Palestinians march in support of President Maduro

Venezuelan flag flies in Ramallah – solidarity demonstration outside the Venezuela Office of Representation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Venezuelan flag flies in Ramallah – solidarity demonstration outside the Venezuela Office of Representation of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

HUNDREDS of Palestinians marched through Gaza City on Monday in a show of support for Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro. The solidarity march, which culminated outside the UN office in the Gazan capital, was organised by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) — a constituent group of the PLO.

Demonstrators chanted pro-Maduro slogans, such as, ‘Greetings from the revolutionaries … to the symbol of freedom.’ Addressing the crowd, prominent DFLP leader Talal Abu Zarifa announced: ‘We declare our full solidarity with Venezuela and its government under the leadership of the democratically-elected Maduro.’

Speaking in front of an array of Venezuelan and Palestinian flags alongside portraits of Maduro, Abu Zarifa hailed the ‘Venezuelan people’ for ‘rejecting US interference in their internal affairs.’ ‘We salute the Venezuelan people’s willingness to defend their national dignity against the foreign hostility that endangers their future,’ Abu Zarifa said.

Adding: ‘We declare our full solidarity with Venezuela and its government under the leadership of the democratically elected Maduro. ‘We salute the Venezuelan people’s willingness to defend their national dignity against the foreign hostility that endangers their future.’

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since January 10, when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following an election boycotted by the opposition. Support for Maduro among the Palestinians has remained rock solid over the last week, following the US decision to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president ahead of new elections.

Meanwhile, also in Gaza, at least 14 Palestinians were shot and injured with live ammunition, and 11 others suffocated on Tuesday as Israeli forces continued to attack the ‘Great March of Return’ protests at the Gaza-Israel border.

Israeli forces stationed at military watchtowers along the barbed-wire fence between Israel and Gaza to the northwest of Beit Lahiya town, in the northern Gaza Strip, fired live bullets and tear gas canisters toward the protesters, shooting and injuring at least 14 Palestinians. Their medical condition is still unknown. Eleven others suffered from suffocation due to tear gas inhalation.

Also on Tuesday, a Palestinian succumbed to critical wounds he sustained last Friday after being shot with a tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces to the east of al-Buriej refugee camp, in the central Gaza Strip. Samir al-Nabaheen, 47, was shot with a tear gas canister in the face last Friday as Israeli forces attacked the Gaza-Israel border protests. He was rushed to Dar al-Shifa hospital, west of Gaza city, where he was being treated for critical injuries, until he was pronounced dead.

  • Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, Saeb Erekat, said that the people of Palestine need international protection until the end of the Israeli occupation, in response to Israel’s decision not to extend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

Erekat said in a statement: ‘We call upon the United Nations to guarantee the safety and protection of the people of Palestine not only ensuring the continued presence of TIPH in Hebron but also to deploy a permanent international presence in Occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, until the end of Israel’s belligerent occupation.’

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Monday that Israel will not renew TIPH’s mandate, operating in the southern West Bank city since 1994. TIPH is an international civilian observer group that, according to its mandate, is tasked with ‘monitoring and reporting efforts to maintain normal life in the city of Hebron, thus creating a sense of security among the Palestinians in Hebron.’

It also reports alleged human rights abuses and violations of accords in the city between Israel and Palestinians. Observers for the group come from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Turkey. TIPH has roughly a dozen staff operating locally and an additional 64 working abroad.

Among other measures, this very resolution also called upon the occupying power, Israel, to confiscate arms of the Israeli settlers to prevent them from committing further crimes against the people of Palestine. Israeli settlements have been frequently condemned as illegal by the UNSC and UNGA and a war crime under the Rome Statute.

But to date, said Erekat, ‘Israel has never honoured either international will or law.

‘Just yesterday, Binyamin Netanyahu again confirmed to the settler movement that even Israeli colonial installations, considered illegal by Israeli law, will not be removed and that the entirety of the land of historic Palestine is for the State of Israel.

‘The latest Israeli decision not to renew the mandate of TIPH, which has existed since 1997, is an additional step towards Israel’s nullification of all signed treaties, including the Oslo Interim Agreement. ‘It further consolidates the Israeli colonial enterprise and represents one further step towards a “de jure” annexation of further areas in the Occupied State of Palestine.

‘It is also a shred of further evidence that Israel is a rogue state that abhors international legitimacy and places itself above and beyond international order and the international community. ‘With the support of the current US administration, Israel continues to incite against and violate the fundamental and national rights and freedoms of the people of Palestine and to degrade and insult the very body that unites the nations of our world, the United Nations.’

Erekat added: ‘This tragic incident is an embodiment of how the Israeli settler movement has now become part and parcel of Israel’s political and executive leadership. It is also a testament to the terror that has been continuously waged by Israeli settlers against Palestinian villages and civilians. ‘Such horrific reality should also imply a further escalation in Hebron now without any monitoring by the TIPH.

‘As part of their parliamentary elections, Israeli politicians are waging an immoral dehumanisation campaign against Palestine and the Palestinians that constitutes an imminent danger to our safety and security. ‘The continuation of Israeli escalations, including the threat of home evictions facing several Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem, against Palestinian men, women, children and elderly, necessitate the immediate intervention of the international community,’ he said.

  • The Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krahenbuhl, called, on Tuesday, for a total of US$1.2 billion to fund the Agency’s vital core services and life-saving humanitarian aid for 5.4 million Palestine refugees across the Middle East. Krahenbuhl said in a statement that this is the amount needed to keep UNRWA operations at the same level as in 2018.

The statement added that the presentation of the Agency’s 2019 priorities and financial requirements comes in the wake of a remarkable global mobilisation to overcome an unprecedented shortfall and existential crisis following the decision by the Agency’s largest donor to cut US$300 million of its contribution last year.

Krahenbuhl paid a strong tribute to all UNRWA donor partners: ‘As we faced the most severe financial challenge in our proud history, it was both humbling and inspiring to have witnessed the extent and generosity of the response from host and donor governments, from within the United Nations and NGO partners, from civil society and individuals.

‘I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude for this exemplary commitment and solidarity.

‘In 2019, Palestine refugees in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, will continue to face a range of daunting human development and protection challenges. ‘Central to these pressures is the way in which the ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territory and the blockade of Gaza dramatically impact the lives of Palestine refugees.

‘The effects of violence, incursions, lack of freedom of movement and employment opportunities, as well as increasing levels of food insecurity and psychological trauma are alarming and expanding.’

Krahenbuhl also addressed a message to Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff: ‘During the extreme crisis we faced last year, we promised to show maximum resolve and creativity. ‘We lived up to that commitment and are proud of this. At the same time, we remember that the successful campaign to overcome the shortfall came with a cost.

‘Some services were impacted and some staff members lost their jobs, which we deeply regret. Out of respect for the refugee community and UNRWA staff, we will continue to demonstrate absolute determination in mobilising political and financial support for the Agency.

‘We will also remain very honest about how difficult it will be and the fact that UNRWA will continue to face major challenges. ‘We must remain united and show the cohesion that was such an important part of our success last year.’