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Headlines From Palestine: May 2, 2015

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Palestinian Intelligence Reveals Role in Releasing Swedish Hostages in Syria

 A high-level source in the Palestinian intelligence today revealed the details of the security operation which contributed to the release of the two kidnapped Swedish monks, who were held hostages by armed groups in Syria.

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Israeli Occupation Forces Injure 2 At Weekly March In Palestine

Two Palestinians were injured with live rounds and dozens more suffered excessive tear gas inhalation when Israeli forces violently suppressed the weekly protest in Kafr Qaddum village near Qalqiliya.

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Israeli Occupation Forces Shoot, Injure 3 Palestinian Teens Near Ramallah

Three Palestinian teenagers were shot and injured with live rounds on Friday when Israeli forces opened fire on them during clashes in al-Jalazun refugee camp north of Ramallah.

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Maan Images

Hundreds Pray Outside Mosque Closed By Israeli Occupation 67 Years Ago

Some 250 Palestinians performed Friday prayers outside a mosque in Beersheba in southern Israel that Israeli authorities have kept closed since 1948.

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Israel Occupation Arrests Four Palestinians, Summons Three for Interrogation

Israeli forces Saturday arrested four Palestinians from the Hebron and Jenin districts, as well as summoned two other Palestinians for interrogation, according to local and security sources.

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In April: Israeli Occupation Murdered 7 Palestinians, Arrested 375

Israeli forces have killed seven Palestinians and detained 375 others in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in April, a Palestinian NGO said today.

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Palestinian Intelligence Reveals Role in Releasing Swedish Hostages in Syria

PNN/ Ramallah/

A high-level source in the Palestinian intelligence today revealed the details of the security operation which contributed to the release of the two kidnapped Swedish monks, who were held hostages by armed groups in Syria.

The source said that this operation came under the title of “Giving back to the Kingdom of Sweden” for taking supportive stands in favor of the Palestinian people, topped by the Swedish recognition of Palestinian state.

The two Swedish monks were kidnapped in Syria on 12.03.2013. The Palestinian ambassador in Sweden, Hala Fareez said that Jabhat Al-Nusra armed group which affiliates to AL Qaida, was the kidnapper of the two monks.

The process required and confirmed a high level of secrecy for it to succeed and not be sabotaged by outer bodies. However, Jordanian intelligence met with Palestinian official several times, and served the case majorly. They provided logistics and highly contributed to the case. However, they preferred to remain unidentified.

The source revealed details of the operation saying that it had been opened during the visit of President Mahmoud Abbas to Sweden earlier this year, where he put forward the matter of the Swedish hostages who have been kidnapped since 2013 without any clues reported about them.

Source added that president Abbas has commissioned intelligence, and sent a delegation to Sweden to begin discussions with their Swede counterparts.

The work began under the title of “giving back,” and moved around in several Arab capitals to contact the militants and the kidnappers, to finally find out that the hostages were alive.

On April 2nd 2015, the Swedish government demanded proof that the hostages were alive . The intelligence were able to obtain recorded films showing that hostages give credits to the Palestinian role in their case. It started last Thursday, two crisis cells were formed; Palestinian, lead by president Mahmoud Abbas, and another Swedish cell.

The process officially started last Thursday, 23 April, when the commissioned groups entered Syria through Jordan, then on Friday approached an agreed area, accompanied by the Jordan intelligence and border guards.

“The Palestinian intelligence officers entered about 500 meters into Syria and it was a huge risk taken by them. This contributed to convincing the kidnappers hand the hostages. Also, the Palestinian intelligence convinced the kidnappers to hand the hostages because Palestine wanted to thank Sweden, and it will bring more peace to the conditions in the Middle East,” the source said.

The two hostages were transported by a car accompanied with Palestinian officers into Jordan.

He assured that they were in a good health, but suffered bad humanitarian conditions and were happy to finally be out of it. They were taken to the Swedish embassy in Jordan where a Swedish delegation awaited them. On Saturday, they were reunited with their families.

“It did not take either one bullet, or a blood drop, or any money to release the hostages. However, it was a very complicated and stressful process.” The official said.  He added that the kidnappers were “honest” in their treatment with them, giving no further explanation.

