. One Israeli minister was quoted recently as saying "do you want me to feel sorry for terrorists and murderers?" However, Hamas's spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri retorted to the Zionist minister's remarks: "You are the real terrorists and murderers, and we are your victims. You stole our country, you murdered our children, you destroyed our homes, and you banished our people to the four winds, and now you have the shamelessness to call us terrorists and murderers."
One of the prominent Palestinian inmates now facing "near death" is Samer Eisawi, a Jerusalem resident. According to his family, Samer has been on an intermittent hunger strike for 212 days. Eisawi, 35, was released from Israeli custody in 2011 as part of the Shalit deal and then rearrested six month ago. Medical sources and his lawyers say his health conditions are deteriorating by the hour and that he could succumb to illness any moment.
A relative said "a lawyer visited him in prison and said he is in a very difficult situation and he is getting worse." Eisawi's sister Sherin accused the Israeli establishment of "Nazi-like apathy and callousness."
"I see that the Israelis are behaving with us very much the same way the Nazis behaved toward Jews during the Second World War. The Israeli murder us a hundred times a day. They immensely enjoy watching us suffer. They are more than sadist, they are more than callous, they are decidedly criminal."
Putting up a semblance of defiance, Sherin said she wouldn't appeal to the Israeli government to relent. "I don't appeal to them. I know they have no hearts. In fire you don't find water. But I do appeal to freedom-loving men and women around the world to pressure this evil entity to release my dying brother."
She further accused Israel of "playing the sadistic card with us."
"They wait until the last moments, when he is only a few hours away from death before they decide to transfer him to hospital. This is a hateful but unmistakable message they communicate to all hunger-strikers and their families… The content of this message is that all hunger-strikers would have die or approach death before even dreaming of freedom."
Interestingly, Eisawi, who was rearrested six months ago, committed no serious offence ever since his release in 2011.
The Israeli intelligence accuses him of "visiting a friend" in the West Bank, which the Israeli security apparatus considered a breach of the Shalit deal clauses. It is highly unlikely though that the brief visit to his friend in the West Bank was the real reason explaining Israel's vengeful treatment of Eisawi.
"This is just a legalistic excuse. The real reason is Israeli sadism and hatefulness. Israel doesn't have to have a reason for being hateful, ugly and brutal," remarked Sherin Eisawi when asked to explain Israeli insensitivity toward her brother's ordeal.
The Sword of Administrative Detention
One of the most haunting weapons dreaded by Palestinians in Israel jails is the so-called "administrative detention." According to lawyer Muhammed Rabai'e from al-Khalil, administrative detention is a euphemism for open-ended incarceration without charge or trial. "They put you in jail in harsh conditions for up to 12 years without letting you know the reason."
Mustafa Shawar, 56, a lecturer at al-Khalil University spent nearly ten years of his life in the Negev detention camp as an administrative detainee. "I begged the military judge to let me know why I was behind bars. I told him I needed to know the charges so that next time I would refrain from doing the same violations.
"And you know what he told me? He said he wouldn't give me that privilege."
There are dozens of Palestinian political leaders now languishing in Israeli jails and dungeons without charge or trial. In fact, most of these people are innocent of any wrongdoings, people like Nayef Rajoub, 55, who has been in Israeli prisons since 2006 for no reason other than taking part in an election whose outcome the Jewish state didn't like. Yet, much of the world's media keeps parroting the mythical mantra that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East.
Needless to say, the peculiarly frustrating experience forces inmates to fight this profound injustice by staging on-again, off-again hunger strikes in the hope that Israel would observe international law governing the treatment of people under occupation and prisoners of war.
What a 'period of calm' looks like in the Occupied Territories
Three months after the last major Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip, the "period of calm" is only "calm" for Israel.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2013 09:55
Israeli soldier posts Instagram image of Palestinian child in crosshairs of rifle
Military investigates Mor Ostrovski, 20, as row grows over spate of offensive images posted online by Israeli soldiers
guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 February 2013 10.06 GMT
An Israeli soldier has sparked outrage by posting a photograph appearing to show the back of a Palestinian boy's head in the crosshairs of his sniper rifle on a social networking site.
