Clashes erupt after Israeli forces land grab

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ISRAELI occupation forces on Sunday detained five Palestinians from the West Bank districts of Ramallah and Hebron, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

The PPS said three Palestinians were detained in al-Bireh/Ramallah district. They were identified as Rami Hamayel, 28, Mohammed Abu Marra, 24, and Ihsan Abu Rabe’e, 24.

In Hebron, Israeli forces detained two locals identified as Ahmad Hassan, 24, and Rafeeq Abu ’Afeefeh, 39.

PPS noted on Sunday that Israeli forces had detained 13 Palestinians during the past two days. Israeli settler bulldozers on Sunday continued to level agricultural lands in the northern occupied West Bank districts of Nablus and Salfit, locals said.

Witnesses from the village of Jalud in southern Nablus said that bulldozers levelled land to expand the illegal Shvut Rachel settlement, where several units were being built. Israeli authorities delivered notices to residents of Jalud in April, telling them that 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private land were slated for confiscation in what appeared to be the retroactive legalisation of illegal outposts in the area.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had approved the retroactive ‘laundering’ of construction of 94 illegal housing units in Shvut Rachel in October, according to rights group B’Tselem.

Witnesses added that Israeli settlers on Sunday were also levelling land near an illegal outpost inhabited by members of the Gaolat Etzion movements, which believes all of historical Palestine should be part of a Jewish state of Israel.

Meanwhile, in western Salfit, locals reported that settlers continued levelling lands to prepare for infrastructure to build hundreds of settlement units in the newly-recognised neighbourhood of Leshem as a settlement unto itself, within the illegal Ariel bloc.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last week that the deputy director of the World Zionist Organisation’s settlement division recognised Leshem as a new settlement altogether, and that the Israeli government had not already recognised it itself for ‘technical-political’ reasons. Leshem was originally meant to be a neighbourhood in the nearby Ale Zahav settlement of the Ariel bloc.

Mounting international pressure on Israel, including demands to freeze new construction in settlements, has influenced the Israeli government to adopt an overt policy of approving settlement outposts and existing illegal construction in settlements, according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ).

Palestinian Authority officials have said that confiscation orders like those delivered in Jalud aim solely to expand illegal settlements, despite citing alleged security concerns. A number of Palestinian students and locals suffocated after inhaling tear gas fired at them by Israeli armed soldiers during clashes on Sunday in the southern part of Hebron city, according to local witnesses.

Clashes broke out between Palestinian locals and soldiers in the vicinity of the school zone in the southern part of Hebron city, where the latter used tear gas canisters against locals and students, causing several suffocation cases among them. They were all treated at the scene.

An increasing number of unarmed and peaceful Palestinians were either killed or seriously injured as a result of Israel’s constant use of tear gas against Palestinians. B’Tselem stated that ‘(Israeli) soldiers and Border Police often fire tear gas grenades directly at demonstrators with the aim of hitting them, or fire carelessly, without ensuring that demonstrators are not in the direct line of fire, in direct contravention of regulations.’

Nevertheless, security forces frequently aim and fire tear gas grenades directly at demonstrators, or fire them carelessly, stressed the centre. The legal centre, in a summary report published in 2013, demanded that Israeli security forces ‘completely prohibit the firing of 40mm tear gas canisters either directly at individuals or horizontally, in a way that could cause result in injuries.’

Tear gas is a chemical irritant that severely affects the eyes, respiratory system and mucous membranes of the nose and throat. If fired directly at demonstrators, their impact can result in severe injuries and even death. Early December 2014, Palestinian minister without portfolio Zeyad Abu Ein died due to tear gas inhalation and after being directly hit in the chest by an Israeli soldier during a peaceful protest marking the United Nations International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

He was transferred to hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

On December 2011, Mustafa Tamimi, 28 from Ramallah’s village of Nabi Saleh, died from critical wounds he sustained when an Israeli soldier fired a tear gas canister directly at his head from a short distance.

Meanwhile, the Israeli navy on Sunday detained eight Palestinian fishermen while they were sailing offshore Gaza, according to local sources. Several Israeli naval boats attacked with gunfire a number of fishing boats while sailing offshore the coast of Gaza, before they detained eight fishermen and stole four fishing boats.

The eight were identified as Rasem Zayed, Mohammad Zayed, Saqer Zayed, Ayman Zayed, As’ad Sultan, Khaled Sultan, Mohammad Sultan, and Ayman Sultan. The eight fishermen and the four boats were taken to nearby Asdod seaport in southern Israel.

Israeli navy targets Gaza fishermen almost on a daily basis, in a blatant breach of a ceasefire agreement reached between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in August 2014, following 51 days of bloody aggression on the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of over 2.200 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), all Israeli attacks on Palestinian fishermen have taken place within the distance of six nautical miles, which it said ‘proves that Israeli forces’ policies aim to tighten restrictions on the Gaza Strip’s fishermen and their livelihoods.’

On Saturday, Israeli soldiers stationed at watchtowers in the Israeli Kissufim military base, located northeast of Khan Younis, on the Gaza-Israel border, opened heavy machinegun fire toward Palestinian farmers and shepherds. Locals said that Israeli forces stationed along Gaza-Israeli border opened their heavy machinegun fire toward farmers and shepherds, however, no injuries were reported.

Israeli army routinely opens fire at Palestinian fishermen and farmlands along the Gaza border, violating a ceasefire deal reached between Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza in August 2014. The Israeli and Palestinian sides reached an Egypt-brokered open-ended ceasefire deal on 26th of August to end the 51-day-long Israeli onslaught on the Strip.

In November 2012, the Israeli military approached a truce with Palestinian factions allowing Palestinians to approach up to 100 metres of the perimeter fence. In April 2013, an Israeli military spokesperson said that the no-go area has been extended to 300 metres from the fence.

Most of Gaza’s fruitful farmlands are located along the border fence with Israel, depriving the Strip of its major food basket. The border farmlands are also the only source of income for many Palestinian households. Also on Saturday, Israeli forces prevented Palestinians and international solidarity activists from reclaiming Palestinian lands in Khirbet Jub al-Dhib, east of Bethlehem, said a local activist.

Representative of the Local Anti-Wall and Settlement Committee Hassan Breijiya said that a group of Palestinians and international solidarity activists started to reclaim Palestinian lands in Jub al-Dhib locality of al-Aqban. Israeli forces, he added, broke into the area and forced the group members to stop land reclamation under the pretext that the area is classified as a closed military zone.

Locals and activists were prevented from reclaiming lands in this spot for the second consecutive week. Early Saturday, Israeli forces summoned a Palestinian from Nahhalin village, west of Bethlehem, in the southern West Bank, said security sources.

Forces raided Nahhalin village, where they summoned Nezar Fannun, 24, after breaking into and ransacking his family house. Fannun was ordered to appear before intelligence in the Gush Etzion detention and interrogation centre.