Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Blogging From Gaza, Palestine

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Hamas Reopens Gaza Offices Of Mobile Provider After Illegal Closure

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Palestinian phone company Jawwal on Sunday reopened its offices and showrooms across the Gaza Strip less than a week after they were closed by Hamas over accusations of tax dodging.Official sources told Ma’an that Ismail Jabir, the attorney-general for the coastal enclave’s de facto leader Hamas, had given orders that Jawwal reopen.They said that the decision came after an agreement was reached between Hamas and Jawwal, although no further details were given.Hamas security forces shut down Jawwal’s offices and showrooms last Tuesday on orders from Jabir for allegedly dodging taxes.An executive from Jawwal, one of the principle telecoms providers in the occupied Palestinian territories, insisted that “the company is not avoiding any of its (payment) commitments.”However, business analyst Omar Shaaban said it was likely Jawwal was paying taxes to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority and not the Hamas authorities in Gaza.Ammar al-Iker, executive director of the Palestinian Telecommunication Company, which owns Jawwal, said that the company followed lawful procedures instituted by the PA for companies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including tax obligations.The closure could have resulted in the cessation of all mobile phone services in Gaza, with few alternatives to the services provided by Jawwal.The PA slammed the closure as “aggravating division” and “a flagrant violation of Palestinian law.”

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UN Report: ‘War crimes’ Likely By both Sides In 2014 War On Gaza

GENEVA (AFP) — Both Israel and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during last year’s Gaza war, a widely anticipated United Nations report said Monday, decrying “unprecedented” devastation and human suffering.The Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict announced it had gathered “substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.”

On Jan. 16 the ICC announced “a preliminary examination” into Israel’s actions over a period including the Gaza war in which over 2,200 Palestinians were killed, mainly civilians.On the Israeli side 73 people were killed, 67 whom were soldiers.On April 1, the PLO acceded to the ICC with the goal of trying Israeli leaders over alleged abuses in the Gaza war and alleged crimes relating to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.But the Israeli military has expressed confidence that its own internal probes will be sufficient to head off action by the Hague-based court.
On June 11, the Israeli army said that it was dropping proceedings over a July 16 bombing of a Gaza beach where four children were killed during last summer’s war.
Cousins Ahed Atef Bakr and Zakaria Ahed Bakr, both aged 10, nine-year-old Mohamed Ramez Bakr and 11-year-old Ismail Mohamed Bakr were playing on the beach in Gaza City when they were hit in strikes witnessed by journalists staying at a beachfront hotel.
The death of the four boys was well documented and brought international outcry against policies that allegedly enabled the Israeli military to kill civilians.

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Third Freedom Flotilla To Try Breaking Siege Sails To Gaza

ATHENS, June 22, 2015 (WAFA) – Freedom Flotilla III, a third initiative organized by international pro-Palestine activists to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip for eight years, is expected to set off from Greece to the coastal enclave within hours, said Isam Yousef, coordinator of the Miles of Smiles convoys.

Former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, as well as athletes, academicians, parliamentarians of different levels, diplomats, journalists and a Catholic nun, are among the activists on board of the flotilla.

The first flotilla, which set sail on May 31, 2010, was attacked by Israeli forces who boarded the flotilla from speedboats and helicopters and killed nine activists, all of whom were Turkish.

The Gaza Strip has been under a tight Israeli naval, land, and aerial blockade for eight years, since Hamas faction won the 2006 parliamentary elections.

Israel, taking firm control over three major checkpoints with Gaza’s borders, continues to prohibit the entry of hundreds of basic material, including food items, construction material, medical supplies, and pharmaceuticals.

Last August, Israel and the Palestinian factions inked a ceasefire deal, ending the latest 2014 summer deadly Israeli onslaught on Gaza, which claimed the lives of over 2,200 people, overwhelmingly civilians.

The ceasefire deal stipulated that Israel would immediately ease the blockade imposed on the strip and expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast, allowing fishermen to sail as far as six nautical miles from shore, and would continue to expand the area gradually. Israel has nonetheless continued the blockade.

However, Israel did not commit  the ceasefire deal and continued its targeting of Palestinian fishermen and farmers in farmlands along the borders.


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Israeli Occupation Continues Closure Of Gaza’s Karem Abu Salem Crossing After Brief Opening

RAFAH, June 8, 2015 (WAFA) – Israeli authorities Monday closed Gaza’s sole commercial crossing located southeast of Rafah; Karam Abu Salem Crossing, shortly after allowing the entry of material and aid into besieged Gaza in the early morning, which came following three days of closure.

Head of coordinating committee in charge of entry of goods in Gaza Raed fatooh told WAFA that the crossing terminal was opened in the morning hours to allow the entry of 620 truckloads of reconstruction material and aid before being closed by Israeli authorities.

