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Palestinian prisoners ready for mass hunger strike

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Elderly woman sits amongst crowd holding posters of Palestinian prisoners

Um Ibrahim (center) is a constant present at the weekly sit-in at the Red Cross office in Gaza City.

Nearly two hundred Palestinian administrative detainees, held indefinitely without charge or trial on Israeli military court orders, have announced plans to launch a mass hunger strikefor their freedom this Thursday.

The news came as demonstrations across Palestine and events worldwide commemorated the 40th annual Palestinian Prisoners’ Day

Thousands marched from an exhibition at Saraya square, the former site of Israel’s Gaza central prison, to rally outside the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Gaza office.

After the demonstrations, Ibrahim Baroud, freed from Israeli captivity a year ago, spoke with The Electronic Intifada at his home in the northern Gaza Strip’s Jabaliya refugee camp.

Among hundreds of thousands of former Palestinian prisoners in the Gaza Strip, Baroud is notable not only because of his 27-year detention, which makes him one of the longest-held Palestinians, but also because of his mother’s efforts during his absence.

In 1995, nine years after her son’s capture by Israeli forces, Ghalia — also known as Um Ibrahim — held a sit-in at the courtyard of the International Committee of the Red Cross office with Handoumeh Wishah, or Um Jaber, who had four sons in prison at the time.

Initially small, their presence persisted week after week, year after year, persevering through political transitions and military offensives, and growing into the core of prisoner support activities in Gaza. The sit-ins have now become a local focus of political unity.

Women protest

Over the years, Um Ibrahim led women from the courtyard in a series of protests, many of them confrontational, to highlight the prisoners’ issue. These ranged from disrupting Palestinian Authority Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Al Qidwa with a fiery speech in 2005 to pelting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s convoy with shoes and stones as he entered the Gaza Strip in 2012.

The sit-ins continue today as relatives and supporters of prisoners, many of them mothers and wives of detainees, pack the Red Cross courtyard every Monday morning. Their numbers swell with efforts to free prisoners — whether through political negotiations, hunger strikes or prisoner exchanges — or offenses against them by the Israeli Prison Service.

Um Ibrahim remains a constant presence, sitting in the front row and often leading the crowd in chants.

“Prisoners were never mentioned in the Oslo accords,” Ibrahim Baroud said Saturday, referring to the peace agreement signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization twenty years ago. “This was a disappointment to us, and a failure of the Palestinian leadership.”

Now 51, Ibrahim, a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, was freed on 8 April 2013 after completing an Israeli military court’s 27-year sentence for armed resistance to the occupation.

“According to the Geneva conventions, when a conflict ends, the first thing that should happen is the release of prisoners by both sides,” he said.

“In the prisons, we knew this, so we expected to be freed. How can a leader leave his soldiers in the prisons of the enemy?”

Sit-ins and strikes

The exclusion of the rights of prisoners from the Oslo accords sparked a rise in activities to support them, including the launch of the sit-ins in 1995, he said.

Additionally, Israeli forces had blocked his mother from visiting him earlier that year, Ma’an News Agency reported in 2010.

The prohibition, which cited unspecified “security concerns,” ended only after the massKarameh (“Dignity”) hunger strike in 2012.

To settle the strike, Israel agreed to allow the resumption of prison visits by families of Palestinian prisoners from the Gaza Strip, all of them banned for more than six years.

Man wearing military fatigues waves as he is carried by crowd bearing guns and flags

Ibrahim Baroud celebrates his release from Israeli prison upon his arrival to Gaza, 8 April 2013.

“Me and my fellow prisoners would follow the sit-ins every Monday,” Baroud said. “We would watch for our families on television.”

“The sit-in was a tool for communication between prisoners and our families, especially during the six years we were deprived of seeing them.”

Because of his mother’s long absence, he said, “I was more curious than the others to see her.”

Baroud’s father died three years before his release, during the ban on visits from the Gaza Strip.

“Of course I am sad”

Since the implementation of the Karameh agreement in 2012, irregular prison visits by Gaza families have resumed, although some individual security bans remain and Israel continues to prohibit children older than sixteen from visiting their detained parents.

As Baroud spoke on Saturday, activities to mark Prisoners’ Day, which had begun several weeks earlier, continued across the Gaza Strip.

Blocks away, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular Marxist-Leninist political party, held a boisterous wedding party for Omar Massoud, a former prisoner freed on 30 October after 21 years of detention.