The context of the picture, posted on the personal Instagram site of Mor Ostrovski, 20, could not be verified but the aggressive message is clear. The minarets and Arabic architecture of the village captured in the background suggest the boy and the town are Palestinian. Ostrovski is an Israeli soldier in a sniper unit.
The Israeli military said the soldier's commanders were investigating the incident. His actions "are not in accordance with the spirit of the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] or its values", a spokesperson said.
Ostrovski, who has closed his Instagram account, told the army he did not take the picture but found it on the internet.
Breaking the Silence, an organisation of veteran Israeli combat soldiers campaigning to raise awareness about life in the West Bank, condemned the image. "This is what occupation looks like. This is what military control over a civilian population looks like," one member wrote on the group's Facebook page.
The image has been heavily criticised online. Electronic Intifada, a news site focused on Palestinian issues, described the photograph as "tasteless and dehumanising". The site published several other images from Ostrovski's Instagram page, including snaps of the soldier posing with heavy-duty guns.
The Israeli military has been hit by a series of scandals from uncensored social media sites, and Electronic Intifada has been one of the more rigorous monitors of offensive postings by Israeli soldiers.
In December, the site discovered Nisim Asis, a 22-year-old soldier from the Beit-El settlement, who posted racist images on his Instagram page, including a picture of himself licking what is probably tomato ketchup from a knife with the caption: "Fuck all Arabs their blood is tasty".
In another unrelated incident, an infantry corps soldier was recently sentenced to 14 days in military prison for posting a picture of himself beside a handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian on Facebook.
In both these incidents, and the similar case of a female IDF soldier who uploaded lewd images of herself with Palestinian detainees several years ago, military discipline was deemed adequate and criminal investigations dropped.
UN concerned about Palestinian detainees
UN human rights chief voices concern about health of hunger strikers who protest their detention without trial.
Last Modified: 14 Feb 2013 16:17
Jailed Palestinian hunger striker faces death
Family and friends of Samer Issawi, on hunger strike for more than 200 days in Israeli jail, say he may die any moment.
Renee Lewis Last Modified: 13 Feb 2013 18:02
Israel's 'Great Book Robbery' unravelled
Documentary sheds light on large-scale pillaging of books from Palestinian homes in 1948, when Israel was founded.
Dalia Hatuqa Last Modified: 29 Jan 2013 09:28
Palestinian deaths raise concern over Israeli army use of live fire
At least five young unarmed people shot by soldiers despite rules permitting live fire only in extreme circumstances
The Guardian, Monday 28 January 2013
Kill Him Silently
The story behind Mossad's bungled bid to assassinate Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Al Jazeera World Last Modified: 30 Jan 2013 13:13
Did Israeli troops deliberately provoke boy, only to shoot him in the back?
On Monday Samir was shot by the IDF near his home in the West Bank. Israel says he was trying to invade its territory. But the boy's family claim the truth is much more sinister
ALISTAIR DAWBER BUDRUS WEDNESDAY 16 JANUARY 2013
Like most parents at a time of crisis, Sidiqy Khalaf Awad was surrounded by her children today. She has 14 in all. The image of her 15th, Samir Ahmed, who looked much younger than his 16 years, is plastered all over her village and now brings her only sorrow. For Samir is dead. He was shot in the head on Tuesday by soldiers from the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) close to the family home in Budrus, near the West Bank border with Israel.
As Mrs Awad sat in her yard today, behind the front door which gives out on to the street, her husband, Ahmed, mourned outside with male members of the village, handing coffee and dates to well-wishers. The local mosque was offering mourning prayers. Several people in and around the house were carrying Arabic newspapers, which had pictures of Samir’s funeral on their front pages.
