Palestine Theater

West Bank under siege, death toll mounts

Two Palestinians were shot and killed during clashes in Ramallah and Nablus June 22, the 10th day of "Operation Brother's Keeper," Israeli forces' massive search effort across the West Bank for three missing Israeli teen-agers. The operation is one of the largest deployments since the Second Intifada, with at least five Palestinians killed in the last week and more than 370 arrested. The Israeli Defense Forces have carried out raids on more than 1,100 sites including homes, offices and universities. Ramallah was briefly occupied, with Israeli forces carrying out a search of the Palmedia company. An IDF spokesman said the search targeted Al-Quds broadcasting company, media wing of Hamas. After the IDF withdrew from Ramallah, Palestinian protesters attacked a local Palestinian Authority police station, in anger at the security forces' coordination with Israeli troops. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas nonetheless warned: "Israel's continued destructive actions, including shooting innocent Palestinians in cold blood, while Ramadan is around the corner and the situation on the Palestinian street is explosive, can only serve to ignite the West Bank and take things out of control." (Haaretz, JP, June 23; Ma'an, Ma'an, ITAR-TASS, June 22)

ISIS behind West Bank abductions?

Israel's Haaretz reported June 14 that a "Pamphlet Number 1" issued in the name of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and circulated around Hebron is claiming responsibility for the abduction of three Israelis in the West Bank—but the statement's authenticity is in doubt. The account notes that a "similar case occurred two years ago, when Palestinian groups carried out operations under the banner of the Nusra Front," which similarly rose to prominence in the Syrian civil war as the leader of the Islamist rebels. In other words, aspiring local jihadists may be adopting the names of the Syrian Qaedists to cash in on their cachet. Of course given al-Qaeda's franchise model, real organizational ties may follow appropriation of the name. Other groups operating in Sinai and Gaza such as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claim affiliation to al-Qaeda, "while Arab governments sometimes term Salafi groups in their territories as Al-Qaida to legitimize their suppression." Algemeiner reports that Reuter's Jerusalem bureau fielded a call from one "Dawlat al-Islam," identified as an ISIS branch operating in Hebron, claiming responsibility for the abductions.

Rights group protests Israel raid on Palestine TV

International media rights group Reporters Without Borders on June 8 said it was "outraged" by an Israeli police raid on the offices of a Palestinian media agency last week. On June 6, Israeli police raided the East Jerusalem studio of Palestine TV and detained Nader Beibars, the producer of Good Morning Jerusalem, and Palmedia cameraman Ashraf al-Showeiki. Both were detained, interrogated, and later released. Israeli forces raided the studio as the show was being broadcast live. "This raid, and the broadcast shut-down, join the long list of violations of Palestinian news media rights by the Israeli security forces, with never-ending threats, arrests and military operations," Reporters Without Borders said. "The Israeli authorities keep on persecuting the Palestinian media and journalists. After seizing Al-Wattan TV's transmission equipment in 2012, the military are now threatening it with another raid on the grounds that it obtained its new frequency illegally." Israeli police said Palestine TV did not have the required broadcasting permits and suspected the station of inciting violence.

Israeli doctors refuse to force-feed hunger strikers

Doctors in Israel are refusing to back proposed legislation that would allow Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike to be force-fed. The bill, proposed by the Home Front Defense Ministry, comes as at least 65 of the 290 striking detainees have been hospitalized since they stopped eating on April 24. The legislation would empower judges to sanction force-feeding if a detainee's life is perceived to be in danger. But the Israel Medical Association is urging physicians not to cooperate in the practice. "It goes against the DNA of the doctors to force treatment on a patient," said the IMA's Ziva Miral. "Force-feeding is torture, and we can't have doctors participating in torture."

Palestinian hunger strikers in solitary confinement

Sixty hunger striking Palestinians in Israel's Eshel prison are being held in solitary confinement, a prisoner rights group said June 3. The Palestinian Prisoners' Society said in a statement that the number of prisoners hunger striking in the Beersheba prison of Eshel had reached 60 and that each of the strikers was being held in solitary confinement. A spokesman for the Israeli Prison Service did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The prisoners are among hundreds refusing meals in solidarity with administrative detainees who have been on hunger strike for 41 days. 

Marwan Barghouti to join detainee hunger strike

Jailed Palestinian leaders Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat have announced that they will go on hunger strike May 21, a senior official said. Minister of Prisoners' Affairs Issa Qaraqe said that over 120 Palestinian prisoners, including the two jailed leaders, will go on hunger strike for one day in support of administrative detainees who have been refusing meals for nearly four weeks. The day-long solidarity hunger strike will be a warning to the Israeli Prison Service, urging it to comply with the demands of hunger striking prisoners held without trial, Qaraqe said in a statement. Marwan Barghouti is a key figure in the Palestinian Fatah movement and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Ahmad Saadat is the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Some 120 Palestinian prisoners are currently on hunger strike in protest of their detention without charge or trial in Israeli jails. Most of them started their hunger strike 26 days ago. They are demanding Israel change its policy of administrative detention.

Palestinian prisoners on 10th day of hunger strike

Over 100 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails began their tenth day of hunger strike on May 3, and three have been taken to a medical center for treatment, a prisoners' rights group said. The Palestinian Prisoner's Society said in a statement that the number of prisoners on hunger strike against their detention without a trial has reached 120. Striking prisoners have been placed in solitary confinement, the PPS statement said. Three prisoners—Dawood Hamdan, Tariq Deis, and Muhammad al-Natsha—have been taken to Assaf Harofeh medical center for treatment. The statement said 51 strikers were being held in the Negev desert prison, 37 in Ofer detention center, and the rest in Megiddo prison. Elderly and sick prisoners are not on hunger strike due to health reasons, the statement said. If there is no change in Israel's policy regarding "administrative detention"—Israel's phrase for holding prisoners without charge or trial—another group of prisoners will begin a hunger strike, it added.

Israeli forces fire tear gas at Christian pilgrims

Dozens of Christian pilgrims suffered from excessive tear-gas inhalation on Good Friday, April 18, after Israeli troops fired gas canisters as they performed religious rites at the Tomb of Lazarus in al-Eizariya in East Jerusalem. Israeli soldiers reportedly refused to stop firing tear gas canisters despite the presence of pilgrims after clashes had broken out between local youths and Israeli forces in the area. Witnesses told Ma'an News Agency that a tour guide who was escorting the pilgrims asked an Israeli officer to stop firing tear gas canisters until pilgrims left, but the officer continued to fire. The pilgrims had to take shelter in a souvenir shop before they could complete their prayers. The owner of the souvenir shop also tried to convince the Israeli officer to stop firing tear gas so that the pilgrims could leave, but instead the officer "asked a soldier to fire tear gas canisters at the church and at the pilgrims," witnesses added. An Israeli military spokeswoman did not have any information regarding the incident. The village of al-Eizariya houses the Tomb of Lazarus who, according to the Bible, was miraculously brought back to life by Jesus days after he was buried.

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