Thomas Olson (50 years) and Martin Rein (33) on Saturday arrived to Sweden. The Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström thanked Palestine and Jordan for their help in retaining the hostages safe and sound. She gave special thanks to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas who had a determined role, and the Jordanian authorites as well.

The Swedish spokesperson refused to give any details on the operation. However, he mentioned that the release did not require any payments.


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Headlines From Palestine: April 27, 2015

Despite Previous Claims, Hamas Leader Now Reveals Indirect ‘Chats’ With Israel

Hamas leader Ahmad Yousef said Sunday that there were “chats” taking place between the Islamist movement and Israel under European mediation.

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Israeli Occupation Forces Shoot, Injure Palestinian In Northern Gaza Strip

Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man east of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday.A Ministry of Health spokesman, Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra, said that the 37-year-old man had been shot in his right foot in the Abu Safiya area east of Beit Hanoun.

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Israel Occupation Army Kills 4 Men On Syria Border

Israeli armed forces on Sunday killed four people when they tried to plant bombs near the Golan Heights on the country’s border with war-torn Syria, a security source said.

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Israel Occupation Army Kills 4 Men On Syria Border

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli armed forces on Sunday killed four people when they tried to plant bombs near the Golan Heights on the country’s border with war-torn Syria, a security source said.

The incident occurred at night near the town of Majdal Shams, in the Israeli occupied Golan, the source told AFP.
The army said on its official Twitter account that the operation targeted “terrorists” armed with explosives who “were en route to imminent attack on our forces. Our air force neutralized threat”.It made no mention of any casualties, however.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement praised “the vigilance” of Israeli troops.”Every attempt to attack Israeli soldiers or civilians will be met with a decisive response like this operation which thwarted an attack,” the statement from his office said.Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and annexed it in 1981 in a move never recognized by the international community.
There has been repeated shooting across the ceasefire line since the uprising in Syria erupted in March 2011, some of it stray.Syria and Israel are still officially in a state of war.


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Headlines From Palestine: April 26, 2015

Israeli occupation forces shot and injured a Palestinian in north Gaza near Beit Hanoun Sunday at noon.


Israeli occupation shoots and damages 2 Palestinian fishing boats  off Gaza coast of Sudaniya.

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Child Labour Increases In Gaza

Midnight approaches, and the small feet of Imad Awadallah feel heavy but manage to carry him and his bag across the street to a dark alley. Whoever he meets, he has only two options: sell his boxes of tissues or try to collect a few gifted coins, so he can go home to eat and sleep.

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UNRWA Commences $40M Gaza Refugee Camp Improvement Project

UNRWA Thursday highlighted its recently-commenced $40-million camp improvement pilot project aimed at improving ‘the quality of life for Palestinian refugees in Deir El Balah camp.

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Illegal Israeli Squatters Farming Land Closed To Its Palestinian Owners By Army

An alleged 5,000 dunams of Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley is under settler cultivation; owners have petitioned High Court asking for land’s return.

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Israeli Terrorists Stone Palestinians’ Homes in Hebron

A group of Israeli settlers from settlements in occupied Hebron district, West Bank, on Sunday morning have stoned homes of Palestinians in the center of the city.

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Sweden Thanks Palestine’s President Abbas For Help In Securing Release Of Hostages In Syria

Sweden says that two of its nationals, held hostage in Syria, have been released and are reunited with their families.

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Sweden Thanks Palestine’s President Abbas For Help In Securing Release Of Hostages In Syria

Donia Al-Watan

Sweden says that two of its nationals, held hostage in Syria, have been released and are reunited with their families.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry in Stockholm says in a statement it worked closely with several authorities and were particularly grateful to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was “crucial” in the release. It also singled out Jordan as helping in the releases.

Ministry officials on Saturday did not identify the hostages or say when or where they were released. They also declined to say where the Swedes had been held or for how long, or give further information. (AP)

Ma’an

STOCKHOLM (AFP) — Two Swedish men held hostage in Syria have been released with the help of Palestinian and Jordanian authorities, Sweden’s foreign ministry said Saturday.