Massoud, a fighter for the PFLP’s Red Eagle armed wing, was freed in the second group of veteran prisoners which Israel promised to release at the start of its recent negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

By 29 March, when the fourth group was scheduled for release, Israel announced that it would not free them without a Palestinian agreement to extend the talks a further six months.

“They delayed his release for the fifth time,” Najat al-Agha, a prisoners’ mother also known as Um Diyaa, said Saturday at her home in the southern Gaza Strip’s Khan Younis refugee camp.

First, she said, her eldest son Diyaa al-Agha was omitted from the 2011 exchange of 1,027 captive Palestinians for an Israeli soldier held by the Hamas movement’s Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, after initial reports of his inclusion.

“Then he was supposed to be freed in each of the four batches” of the recent release, she said.

Um Diyaa is a constant presence alongside Um Ibrahim at the Red Cross.

Her son Diyaa, a Fatah fighter sentenced to life by a military court for assassinating an Israeli officer at a Gaza Strip settlement in 1992, is held with his brother Muhammed in the same section of Nafha prison.

“Of course I am sad,” Um Diyaa said. “But I still have hope for his release. I always sit by the telephone, waiting for a call to relieve me with an answer.”

Israel reneges agreement

Israel’s failure to release Diyaa al-Agha and 25 others marks the second time it has reneged on a commitment to free many of the same prisoners. The 1999 Sharm el-Shaikh Memorandum with the Palestine Liberation Organization stipulates that Israel must release Palestinian prisoners arrested for offenses prior to 13 September 1993 and arrested prior to 4 May 1994.

On 28 July, the Israeli cabinet committed to releasing all remaining pre-Oslo prisoners in four stages, in exchange for the Palestine Liberation Organization refraining from recourse to UN or other international bodies, such as membership and litigation at the International Criminal Court, for the nine-month duration of the current negotiations, Israeli website +972reported.

The Israeli government’s breach of last year’s agreement to release prisoners even met criticism from officials of the United States, which had brokered it. Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reported US negotiators “expressly calling the decision a violation of the original deal” in exchanges with their Israeli counterparts (“US: No Palestinian prisoner release is violation of terms of talks,” 29 March 2014).

“This is an Israeli obligation,” Ibrahim said. “The prisoners we are talking about, those of us captured before Oslo, should have been freed twenty years ago.”

But, he adds, many prisoners had lost faith in a negotiating process reliant on Israeli assurances by the 1999 Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, and held little hope for their release under its terms.

“We knew about Israeli tricks, and that they would not free all the prisoners they promised,” Baroud added.

Like Omar Massoud, Baroud recently married, on 15 March. And like his mother, he often attends events to support prisoners.

According to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Israel held 5,224 Palestinian political prisoners on 1 March. They include 183 administrative detainees, 210 children, 11 Palestinian legislators and 21 women.

“I cannot say these activities are sufficient,” Baroud said of events to support them on Prisoners’ Day and during the rest of the year.

“They have to be wider and stronger than this. They do not equal the sacrifice of the prisoners, who paid a high price for their cause … But even if the level of these activities is not as high as prisoners expect, they still have a positive impact on the prisoners.”

“Prisoners are waiting”

Efforts to free prisoners must encompass a range of strategies, he said.

“The political and military attempts to free the prisoners should coincide. Whoever wins the battle, it will be good for the prisoners. But the work must be done by all.”

Multiple parties share this duty, he added.

“Many prisoners are counting on the resistance to free them. The resistance has a major responsibility for the prisoners. We saw an example of this in the Shalit exchange [in 2011].

“Prisoners are waiting for the Palestinian leadership to do their duty, whether in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, and whether the Palestinian Authority or the factions.”

On Saturday, Al-Monitor reports, the PLO’s Central Council will meet in Ramallah to decide its response to Israel’s refusal to free Diyaa el-Agha and 25 others on 29 March.

Meanwhile, on Prisoners’ Day the Hamas movement renewed its commitment to armed struggle for the release of prisoners, as did the PFLP and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

“We confirm that the struggle will continue until the liberation of the whole land of Palestine, until the liberation of every single prisoner, and as long Israel practices this policy against our prisoners of using them as a card for pressure and a method of political blackmail,” Palestinian Islamic Jihad spokesperson Dawood Shehab told The Electronic Intifada.

“This obliges us as Palestinians to use all methods and options in order to liberate our prisoners,” he added.

Inside the prisons, plans for protest actions, like the administrative detainees’ hunger strike planned for Thursday, continue.

These differing approaches reflect the broad support the prisoners’ movement enjoys across the geographic and political divisions of Palestinian society, Baroud said.