To be noted, Gaza still suffers from the repercussions of the Israeli aggression which took place in the summer of 2014; the infrastructure along with thousands of homes were completely destroyed, displacing thousands of families who up until the moment live in caravans on the rubble of their homes.

Israel has maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2006, crippling the Gaza’s economy.

Arab and world countries pledged $5.4 billion to rebuild the damage that Israel has caused to the infrastructure of Gaza. Half of the money will be allocated to the reconstruction of Gaza, while the other half is allocated to support Palestinians needs.

Meanwhile, a joint statement from some 30 international aid agencies stated that, “Reconstruction and repairs to the tens of thousands of homes, hospitals, and schools damaged or destroyed in the fighting has been woefully slow.”

The statement said that, “Since July, the situation has deteriorated dramatically. Approximately 100,000 Palestinians remain displaced this winter, living in dire conditions in schools and makeshift shelters not designed for long-term stay.”

The center reported on the agencies stating that “the international community is not providing Gaza with adequate assistance. “Little of the $5.4 billion pledged in Cairo has reached Gaza. Cash assistance to families who lost everything has been suspended and other crucial aid is unavailable due to lack of funds.”

To be noted, the terminal crossing has been closed since Friday, a measure which Israel alleged  came in response to a rocket that was fired from Gaza toward southern Israel.


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Israeli Occupation Bulldozers Enter Gaza And Raze Land


A number of Israeli military units, including bulldozers, today infiltrated east of the neighborhood Shaje’iya east of Gaza City, in a leveling operation on agricultural border lands.

Eyewitnesses reported that 4 military bulldozers entered the eastern lands in Shaje’iya neighborhood.

Gazan farmers have been repeatedly targeted on their lands by the Israeli occupation.

On Wednesday morning, one farmer was injured by indiscriminate firing from Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the border of Khuza’a town east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

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Report: Hamas Executions In Gaza War Designed To ‘Punish, Instill Fear’

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The extra-judicial executions of at least 23 Palestinians in Gaza during Israel’s military offensive last summer could amount to war crimes, Amnesty International reported Wednesday, with abuses by Hamas security forces deliberately calculated to spread fear.”In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses including against people in its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip,” Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International, said.The most notorious incident took place on August 22 – a day after Israeli military forces killed three senior Hamas commanders – when 18 suspected collaborators were shot dead.Six of the men – who had bags over their heads — were executed in front of the Al-Omari mosque by men in Hamas military uniforms after Friday prayers in front of hundreds of onlookers. The men were knelt against a wall and shot in the head before being sprayed with gunfire.Eleven other men were said to have been killed in the Katiba prison after being sentenced to death by local courts, with two bodies dumped near the al-Azhar University in Gaza City.Three men were also killed by Hamas authorities immediately following the deaths of Muhammad Abu Shammala, Raed al-Attar and Muhammad Barhoum in Rafah, senior commanders in the Al-Qassam Brigades who Israel says masterminded the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.In all the killings, Hamas said that the suspects had been sentenced for collaborating with Israel during the ongoing conflict following trials preceded over by security and legal experts in “revolutionary courts.”Information passed to Israel’s security services by Palestinian collaborators — in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza — is used to make arrests and, in Gaza specifically, to assassinate high-profile political and militant figures.Israel, as an occupying power, has been criticized by rights groups for endangering the lives of Palestinians who provide information to security services, which usually occurs under the threat of blackmail or through desperation.Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel is punishable by death. All death sentences, however, require President Mahmoud Abbas’ approval before being carried out, and Abbas issued a moratorium on death sentences in 2005.According to Amnesty, at least 16 of those executed on August 22 had been in Hamas custody before the 51-day war began and were awaiting the outcome of their trials when they were removed from prison and executed.”Since 2008, Amnesty has documented Hamas taking advantage of conflict situations. Now we can clearly see those patterns, this is not new,” Saleh Hijazi, a researcher with Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program who worked on the report, told Ma’an.’Collaboration’ charges designed to create fearThe 23 Palestinians killed by Hamas were targeted under an operation code-named “Strangling Necks,” the largest number of alleged collaborators killed over a six year period.During the same time Israel has launched three military operations on the coastal territory, killing over 5,200 Palestinians.Hijazi says the pattern of Palestinians executed by Hamas on collaboration charges during Israeli military offensives is a tool of revenge, fear and ultimately control.”What we saw is arbitrary acts that punish and instill fear rather than actions of a military nature,” the researcher said.”These are grave human rights abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law. Killing people while in custody is a war crime, so is carrying out torture.”One of the men executed on August 22 was Atta Najjar, a former PA police officer with a mental disability serving a 15-year prison sentence imposed by a military court for “collaboration.”His brother said that his body showed clear signs of brutal torture while in Hamas prison custody.”His arms and legs were broken… his body was as if you’d put it in a bag and smashed it… His body was riddled with about 30 bullets. He had slaughter marks around his neck, marks of knives… And from behind the head – there was no brain,” he told Amnesty.”He was heavy, like when you put meat in a bag; no bones. His bones were smashed. They broke him in the prison.”At least three other men died in prison custody after being arrested and tortured by Hamas security forces on accusations of collaboration, Amnesty said.Effectively abducted by Hamas security forces, testimonies from members of Fatah, former PA security officers, and suspected collaborators held in Hamas jails include allegations of being beaten by gun butts, truncheons, hoses, and wires, and also being burnt by fire, acid and hot metal.Some of those detained were tortured in a disused outpatient’s clinic on the grounds of Gaza City’s Shifa hospital, used to treat the thousands of Palestinians injured during Israel’s military offensive.For many families of the victims in Gaza the social stigma of alleged collaboration makes it even harder to seek justice for the killing of their loved ones, with many worrying about reprisal attacks.”There is nowhere to go in Gaza. After three destructive wars and the blockade people are more and more powerless,” Hijazi says.”Victims and family members have nowhere to go and when they do complain they have been shut down or told they are not welcome.”Amnesty called on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to “cooperate with independent and impartial international investigative mechanisms”, and to bring “suspected perpetrators” to justice.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum rejected the Amnesty report’s findings, saying it lacked “professionalism and credibility and is deliberately exaggerated, without taking into account all sides or verifying information.”

