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The News Line: Feature Palestinian Cabinet decides on West Bank only elections THE PALESTINIAN cabinet decided on Tuesday to hold municipal elections on May 13 only in the West Bank with the exclusion of the Gaza Strip, where the cabinet said it will not be possible to hold elections at the scheduled date.

‘The cabinet decided to hold elections for local councils in the West Bank on Saturday, May 13, 2017 as per the decision taken on January 31, 2017,’ said the cabinet in a statement at the conclusion of its weekly meeting held in Bethlehem.

‘This decision was made based on the letter by the commissioner of the Central Election Commission (CEC) to the Prime Minister which pointed to the difficulty of holding elections in the Gaza Strip following a meeting for the CEC with Hamas and the failure of efforts by the CEC and Palestinian factions to persuade Hamas to participate in the democratic process, which our people deserves,’ said the statement. Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, said it will not participate in the elections after they were cancelled the previous time following a court ruling.

Municipal elections were first planned for October 8, 2016 when a court cancelled them following objections against the function of Gaza courts on election issues. Hamas was planning to take part in the elections then. The cabinet expressed regret that Hamas would not allow people in Gaza to elect their representatives to the local councils, but said efforts will continue to get Hamas to change its position.

‘We hope the local elections will lead to an agreement on general political elections, including presidential and legislative elections as well as elections for the national council that will open the door for efforts to end division and bring unity,’ it said.

• Palestinian child Abdullah Haroun al-Anati from the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem was shot by Israeli forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet in the chest during a violent raid in the camp on Monday afternoon, and has since remained chained to his hospital bed at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem despite being in the intensive care unit.

Al-Anati’s mother Abir said on Tuesday that her the 14-year-old son was being held in Israeli custody while receiving medical treatment, as Israeli forces accused the boy of throwing stones at Israeli military vehicles during Monday’s raid, which also left a 9-year-old girl with a rubber-coated steel bullet injury to the foot.

‘The bullet ripped through his left hand and his lung and has caused internal bleeding,’ Abir said, ‘soldiers are present in the room and they don’t allow me to talk to my son or come close to him.’ She added that an Israeli interrogator questioned al-Anati on Monday evening for approximately two hours. The interrogator, she added, took away the boy’s shoes and clothes.

Abir denied claims that her son was throwing rocks, saying that she was walking him and her daughters home from school when he was shot. ‘I was with Abdullah and the girls on Monday afternoon escorting them from school in Kafr Aqab to our home in the camp,’ she said, adding that when she and her children entered the camp, there were clashes near the Israeli military checkpoint at the entrance to Shufat.

According to Abir, she managed to cross the checkpoint into the camp along with her children and walked away from the area where clashes were taking place. Abdullah, she said, walked at a faster pace ahead of his mother and sisters, causing her to lose sight of him. Moments later, she learned from local youth that her son was shot. She added that she took her son to a local medical centre before he was taken in an ambulance to the hospital.

‘Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint allowed the ambulance to pass after holding it for more than half an hour,’ she said. The soldiers, she added, insisted on following the ambulance with a military vehicle and demanded the driver to go to Hadassah hospital.

On Monday, Thaer al-Fasfous, a Fatah spokesman in the camp, said of al-Anati, who at that time was still unidentified, that soldiers ‘detained the injured boy for more than half an hour at a checkpoint in Shufat before an ambulance, followed by a military jeep, was able to take him to a hospital.’

According to al-Fasfous, Israeli forces ‘showered the camp’ in tear gas and fired rubber-coated steel bullets ‘haphazardly’, resulting in al-Anati’s injury. Shufat refugee camp is located in northeastern Jerusalem within Israel’s municipal boundaries of the city, but is encircled on three sides by Israel’s separation wall, forcing residents to pass through a congested military checkpoint to access the rest of Jerusalem where most claim residency status.

The camp is routinely the site of violent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian youth as a result of raids such as Monday’s. Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Due to the typically aggressive nature of the raids, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones and are met in response with live fire, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas, often resulting in serious, sometimes fatal, injuries.

Rights groups have routinely condemned Israeli authorities for their use of excessive force against Palestinians, including minors, during incidents that did not warrant a violent response. Israeli authorities have also dramatically escalated their crackdown on Palestinian youth who are caught throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers, detaining hundreds of Palestinians for alleged stone throwing every year.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem reported that from 2005 to 2010, ‘93% of the minors convicted of stone throwing were given a prison sentence, its length ranging from a few days to 20 months.’ However, Palestinians have claimed that rock throwing by teenagers represents a natural reaction to the frustrations caused by the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has been shaped by everyday forms of violence, such as nightly military raids into Palestinian communities, arbitrary detentions, home demolitions, and frequent killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.

