ISRAELI forces on Tuesday morning stormed the offices of a Palestinian radio station in Hebron, where they destroyed equipment and ordered the station’s closure, in the latest violation of press freedoms in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Manbar al-Hurriyya (Freedom Tribune) radio station, which is reportedly affiliated with Fatah, wrote on its website that Israeli forces had destroyed equipment inside the offices and confiscated other equipment. The soldiers then issued a military order notifying employees that the station was to be closed and its broadcast banned.
The Israeli army said in a statement that the station was shut down ‘as part of the ongoing battle against incitement.’ It continued: ‘Forces confiscated broadcasting equipment in order to prevent the incitement which has caused a flare of violence in the region over recent weeks.’ It accused the radio station of encouraging ‘stabbing attacks’ and ‘violent riots’, and reporting ‘false and malicious claims of security forces executing and kidnapping Palestinians in order to provoke violence.’
The statement said that Israeli forces had shut down the station twice before, in 2002 and again in 2008. The incident comes a day after a Palestinian press freedoms watchdog condemned more than 450 violations of media freedoms since the beginning of the year.
The Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, known as MADA, said in a statement that it ‘condemns the ongoing violence against Palestinian journalists by the Israeli Occupying Forces,’ including more than 100 violations in October alone. It said that ‘continued impunity with lack of accountability’ encouraged Israeli forces ‘to commit more crimes and assaults’.
The watchdog said that while press violations had not reached last year’s proportions, when 17 Palestinian journalists were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, violations had ‘witnessed an enormous escalation this year.’ The group called for accountability, but also for ‘preventing censorship and persecution of journalists and activists regarding their opinions and comments on social media.’
• Israeli police late Tuesday closed, with huge cement blocks, main roads in the neighbourhood of Ras al-Amoud in Jerusalem, under the pretext of ongoing stone attacks against police members, according to local sources. The Israeli closure of main roads in the area obstructed the movement of as many as 65,000 Palestinians in Ras al-Amoud, Silwan, Jabal al-Mukabir and Sur Baher neighbourhood districts, further exacerbating the security situation in the city, a WAFA correspondent said.
Long queues of cars were seen in the area since early morning due to the closure of the area’s main roads, and police officers are reportedly searching Palestinian vehicles entering or leaving the area.
In mid-October 2015, the Israeli cabinet announced that Israeli police would be entitled to ‘impose a closure on’ what it described as ‘centres of friction and incitement in Jerusalem’ and ‘in accordance with security considerations.’
The cabinet also approved the revocation of residency status for Palestinians who carry out attacks on Israeli targets. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has called the Israeli government’s response to recent escalation in the area as ‘the very inverse of what ought to be done’ toward ending the violence.
‘The events of recent weeks cannot be viewed in a vacuum, isolated from the reality of the ongoing, daily oppression of four million people, with no hope of change in sight,’ the group said in a statement about three weeks ago. There has been fluctuating tension across the West Bank districts and Jerusalem since early October 2015, mainly due to provocative visits by Jewish fanatics to the city’s al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest place in Islam. Since early October, Israeli police and soldiers killed 74 Palestinians, while over 2,240 others have been injured.
• Several Palestinians on Tuesday were shot and injured, whereas dozens others suffocated during renewed clashes with Israeli army in the Hebron, Tulkarem and Ramallah area, according to local sources. In Hebron’s town of Beit Ummar, clashes broke out between Palestinian locals and army forces, where the latter fired concussion grenades, tear gas canisters, and rubber-coated steel bullets toward locals, shooting and injuring four people. Many others suffocated due to tear gas inhalation. They were all treated at the scene.
Furthermore, forces blocked the southern entrance of the town of Bani Naim to the east of Hebron with earth mounds, as well as closed an already existing metal gate erected at the entrance of the town of Dura to the southwest. They also set a tight military checkpoint at the entrance of al-Fawwar Refugee Camp, hindering locals’ movements.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, Two Palestinians were shot and injured with live and rubber-coated bullets and several others suffocated in clashes that broke out with Israeli forces in Surif town, northwest of Hebron. Meanwhile in Tulkarem, two Palestinians were shot and injured with rubber baton rounds, while dozens suffered from tear gas suffocation as the Israeli army suppressed a peaceful rally organised in protest of Israel’s takeover of land for the benefit of settlement expansion and in condemnation of Israel’s attacks and near-daily killings of Palestinians.
Secretary-General of the Palestinian Democratic Union (Fida), Mervat Abu Shanab, and Activist Khaled Mansour were both shot and injured with rubber bullets; one in the leg and abdomen and the other in the foot, respectively. In the Ramallah area, dozens of Palestinians suffocated by tear gas used against them by army soldiers as the latter quelled a similar peaceful rally organised in condemnation of Israeli forces and settlers’ attacks against the Palestinian people as well as in support of the al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Soldiers fired a hail of tear gas canisters at protesters who gathered in front of the Israeli Ofer prison, located in the West Bank, between the Ramallah area of Beituniya and Giv’at Ze’ev illegal Israeli settlement, leaving many to suffer from suffocation. According to the Ministry of Health, the death toll of Palestinians killed since the beginning of unrest in early October reached 74, including 15 children.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Detainees and Ex-detainees Committee denounced a new Israeli draft law to impose a minimum of three years in jail sentences on Palestinian children who throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, passed in its second and third reading on Monday by the Israeli Knesset. According to the Times of Israel, ‘The Knesset on Monday enacted minimum prison terms for rock-throwing attacks against vehicles or pedestrians.’ The draft law raised the minimum prison sentence for rock throwing to three years, it said.
‘The law also strips parents of a minor imprisoned for rock throwing of welfare grants and other benefits linked to the minor for the duration of the incarceration,’ it reported. The minimum sentences are allegedly meant ‘to create deterrence,’ said Jewish Home MK Nissan Slomiansky, chair of the Knesset’s Constitution Law and Justice Committee. Joint Arab List MK Jamal Zahalka said that: ‘You can’t quench a fire with diesel fuel,’ adding: ‘This law is fuel on the fire.’