24 hours in occupied Palestine!

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WEDNESDAY began with a horrendous ordeal for one man of the Dawabsha family in Dura village near Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank.

Muhammad Fayiq Dawabsha heard a blast in his house at around 3am. It was the sound of what was later discovered to be a ‘very highly flammable material’, possibly a Molotov cocktail, being thrown into his house. One can only imagine the fear in Muhammad Dawabsha’s mind as he realised that his house was on fire, for members of his family had been the victims of arson before.

On the night of July 31st 2015, an Israeli settler, Amiram Ben-Uliel, entered Dura village and firebombed two houses in the village. Sa’ed Dawabsha, 32, his wife Reham Dawabsha, 26, and their child Ali Dawabsha, 1, died in the attack. Ahmad Dawabsha, 4, was the only survivor with 60% burns to his body.

The shocking murder, particularly of the baby Ali, caused outrage in Palestine, even amongst some sections of the Israeli public, and all around the world. The murder of the Dawabsha family was one of the contributing factors, as well as repeated violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, that led to the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising weeks later, which some have called a Third Intifada.

Luckily, no one was harmed when Muhammad Dawabsha’s house was burnt, with the people of Dura village working to put the flames as the fire crews arrived from Nablus. Palestinian civil defence investigators could not find any electrical fault or other cause of the fire, leading many to suspect that another attack from Israeli settlers on the Dawabsha family had just taken place.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official monitoring settlement-related activities in the northern West Bank, said that ‘settlers were the main suspects in the apparent arson attack.’ There are twelve established illegal Israeli settlements and a further 37 ‘outposts’ (ad hoc Israeli settlements which are illegal even under Israeli law) around the Nablus region of the West Bank, and attacks on Palestinian people and property in the region is common.

There have been three arson attacks in the last twelve months in Dura village.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there have been 60 such attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank this year so far, and there were 221 in 2015.

However, the Israeli rights organisation Yesh Din has revealed that only 1.9% of Palestinian complaints against Israelis end with prosecutions in Israel’s courts. The ordeal of settler violence is not over yet for the Dawabsha family and the people of Dura, let alone all of Palestine.

l On Wednesday morning, the funeral took place of Muhyee Sidqi al-Tibakhi, a twelve-year-old boy who had been shot dead by Israeli forces the previous day. Muhyee was shot in the chest and head with rubber-capped steel bullets when Israeli soldiers entered the Jerusalem-area town of al-Ram on Tuesday.

The inhabitants of al-Ram gathered for a funeral procession as Muhyee’s body was brought from the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah back to his home town. Muhyee’s body, itself wrapped in a Palestinian flag, was carried to his family’s home, then on to a mosque and a cemetery where he was laid to rest.

Israeli soldiers have said that they bear no responsibility for the boy’s death, but Palestinian Ministry of Health spokesman Osama Najah laid the blame firmly at their door. ‘They cannot deny that they killed him,’ Najah said. ‘It’s their responsibility.’

He pointed out that at least 63 Palestinians under 18 have been killed by Israelis since October, when an uprising against the Israeli occupation of Palestine began across the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Israel. More than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis since then.

The use of rubber bullets, tear gas and other supposedly ‘non-lethal’ crowd control weapons by the Israeli military often results in the deaths of Palestinian civilians when people come out onto the streets to resist the occupation.

In one tragic example, Mohammed Mustafa Habash, 63, of Nablus, died after inhaling tear gas when Israeli soldiers fired the gas into a crowded plaza outside the Qalandia checkpoint into Jerusalem earlier this month. Israeli soldiers then prevented witnesses at the scene from reaching the elderly man to give him assistance.

Also on Wednesday, in the same town of al-Ram where Muhyee al-Tabakhi lived, died and was laid to rest, came the funeral of Anwar Falah al-Salaymeh, 22. Anwar was shot dead by Israeli soldiers one week before, when he was driving in his car with two friends to a bakery.

Unaware that there were Israeli soldiers in the area, the friends were caught by surprise when they saw a number of soldiers who were conducting a raid on the town. The soldiers then opened fire, leading to the death of Anwar. Two deaths in one week in one small town in the West Bank; but in this, al-Ram is no exception, just the norm in occupied Palestine.

• Several Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem near to the illegal settlement Atarot were demolished by bulldozers escorted by Israeli police. On Tuesday, one day before, houses had been demolished in the Beit Hanina and Silwan neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem.

The owners of one of the buildings said that the Israelis had started to demolish his house whilst he was not present, thereby denying him the opportunity to remove his belongings from the building. Kamal Abu Sneina said that he was then held back by the Israeli police, who locked him in a police car whilst they finished demolishing his building metres away.

The Atarot settlement and industrial park is located inside the separation (or apartheid) wall which divides Israel (and a great deal of Palestinian-owned land) from Palestinian parts of the West Bank. The Palestinian human rights organisation al-Haq said: ‘Al-Haq is concerned that Palestinian residents and business owners in Beit Hanina and nearby areas will continue to be targeted by the Jerusalem Municipality as Atarot settlement develops.’

As elsewhere in the West Bank, in Jerusalem the Israeli authorities are pushing Palestinians off their land and out of their homes to make way for Jewish settlement expansion. Since the military occupation of East Jerusalem (plus the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) began in 1967, only 14% of East Jerusalem’s land has been earmarked for Palestinian expansion, whilst a third of the land has been taken to build Israeli settlements.

Last week, 43 Palestinians, including the disabled, the elderly and a heavily pregnant woman, were made homeless by Israeli house demolitions in the East Jerusalem neighbourhoods of Jabal al-Mukabbir and Anata. Nearly 580 homes have been destroyed over the last twelve years, and 2,218 people made homeless, according to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem.

l Overnight on Wednesday/Thursday, Israeli soldiers raided the Palestinian town of Yatta, near Hebron (al-Khalil). The town has been under blockade, surrounded by Israeli soldiers and entrances blocked off by earthen mounds, for 43 days since early June when two men from Yatta were allegedly involved in an attack on Israelis.

The houses of two Palestinian security officers, Majdi Moussa al-Shreiqi and Ahmad Moussa al-Shreiqi (the latter a former prisoner in an Israeli jail) were raided and searched. Youths threw rocks and empty bottles at the soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets, which injured two people.

Khallet Salih village near Yatta was also invaded, and the al-Juneidi house was searched. Rateb al-Jbour, a coordinator of a people’s committee in the southern West Bank, said that up to 850,000 people in the Hebron area were impacted by the closures imposed by Israel in recent weeks. Such is 24 hours in Palestine!