“I lifted up his arm and it just fell to the ground. I looked into his eyes, but he was staring into space. I was saying, ‘My son is dead’”, she said as she described the moment she found Samir in a field. He had been shot three times: in the legs, the back and the back of the head, according to eyewitnesses. Speaking at her home, surrounded by her other children and neighbours, Mrs Awad described how Samir had left for a science exam on Tuesday morning, and that the next time she saw him, “he was bleeding from his injuries. I gave thanks to God for his life and then started throwing stones at the Israelis who had done this.”
The circumstances surrounding Samir’s death are not yet clear. The IDF said on Tuesday that he was among several Palestinians who approached the border fence, damaged it and were “attempting to infiltrate Israel” when its soldiers opened fire. Samir’s family rejected the accusation, and insisted that Tuesday was just another ordinary day in the village, and that local children protested regularly. Indeed, this morning another group of teenagers ran up to the fence and seemed to be baiting the troops on the other side. The IDF responded by firing what appeared to be tear gas in their direction.
Samir’s family and other villagers said the IDF regularly uses loudhailers to taunt children at the Budrus Secondary School, which overlooks the area where Samir was killed.
“Why are the soldiers here?” asked his mother. “Every day they provoke the children, using their loudhailers to get inside the school, and then they fire rubber bullets and tear gas. Every day. The loudhailers are directed specifically at the schoolchildren. We have been suffering this for eight years [since the construction of the security barrier].”
The family denied being political, but the flags of Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip, were attached to the top of their house. They said local officials had put them there. At another local school, somebody had hung a large poster showing Samir’s face next to that of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in 2004.
The claim that the military provokes the schoolchildren was corroborated by others in the village. Nader Shalesh, an Arabic-language teacher at the secondary school, said the soldiers regularly used their loudhailer to insult the children: “It is as if they are saying; ‘we’re here, come and get us.’”
Sheihab Mohammed, a student, said the same insults had been flying on Tuesday: “They were using phases, like ‘sons of bitches, sons of whores’, that sort of thing,” he said.
Mr Shalesh said that in recent years the school had built the wall that now surrounds its yard in an attempt to drown out the soldiers’ taunts – usually delivered in Arabic, he said – and to stop the children moving down towards the fence during their breaktimes.
Budrus, about 35 kilometres north-west of Ramallah, has long been a centre for protest against the barrier built by the Israeli government in the early part of the last decade, ostensibly to stop suicide bombers from the West Bank.
If the clashes on Tuesday mirrored those of today, it appeared to be local children who were leading the charge. As about four or five teenagers approached the fence, younger children at the school cheered from the yard. And later two 4x4s arrived carrying what appeared to be members of the Palestinian security forces.
Samir’s 10-year-old brother Mahmoud said Samir and four of his friends had told the younger ones to stay away from the protest on Tuesday, which immediately followed the exam he and his friends had sat. Afterwards, students at the school claimed that IDF soldiers had crossed the fence and hidden in a trench on the Palestinian side, metres from the schoolyard. It is thought that Samir became trapped between these soldiers and those at the security fence, with some reports suggesting that he was arrested. He managed to escape, but was then shot. There was no evidence from the Palestinian side that Samir made any attempt to cross into Israel.
His family also accused the IDF of preventing them from getting to him immediately after the shooting, and that by the time he reached hospital in Ramallah 30 minutes later, he was close to death.
The IDF insisted it had issued the necessary warnings before opening fire. It said: "It should be noted that in the aforementioned area, there are daily occurrences of rock hurling at the security fence by Palestinians, which cause severe damage to the fence, hampering the IDF's ability to provide an envelope of security in the area."
Some in Israel fear the possibility of a third Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, and in the past week alone four Palestinians have been shot dead by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank. For Samir’s family, life will never be the same. But the clashes at the fence in Budrus suggest that, for the protesters and the IDF, it was back to business as usual.
EU urged to ban Israeli settlement products
Palestinian rights group has called on Europeans to sanction goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements.
Jillian Kestler-DAmours Last Modified: 14 Jan 2013 14:49
Israel forcibly evacuates 'tent city'
Israeli police have released several activists who were detained after setting up a camp to protest illegal settlements.
