17-year-old Palestinian Eiman–free at last!


AN Israeli court in Jerusalem made a decision on Sunday to release the teenage daughter of Misbah Abu Sbeih, who was killed by Israeli forces after he shot and killed two Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem last week.

Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud of prisoners’ rights group Addameer said that 17-year-old Eiman Abu Sbeih would be released on multiple conditions, including that she be banned from entering occupied East Jerusalem, where she is from, for two months.

She was also barred from speaking to the media and from using social media for one month. The family was also required to pay a bail of 2,500 shekels ($654) upon her release. Eiman was detained last Monday, a day after a video of her praising her father”s actions went viral on social media.

‘We deem my father as martyr,’ she said in the video. ‘We hope he will plead for us before God on judgment day… I am proud of what my father did.’ Eiman said in the video that on the day of the shooting, she performed dawn prayers with her father before bidding him farewell, as she and her family were expecting him to turn himself in to Israeli authorities regarding a warrant for his arrest.

‘I asked if he wanted me to visit him in prison, and he replied: “Take care of your prayers and your studies, and I wish that you excel in your studies”,’ she recalled in the video.

The decision to release Eiman came one day after Israeli forces detained her 18-year-old brother Sbeih at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Sbeih’s twin brother brother Izz al-Din remained in Israeli custody, after a court decided on Friday to extend his detention until Thursday. Meanwhile, Abu Sbieh’s father, brothers, and uncles have all been summoned for detention at different points over the past week.

The Abu Sbeih family have been the victims of a larger campaign on part of Israeli authorities targeting Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the wake of the shooting. Israeli forces raided a ‘mourning tent’ in Hebron on Friday, dedicated to Abu Sbeih’s memory. Witnesses said that Israeli soldiers ripped down pictures of Abu Sbeih and placards decorated with political slogans before leaving the area.

Israeli forces have carried out violent raids in the occupied West Bank town of al-Ram, where Abu Sbeih was forced to move with his family after Israeli authorities banned him from East Jerusalem earlier this month.

During one raid, Israeli soldiers rounded up all family members in one room at gunpoint and did not allow them to talk or move. Israeli forces also took measurements of his family’s home in what was likely in preparation to punitively demolish it, and the family said that Israeli soldiers threatened to revoke their Jerusalem residency IDs.

Israeli authorities have also launched massive detention campaigns and heightened security measures throughout occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, coinciding with already stringent measures imposed on the occasion of a string of Jewish holidays that has seen all passage between Israel and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip suspended.

Recent violent raids have prompted clashes with Palestinian youths, leading to 20-year-old Ali Atef Shuyukhi being shot to death by Israeli soldiers last week, making him the 233rd Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces after a wave of violence erupted last year across the Palestinian territory and Israel.

A 16-year-old Palestinian was also critically injured after being shot in the head with a live bullet during clashes in al-Jalazone refugee camp on Saturday evening, which saw 19 other Palestinians injured as they marched to commemorate the anniversary of the killing of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy by Israeli forces last year.

Israeli authorities have come under repeated criticism for their response to attacks, which routinely include carrying out large scale detention raids, limiting the freedom of mobility of Palestinians.

Their actions have been condemned by rights groups, who have said the measures amount to ‘collective punishment’ and ‘court-sanctioned revenge,’ and represent a clear violation of international law.

• Israeli human rights group B’Tselem fired back at Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu after he accused the group of ‘spreading lies’ about Israel, vowing to continue its work towards ending Israel’s nearly 50-year-long illegal occupation of the Palestinian territory.

B’Tselem’s statement came after Netanyahu said on Saturday evening on social media that he would act to prohibit national service volunteers from working with B’Tselem.

The group in response told Israeli media it was only allotted one such volunteer, and that the position was not currently filled by anyone.

B’Tselem was targeted by Netanyahu after its executive director, Hagai El-Ad, spoke before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday regarding illegal Israeli settlement expansion.

‘Israel has systematically legalised human rights violations in the occupied territories through the establishment of permanent settlements, punitive home demolitions, a biased building and planning mechanism, taking over Palestinian land and much, much more,’ El-Ad said, adding that 2016 was the worst year on record for the demolition of Palestinian homes.

In response, Netanyahu said he would move to prevent national service volunteers from working at the organisation, and claimed that ‘the UN, and the so-called peace groups’ that addressed the UNSC were ‘denying Jews our rights, spreading lies, and distorting history to recognise and condemn the actual barriers to peace.’

