AT a rally organised in Gaza City on Monday commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal, a number of activists and former prisoners vowed that Palestinian resistance movements would kidnap more Israeli soldiers until all Palestinian political prisoners were freed from Israeli custody.
In 2006, Gaza militants captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and held him for five years before freeing him in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.
Monday’s rally, organised by the Hamas movement, was held in front of the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and was attended by officials of various political movements along with former prisoners who were freed in the deal.
One of the prisoners freed in the exchange, Iyad Abu Fnoun, directed a message to Palestinians incarcerated by Israel, assuring them that they had not been forgotten. He argued that Palestinian prisoners could only be freed by force, saying that ‘what was taken by force, can only be restored by force.’
Abu Fnoun declared that the resistance ‘will not lay down their weapons,’ and would continue fighting against Israel until its goals were achieved. He said that the message of the resistance was the same message delivered by Misbah Abu Sbeih, Muhammad Faqih, and Muhannad Shafiq Halabi – three Palestinians who were all killed by Israeli soldiers or police after carrying out or allegedly carrying out deadly attacks against Israelis over the past year.
Abu Fnoun also described the years spent in negotiations before the exchange deal as ‘bitter,’ and commended the heroism of Ahmad Said Khalil al-Jaabari and other slain Palestinians who were involved in kidnapping Shalit.
Hani Thawabta, an official for the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), also affirmed that the resistance in the Gaza Strip would aim to kidnap more Israeli soldiers to exchange them for Palestinian prisoners.
‘Confrontation with the enemy is not an easy path. It requires major sacrifice and determination,’ he said. The first phase of the Shalit prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel was carried out on October 18, 2011, when Israel released 477 Palestinian detainees in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held captive by Hamas for five years.
The deal was completed in December 2011, when 550 further Palestinian detainees were released from Israeli prisons. However, since their release, Israel has initiated mass detention campaigns to bring hundreds of former prisoners released in the exchange back into Israeli custody, in violation of the agreement.
Hamas has repeatedly insisted that Israel must release all prisoners who were freed as part of the deal but have since been redetained, before starting talks in a new prisoner swap deal. According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, some 7,000 Palestinians were held in Israeli custody as of August.
l The British ‘Football for Palestine’ team, organised by the UK Lions Football Club, concluded a week-long tour of the West Bank with a friendly soccer match at the Arab-American University stadium in Jenin, according to a university press release.
It said the team visited the university and met officials who briefed them on the situation at the university and its academic programmes, particularly plans to build the largest sports centre in Palestine with a football stadium of international standards, multi-purpose sports arena and various fields.
The university team played a friendly football match against their British counterparts that ended with a 4-4 draw, according to the university’s press release. The British team arrived in Palestine on October 9, however without five team members – two women and three men – who according to the group’s Facebook page were held at Tel Aviv airport for several hours before they were deported back to England.
While in Palestine, the team toured Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Bil’in, Jericho and the Jordan Valley, Nablus and Jenin, where they held talks and played games against local teams in most of these cities.
The UK Lions FC said on the Football for Palestine website that the purpose of the tour was to raise funds for ‘MAP’- ‘Medical Aid for Palestinians’ and ‘Working with Villages in Palestine’ (formerly ‘Feed a Village in Palestine’) that help Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. The money raised will help fund grassroots development projects in Palestine, it said. The group concluded its tour on Sunday.
• An Israeli magistrate’s court extended the detention of a Palestinian man who serves on the administrative board of an occupied East Jerusalem football team on Sunday evening, after Israeli officials accused him of publicly supporting ‘terrorism.’
Lawyer Muhammad Mahmoud of prisoners’ rights group Addameer said on Sunday evening that a Jerusalem court had extended to Wednesday the remand of Maher Abu Sneina, an administrative member of the Palestinian Hilal al-Quds football team.
According to Mahmoud, who is representing Abu Sneina in court, the judge decided to extend Abu Sneina’s custody because of a photo showing him and the team’s players holding up a banner in support of slain Palestinian shooter Misbah Abu Sbeih.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, who identified Abu Sneina as the team’s coach – though various Palestinian sources have countered the claim – Israeli police arrested Abu Sneina on Sunday after the photo was posted online.
