Nelson Mandela Statue Unveiled On Freedom Day In Ramallah

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‘TODAY we honour Nelson Mandela and share the joy of our sisters and brothers in South Africa,’ Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said in celebration of Freedom Day on Tuesday.

Hamdallah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas inaugurated a statue of Nelson Mandela in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. The square where the statue was installed, in the al-Tira neighbourhood, will officially be renamed Mandela Square.

Hamdallah congratulated the people of South Africa during an event hosted by South Africa’s representative to Palestine, Ambassador Ashraf Suleiman,

‘Your victory against oppression and persecution is inspiring; we draw on your perseverance and steadfastness,’ Hamdallah said, as the statue of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected South African president, was unveiled.

Jamal Dajani, Director of Strategic Communications and Media at the Office of the Prime Minister, said: ‘It is appalling that at a time when the entire world celebrates the end of Apartheid in South Africa, Palestinians still suffer from similar oppressive measures under a brutal Israeli occupation.

‘Just as in South Africa, Israel has institutionalised a system designed to suppress an entire population, based on ethnicity,’ Dajani added. We see the statue as a symbol of friendship, as a symbol of demonstrating our solidarity, but also hopefully as an inspiration to the people of Palestine that you indeed would be able to achieve your freedom,’ said Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau, who was leading a South African delegation.

Hailing the ‘distinguished relationship’ between Ramallah and Johannesburg, Ramallah Mayor Mousa Hadid said the statue was ‘the first statue South Africa built outside its borders.’ The statue was also a reflection of the South African government’s appreciation of the Palestinian people and their lengthy struggle for freedom and independence, Hadid added.

Hadid said that Israeli authorities had withheld the statue, releasing it only days before the inauguration. ‘The Israeli occupation detained the statue to make sure it doesn’t possess any of Mandela’s pride and love of freedom,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Tau highlighted the fact that the inauguration coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa. ‘The statue represents the spiritual father of freedom in our country, Nelson Mandela,’ Tau said, adding that he hoped that the Palestinian people would obtain their freedom and independence, just as the people of South Africa were freed from apartheid and racism.

A globally revered figure, Mandela holds a special place in Palestinian society for his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is a symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation for many Palestinians. ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,’ Mandela, who died in 2013 at 95 years old, famously said in a speech for International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, in Pretoria in 1997.

• Israeli forces on Wednesday shot and killed a 24-year-old Palestinian woman and her 16-year-old brother after they allegedly attempted to carry out a stab attack on border police at Qalandiya military checkpoint near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, police and witnesses said.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri claimed two suspects – a woman and a youth – approached the vehicular path leading through the military checkpoint and walked towards border police officers, the woman with her hand in her bag and the youth with hands behind his back.

Officers ordered them to halt several times and they began to turn back before police claimed the woman threw a knife at an officer. Police opened fire, killing the woman immediately. The youth’s death was confirmed shortly after. An eyewitness said that Israeli forces fired more than 15 rounds into the woman’s body, confirming her death.

Witnesses are heard in video footage of the scene following the incident saying the boy approached the woman after she was killed, before being shot by Israeli forces as well. The Palestinian Red Crescent said that Israeli forces denied paramedics access to the woman and child for medical treatment.

The Palestinians were identified as 24-year-old mother of two Maram Salih Hassan Abu Ismail, and her 16-year-old brother Ibrahim. The siblings were from the Ramallah-area town of al-Ram. No Israelis were injured in the incident. The Israeli military closed the checkpoint shortly after the incident, and attacked passengers who were present at the scene with teargas canisters to disperse them.

• Israeli bulldozers and armoured tanks on Wednesday crossed through the border fence with the Gaza Strip and levelled land east of al-Bureji refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, witnesses said. Three armoured bulldozers escorted by Israeli military tanks crossed the border fence between Israel and the besieged enclave, before levelling the land on the Palestinian side of the border, while shooting indiscriminately.

Israeli military infiltrates through the border with the besieged Gaza Strip and near the ‘buffer zone’ almost on a daily basis. Palestinians who work near the ‘buffer zone’ between the Palestinian enclave and Israel often come under fire from military forces, as the Israeli military has not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.

The Israeli army regularly opens fire on Palestinian fishermen and farmers along the border areas, despite a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2014 war. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, at least 42 cases of Israeli forces opening fire on Palestinians in the buffer zone, on both land and sea sides, were reported last month.

• Israeli prison authorities have placed Palestinian detainee Sami Janazreh, on hunger strike for 56 days, in solitary confinement in the Israeli Ela prison, according to the Commission of Detainee and Ex-Detainees Affairs. Muataz Shuqeirat, an attorney with the Commission, said Janazreh has seen a significant deterioration in his health condition, including significant weight loss, low blood sugar levels, continuous fatigue, among others.

He added that the latest Israeli procedure of transferring Janazreh to solitary confinement targets to pressure him to cease his hunger strike. Janazreh is one of three other detainees in Israeli jails, Adeeb Mafarjeh and Foaad Assi, who are on hunger strike against administrative detention, without charge or trial.

There are more than 500 Palestinian prisoners being held under administrative detention, a controversial Israeli practice that allows the detention of Palestinians without charge or trial for up to six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

Israeli officials claim the practice is an essential tool in preventing attacks and protecting sensitive intelligence, but it has been strongly criticised by the international community as well as by both Israeli and Palestinian rights groups.

The Israeli human rights organisation, , said international law stipulates that administrative detention may be exercised only in very exceptional cases. Nevertheless, Israeli authorities routinely employ administrative detention on thousands of Palestinians.

Israel uses administrative detention regularly as a form of collective punishment and mass detention of Palestinians, and frequently uses administrative detention when it fails to obtain confessions in interrogations of Palestinian detainees.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes as a way to protest over their illegal administrative detention and to demand an end to this policy, which violates international law.