DEPUTY head of Hamas’s political bureau Ismail Haniya has urged Arab and Muslim leaders in the region, in letters sent to them, to support al-Quds intifada (uprising) and the steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the face of the occupation.
The Hamas official highlighted the great sacrifices made by the Palestinian people in their third intifada against the Israeli occupation and their legitimate struggle to restore their usurped rights. ‘As we are seeing this blessed intifada that started from the courtyards of the Aqsa Mosque and the streets and alleys of Jerusalem and spread in all West Bank areas and Gaza flashpoints, we believe that our people, who trust in their God and his support, are able to extract their rights, liberate their holy sites and land, and defeat their enemy with the help of the loyal and sincere leaders of this nation,’ Haniya said.
Israeli plain-clothes policemen at dawn on Wednesday stormed the Red Cross headquarters in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in east Jerusalem and kidnapped sit-in protesters from a tent there. Local witnesses said that police officers dressed in civilian attire entered the yard of the Red Cross headquarters despite having its main gate closed and rounded up journalist Samer Abu Aisha and Hijazi Abu Subaih and other activists sympathising with them.
Abu Aisha and Abu Subaih had pitched their tent inside the Red Cross building to protest against Israeli police decisions ordering them to stay away from the holy city for several months. Israeli forces on Wednesday morning demolished five dwellings housing Palestinian Bedouin families in the Abu Nuwwar community east of Jerusalem, part of the wider E1 corridor, leaving 25 people homeless.
Dawood al-Jahalin, a spokesperson for the Abu Nuwwar Bedouin community, said that Israeli military and police vehicles surrounded the area at around 8:30 am, before bulldozers demolished five dwellings and an agricultural structure. The families were not given any time to remove their belongings before the dwellings – made of steel, wood, and canvas – were torn down, he said.
‘I showed them a court decision banning demolition, but the officer in charge refused to see it and instead told me he had a demolition order from the Civil Administration,’ al-Jahalin said. He said that the Israeli authorities had repeatedly attempted to persuade the families to leave their land. They offers us blank cheques and alternative land, but we refused and will continue to refuse to leave our land, and we will rebuild the dwellings this evening,’ he said.
Israel’s Civil Administration said in a statement that the families had refused to move to ‘legal buildings with appropriate infrastructure near their current illegal structures’. As a result, it said two ‘illegal structures’ were demolished following ‘the required executive procedures’.
Abu Nuwwar is one of several Bedouin villages facing forced evacuation due to plans by Israeli authorities to build thousands of homes for Jewish-only settlements in the E1 corridor. Although Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was forced to suspend work on the housing units in 2013, settlement watchdog Peace Now reported last week that the Ministry of Housing has ‘quietly’ continued planning 8,372 homes in the corridor.
Settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.
Israeli activity in E1 has attracted widespread international condemnation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past said that ‘E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed’. Also on Wednesday, Israeli forces demolished a mosque in the unrecognised Palestinian Bedouin village of Rakhama in the Negev in southern Israel, Talal Abu Arar, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, revealed.
Abu Arar said he attempted to prevent the demolition, but had been unable to convince the Israeli authorities. ‘(They) do not spare any effort in exerting pressure on the Arab population of the Negev in their attempt to empty the land of Arabs and to displace them,’ he said. ‘The demolition of the mosque today, and mosque demolitions in the Negev in general, is a declaration of war on Islam, in line with the religious war Israel has been igniting in the region,’ Abu Arar said.
The Palestinian MK slammed Israel for not providing ‘any services to Palestinians in unrecognised villages’. Despite collecting taxes from Palestinians, he said that ‘Israeli authorities demolish their homes and close the doors of livelihoods in their faces’. Rakhama is one of around 40 Bedouin villages in the Negev that Israel refuses to recognise – together holding nearly 90,000 people.
Israeli authorities last month demolished structures in the Bedouin village of al-Araqib, also in the Negev, for the 92nd time. Israeli policy regarding Palestinian Bedouins – who live under the constant threat of displacement – has been slammed by Human Rights Watch in the past as completely disregarding international law, which forbids discriminatory evictions.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon has decided to incorporate a southern West Bank church compound into the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Wednesday. The 38-dunam (9.3 acre) compound, known as Beit al-Baraka, is located to the north of al-Arrub refugee camp in the southern West Bank district of Hebron.
An investigative report by Haaretz in May last year alleged that American millionaire Irving Moskowitz purchased the site through a Swedish company in 2012 with the intention of turning it into a settlement outpost. Since then, Palestinians have staged regular protests outside the compound, often with Palestinian political and religious leaders in attendance.
The church lies in a sensitive location between the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and the cluster of settlements around Hebron, and its incorporation into Gush Etzion would see a near continuous line of settlements between Jerusalem and Hebron. Haaretz, which has followed the case closely, reported on Wednesday that the Gush Etzion regional council had sought Yaalon’s approval to add the compound to its municipality’s jurisdiction.
‘Yaalon has agreed to this request, and the military commander in the territories signed off on the order,’ Haaretz reported. ‘This means the property is now officially part of the settlement bloc.’
Haaretz’s investigation earlier this year alleged that a Swedish company established in 2007 had been used to cover up the sale and transfer of Beit al-Baraka in 2012 to a settler organisation funded by Moskowitz.
A pastor who headed the church that previously owned the compound, Keith Coleman, told Haaretz he thought it had been sold to a Swedish company called Scandinavian Seamen Holy Land Enterprises in March 2008 that would revive its use as a church. However, Haaretz discovered that ‘the Swedish group was established in Stockholm in 2007, and seems to have been used as a cover for transferring the ownership of the compound to the settlers. The group does not seem to have any offices’.
The Swedish company registered the purchase with the Israeli Civil Administration in 2012. The company was then dissolved, with ownership handed over to an American nonprofit organisation, American Friends of the Everest Foundation, funded by Irving Moskowitz and working towards the eventual ‘Judaisation’ of occupied East Jerusalem.
Haaretz reported that representatives of the compound’s new owner said they were not planning to allow settlers to move into the buildings, ‘but information obtained by Haaretz indicates that the property is intended to become a settlement’. There are more than 500,000 Israelis living in illegal settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.