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2013 05:36
Israel evicts Palestinians from settlement site
Published at 12:01AM, January 14 2013
Palestinian activists who pitched tents at a strategic West Bank site in protest against a planned settlement were evicted yesterday by Israeli police.
Backed by bulldozers, hundreds of Israeli police surrounded the camp, which the Palestinian activists had named Bab al-Shams in honour of a Palestinian village that had once existed near the site.
Police said that about 200 activists were removed from the site and that no arrests were made.
Israeli wall isolates Palestinian communities
Social life and traditions in Palestinian towns have been badly ruptured by Israel's 450km separation barrier.
Jillian Kestler-DAmours Last Modified: 01 Jan 2013 13:24
Bir Nabala, occupied Palestinian territories - Shops are shuttered, and their signs are slowly rusting. Most apartment windows are broken, while those that remain in their frames are covered in dust. A single mechanic's garage is operating, though cars seldom drive through the area.
This neighbourhood once housed approximately 250 Palestinian families and dozens of bustling shops and businesses. Today, the streets of Bir Nabala are empty.
"Bir Nabala is destroyed. It's like a small prison," says local council leader Tawfiq Al Nabali, standing in front of Israel's grey, eight-metre-high separation barrier, and rows of empty apartment blocks.
Covered in graffiti and topped with barbed wire, the Israeli wall snakes around Bir Nabala, cutting off the once economically vibrant West Bank town from East Jerusalem, and making travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority government, much more difficult.
"They want to make our lives very hard and make us suffer in order to make us leave our lands," Al Nabali said from the local municipal offices, located just off the sole access road leading to and from Bir Nabala.
"The [Israeli] settlers are free to go anywhere, while we need permits to move. We can't reach Jerusalem. I don't like to go [to Jerusalem] anymore because I feel very sad."
Severe economic impact
Now in its tenth year of construction, Israel's separation barrier stretches almost 450km. In some places, it cuts deep into the occupied West Bank, excluding Palestinian communities and annexing land around illegal Israeli settlements.
When finished, Palestinian human rights group Al Haq estimates that 85 percent of the wall will have been built inside the West Bank and will annex an additional 530 square kilometres - equivalent to the area of the US city of Chicago - of Palestinian land into de facto Israeli territory.
Israel justifies the wall as a necessary measure to deter Palestinian violence and attacks against Israeli civilians. "The design, construction and operation of the security fence aim to balance the imperative to protect innocent lives from terror with the day-to-day needs of the local Israeli and Palestinian population," officials in the Israeli Ministry of Defence told Al Jazeera by e-mail.
Ministry officials explained that "terror has been reduced by over 90 percent" since the barrier was built. "To quote the American poet Robert Frost; good fences make good neighbours. If there were no security threats, there would be no need for fences," the Ministry said.
While the wall has been physically moved in certain areas as a result of legal petitions against its route, Israeli leaders have repeatedly stated that the barrier will eventually constitute a border and have alluded to its permanent nature.
"One does not have to be a genius to see that the fence will have implications for the future border. This is not the reason for its establishment, but it could have political implications," said Tzipi Livni in 2005, in her role as Israeli Justice Minister.
Today, as construction continues into its tenth year, dozens of Palestinian communities suffering in the wall’s shadow have been irreversibly damaged.
"The separation barrier almost completely destroyed the ties between business owners in the town and the other cities of the West Bank and Israel, as well as the connections to Bir Nabala enjoyed by East Jerusalem residents," Israeli human rights group B'Tselem found in a recent report titled "Arrested Development".
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (UN-OCHA) had a similar analysis: "The barrier has also cut off land and resources needed for Palestinian land and development, resulting in the curtailment of agricultural practice and the undermined [sic] of rural livelihoods throughout the West Bank," read a 2011 report.
"Free movement and access, as well as the ability to plan and develop communities, are vital to sustain livelihoods, reduce dependence on humanitarian assistance, and enable economic recovery."
The Ministry of Defence said the Israeli government has tried to minimise the wall's potential negative impact on the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.