“The issue of detainees is the one that could explode the situation here.”

That support will also continue to be reflected in the banners, flags and signs — yellow, green, black, red, representing the different Palestinian political streams — that fill the Red Cross courtyard every Monday morning.

(Source / 22.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 22, 2014 at 9:55 pm

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Soldiers Kidnap Several Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza

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Clashes in Nablus

[Monday, April 21, 2014] Israeli soldiers invaded various Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank, broke into and searched homes, and kidnapped several Palestinians.

File - Radio Bethlehem 2000

Local sources in Bethlehem have reported that several Israeli military vehicles invaded Teqoua’ town, east of Bethlehem, kidnapping one Palestinian after violently searching his home.

The Palestinian News & Info Agency (WAFA) said the army kidnapped Mohammad Salim Sabah, 22, and took him to an unknown destination.

Soldiers also broke into the home of Nayef Hussein Mousa, on the main road of the town where a number of schools are located, and used its rooftop as a motoring tower.

Head of the Teqoua’ town council, Hatem Sabah, said the army installed cameras, and used binoculars to monitor the movement of the residents.

Furthermore, soldiers invaded the al-Borj village, south of the southern West Bank city of Hebron, broke into a home and searched it, and kidnapped one Palestinian identified as Fawzi Talahma.

Several military jeeps also invaded the Sammoa’ town, south of Hebron, searched a number of homes, and handed a lawyer identified as Ala’ Maraqa, a warrant to head to the Etzion military base for interrogation.

In addition, soldiers installed a roadblock in the Beit Einoun area, northeast of Hebron, stopped and searched dozens of Palestinian cars and investigated the ID cards of the passengers.

In Hebron city, soldiers invaded the home of Abdul-‘Alim Dana, a political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and kidnapped his son Bashar, 27.

Army further invaded the al-Borj village, southwest of Hebron, and kidnapped a Palestinian police officer.
Local sources said the soldiers kidnapped Officer Fawzi Talahma, 37, after searching his home, and taking him to an unknown destination.

Soldiers also broke into a number of stores, in Ithna town, west of Hebron, and confiscated tapes from their surveillance cameras.

Local sources said dozens of soldiers invaded Halhoul, As-Sammoa’ and ath-Thaheriyya towns, near Hebron, and drove in their streets before withdrawing from the area.

In Jenin, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank, a number of armored Israeli military jeeps invaded the Jenin refugee camp, kidnapped one Palestinian and handed his brother a warrant for interrogation.

WAFA said the soldiers kidnapped kidnaped Tareq Ali Sa’dy, after searching and ransacking his home, and handed his brother, Tareq, a military warrant ordering him to head to the Salem military base for interrogation.

Another resident, identified as Sa’id Sobhy Bargheesh, was handed a similar order after the soldiers invaded his home.

On Sunday evening, soldiers invaded the Saff Street, in Bethlehem, and kidnapped Mousa Ya’coub Sa’id, 30, after searching his home.

Over 35 Palestinians suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation, late Monday, after Israeli forces raided a Nablus-area village, according to a local official.

Qais Awwad, head of the joint services council in southern Nablus, told Ma’an that clashes broke out in the village of Awarta after several Israeli military jeeps entered the area.

Palestinian youth threw stones and Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades, Awwad said.

More than 10 people, including three children and a woman, were taken to National Hospital in Nablus for treatment, he added.

An Israeli army spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Also on Monday, police took into their custody two from the Gaza Strip, Gaza’s police department said in a statement. The statement said one fugitive was arrested after police raided a house where he was hiding in Gaza City.

Another was taken from the al-Tuffah neighborhood of the city.

Separately, the statement said police arrested a man who had a grenade in his possession near the beach west of Gaza City.

No further details were provided.

(Source / 21.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 21, 2014 at 9:21 pm

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Israel cracks down on Palestine vendors

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Israel has launched a crackdown on Palestinian vendors in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) as part of what it calls the “Judaize Jerusalem” campaign.

Jerusalem City Councilor Arieh King has taken credit for the action, calling it part of Israel’s plan to “Judaize Jerusalem.”

King, who is the head of the right-wing United Jerusalem party, has on his Facebook page thanked the municipal authority for confiscating dozens of Palestinian bread stalls near the Old City’s Jaffa Gate.

 “We promised to deal with the Judaization of Jerusalem, and we are trying to meet our obligations to our voters,” he wrote in a Facebook statement.