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Palestinian Movie Critical of Hamas Being Screened At Cannes Festival

Palestinian movie being screened at Cannes festival is sharply critical of Hamas, Palestinian society


A Palestinian movie sharply critical of Hamas is not commonplace, but the Cannes Festival actually features such a film that provides a stinging rebuke to Gaza’s current way of life – between Israeli military oppression and the wild and uncontrollable violence on its streets.

“Degrade” is the latest movie by twin brothers Ahmed and Mohammed Abu-Nasr, better known as film makers Terzan and Arab Nasser, and it was picked to be screened at the Cannes’ Critics Week, the festival’s sidebar dedicated to first and second films from up-and-coming artists. Judging by the presence at the first three screenings on Monday, the audience seems curious and pleased. And the Nasser brothers may be in line for some prizes.

Heading the Critics Week judges panel is Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz, whose political views are well known, as is her feminist attitude – and that is exactly where the Nasser Brothers direct their surprising film.

This is a small film that takes place at one location – a Gaza beauty salon frequented by women of various ages and walks of life. This is a colorful sliver of paradise populated by a future bride, a cynical divorcee, a young pregnant woman, a religious woman veiled and covered from head to toe, as well as the owner of the establishment, who hails from Russia, a militant hairdresser and a bitter, older woman portrayed by Nazareth-born Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas.

Together they create a complex microcosm reflected in conversations about such issues as politics, religion and men, of course – unlike men, who deal with their disputes by letting off Kalachnikov rounds on the street. This gender-based difference is honed when the hairdresser’s lover, son of a local family, steals a lion from Gaza’s infamous zoo. This is a slap in the face of the Hamas leaders and they declare war on him and his family, which turns the street into a dangerous and especially very noisy place.

The Nasser Brothers say the film is based on a true story. “There was a very powerful family which owned the lion and the government attacked the family in order to take ownership,” Tarzen explained in an interview. When Hamas assumed power in 2006 they decided to take control of all the big families and looked for excuses to do so. On their way to achieving their goal, they killed 15 of the family members.”

All these events are experienced by the film’s characters and by us in the audience from inside the salon, where the women want to hang out until such time as calm is restored. But the violence goes on for hours, and with the sounds of shooting and explosions as a backdrop, the women share intimate experiences – almost contrived, talking about love affairs, their attitude toward life, a religious way of life versus a secular one, as well as Gaza’s deterioration. True, Israel is mentioned quite often in a negative fashion, but at the center of the debate is the Hamas rule and Palestinian society being torn apart under its auspices.

“Women in Gaza are like other women in the world, although their suffering is very unique,” the 26-year-old brothers said in media interviews. “We need women in order to bring about change in Gaza. They are our heroes because despite the ongoing war, they represent life. The movie shows battles outside the beauty salon, but inside they continue with their love stories. They want to remain beautiful, hoping for a date or marriage. While men are shooting at each other on the street, putting on lipstick becomes an act of protest: holding on to life no matter the circumstances, keeping hope alive.”


