PLO condemns Israeli colonisation and annexation

Funeral of Islami Saleh Abu Reyala killed by Israeli soldiers whilst fishing. His body was not returned until 15th March, 18 days after he was killed
Funeral of Islami Saleh Abu Reyala killed by Israeli soldiers whilst fishing. His body was not returned until 15th March, 18 days after he was killed

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has strongly condemned the successive waves of colonisation and the frequent calls of extreme Israeli officials to annex the occupied territories. The race between the right wing leaders in Israel is escalating towards colonialist calls for the annexation of the occupied territories and area ‘C’; which coincides with an extreme wave of settlement expansion activity and projects linking West Bank settlements with the central Israeli cities, said the ministry in a statement issued on Sunday.

‘These leaders are pushing towards turning the upcoming elections in “Israel” to be an arena for a referendum concerning the right wing’s colonial project of imposing sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Area “C”; which requires us to warn against the disastrous consequences of the expansionist, colonial direction that the Israeli government is heading towards.’

In this context, Israel’s Minister of Transportation, Yisrael Katz, announced that he instructed the authorities to advance plans for the construction of the 4 Billion ILS ($1.16 Billion) light rail project which will connect the settlement of Ariel, with the central Israeli cities of Rosh HaAyin, and Petah Tikva, that will roll through the Occupied West Bank, claiming that it will serve the Israeli and Palestinian population.

‘The Ministry calls upon the international community, especially the Security Council, to deal with these colonial projects as a serious matter. To also consider its serious consequences not only on the security in the region, also its risks on the chances of resolving the conflict through political means on the basis of a two state solution.’

The Ministry assured that condemnation statements solely concerning the consequences and dangers of colonialism are not enough. ‘The international community’s silence encourages the occupying state to continue its rebellion against international legitimacy and international resolutions,’ said the statement. ‘Failing to punish Israel for its grave violations of international law, especially U.N Resolution 2334, obliges the Security Council to take responsibility and the necessary measures to deter the occupation’s forces and compel them to comply with international legitimacy,’ the statement concluded.

• News about the Israeli escalation in response to the alleged car-ramming attack that left two Israeli soldiers killed near Jenin in the occupied West Bank, hit the front pages of the three Arabic Palestinian dailies on Sunday. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, al-Ayyam and al-Quds said new details regarding the alleged attack have emerged and that Israel has threatened to demolish the home of Alaa Qabaha, 26, who was arrested after he rammed his car into Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint, killing an officer and a soldier and injuring two others.

The dailies said Israeli forces stormed the village of Barta’a, southwest of the city of Jenin, Qabaha’s hometown, and raided and ransacked a number of homes belonging to his relatives. The Israeli military will examine the possibility of changing the route of the Apartheid Wall in order to divide Barta’a into two halves, one half in the West Bank, and the other in Israel, according to the dailies.

Al-Ayyam said that a Palestinian was injured after Israeli warplanes bombed a location east of Gaza city on Saturday evening. The three newspapers reported that Pope Francis received UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, Pierre Krähenbühl, last Friday in the Vatican, where they discussed the plight of Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The Commissioner-General expressed to Pope Francis his worries over the lack of horizon, in particular for youth, and the need for the world to confirm that the rights of Palestinian refugees and their future matter.

Activists in the city of Nablus planted trees that were previously uprooted by Israeli settlers in the village of Burin, according to al-Ayyam. Al-Ayyam reported on the UN saying that attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians have significantly increased. Al-Hayat al-Jadida and al-Ayyam said that Palestine’s Liberation Organisation (PLO) factions would hold a meeting on Monday in preparation for holding the next Palestinian National Council meeting in April. Al-Quds and al-Ayyam said the ‘Big Return’ march and other popular activities are being prepared for in Gaza as Palestinians mark ‘Land Day’ on March 30th.

• A Palestinian man from occupied East Jerusalem was forced to demolish his home in the neighbourhood of Silwan on Sunday, in order to avoid incurring a heavy demolition fee from the Israeli municipality, who ordered his home be destroyed under the pretext that it was built without an Israeli-issued permit. The official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that Silwan resident Ishaq Shweiki was forced to demolish his own house to avoid paying fines to the municipality of up to $17,000.

Wafa added that if Shweiki had left the municipality to destroy the second floor of his home, they also would have destroyed the first floor of the building which was built more than 100 years ago.

Shweiki explained that the Israeli municipality gave him 30 days to implement the decision to demolish the house under the pretext of building without permission. Wafa added that Shweiki pointed said he built the second floor, only 50 square metres, six years ago to meet the increasing housing demands of his growing family.

Israel rarely grants Palestinians permits to build in East Jerusalem, though the Jerusalem municipality has claimed that compared to the Jewish population, they receive a disproportionately low number of permit applications from Palestinian communities, which also see high approval ratings. For Jewish Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem’s illegal settlements, the planning, marketing, development, and infrastructure are funded and executed by the Israeli government.

By contrast, in Palestinian neighbourhoods, all the burden falls on individual families to contend with a lengthy permit application that can last several years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. According to Daniel Seidemann of the NGO Terrestrial Jerusalem, ‘Since 1967, the Government of Israel has directly engaged in the construction of 55,000 units for Israelis in East Jerusalem; in contrast, fewer than 600 units have been built for Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the last of which were built 40 years ago. So much for (Jerusalem Mayor Nir) Barkat’s claim “we build for everyone”.’

According to UN documentation, three Palestinians were displaced and five buildings have been demolished in East Jerusalem since the beginning of the year as of January 29th. In 2017, a total of 142 buildings were destroyed in East Jerusalem, displacing 233 Palestinians.

• Thousands of Palestinians marched in the funeral of the slain Palestinian fisherman, Ismail Abu Riyala, 18, in the al-Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip last Thursday. The funeral march set off from the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza city, where Abu Riyala’s body was sent last Wednesday by Israeli authorities, who had been holding his body for weeks.

Mourners waved Palestinian flags and chanted national slogans, condemning Israel’s killing of the teen. Abu Riyala was killed by Israeli forces on February 25 while fishing off the coast of the northern Gaza Strip. Reyala was sailing with Mahmoud Adel Abu Reyala, who was injured with a bullet to the chest, and Ahed Abu Ali, who were released hours after their arrest. The Israeli army spokeswoman said that a Palestinian vessel was shot at ‘after it had deviated from the designated fishing zone’ in the northern Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, the Gaza fishermen’s union said Abu Reyala’s boat was targeted as it was making its way back to shore, and that the fishermen did not violate the limits of the fishing zone. As part of Israel’s blockade off the coastal enclave since 2007, Palestinian fishermen have been required to work within a limited ‘designated fishing zone.’

The exact limits of the zone are decided by the Israeli authorities and have historically fluctuated, most recently extended to six nautical miles from three, following a ceasefire agreement that ended Israel’s 2014 offensive on the Palestinian territory. However, the fishing zone was technically set to 20 nautical miles according to the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PA in the early 1990s.