Israel to annex illegal West Bank settlements!

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PALESTINE President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday that he is going to make important decisions in 2018 holding Israel to account for its grave and systematic violations of international law.

Abbas’ statement came in response to the decision of the ruling Israeli party, Likud, to annex the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to Israel. ‘We shall make important decisions during 2018, including regarding legal venues, in order to hold Israel accountable for its grave and systematic violations of international law, and to revisit agreements signed with Israel,’ Abbas said.

He also stressed that Likud’s decision, among others, ‘could not be taken without the full support of the US administration, who have refused to condemn Israeli colonial settlements as well as the systematic attacks and crimes of the Israeli occupation against the people of Palestine.’

The president added that the decision was ‘part of Israel’s plan to erase the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people,’ and he called on the international community ‘to look at the Israeli incitement against Palestinian rights that is particularly recurrent among members of the government coalition.

‘We hope that this vote serves as a reminder to the international community that the Israeli government, with the full support of the US administration, is not interested in a just and lasting peace. Rather, its main goal is the consolidation of an Apartheid regime in all of historic Palestine.

‘Israeli efforts to kill the chances of peace will be met with more determination and steadfastness. No people in the world have ever accepted to live as slaves and the Palestinian people are not going to be the first to do so.’

Also on Monday, Israeli forces notified the family of Yousef Khalid Kmail, a prisoner in an Israeli jail, of their intention to demolish part of their home as punishment for their son’s murder of an Israeli settler in early October.

Israeli soldiers raided Kmail’s family home in the town of Qabatiya, in northern West Bank, pre-dawn on Monday and handed them a demolition order which was to take place in four days, ie tomorrow. Kmail was convicted by an Israeli court of taking part in the murder of an Israeli settler, together with Mohammad Ziad Abu al-Rob, in the Arab town of Kafr Qasem in central Israel in early October 2017.

Israeli authorities already demolished Abu al-Rob’s family home in early December 2017 on the same grounds. Israel resorts to punitively demolishing the family homes of Palestinians – as a deterrent – who are accused of being involved in attacks against Israelis, a policy that Israel does not use against Israeli settlers who are involved in fatal attacks against Palestinians.

A Gazan died on Saturday 30th December after being wounded by Israeli fire during a protest on the border over US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a Palestinian health official reported. Jamal Muslih, 20, of Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, had been seriously wounded by live fire on Friday, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

His death brings to 13 the number of Palestinians killed since US President Donald Trump announced on December 6 that he would recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. Eleven protesters died after clashes with Israeli troops, and two others were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza earlier in the month.

More than 50 Palestinians were wounded in the Friday clashes on the Gaza-Israel border as part of a ‘day of rage’ over the US declaration, called for by both Gaza rulers Hamas and fellow militant group Islamic Jihad.

In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said at least 16 people were wounded when Israeli troops fired live rounds during demonstrations, while others were hit with rubber-coated bullets.

Fighters in Gaza fired three rockets at southern Israel, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defence system, with the third hitting a village near the border, causing damage but no casualties.

Israeli aircraft and tanks targeted two Hamas positions near the border in response, again causing damage but no casualties. At least 56 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank and Gaza clashes in the ‘day of rage’ over Trump’s recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Israeli forces also hit the coastal territory of the Gaza Strip with tank fire and air strikes, wounding 40 people, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

Four are in a serious condition. The Israeli army said 2,000 protestors had thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at soldiers on the Israeli side of a barrier with the Palestinian territory.

In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said at least 16 people were wounded when Israeli troops fired live bullets during demonstrations, while others were hit with rubber-coated rounds. The Israeli military said about 500 demonstrators had burned tyres and thrown Molotov cocktails and stones at its forces in 30 different parts of the West Bank.

Trump’s December 6th announcement was followed by protests across the West Bank and on Gaza’s border with Israel, with 12 Gazans killed in clashes with Israeli forces on the border or by Israeli strikes following rocket fire. Meanwhile, the Israeli Police Investigations Division (PID) has closed its probe into the January 2017 police killing of Palestinian maths teacher Yaqoub Abu al-Qian, and to not hold any officers responsible for his death, Adalah – The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – said in a statement last Thursday.

Abu al-Qian, a 50-year-old maths teacher from the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in southern Israel’s Negev desert, was shot dead by Israeli police in January while he was driving at night, causing him to spin out of control and crash into Israeli officers, killing one policeman.

Abu al-Qian was driving through the village as dozens of Israeli forces were preparing for a large-scale home demolition in Umm al-Hiran. Israeli forces at the time claimed he was attempting to carry out a vehicular attack, though witness testimonies and video footage of the incident prove otherwise.

Israeli police footage appeared to show police officers shooting at al-Qian as he was driving at a very slow pace, and only several seconds after the gunfire does his car appear to speed up, eventually ploughing through police officers.

The killing of Abu al-Qian sparked widespread outrage amongst Palestinian civilians and politicians, who claimed he was ‘extrajudicially executed’. After demands from his family and the community for police to conduct a probe into his killing, Adalah filed a request demanding the PID open an investigation into his death.

‘The closure of this investigation means the PID continues to grant legitimacy to deadly police violence against Arab citizens of Israel,’ Adalah said in its statement. Though it was clear from day one that officers opened fire on a civilian without justification and in contravention of the police’s own open-fire regulations, it appears as if the PID is again whitewashing the most serious incidents.

‘Just as the PID failed to hold any officers responsible for the October 2000 killings and the subsequent police killings of more than 50 Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, this latest decision is further indication of the systemic failure of the PID. The Israeli police and public security minister continue to propagate the same lie they initially promoted the day of the killing, according to which the incident was an intentional vehicular ramming attack against Israeli police officers. This lie was repeatedly refuted by multiple sources and video documentation of the incident,’ Adalah added.

Abu al-Qian’s hometown of Umm al-Hiran is one of 35 Bedouin villages considered ‘unrecognised’ by the Israeli state, and more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognised villages.

The unrecognised Bedouin villages were established in the Negev soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war following the creation of the state of Israel. Now, more than 60 years later, the villages have yet to be recognised by Israel and live under constant threat of demolition and forcible removal.