• After Israeli officials enraged Palestinians by branding Yaqoub Abu al-Qian a terrorist when Israeli police shot him dead last month, a claim that has been widely disputed, a group of Bedouin soldiers announced they would no longer report for reserve duty in the Israeli army, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Israeli police shot and killed Abu al-Qian in the unrecognised Bedouin village of Um Al-Hiran during a home demolition raid on January 18, with Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan immediately claiming the local math teacher was carrying out a vehicular attack motivated by Islamist extremism when he was shot.

In the wake of the incident, Erdan has made pleas to the ‘beloved’ Bedouin community of Israel ‘to continue living in coexistence in the Negev,’ while simultaneously launching what a group of Bedouin soldiers called a ‘slander campaign’ against the Bedouin population with Israeli Police Chief Roni Alsheich.

In a statement published by Haaretz on Sunday, 25 reservist Bedouin soldiers accused Erdan and Alsheich of ‘preferring to slander an entire population rather than admitting their embarrassing mistake and the unjustified taking of the life of an educator.’

Remarks made by Erdan last week were said to be an indication that he was backtracking on the terrorism accusation, as multiple eyewitnesses, video footage, and testimonies from Abu al-Qian’s family members continued to contradict the minister’s claim, as they all asserted that Israeli police opened fire on Abu al-Qian while he posed no threat, causing him to spin out of control and fatally hit an Israeli policeman.

Nevertheless, the Bedouin soldiers wrote in their statement that they felt ‘abandoned’ and ‘betrayed’ by Israeli authorities. ‘We have served in (Israeli army) combat units and have shed blood and tears protecting the borders of Israel and the safety of its residents. It is very unfortunate that at the end of our military service, we understood that we’ve been abandoned by the country that sent us to fight,’ the statement said.

‘How great is the pain, how great was our disappointment and sense of betrayal when it became clear to us that the country we had fought for was now turning its back on us, causing us harm and preventing us from living as civilians.’

With the exception of Druze and Circassians, Palestinian citizens of Israel are not mandated to serve in the army, though Israeli forces boast a sizeable number of Bedouin Muslim volunteers. Volunteer service is less common in other Palestinian communities.

The statement also described the discrimination experienced by the Bedouin community when attempting to enter the workforce after completing military service, while also being shunned by other Palestinians as ‘traitors’ for serving in the Israeli army.

‘From the standpoint of the Jews, we’re Arabs. From the standpoint of the Arabs, we’re traitors. We’re neither here nor there. There’s no one to represent us,’ one of the soldiers told Haaretz, also claiming that the Arab Joint list coalition in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, showed greater concern for non-Bedouin Palestinians. Another Bedouin soldier quoted by Haaretz also expressed dismay that Israeli authorities did not make more of a distinction between Bedouins and Palestinians, who he said were stereotyped as terrorists.

Abu al-Qian’s killing and the demolitions in Umm al Hiran that day came amid a massive demolition campaign targeting Palestinians citizens in Israel, particularly in the town of Qalansawe, while Palestinians in the occupied territory were subjected to a record-breaking surge in home demolitions in 2016 that left 1,593 homeless.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities demolished the house of a Palestinian citizen of Israel without prior notice in the central Israeli town of Kafr Qasim. The shocked homeowner said: ‘I can’t express my true feelings as I watched my home being demolished in front of my eyes, but I believe I am not in a better situation than that of the residents of Um Al-Hiran and Qalansawe, or others whose homes are facing demolition threats in the territories occupied in 1948.’

Sheikh Safwat Freij, the deputy head of the Islamic Movement in northern Israel and the head of al-Aqsa Association, said at the time: ‘After (Israeli) crimes in Um Al-Hiran and Qalansawe, we thought they would stop the war they have been waging against the indigenous Arab community, but they are moved by their blind grudge against everything that is Arab.’

Rights groups have argued that the aim of home demolitions is to forcibly displace Palestinians from the region, regardless of their status as residents of the occupied West Bank or East Jerusalem, or as citizens of Israel – despite the varying legal justifications used by Israel in each instance.


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