PA continues security cooperation freeze with Israel

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THE PALESTINIAN Authority has decided to uphold a freeze on security coordination with Israel that was imposed during protests against now-removed Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, a high-ranking Fatah official has said.

While a civil disobedience campaign launched by Palestinians in Jerusalem succeeded in pressuring Israel to remove metal detectors, turnstiles, and surveillance cameras that were installed following a deadly shooting attack at Al-Aqsa on July 14, member of the Fatah Central Committee Jamal Muheisen said that all communication with Israel would remain halted ‘until peace negotiations resumed’ with Israel.

He noted that the decision to suspend the PA’s widely-condemned policy of security coordination with Israel was initially made by a PLO Central Council resolution in March 2015 over Israel’s lack of commitment to international agreements.

The final decision to implement the decision rested with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Muheisen said the president only executed the decision in light of recent Israeli violations in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, but he did not comment on why Abbas didn’t make the move sooner, particularly since security coordination has been a primary source of Palestinian anger in recent years.

When Abbas announced his decision to cut all ties with Israel last week, many were sceptical that the move would indeed include a halt on security coordination, established under the Oslo Accords, which has been denounced by Palestinian factions as a ‘revolving door’ policy of funnelling Palestinian activists out of PA jails into Israeli prisons, effectively criminalising resistance against the Israeli military occupation.

Muheisen however asserted that security coordination would not be resumed until peace negotiations were relaunched or an international initiative to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territory was put forward. According to Muhammad al-Masri, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, the decision to stop security coordination was a political decision and not related to security. He said he expected the decision ‘would bring both benefits and disadvantages to the Palestinian people, but national interests require such decisions to achieve political aims.’

Israeli settlers on Sunday broke into al-Aqsa mosque under heavy protection of Israeli police. Some 140 extremist settlers, divided into groups, broke into the Muslim holy site through Bab al-Magharba and went on provocative tours in the vicinity of the mosque. Meanwhile, Israeli police provided protection for them by inspecting the mosque guards and threatening them with detention if they attempt to face the settlers.

Hundreds of Palestinians in Jerusalem attended al-Fajr prayer after Israel removed all restriction following weeks of tension in the city. Ziad Hamouri, head of Al-Quds Centre for Socio-economic Rights, on Sunday suggested a plan to reopen the 250 shops in the Old City of Jerusalem, which were closed due to Israeli measures and skyrocketing taxes.

He told Voice of Palestine in an interview that what is needed from the Palestinian private sector is to invest in the occupied city of Jerusalem and support the merchants of the old city. Hamouri also stressed the importance of the Palestinian Authority’s support for Palestinians in Jerusalem to remain strong.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army has continued nightly detention campaigns targeting Palestinians in PA-controlled areas of the occupied West Bank. During predawn raids on Sunday, at least 17 Palestinians were detained, with Israeli forces shooting and injuring two Palestinian teenagers during a raid into Jenin refugee camp.

Ashraf Abu Sneieneh, lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) Sunday said that Israel issued new administrative detention orders against 13 detainees. The sentences ranged between four and six months with the prisoners being from Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron, Tubas, Qalailia and Bethlehem.

Administrative detention is the imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or trial and on the basis of secret evidence for up to six month periods that could be renewed indefinitely. The use of administrative detention dates from the ‘emergency laws’ of the British colonial era in Palestine, said the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

It stated: ‘Israel’s use of administrative detention violates international law; such detention is allowed only in individual circumstances that are exceptionally compelling for “imperative reasons of security”.’ Israel uses administrative detention routinely 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 against their illegal administrative detention and to demand an end to this policy, which violates international law. Israeli forces last Saturday night detained at least 13 Palestinians during raids across the occupied West Bank districts, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

Israeli forces detained four Palestinians in Hebron district, three from Ramallah and two each from Bethlehem, Jenin, and Nablus districts. Israeli police arrested more than 120 Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem during the past two days, but most of whom were later released. Israeli army on Sunday shut down the main entrance to the village of Kobar, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, according to local witnesses.

Locals said that Israeli soldiers raided the village at midnight and searched several homes, before closing the main entrance to the village with earth piles and large rocks to obstruct traffic.

This was the third time Israeli military blocked the main entrance to the village in less than a ten-day period.

Israel has been punishing the village of Kobar and its residents since 19-year-old village resident, Omar al-Abed, stabbed and killed three Israeli settlers on July 21 in the illegal settlement of Halamish. Abed is in the Israeli army’s custody after he was shot and injured following the attack.

The army has been raiding the village almost daily since the attack in a collective punishment step, harassing and assaulting its residents, raiding and ransacking homes of relatives to al-Abed and arresting family members, including his parents and brother.

Every time the village residents removed the road blocks, the army returned and re-sealed the road preventing them from leaving or entering it with their vehicles. Israeli forces’ bulldozers on Sunday razed lands in the village of Kharsa, in the district of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, in order to set up a military watchtower, local village leaders said.

No’man Amro, head of Dura village council, said that Israeli army came to the village under protection of Israeli forces and razed lands to make space for a military watchtower in a populated area, noting the dangers of this tower on Palestinians’ lives.

Abd al-Hadi Hantash, an expert in settlements and maps, stated that the targeted area is vital for nearby villages, saying the tower could be a real danger to the area.