"The Ministry of Defence works with the local population and the courts in order to limit the negative impact of the security fence on both the Israeli and the Palestinian civilian population. The matrix of civilian bonds and ties (economic, educational, medical, etc.) between Palestinian villages and cities has been thoroughly examined throughout the lengthy planning process," the Ministry said.
Changing Palestinian culture
But, ten years after construction began, the wall has had consequences on more than just the economy. Palestinian social structures and traditions have also been affected.
"It's a kind of shadow," said Dr Bihan Waimari, head of the psychology department at Birzeit University near Ramallah. "It's a reminder that the future is uncertain, and that the occupation is ongoing. Today there could be a checkpoint, and tomorrow not. But the wall is not easy to move. It's fixed."
Waimari said that, in separating Palestinian towns and villages from each other, the wall altered Palestinian society's close-knit family structure. "People are unable to visit relatives on the other side of the wall. It had a very big impact on the psychology of Palestinians. Social life stopped," she said.
The town of Al Ram - once a northeastern neighbourhood of Jerusalem, now sitting on the West Bank side of the wall - is a prime example of this phenomenon.
Originally, most residents of Al Ram held Jerusalem residency cards. To retain their rights in Jerusalem, Palestinians must prove that their "centre of life" is in the holy city. Fearing they would be stripped of their IDs, many families moved to the Jerusalem side of the wall shortly after construction began, leaving their homes in Al Ram.
"The wall here came to isolate the city from Jerusalem itself: at the economic level, at the real estate level, and for employment," explained Moaz Zatari, the general manager of Al Maqdese for Society Development, a Palestinian human rights group based in Al Ram, from his office overlooking the wall.
Zatari said that today, 70 percent of the city's 60,000 residents are not originally from Al Ram. The new residents come from other West Bank cities such as Hebron, Jenin and Nablus, and even from the Gaza Strip. This mix of people - many of whom were expelled from their hometowns for social reasons or for committing crimes, according to Zatari - has created major problems.
"It has [become] a main area for drug dealing. There have been also some areas of prostitution. The people don't care how it looks; there is no pride in the city because the people are not from here," Zatari said.
"It became a dormitory town. In the last elections, most people living here couldn't vote here because their official residence wasn't in Al Ram."
In 2004, John Dugard, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, compared Israel's permit system - which severely restricts Palestinian freedom of movement - to South African "pass laws" under apartheid.
"These [South African] pass laws were administered in a humiliating manner, but uniformly. Israel's laws governing freedom of movement are likewise administered in a humiliating manner, but they are characterised by arbitrariness and caprice," Dugard wrote at the time.
That same year, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) released an advisory opinion that Israel's separation barrier was illegal under international law. The court stated that Israel must cease building the wall, dismantle existing sections and offer compensation for damages incurred by its construction.
While the ICJ ruling isn't binding, human rights groups have reiterated the court's demands, and urged the international community to hold Israel accountable.
"If Israel wishes to build a physical obstacle between Israel and the West Bank, as a rule it must do so along the Green Line or within the sovereign territory of Israel. Even in that case, Israel must avoid building in such a way as to divide and isolate Palestinian communities," the B'Tselem report concluded.
For Bir Nabala council leader Tawfiq Al Nabali, a father of 12 and grandfather of almost 100, the ongoing challenges posed by the wall will never force his family or his neighbors to abandon their town.
"We feel injustice," the 78-year-old said. "But [the people] will live in Bir Nabala. They will not leave. This is their home."
Israeli army accused of being trigger-happy
Palestinians report increased use of live rounds after Israeli politicians called for greater force to quell protests.
Renee Lewis Last Modified: 23 Dec 2012 12:18
Israeli soldiers chase down protesters in a West Bank village and run straight into a barrage of rocks thrown by cheering Palestinians. The soldiers are forced to make a hasty retreat, all the while being pelted by stones.
Amateur video footage showing the incident earlier this month in the village of Kufr Qaddoum has prompted high-level Israeli politicians and military officials to call for wider use of live ammunition to quell such demonstrations in the occupied territories.