The ministry declined to give details of the case but Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem thanked the Palestinians and Jordan for helping secure the men’s release. “A special thanks to Palestine and President (Mahmoud) Abbas personally who engaged in a decisive way, as well as to the Jordanian authorities,” she said in a statement to news agency TT.The Palestinian ambassador to Sweden Hala Husni Fariz said the men, who were freed on Friday, had been kidnapped by Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Al-Nusra Front. “We are very happy that we could contribute to freeing the two Swedes,” she told TT, adding that Palestinian security services had helped negotiate their release for over two months. She said the men had been held in an area close to the Jordanian border.


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PLO, UNRWA Pledge To Continue To Aid Refugees

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi met with UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl on Thursday to discuss the ongoing crisis for refugees in Gaza and Yarmouk.

Meeting in the PLO Headquarters in Ramallah, Ashrawi praised UNRWA for its continued efforts in assisting Palestinian refugees living in Gaza and the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus, where the situation is deteriorating, a statement said.
The officials also discussed challenges facing UNRWA in providing humanitarian assistance, relief and protection to Palestinians, specifically the siege on Gaza and the need for international donors to deliver long promised aid.Ashrawi and Krahenbuhl pledged during the meeting to continue working together towards easing conditions for Palestinian refugees.While Gaza received an outpouring of support from the international community following last summer’s war, donors have given less than 27 percent of the total amount pledged, according to the World Bank.The Palestinian government has long relied on UNRWA to support the more than 760,000 Palestinians — estimated today to number nearly 5 million with their descendants — pushed into exile or driven out of their homes following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.Both Palestinian authorities and refugees living within the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip retain dependence on UNRWA to provide basic needs to refugees; receiving services from the Palestinian government would indicate submission to the on-the-ground reality the state of Israel has created, forcing refugees to give up on ever returning to their homes.
A total of 56 Palestinian refugee camps are run by UNRWA in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.


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PLO: Islamic State Using Heavy Arms In Yarmouk Camp

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Islamic State militant group in Syria is using heavy weaponry and artillery in ongoing fighting in the beleaguered Yarmouk refugee camp, a PLO official said Sunday.

Ahmad al-Majdalani, the PLO envoy to Syria, told Ma’an that despite heavy fighting with the Syrian army IS have maintained their positions in the camp and have redeployed to arrange future attacks.

“Political solutions regarding the Yarmouk crisis are over as IS has closed all doors on any political solution and is currently gathering its forces in the Yalda area in Syria in preparation to attack the camp,” the official said.

Al-Majdalani, who returned from Syria at the weekend, will meet with President Abbas upon his return from Moscow to discuss the crisis.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, on Monday called on all sides to respect the beleaguered civilians trapped inside Yarmouk.

“The Syria conflict has a human face. These are individuals with a dignity and destiny that must be at the center of our responses as we grapple with the complexities of protecting civilians, in Yarmouk and beyond.”

Yarmouk, which is Syria’s largest refugee camp lying seven kilometers south of Damascus, was initially attacked by IS on April 1, and the group subsequently took over the majority of the camp.

Although hundreds of residents have been evacuated, up to 18,000 residents remain trapped inside the camp, which has been besieged by the Syrian army for more than a year.

The camp was once home to 160,000 people, Syrians as well as Palestinians, but its population has dwindled since the uprising erupted in March 2011.

Although the PLO has publicly rejected Palestinian involvement in a military campaign, citing a longstanding policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab nations, on Saturday Majdalani said the situation was out of the hands of the Palestinian leadership.

He told Ma’an that the resort to military action had been imposed on Palestinian groups inside the camp.


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Headlines From Palestine: April 12, 2015

Rainfall Floods Homes in Gaza Due to Slow Reconstruction

As the “Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism” set up by the United Nations, is progressing slowly, dozens of Palestinians’ homes and caravans are flooded with rainwater amid rain storms that has been affecting the region since Saturday.

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Israeli Extremists Storm al-Aqsa Mosque Yards, Assault Female Worshipers

Israeli settlers, who stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque yards under Israeli police protection, assaulted on Saturday a number of Palestinian female worshipers, according to witnesses.