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Hamas And Israel Holding Secret Talks (Even Though They Issued A Fatwa Against It Previously)

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Jordanian newspaper ad-Dustour reported Tuesday that Hamas and Israel have been involved in secret talks in Israel and European capitals in recent months.

The newspaper quoted “western sources” as saying that among the most prominent issues being negotiated was the establishment of a “floating seaport” located between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus. The report said that both sides are also negotiating a deal to return the body of an Ethiopian Israeli soldier in exchange for Hamas-affiliated prisoners in Israeli custody.The report claimed that “negotiations have reached deeper issues such as borders.”Israel has reportedly offered to enlarge the Gaza Strip into Egypt’s northern Sinai peninsula, an idea which Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was in the past reported as proposing to the Palestinian Authority.The report suggested that the talks may have taken place under Turkish supervision.In April, senior Hamas official Ahmad Yousef denied that there had been any direct talks between Hamas and Israel, but acknowledged that there had been indirect “chats” with Israel under European mediation.Yousef told Ma’an: “We await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats.”Yousef added: “Hamas has a lot of important cards to play.”

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Hamas Security HQ In Gaza Bombed After Threat

GAZA CITY (AFP) — A bomb blast targeted Hamas’s security headquarters in Gaza City on Monday, witnesses said, after Islamists issued a threatening message calling for the release of prisoners.The explosion just before dawn damaged the building’s perimeter wall, witnesses told AFP.The security forces, run by de facto Gaza ruler Hamas, were not immediately available for comment.An online statement just hours before the blast, apparently issued by a radical anti-Hamas group, threatened to “act against chosen targets” if militant prisoners were not freed within 72 hours.It was unclear if the statement and the explosion were linked, however Islamists in Gaza have issued similar threats in the past.”Hamas and its security forces have 72 hours from the release of this statement to free all Salafist (militant) prisoners,” said the statement from a group calling itself the Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem.”Our soldiers are ready to act against chosen targets at the end of this ultimatum,” it said.A string of explosions have hit Gaza in recent months, the majority however involving attacks on the property of Fatah officials in the Hamas-dominated region.A Salafist group based in the Gaza Strip accused Hamas Saturday of torturing its supporters in prison and closely watching other supporters in cities and refugee camps across the coastal enclave.The group urged any of their supporters that suffer assault to document it and send details to the group’s leadership.

Hamas has reportedly targeted a more violent Salafi fringe in particular, which it views as a threat to its power in the same vein as extremist groups such as the Islamic State group.Hamas security forces arrested a Salafist leader last month, alleging that he was a supporter of the Islamic State group (IS) that holds vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.Gazan militants have pledged allegiance to IS in the past, but there has been no confirmation from the group itself that it has a presence in Gaza.The majority of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip reportedly reject IS, according to a March 2015 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. 86 percent of those polled believed IS to be a “radical group that does not represent true Islam.”A blast in Gaza City was also reported Monday by Palestinian media, however it is not clear from reports if the device, which exploded in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, was a separate incident.No injuries were reported from either blast.

Ma’an staff contributed to this report.

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Salafist Group Accuses Hamas Of Torturing Supporters In Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Salafist group based in the Gaza Strip has accused Hamas of torturing its supporters in prison and closely watching other supporters in cities and refugee camps across the coastal enclave.A statement issued on Saturday by the group, which identified itself as the Salafist Trend, warned Hamas of consequences if the group’s supporters were not set free.

“Once again we ask the wise people of Gaza to stop the ongoing Hamas criminality and abusive detention of our brothers before it’s too late,” the statement said.

It added that the Salafist Trend “has details about what is going on inside the detention cells of the interior security service, including names of the criminal interrogators who torture and insult our people.” The statement went on to allege that security officers and undercover agents tasked with watching supporters and ransacking their homes are also known to the group by name.

“Those also won’t escape punishment, sooner or later.” The group urged any of their supporters that suffer assault to document it and send details to the group’s leadership.According to an International Crisis Group report in 2011, “The vast majority of Salafis in Gaza are apolitical, focusing on conventional daawa activities — scholarship, education and social outreach.”It is only a smaller sub-group “who espouse violence, taking up what they perceive to be the armed defense of the Muslim community against non-Muslim enemies,” the report said.

Hamas has in the past cracked down hard on Salafis in the Gaza Strip, particularly as the religious group enjoys the support of Fatah.

Recently Hamas has targeted the more violent Salafi fringe in particular, which it views as a threat to its power in the same vein as extremist groups such as the Wahhabi Islamic State group. Earlier this year, a group affiliating itself with IS in Gaza called for the release of several members they said had been detained by Hamas security services.That group, which called itself “Supporters of the Islamic Caliphate State,” demanded that security forces release the men in the next few days, adding that “threats and political arrests will not succeed in failing IS’s unification project.”