During a recent meeting of Israel's Ministerial Council, Eli Yishai, Israel's interior minister, and Shaul Mofaz, the head of the Kadima opposition party, both demanded that soldiers be allowed to use maximum force against threats from Palestinians - including live ammunition.
"A soldier operating in the field has the option to make the appropriate decision after evaluating the situation and the amount of danger he and his colleagues are facing, and that based on his personal evaluation, he can resort to the use of live ammunition," a senior Israeli military commander in the West Bank was quoted by Israel TV's Channel 7 as saying.
When asked about the use of deadly force, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman told Al Jazeera in an e-mail: "The rules of engagement have not changed."
Morad Shtiwi, the coordinator of weekly non-violent protests in Kufr Qaddoum, the village where the video of escaping Israeli soldiers was filmed, says the protest took place on December 7, shortly after the latest Israeli attack on Gaza.
Shtiwi says that Israeli politicians were embarrassed by the incident, and demanded soldiers be given permission to shoot live ammunition rather than run away.
"After this, we heard that the soldiers want to use live ammunition … so for the next week's demonstration we were very careful. We invited a lot of people - internationals, Israeli activists and the media - because we knew the Israeli soldiers would be angry," Shtiwi explains.
Another Israeli spokesman said regardless of statements made about the use of live ammunition, soldiers are obligated to follow an ethical code known as "The Spirit of the IDF".
"IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property," it reads.
But Abir Kopty, a member of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, says shooting at Palestinians with live ammunition is nothing new. "According to Israeli military law, every protest in the West Bank is considered illegal and it allows them to use what they call 'dispersal means' - this ranges from tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets to live ammunition."
Shooting in Hebron
Less than a week after Israeli politicians called for wider use of live ammunition, a teenager celebrating his 17th birthday, Muhammed Salaymah was gunned down at a checkpoint by Israeli police in the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank.
Security video of the incident posted by the Israeli daily Haaretz allegedly shows Salaymah attacking soldiers at the checkpoint before he is shot.
"They shot him directly with live ammunition. Usually they don't do this," says Issa Amro, a human rights coordinator in Hebron.
Amro says that recently he and other Hebron residents have noticed an increase in the use of live ammunition against demonstrators.
Beginning in the late 1960s, Israeli settlers began taking over buildings in the centre of Hebron's Old City. The settlements were accompanied by dozens of Israeli checkpoints stationed in the winding alleyways, as well as Israeli military and police forces on the ground and on rooftops.
Conflict between Israeli settlers, the Israeli military and Palestinian residents has been endemic since the settlers' arrival.
Despite this, Amro says residents in Hebron are not used to regularly hearing live ammunition being fired. Since Israeli politicians began talking about giving soldiers more freedom to use live bullets, they say they now hear it almost on a daily basis.
"After the killing of Salaymah, it was obvious they were shooting more live ammunition. They shot another teenage boy with three bullets while he was protesting the killing," Amro says.
"I see the soldiers being more violent, more aggressive towards the Palestinians - women, children, normal people - not only shooting live bullets but in the everyday treatment of the people."
He described how a journalist he knows was covering the protests following Salaymah's death when he was attacked by Israeli soldiers. The journalist was forced to take off his clothes as the soldiers beat him to the ground, pointed a gun in his face and told him they were going to shoot him - then shot in the air. Two journalists from Reuters were given the same treatment.
"The Israeli soldiers are working against any voice who wants to speak out against the violence and the occupation in the West Bank," Amro says.
Kopty says in addition to the killing of Salaymah in Hebron, two other protesters were killed during West Bank protests against the war in Gaza: Hamdi Falah from Hebron and Rushdi Tamimi from Nabi Salah.
"About 10 more protesters suffered injuries from live ammunition in addition to dozens of injuries from rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters shot directly at protesters," Kopty tells Al Jazeera.
Using live ammunition
In another West Bank village that organises weekly, nonviolent protests, Manal Tamimi - a member of the resistance movement - also says she has seen an increase in the use of live ammunition recently.
