HUNGARY OPENS TRADE OFFICE IN JERUSALEM – Israeli troops teargas school in West Bank

Sit-in protest in support of prisoners’ families

HUNGARY’S Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto last Tuesday opened a trade office in Jerusalem City, in the central occupied West Bank, that will have an official ‘diplomatic status’.

The new diplomatic trade office is considered a ‘branch’ of the Central European country’s embassy in Israel, which will remain in Tel Aviv.

During the opening ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said: ‘This is a very exciting moment for us because it’s the first European diplomatic mission opened in Jerusalem in many decades and three Hungarian diplomats are going to be assigned to this office for trade purposes.’

In his speech, Netanyahu also mentioned United States President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May 2018.

Netanyahu told Szijjarto that ‘there’s a plot waiting for you right next to the American embassy’.

Szijjarto said: ‘We have always fought for a fair and balanced approach on behalf of the international community towards Israel,’ and reiterated Hungary’s opposition to the European Union’s decision to clearly label products from Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

He said: ‘I have to underline here once again that we reject to combine restrictive economic and commercial measures with political issues,’ adding: ‘We will not apply the decision of the European Commission on labelling. We do not support the list of companies in the settlements to be announced by the high representative of Human Rights of the United Nations.’

The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Emmanuel Nahshon, said several Western European countries have consulates in Jerusalem that serve primarily, however, not only Palestinians, noting: ‘They are considered consular missions that fulfil a “totally different” objective than embassies or trade offices.’

Nahshon also explained: ‘This is pure diplomacy. This is part of the embassy and they’re going to be dealing with issues that go way beyond mere consular issues.’

  • A number of Palestinian students on Wednesday morning suffocated from tear gas fired by Israeli forces at a school in the village of Urif, south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

The principal of Urif High School Ayed al-Qitt told WAFA that Israeli forces stormed Urif and intensively showered the school compound with tear gas bombs, prompting him to evacuate all students from the school.

The military raid triggered confrontations outside the school campus during which a number of students suffocated.

The confrontations took place as a group of Israeli settlers from Yitzhar, an illegal settlement inhabited by hardcore fanatic Jews, gathered not far away from the school campus.

The school has been the subject of recurrent Israeli forces and settlers’ attacks,  which prompted the principal to evacuate the students eight times during the first semester and six times during the second semester  of the academic tear 2018/2019.

Attacks on education by Israeli military forces and Israeli settlers in Palestine constitute grave violations of children’s rights to education and development. These attacks are particularly prevalent in the most vulnerable areas of the West Bank – Area C, H2 and Jerusalem.

Such attacks are regular enough to create a constant climate of fear and terror for students and their teachers, generating among them great psychological distress and anxiety and severely reducing levels of educational attainment.

  • Israeli authorities issued 38 administrative detention orders, on Wednesday, against a number of Palestinian prisoners held in various Israeli prisons.

Palestine Prisoners’ Society (PPS) confirmed that 24 out of the 38 administrative detention orders are renewed orders, while the remaining 14 detainees received detention orders for the first time.

PPS added that the orders range from three to six months of prison.

Administrative detention is imprisonment without trial or charge, it has no time limit, and the evidence on which it is based is not disclosed.

Israel utilises this measure extensively and routinely, and has used it to hold hundreds of Palestinians for lengthy periods of time.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are 5,440 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli prisons, of whom 497 are in administrative detention.

A report by Israeli NGO B’Tselem, which was based on the Israeli Prison Service statistics, read that over the last year, 29 Palestinians were taken into administrative detention every month, on average, and 37 were released.

The report added that in the past decade, the number of detainees held by Israel in a single month never fell below 150.

Rights groups say that Israel’s administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political processes, particularly targeting Palestinian activists, journalists, and politicians.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, during his visit to the site of the Salfit shooting attack in the northern occupied West Bank on Monday, that Israeli forces are ‘in a close pursuit’ after the suspect as they know his identity.

According to Israeli news outlets, Netanyahu said that the construction of some 840 new settlement units would begin in the illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel the following day, in response to the attack that left two Israelis killed.

The construction of the 840 new settlement units has already been approved.

Israeli news outlets added that the Israeli army had surveyed the house of the attack suspect, who was identified as Omar Abu Leila, 19, from Salfit City, for future demolition.

Israel always demolishes family homes of Palestinians, who were involved in attacking Israelis as part of its collective punishment policy against the Palestinian people.

Israel has come under harsh condemnation over the past several years for its response to attacks committed by Palestinians on Israelis, which rights groups have said amounted to ‘collective punishment’ on family members and entire communities in a clear violation of international law.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem says: ‘The people who bear the brunt of the (punitive) demolitions are relatives – including women, the elderly, and children – whom Israel does not suspect of involvement in any offense.

‘In the vast majority of cases, the person whose actions prompted the demolition was not even living in the house at the time of the demolition,’ adds the group.

‘The official objective of the house demolition policy is deterrence … yet the deterrent effect of house demolitions has never been proven.’

It concluded that: ‘Since this constitutes deliberate harm to innocents, it is clear that even if house demolition had the desired deterrent effect, it would, nevertheless, remain unlawful.’

  • Several dozen Birzeit University students demonstrated on Wednesday at Ramallah’s northern border near an Israeli army checkpoint in protest against the army killing the night before of three young Palestinians near Ramallah and in Nablus.

Soldiers fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at the students injuring three with rubber bullets while others suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Soldiers deployed at the hills near the checkpoint also fired sound bombs towards journalists covering the event and forced them to leave the area.

Soldiers killed Omar Abu Laila, 19, in the Ramallah area village of Obwin on Wednesday after claiming he was behind the killing earlier in the week of an Israeli soldier and a settler near the illegal settlement of Arial in the northern West Bank.

Hours later, soldiers shot and killed Raed Hamdan, 21, and Zaid Nouri, 20, in Nablus after opening fire at their car.

Hamdan and Nouri were buried on Wednesday in Nablus in a funeral attended by thousands and with a shuttered city.

  • Israeli authorities declared that a closure will be imposed on the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the Jewish holiday of Purim. The four-day closure started on Wednesday and will end midnight tomorrow.

Accordingly, Gaza crossings with Israel will be sealed and entry to Israel for all Israeli-issued permit holders will be banned, except for humanitarian and medical cases.

Israel regularly imposes severe restrictions on Palestinian movement during Jewish holidays under the guise of security amid rising tensions around Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.