‘Punish terrorists for arson attacks’ demands Ashrawi – as Israel acts against Veterans group

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PLO Executive Committee member, Hanan Ashrawi, last Thursday condemned Israel’s unwillingness to punish the ‘terrorists’ responsible for the arson attack in Duma village, south of Nablus.

Ashrawi said: ‘We do not expect Israel to execute the suspects, demolish their homes or withdraw their identity cards, as it does with Palestinians, but we demand a professional investigation to bring justice for the Dawabsha family.’

The Israeli human rights organisation, Yesh Din, stated in a report that 85.3% of the complaints presented by Palestinians were closed due to investigators’ inability to collect sufficient evidence against the suspects, Ashrawi added. She called on the international community to put pressure on the Israeli government to stop manipulating with the legal and judicial system, in a way that undervalues Palestinians’ lives and human rights.

Ashrawi said the Israeli government is obliged to disclose the details of the horrific arson attack against the Dawabsha family, which took place on July 31st and in which 18-month-old Ali, his mother Reham and father Sa’ad were burned in their sleep. Israel and its settlers must be held accountable for the horrific crimes they commit against Palestinians, she stated.

• The Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, said Israel’s policy to withhold the bodies of Palestinians who are suspected of carrying out attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers, is immoral. In a statement, B’Tselem said the policy is not only morally wrong, but also undervalues Palestinians and their families.

It considered this policy a violation of human dignity; therefore, it is unjustified to hold Palestinians’ dead bodies. Israel is still holding the bodies of 55 Palestinians, including the bodies of 11 minors, who were killed during the last three months, B’Tselem added.

It said the policy is insulting since preventing families from burying their children and relatives causes great distress and also stops them from performing traditional and religious rituals. B’Tselem said the uncertainty and the conditions, which include a small funeral with few participants at night time only, dramatically increases the suffering of the families.

• Israeli army forces Thursday targeted four Palestinian youth with live rounds during a raid into Beit Liqia, west of Ramallah. Medical sources told WAFA clashes broke out between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces at the eastern entrance to the town, during which Israeli troops used live rounds against the protesters. While four Palestinians were arrested, Israeli soldiers took one of the arrested to an unknown destination.

• Middle East Quartet envoys this week arrived to Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss concrete moves towards resolving a recent escalation in violence. A joint press statement from the envoys said that representatives from the European Union, Russia, US and United Nations met on Wednesday and Thursday with their Palestinian and Israeli counterparts.

Meetings were held with officials from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as officials from the PLO and the Palestinian Authority. Participants reportedly discussed ‘current conditions on the ground and concrete actions to demonstrate their commitment to the two-state solution’.

The Quartet Envoys in the statement stressed ‘the importance of opposing unequivocally incitement and violence and de-escalate the situation’. Last week’s meetings were the most recent to take place amidst ongoing efforts by international actors to quell recent violence that has left at least 124 Palestinians and 19 Israelis dead since October 1st.

US Secretary of State John Kerry warned earlier this month that key Israeli policies were ‘imperilling’ the viability of a two-state solution and pushing the Palestinian Authority (PA) towards collapse. He reiterated his condemnation of Palestinian acts of violence, but stressed that key Israeli policies – including control over Area C, settlement activity, and home demolitions – were pushing the region away from peace.

‘President Abbas spoke more despairingly than I have ever heard him about the sense of hopelessness the Palestinian people feel,’ Kerry said, referring to a meeting the two held during a visit to the region at the end of last month. While he acknowledged that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu had stated his commitment to a two-state solution, he said it was ‘important that that not became a slogan, not became a throwaway phrase – but that it becomes a policy’.

Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have made a contiguous Palestinian state impossible, and the Palestinian leadership has threatened to abandon security coordination with Israeli forces if Israel continues to ignore past peace agreements. PLO Central Council member Muhammad Shtayyeh meanwhile cautioned earlier this month that the PA will face ‘extreme difficulty’ in surviving the current situation for much longer.

Shtayyeh asked: ‘If Israel is intending to kill teenagers everyday, who have a lack of means for living… with all of the aggression that Israel is employing, how long can the Palestinian leadership maintain this reality?’ The PLO official referred to the continuation of the PA as ‘unsustainable’ amid the ‘political impasse’ between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, as well as a lack of a political horizon among the Palestinian leadership itself.

• Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said on Thursday that he had banned Israeli veteran group Breaking the Silence from participating in any official activities with Israeli forces, Israeli media reported. Yaalon’s statement was made on social media, where he called the left-wing veteran group hypocrites spreading ‘false propaganda’ against Israeli forces and the state of Israel in attempt to ‘delegitimise’ them.

Breaking the Silence responded to the comment on social media, saying the group has been under attack for the past several months, ‘through a pre-meditated campaign, in which members of the extreme right-wing, including Israeli parliamentarians and elected officials, along with public figures and right-wing organisations, are trying to silence both us and every debate related to the 48-year-long occupation’.

Breaking the Silence is an organisation comprised of Israeli veterans who served in combat ‘and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territory’. The group produces videos, collects testimonies and gives lectures – mostly within Israel, but sometimes abroad – on war crimes committed by the Israeli leadership through its military since 1967.

The heated debate follows the brief detainment of an Israeli soldier as he entered the UK last week. The soldier was reportedly detained for alleged war crimes committed against Palestinians during Israel’s 2014 Gaza offensive.

Pro-Palestinian groups across the world have collected names of those involved in the 50-day offensive, which resulted in the death of over 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom were civilians, as well as 64 Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians. The names were reported to various international justice systems as war criminals under international law. Following the UK’s detainment of the soldier, who has not been identified, Israel’s Defence Ministry and leaders within the Israeli forces contacted the UK government and arranged his release.