"Since the Gaza war they began to use more live bullets than ever … and after the protest in Kufr Qaddoum [an Israeli military official] said these soldiers' lives are in danger and they have to protect themselves. He gave the order to Israeli soldiers to use live ammunition," Tamimi says.
Just two days before the war in Gaza ended, her 30-year-old cousin Rushdi Tamimi was shot at a protest with a rubber-coated steel bullet, and died of his wounds two days later, says Tamimi.
"Like Muhammed Salaymah in Hebron, my cousin didn't do anything to the soldiers … he didn't cause any threat to the soldiers' lives," Tamimi says.
"He couldn't escape because of the injury … One soldier ran towards him and shouted at him. Then when he was very close, he shot Rushdi again in the torso with live ammunition at point blank," Tamimi says. A video posted to YouTube purports to show the shooting.
"He screamed, then the soldier hit him in the head with his gun, and he was bleeding from his head. He died later in the hospital."
Manal Tamimi says Israeli soldiers have been shooting live ammunition almost from the beginning of the protests - whereas before they fired teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets before resorting to live ammunition.
Since the end of the last Palestinian revolt, live ammunition has not frequently been used at protests.
Amro says he believes Israeli politicians are creating an environment of hatred and vengefulness against Palestinians, and this is spurring the soldiers to shoot more live rounds.
"They didn't manage to destroy Gaza and get out all of their aggression, so they are taking it out on the West Bank people," Amro says. "They want to teach the Palestinians a lesson that they are not free ... They don't want us to have freedom of expression - we have nothing now."
Israel approves another 1,200 settlement units around Jerusalem
Plan brings total approvals to 5,500 in just over a week as right urges Binyamin Netanyahu to drop two-state solution pledge
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 25 December 2012 13.41 GMT
Israel has given the green light for the fast-track development of a further 1,200 settlement units around Jerusalem. It brings the total number of new approvals to 5,500 in just over a week, the largest wave of proposed expansion in recent memory.
The latest plan, which would see almost 1,000 new apartments built over Jerusalem's green line in Gilo, comes as the Israeli media is reporting mounting pressure on the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to drop his commitment to a two-state solution from his platform for re-election in January.
The agreement for the Gilo development is only the latest in wave of settlement approvals in Jerusalem agreed by the country's interior ministry and Jerusalem municipality's planning committees before Christmas.
That included proposals, which attracted international criticism, to develop the controversial E1 block to the east of Jerusalem.
Although Netanyahu, who leads a coalition with the ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman, is still expected to win the most seats in the 22 January vote, a new poll suggests he has been losing ground since Lieberman was indicted on anti-trust charges this month and forced to step down as foreign minister.
A poll conducted by Dialog gives 35 of parliament's 120 seats to Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu list, down from 39 in the previous Dialog survey. The centrist Labor party polled second, with 17 seats.
The poll shows a continued surge by the rightwing Jewish Home party. Its leader, Naftali Bennett, stirred up a storm last week by saying he would resist evacuating settlements if ordered to do so as a reserves soldier.
The issue of Israel's illegal settlements has come to be a lightning-rod issue in the elections, even as Israel has faced mounting pressure to halt settlement expansion.
The latest wave of approvals followed a vote in the UN's general assembly to upgrade the Palestinian Authority to observer status at the United Nations despite US and Israeli opposition.
With some critics of Israeli settlement policy arguing that the latest approvals mark the death knell for the two-state solution, it has emerged that some members of Netanyahu's own party are also pushing for him to remove his commitment to a future Palestinian state from his election platform.
Netanyahu signed up to the two-state solution in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University, but senior officials from his party, who spoke anonymously to Haaretz, told the paper he was facing increasing pressure to abandon that position.
"Dividing the land will bring about Israel's destruction," one senior Likud official told the newspaper. "We've said that in the past and we say it today. How does this sit with recognising a Palestinian state?"
A second senior party official added: "Likud's platform to date has not recognised the establishment of a Palestinian state, and Yisrael Beiteinu rejects outright the possibility that a Palestinian state could be established alongside Israel."