93 Gazans Vist Relatives Jailed In Israel

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A GROUP of 93 Palestinians from Gaza visited relatives jailed in Israel on Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Spokesperson Suhair Zaqqut said that the group included 28 Palestinians under the age of 14 who visited 43 Palestinians held in Rimon jail. There are around 450 Palestinians from Gaza in Israeli prison custody.

Israel stopped prison visits for Palestinians in Gaza when Hamas took control of the coastal territory, before reinstating them in July 2012.

Visits were then briefly stopped again following the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in 2014. An Irish delegation of 14 officials, including foreign minister Charles Flanagan, entered the Gaza Strip on Monday via the Erez crossing.

The visit lasted several hours and the delegation toured areas of the territory destroyed by Israel’s military offensive last summer.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said last Friday evening that the Palestinian Authority would be compelled to take action if Israel fails to release Palestinian tax revenues that Israel has refused to transfer for the last two months.

‘Israel is withholding our money and that is a serious issue as it creates a crisis for the Palestinian state and makes things difficult (for us),’ he said during a joint press conference with the foreign minister of Luxembourg in Ramallah.

‘We ask the world to exert pressure on Israel to release our money, or otherwise we will be forced to take hard steps.’

The statement comes after Israeli authorities froze delivery of $127 million in Palestinian tax revenue in early January as a punitive measure in response to Palestine’s decision to join the International Criminal Court.

Under the Oslo agreements, Israel collects Palestinian tax revenues and is supposed to distribute the funds to the Palestinian government. The president also said during the press conference that the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements are a serious problem and ‘as long as settlement construction continues, there will not be negotiations’.

‘We the Palestinians believe that the only way to peace is negotiations, and when we ask any state to recognise the state of Palestine or to support us in the UN Security Council, we do not want those states to antagonise Israel but rather to support justice while they keep their relations with Israel.’

Abbas reiterated that the PA would continue to support political solutions and to oppose terrorism as well as attempts to turn the conflict in the Middle East into a religious one. He also applauded the European Union over its decision to boycott products of Israeli settlements.

Israeli forces raided the ‘Jerusalem Gate’ protest camp near Abu Dis on Monday and detained three Palestinian activists during clashes, a spokesperson said.

Hani Halabiya said that Hassan Matar, Rafat Shihada, and another unidentified activist were detained as Israeli forces fired tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and stun grenades during the raid.

Several other people were assaulted with batons.

The raid took place as dozens of activists had started building concrete rooms inside the protest camp, which was originally set up in early February but has since been demolished five times.

At least three bulldozers had surrounded the camp, Halabiya said, with activists determined to prevent the destruction of the area.

The camp was built in protest against an Israeli plan to build Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor east of Jerusalem on the way to Jericho where Palestinian Bedouins have been living for decades.

The majority of Bedouins in Israel and the West Bank live a relatively settled but still sometimes semi-nomadic lifestyle, residing in permanent villages but pasturing livestock in adjacent areas.

Israeli restrictions on movement – in order to build Zionist settlements on Palestinian lands previously used by Bedouins or through the construction of the separation wall to cut through the West Bank – have severely curtailed Bedouins’ traditional nomadism.

Elsewhere, a 20-year-old Palestinian was injured on Saturday after Israeli soldiers shot him in the head with a live bullet as he was taking part in a march in the Qalqiliya-area village of Azzun in the northern West Bank.

The victim of the Israeli attack was identified as Imad Suleiman al-Khawli, and he was taken to the Qalqiliya Governmental Hospital for treatment where his injuries were described as critical.

Al-Khawli was one of many taking part in a rally demanding Israeli authorities lift restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinian residents of Azzun.

The march set off from the centre of Azzun towards the eastern entrance of the town, which according to Israeli rights monitor B’tselem has been closed since 1990.

As marchers gathered in the area, Israeli soldiers shot tear-gas canisters and live fire at the crowds. Al-Khawli was left injured along with dozens more who suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation, including the governor of Qalqiliya region.

Azzun’s approximately 10,000 residents have long been subject to Israeli military restrictions, and for a number of years in the 2000s all entrances to the town were blocked except a tunnel into neighbouring villages. The tunnel was sometimes blocked as well, forcing locals to travel on foot.

In the last decade most restrictions on movement have been lifted, but the eastern entrance remains blocked by Israeli military order.

Azzun is surrounded on all sides by areas under Israeli military control and an Israeli settlement bloc sits directly to the south.

It has one of the highest rates of detainees per capita of all villages in the occupied West Bank, including many children.

• Palestinian rappers threatened legal action on Sunday against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party for using their song in an Islamic State group-themed campaign ad for Israel’s March election.

The contentious new ad, which Likud released on Saturday, implied that a vote for the left would benefit IS.

The ad features actors portraying militants driving in a white pick-up with two standing in the rear carrying the black flag of IS.

The truck pulls up next to a car driven by an Israeli and a ‘jihadist’ asks: ‘Which way to Jerusalem brother?’

‘Take the left,’ the driver answers and the pick-up drives off, one of the actors firing an automatic rifle into the air. Two slogans appear on the screen: ‘The left will give in to terrorism’ and ‘It’s us or them, there is only Likud, only Netanyahu’.

The clip’s background music is a catchy hip-hop song by Amman-based Palestinian group Torabyeh called ‘Ghorbah’, which can be translated from Arabic as ‘exile’.

Torabyeh denounced the unauthorised artistic collaboration with the Israeli party’s ‘electoral propaganda attacking the so-called Zionist “left-wing”.’

‘We strongly condemn and reject this ruthless infringement of intellectual property rights and the distortion of the reputation of Torabyeh,’ the group said on their Facebook page.

They said use of their song in this context ‘implicates the Torabyeh group by containing serious accusations of terrorism and association with IS which is consequently putting the group’s members lives at risk’.

Torabyeh stressed it rejected ‘all forms of cooperation with the Zionist enemy’, and pledged to ‘take all necessary legal action against those responsible’.