The United Nations' Palestine refugee agency UNRWA warned Dec. 20 that the lives of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk camp in Damascus are at risk due to the ongoing siege of the camp by Syrian regime forces. Commissioner general of UNRWA Filippo Grandi said that "humanitarian conditions in the besieged refugee camp of Yarmouk are worsening dramatically and that we are currently unable to help those trapped inside." He stressed that if the situation is not addressed soon, "it may be too late to save the lives of thousands of people including children."
In the most dramatic demonstration ever staged by African refugees in Israel, some 150 Sudanese men who have been detained for months at the sprawling Saharonim prison camp in the desert south marched cross-country on Jerusalem, and on Dec. 18 protested outside the government compound there. In the three-day march through snow-covered country, the migrants took shelter in bus stations at night. They had last week been transfered from Saharonim to an "open" facility at Holot—which authorities maintain is not a prison, despite the fact that the migrants must report back there each night or be in violaiton of the law. Upon the transfer, they quickly abandoned the facilty and began their cross-country trek. At the Jerusalem rally, which was itself an act of civil disobedience against their legal detention, the migrants chanted: "No more prison!" and "Refugees' rights right now!"
Isn't it utterly absurd that there are some aghast at the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and utterly unconcerned with that in Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus now besieged by forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad... and vice versa...? A brutal winter storm in the region has exacerbated the suffering in both blockaded enclaves, and most Palestinians assuredly grasp the obvious symmetry. In some quarters, however, a sort of ideological blindness seems to prevail: Assad's apologists are of course outraged at the agony in Gaza, but find that in Yarmouk invisible. The US State Department, in turn, exploits Yarmouk for propaganda against Assad, while displaying no such concern for Gaza...
Dozens of Palestinians were injured and one detained as Israeli forces opened fire to disperse protests against the Israeli occupation and commemorating Nelson Mandela's death across the West Bank on Dec. 6. Protests against the Israeli occupation and separation wall took place in villages across the West Bank, including in Bilin, al-Masara, Kafr Qaddum, and Nabi Saleh. Demonstrators raised slogans and posters of South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in many villages, commemorating the legacy of the "freedom fighter" who passed away the previous day.
Seventeen members of families who lost relatives in Israel's 2008 war on Gaza staged a mass suicide attempt in protest over unpaid compensations from the Hamas government, a representative said. Alaa al-Barawi, speaking on behalf of the families, told Ma’an News Agency that 17 people related to those who died in the fighting attempted to hang themselves after a 39-day sit-in went unanswered. Witnesses said ambulances arrived at the scene and took a number of the family members to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Al-Barawi added that the families would continue seeking promised financial compensation from the government, which has paid families who lost loved ones in the 2008-2009 war.
Municipality officers escorted by Israeli soldiers issued demolition warrants for thousands of Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ras Khamis and Ras Shahada on Oct. 31, a local Palestinian official said. Jamil Sanduqa, who chairs a local committee to develop the Ras Khamis neighborhood, said that over 15,000 Palestinians live in the buildings slated for demolition. The warrants were posted on 200 residential blocks each consisting of 40-70 apartments and the owners were given 30 days to submit objections to the demolition orders, Sanduqa said. He added that municipality officers took photos of several buildings located near the entrance to the neighborhoods before they issued the orders. Among the buildings was a mosque and a newly built school.
Top UN and EU officials denounced the renewed plans for Israeli settlements announced Oct. 30 by the Israeli Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of the Interior. The plans include building more than 1,500 homes in Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton in a statement (PDF) declared them to be illegal under international law. Ashton said the EU deplores the recent announcements and has "called on Israel to end all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001."
Israeli air-strikes targeted the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 28, Israel's army said, in the first air-strike on Gaza in over two months. "In response to the numerous rockets and mortars launched at Israel in the past 24 hours, IAF aircraft targeted two concealed rocket launchers in the northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed," a statement said. Witnesses said the attack targeted a training ground used by militants from the armed wing of Gaza's ruling Hamas movement west of Beit Lahiya, but no-one was hurt. Several rockets were fired from Gaza early that day, with one rocket intercepted by the Iron Dome system above Ashkelon, Israel's army said. A mortar shell was fired from Gaza on Sunday, the army added. No group has claimed responsibility for firing the rockets.