He said that the move had also to do with leavened products Jews traditionally forgo during the weeklong Passover.

However, a municipality official has denied King’s claims, saying the stalls were confiscated for licensing issues.

Israel has long been accused of plotting to Judaize East al-Quds especially the al-Aqsa Mosque complex there.

Over the past decades, Israel has tried to change the demographic makeup of al-Quds by constructing illegal settlements, destroying historical sites and expelling the local Palestinian population.

The Tel Aviv regime has increased its illegal settlement expansion following an upgrade of Palestine’s status at the UN to a non-member observer state on November 29, 2012.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East al-Quds. The international community considers the settlements illegal.

The United Nations and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because the territories were captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

(Source / 21.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 21, 2014 at 9:18 pm

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Dozens hurt from tear gas as Israeli forces raid Nablus village

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NABLUS (Ma’an) — Over 35 Palestinians suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation late Monday after Israeli forces raided a Nablus-area village, a local official said.

Qais Awwad, head of the joint services council in southern Nablus, told Ma’an that clashes broke out in the village of Awarta after several Israeli military jeeps entered the area.

Palestinian youths threw stones and Israeli forces fired tear gas and stun grenades, Awwad said.

More than 10 people, including three children and a woman, were taken to National Hospital in Nablus for treatment, he added.

An Israeli army spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

(Source / 21.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 21, 2014 at 8:07 pm

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Israel denies PLO official entry to Gaza via Erez

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GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti has been denied a permit to the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing, a PLO official said Monday.

PLO Executive Committee member Jamil Shehada told Ma’an that Israel rejected Barghouti’s application for a permit to enter Gaza, where he intends to travel as a member of a delegation to discuss national reconciliation.

Shehada said the delegation would travel to Gaza via Egypt if necessary.

A member of the PLO delegation told Ma’an Sunday that the visit to Gaza is part of an effort to implement reconciliation agreements reached with Hamas in 2012.

The delegation consists of Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad, Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party Bassam al-Salhi, businessman Munib al-Masri, Barghouthi, and Shehada.

The division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2006, when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

The groups have made failed attempts at national reconciliation for years, most recently in 2012, when they signed two agreements — one in Cairo and a subsequent one in Doha — which have as of yet been entirely unimplemented.

(Source / 21.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm

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Israeli airstrikes target central Gaza Strip

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Smoke rises following an Israeli strike on Rafah town, in the southern Gaza Strip on April 21, 2014, hours after militants in the Gaza Strip fired seven rockets into Israel causing no casualties

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israel launched several airstrikes on the central Gaza Strip on Monday, injuring two people, Hamas said in a statement.

Gaza’s Ministry of Interior said Israeli warplanes targeted a security facility in the al-Nuseirat refugee camp, injuring two security officers.

Another airstrike hit a nearby livestock farm, causing material damage but no injuries, while a third strike targeted an open area in Deir al-Balah.

Israeli warplanes also struck a target in Khan Younis, the ministry said.

Israel’s military said in a statement that “a short while ago, IAF aircraft targeted two terror activity sites in the southern Gaza Strip and a third site in the central Gaza Strip, in response to the latest severe aggression emanating from Gaza. Direct hits were confirmed.”

Earlier, seven rockets fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel.

An anti-tank missile was also fired at Israeli soldiers patrolling a border area in the southern Gaza Strip, a spokesman said, with no reports of injuries or damage.

No group in Gaza has claimed responsibility for firing the rockets.

Although Hamas — which runs the Gaza Strip — and Israel have maintained a fragile ceasefire since Nov. 2012, militant groups in the besieged Palestinian coastal enclave frequently launch rockets into Israel.

The majority of these attacks, which primarily involve homemade projectiles, land harmlessly in open areas across southern Israel.

Israel has maintained a severe economic blockade on the Gaza Strip’s 1.7 million residents since 2006.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.

(Source / 21.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 21, 2014 at 3:50 pm

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Israeli forces storm Aqsa compound, dozens injured and detained

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A young Palestinian woman shouts at the entrance of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 20, 2014

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Dozens of Palestinian worshipers were wounded and dozens were detained after clashes broke in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on Sunday morning with Israeli forces who had stormed the courtyards firing stun grenades and rubber-coated bullets.

The raid comes amid frequent clashes in recent days after right-wing Jewish groups urged Jews to flock to the compound — which they believe is the site of a former Jewish temple — and conduct Passover rituals inside.

Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Omar Kiswani told Ma’an that more than 400 police officers stormed the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Mosque through the Moroccan Gate and the Chain Gate escorting extremist Jews other Jewish visitors into the compound.

