Ma'an News Agency

Israel frees Palestinian ex-minister after two years

Israel on June 6 released former Palestinian Minister of Prisoner Affairs Wasfi Qabaha, ending his two-year detention without charge or trial. Previous to the two years in administrative detention, Qabaha had been detained by Israel nine times and spent 13 years in jail. Qabaha was released at Jubara checkpoint, northwest of Nablus, where he immediately collapsed, sustaining severe bruising. He was taken to hospital in Tulkarem and underwent minor surgery. At the checkpoint, Qabaha told Ma'an News Agency that the Israeli Prison Service mistreated Palestinian and Arab detainees and had worsened oppressive measures since Jordanian prisoners staged a hunger strike. 

Deadly narco violence in Gaza Strip

The Hamas-run ministry of interior in the Gaza Strip will appoint a committee to investigate clashes June 6 between police and suspected drug dealers in Beit Lahiya. The committee will be headed by Hamas-affiliated lawmaker Ismail al-Ashqar, who is in charge of a security and interior committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Gaza Strip. The ministry explained in a statement that a man who was shot dead in the morning in Beit Lahiya was trying to mediate between police officers and the suspects. Muhammad Salman Abu Sittah was hit, according to the ministry, by a gunshot from the direction of the house where the suspects were hiding. The statement described Abu Sittah as "a martyr who fell trying to reconcile between rivals” and asserted that his death would not be in vain. “The killer will be identified and will receive proper punishment."

Israeli settlers use chemicals to destroy olive trees

A group of Israeli settlers destroyed over 100 olive trees in a Nablus village on May 25 after spraying them with toxic chemicals, a Palestinian Authority official said.  Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in the northern West Bank, told Ma'an News Agency that settlers from the notoriously extreme Yizhar settlement sprayed toxic chemicals on some 100 trees, causing them to die. The trees belong to local residents Barakat Ghalib and Taysir Najjar, Daghlas added. The PA Ministry of Agriculture tested a sample from the trees and says it found traces of chemicals, without providing further details. Settlers routinely attack Palestinians and their property with impunity.

Issawi signs pact with Israel, ends hunger strike

Long term hunger striker Samer Issawi ended his protest action on April 23 after signing an agreement with Israel which guarantees his release, his lawyer Jawad Bolous said. The deal will see Issawi released to his hometown of Jerusalem after serving eight months in jail, after 266 days of refusing food in protest against his rearrest by Israeli forces. The agreement was signed at Kaplan Medical Center in Israel where Issawi is currently being held, and both his uncle and brother were present at the signing, Bolous said.

Issawi calls for 'rage and solidarity' on Prisoners Day

Long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi on April 17 called for "rage and solidarity" to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day. "Greetings to all without exception. I urge all the noble people of our Arab and Muslim nation as well as the free people of the world to turn April 17 into a day of rage and solidarity with Palestinian prisoners," Issawi wrote in a letter sent through his lawyer from his hospital bed. "The voice of those heroes who have sacrificed and are still making sacrifices for the sake of the freedom of their people and land, and in defense for Muslim and Christian holy places in the holiest spot on the globe, should be heard."

Israeli forces surround new 'village'

Israeli forces on March 20 surrounded a new tent village erected by Palestinian activists in Eizariya east of Jerusalem. An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians established "an illegal settlement" and that security forces were in the area "to maintain order." She said soldiers arrested the driver of a truck loaded with equipment including tents. Mohammad Khatib, a spokesman for the activists, said soldiers handed protesters a document declaring the area a closed military zone. "We are staying. We are Palestinians, and we will stay here. They will have to evacuate us. They will have to use their power to do it, but we will not do it by ourselves," Khatib told Ma'an News Agency. "We are staying here because this is Palestinian land. This is our land, and no one has a right to evacuate us." 

Dozens injured in West Bank protests

Hundreds of people took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Feb. 25 in the second day of protests following the death of a Palestinian prisoner who PA officials say died as a result of torture. The PA Minister of Detainee Affairs said that results from an autopsy of Arafat Jadarat's body indicate that he died after being tortured in Israeli custody, and not from a cardiac arrest, as Israel's Prison Authority had claimed. Hundreds of people marched from Birzeit University and gathered outside Ofer prison in Ramallah, where Israeli forces fired rubber bullets at the crowds, injuring 11 people. An Israeli army spokeswoman said "500 rioters hurled rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means." Six people were hit by rubber bullets, she added.

UN welcomes State of Palestine

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Nov. 29 to upgrade Palestine to a "non-member state" at the United Nations, implicitly recognizing a Palestinian state. There were 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.  Addressing the assembly in New York ahead of the vote, President Mahmoud Abbas said the UN bid was the last chance to save the two-state solution. "Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181, which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel," Abbas told the 193-nation assembly after receiving a standing ovation. "The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine."
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