Abu Sneina, ‘who coaches the Hilal al-Quds team, was suspected of conspiracy to commit a crime and for publicly supporting terrorism,’ Haaretz reported on Monday.
The newspaper added that Israeli police had asked the court to extend his detention by six days, though the judge decided on a three-day extension.
Haaretz highlighted that while Mahmoud told the court that Abu Sneina was not responsible for the photo being taken, an Israeli police representative responded by saying, ‘but he could have prevented it.’
The judge reportedly ruled that there was ‘sufficient suspicion that a crime was committed,’ and that Abu Sneina’s answers during his interrogation by Israeli police were ‘incomplete and not credible.’ The large banner featured the face of Abu Sbeih, who was killed by Israeli authorities last week after he committed a drive-by shooting that left two Israelis dead in the occupied East Jerusalem.
Alongside the photo of Abu Sbeih, the banner read: ‘Hilal al-Quds club mourns the lion of Al-Aqsa, martyr Misbah Abu Sbeih.’ The banner could also be seen hanging above a goal post at the Faisal al-Hussein stadium in Abu Sbeih’s hometown of al-Ram in Jerusalem, during a match between Hilal al-Quds and Shabab al-Khalil, two of the top teams in the Palestinian first division football league.
The decision to extend Abu Sneina’s detention came a day after an Israeli court decided to release Abu Sbeih’s 17-year-old daughter Eiman, after she was arrested for her appearance in a video that went viral online, in which she praised her father’s actions.
A day before the decision to release Eiman, Israeli forces detained her 18-year-old brother Sbeih at the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Sbeih and Eiman’s brother Izz al-Din also remained in Israeli custody, after a court decided on Friday to extend his detention until Thursday.
Meanwhile, Abu Sbeih’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 by Israeli authorities targeting Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the wake of the shooting.
Israeli forces have carried out violent raids in 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, while forces took measurements of his family’s home, in likely preparation for a punitive demolition.
The family also said that Israeli soldiers threatened to revoke their Jerusalem residency IDs. Abu Sneina’s and Eiman Abu Sbeih’s detentions in particular have also coincided with a recent crackdown by the Israeli government on social media ‘incitement.’
Israel has stepped up its campaign against Palestinian journalists, media organisations, and ordinary citizens since a wave of unrest across Israel and the occupied West Bank began last October.
While the Israeli authorities have said those targeted were responsible for incitement against Israel, rights groups argue the crackdown is a blatant violation of speech freedoms.
Last month, two right-wing Israeli ministers met with top Facebook executives in an effort to ‘minimise online anti-Semitic incitement’ – the state of Israel’s latest effort to pressure the social media site to coordinate to remove content considered to promote ‘terrorism.’
Israel had previously blamed Facebook outright for the perceived proliferation of incitement, with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan reportedly saying that Facebook chairman and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg had ‘blood on his hands’ for not adequately cooperating with Israel to remove content.
Israeli authorities have come under repeated criticism for their response to what it deems as ‘terrorist attacks,’ which routinely include carrying out large scale detention raids and 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.
• Hanan Ashrawi, member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, called on the international community to intervene to protect the Palestinian people against Israeli aggression, a statement issued by Ashrawi’s office said on Monday.
Addressing a conference sponsored by the Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine, Ashrawi called for immediate international intervention to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people, their land and resources and the urgent need for governments worldwide to recognise Palestine in the immediate future, said the statement.
Ashrawi provided the professionals, scholars and activists at the conference held at Akershus University College in Oslo, Norway, with a critical assessment of the deterioration of conditions on the ground and Israel’s illegal and discriminatory policies and the nature of its present coalition, as well as contemporary developments in the region and beyond and their impact on Palestine.
She stressed the importance of all forms of nonviolent resistance to stand up to Israeli violations, particularly the illegal Jewish-only settlements and settlement outposts on stolen Palestinian land.