Israeli forces, Kiswani said, “besieged” worshipers in the southern mosque “attacking them with clubs and pepper spray,” after clashes broke out with Palestinian worshipers in the compound.

Dozens of Palestinians sustained injuries during the assault, while several others suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation. Twenty-five young men were reportedly detained by Israeli forces.

Kiswani said that Likud member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin had also entered the compound during the raid, accompanied by special security units. Feiglin has visited the site frequently in recent months, and he has vocally supported the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the compound.

Earlier on Sunday morning, clashes erupted outside the Lions’ Gate (Bab al-Asbat) and Gate of Remission (Bab al-Hutta) of the Al-Aqsa compound when Israeli police denied hundreds of worshippers access to the compound.

Witnesses said that Israeli officers had denied all Palestinian residents of Jerusalem under the age of 60 access to the compound, including students who attend schools inside. Men and women were also attacked with clubs and pepper spray, witnesses said.

Israeli forces detained a young man after he was beaten brutally.

Israeli police spokesman said in a statement that police had detained 16 Palestinian “rioters,” adding that they were all detained “as they threw stones/blocks at officers at the scene this morning.”

He also said that two police officers lightly injured in the clashes, which broke out after the Palestinians threw stones as “tourists visited.”

About 100 Muslim worshipers have decided to stay inside the compound day and night throughout Passover after right-wing Jewish organizations called for Jewish worshipers to enter the area en masse for religious festivities.

Because of the sensitive nature of the Al-Aqsa compound, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust that controls it to not allow non-Muslim prayers in the area. Israeli forces regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, leading to tension with Palestinian worshipers.

The compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam.

It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Al-Aqsa is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognized Palestinian territories that have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 20.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 20, 2014 at 9:00 pm

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Israeli forces set up military base in Palestinian home

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BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces in the Bethlehem district on Sunday set up a military base on the roof of a Palestinian house, a Ma’an reporter said.

In the village of Tuqu southeast of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers climbed to the rooftop of a house belonging to Nayef Hussein Moussa.

The soldiers stationed machine guns on the roof and installed cameras to monitor the movement of Palestinians on a road that connects Jerusalem to illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron.

Tuqu’s municipality condemned the Israeli move, calling on the Palestinian military liaison office to intervene.

An Israeli army spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 20.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 20, 2014 at 5:02 pm

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Israeli army arrests citizens, raids homes in W. Bank

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WEST BANK, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation army on Sunday launched a campaign of arrests and raids in different West Bank areas.

Local sources said that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed Deir Samit village and kidnapped a Palestinian citizen from his home.

In Jenin, the IOF raided several Palestinian homes in its refugee camp and the towns of Yabad, Silat Al-Harthiya and Yamoun.

Local sources in Jenin refugee camp told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that special Israeli forces wearing civilian clothing kidnapped two young men identified as Mohamed Hasri, 19, and Saad Abu Satour, 20, from their homes in the camp.

The IOF also raided the house of prisoner Karim Hasanat, who has been in detention for 10 years, and handed his family a summons for him from the Israeli intelligence.

The family of the prisoner failed to convince the Israeli soldiers that its son is already in an Israeli jail, according to local sources.

Several homes in Doheisheh refugee camp, south of Bethlehem, were raided as well by the IOF. Ex-detainee Abdul-Qader Zagari was handed a summons from the intelligence during the campaign in the camp.

Violent clashes broke out between young men from Doheisheh camp and the invading troops.

In an earlier incident, three young men were taken prisoners during an overnight campaign in Turmus’ayya town near Ramallah on Saturday.

Israeli media sources, for their part, claimed that three young men were members of a Palestinian “gang” who had launched systematic stone attacks on Israeli settlers’ cars on the main road in Turmus’ayya between Ramallah and Nablus cities.

(Source / 20.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 20, 2014 at 4:45 pm

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Jewish settlers chop down more than 100 olive trees

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RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Jewish settlers used hand saws and other sharp tools to chop down more than 100 olive trees in Ras Karkar village to the north west of Ramallah on Sunday.

Eyewitnesses said that the settlers claimed that they cut the trees because they owned the land that was confiscated to be their own property.

They added that the settlers were routinely attacking lands in Ras Karkar and other nearby villages at the pretext that they owned the land and that it was annexed to their settlement.

(Source / 20.04.2014)

Written by altahrir

April 20, 2014 at 4:21 pm

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