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Israeli Occupation Forces Raid Homes in Bethlehem, Palestine

Israeli forces Sunday broke into the village of Beit Fajjar, to the south of Bethlehem and raided and searched resident’s homes, said security sources.

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Palestinian Woman Injured In Israeli Terrorist Hit And Run In Jerusalem

An Israeli settler Sunday ran over a Palestinian female near one of the gates of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem before fleeing the scene.

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Palestinian National Council Head Calls For Quicker Response To Yarmouk Crisis

The head of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zanoun, has called on the Palestinian leadership to speed up efforts to resolve the ongoing Yarmouk crisis.

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Palestinian National Council Head Calls For Quicker Response To Yarmouk Crisis

AMMAN (Ma’an) — The head of the Palestinian National Council, Salim Zanoun, has called on the Palestinian leadership to speed up efforts to resolve the ongoing Yarmouk crisis.

Zanoun said that residents of the beleaguered refugee camp don’t need discussion, but political and material support.

His comments were directed at the PNC’s executive committee, the highest executive body of the PLO, which is composed of 18 members. The executive committee is elected by the much larger PNC, which has nearly 700 members.

Zanoun made his comment as he met with PNC members in Amman to discuss the crisis in Syria, among other issues.

He called on PNC members across the occupied Palestinian Territories to donate to residents of Yarmouk camp, saying it was “a national duty.”

A one-week period has been set in which to raise donations, and Zanoun added that the council had so far raised 13,150 Jordanian Dinars ($18,600).

On Saturday, two senior UN officials were headed Saturday for Syria on an “urgent mission” to aid the thousands of civilians that remain trapped in Yarmouk.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, who heads the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, is meeting Syrian officials to discuss the delivery of aid to the camp which has been stormed by Islamic State group militants.

He is also due to meet displaced refugees on Sunday at a school near the camp.

Also in Damascus, the UNRWA chief is to meet deputy special envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, sent on Friday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon who has warned of a “massacre” in the camp.

The visit is “prompted by UNRWA’s deepening concerns for the safety and protection of some 18,000 Palestinian and Syrian civilians, including 3,500 children” still in the camp, the agency said in a statement.

Refuge in schools

According to Palestinian sources, some 2,500 of the remaining civilians have now taken refuge in Damascus schools.

“I don’t have the strength to walk any more,” said Umm Mohammed, a woman in her 70s, in a video distributed to media organisations by an activist, Rami el-Sayyed.

“I haven’t left my house for fear of it being looted. But if they open the road, I don’t want to stay any more,” she said.

“We left Palestine and we’re still suffering. What did the Palestinians do to deserve all this?”

Yarmouk, which is Syria’s largest refugee camp lying seven kilometers south of Damascus, was initially attacked by IS on April 1, and the group subsequently took over up to 90 percent of the camp.

Armed Palestinian factions have fought back and Syria’s air force has struck IS positions in the camp.

Although the PLO has publicly rejected involvement in a military campaign, citing a longstanding policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of Arab nations, on Saturday PLO envoy to Syria Ahmed Majdalani said the situation was out of the hands of the Palestinian leadership.

Majdalani told Ma’an that the resort to military action had been imposed on Palestinian groups by IS, and that negotiations would not be workable.

Fighting south of Damascus

In fighting south of Damascus, meanwhile, 35 people were killed as pro-government forces repelled an attack on a key military airport by IS-affiliated militants, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack targeted the outskirts of Khalkhalah military airport in Sweida province on Friday.

Syria’s official news agency SANA said the army had “blocked attempts from IS terrorists to infiltrate” areas near the airport.

Khalkhalah lies along a major highway between Damascus and the regime-held city of Sweida, a stronghold of the Druze minority that has largely avoided the bloodshed of Syria’s war.

The attack on Khalkhalah was the first by IS, but the airport has been previously targeted by rebels and Syria’s Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.

In the northern city of Aleppo, at least 10 civilians were killed in rebel shelling of a Christian district and 10 others in regime bombardment of an area under rebel control, according to the Observatory.

More than 215,000 people have been killed in Syria’s four-year war, which is increasingly dominated by extremist groups.

AFP contributed to this report.