While the some 196 Israeli settlements in the occupied territory are considered illegal under international law, Netanyahu said that the UN’s stance against settlements ‘only makes sense if you ignore thousands of years of Jewish history’ and if ‘you accept the anti-Semitic Palestinian demand for a state free of Jews as somehow essential for peace.’

He went on to reiterate a previous claim arguing that since ‘over a million and a half Arabs live in Israel as full citizens,’ then Jews residing in the West Bank’s illegal settlements could not be considered an obstacle to peace.

The last time Netanyahu made this comparison, Israeli parliament member Ayman Odeh said it was ‘an absurd equation between a native minority that has lived on this land for generations – a people on whose backs the state of Israel was founded – to the settlers, who moved into an occupied territory against international law and ignoring and violating the rights of the people of the West Bank and Gaza.’

Netanyahu insisted that ‘the real barrier to peace is not the settlements but the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognise a Jewish state in any boundaries,’ in spite of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) recognition of a state in Israel in 1993.

B’Tselem fired back in a statement Sunday morning, denouncing Netanyahu for ‘slander,’ and vowed that the prime minister’s comments would not deter the organisation’s work ‘nor the hundreds of thousands in Israel who oppose the occupation. We will continue saying the truth in Israel and abroad: the occupation must end.’

‘Contrary to the complete overlap the Prime Minister establishes between the occupation and Israel, we insist on saying loud and clear: the occupation is not Israel, and resisting it is not anti-Israel.’

‘The opposite is true,’ the statement read, highlighting that critics of the occupation, such as the US, France, and the UK, were also Israel’s greatest allies. Netayahu’s criticism of the UN came after he expressed outrage over the adoption of a draft resolution by UNESCO last week, as he has claimed that the UN agency had ‘denied the over 3,000 year old connection between the Jewish people and its holiest site in Jerusalem.’

While the resolution did not reject Jewish ties to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound outright, it was highly critical of Israeli policies in and around the site and referred to it only by its Islamic name (Al-Aqsa, or Haram al-Sharif), and did not mention its Jewish name (Temple Mount).

Netanyahu did not release a comment responding to any of the actual criticisms presented by the UNESCO resolution. In an op-ed published by Israeli newspaper Haaretz later on Sunday, El-Ad expanded on B’Tselem’s statement, defending his presentation to the UNSC and his criticism of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.

‘What are the Palestinians supposed to do? If they dare demonstrate, it’s popular terror. If they call for sanctions, it’s economic terror. If they pursue legal means, it’s judicial terror. If they turn to the United Nations, it’s diplomatic terror. There is no chance Israeli society, of its own volition and without any help, will end the nightmare,’ he argued. ‘In the end, I’m sure, Israelis and Palestinians will end the occupation, but we won’t do it without the world’s help.

‘Our decision to control their lives, as much as it suits us, is an expression of violence, not democracy. Israel has no legitimate option to continue this way. And the world has no option to continue treating us as it has so far – all talk and no action.’

• Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday for a second consecutive day, according to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) General Administration of Crossings and Borders.

Egypt had opened the crossing going both directions on Saturday for humanitarian cases and ‘stranded people.’ The PA said in a statement Sunday that 783 Gazans were able to leave the coastal enclave via the crossing since it opened on Saturday morning. Among those who travelled Saturday were 11 patients who were transported in ambulances for medical treatment abroad.

The statement added that Egyptian authorities notified the PA that the border crossing would be closed on Monday and Tuesday, and subsequently reopened Wednesday through Saturday.

Egypt has upheld an Israeli military blockade on the Gaza Strip for the majority of the past three years, since the ousting of former President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 and the rise to power of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt.

While the Egyptian border has remained the main lifeline for Gazans to the outside world, Egyptian authorities have slowly sealed off movement through the border since Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army.

Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many Gazans are commonly barred from leaving or entering the besieged coastal enclave, some for months at a time, as the crossing is only periodically opened by Egyptian authorities, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures.

In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. The crossing has been reopened on a more regular basis since the beginning of 2016. The near decade-long Israeli blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into extreme poverty, and some of the highest unemployment rates in the world.

Gaza’s infrastructure has yet to recover from the devastation of three Israeli offensives over the past six years. The slow and sometimes stagnant reconstruction of the besieged coastal enclave has only been worsened by the blockade, leading the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020.