Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack

Shops in Huwara were closed over fear of attacks by settlers, and there was disruption after Israeli security personnel were deployed on the streets. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 March 2023

Israel launches arrest campaign in Palestinian cities after Huwara attack

  • Fears that violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians will continue after end of Sharm El-Sheikh meeting

RAMALLAH: Hours after the end of the Sharm El-Sheikh meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials, overseen by Egypt and attended by Jordan and the US, the Israel Defense Forces arrested a number of Palestinians after two Israeli men were wounded in an attack in the northern West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday. 

Shops in Huwara were closed over fear of revenge attacks by Israeli settlers, and there was disruption after IDF personnel were deployed on the streets.

At dawn on Monday, the IDF stormed several towns and villages in the Jenin governorate, and intensified their measures around the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. 

Israeli police arrested several Palestinian activists in East Jerusalem — a few days before the start of Ramadan.

Muin Al-Dumaidi, mayor of Huwara, told Arab News that Israeli troops were deployed heavily inside the town and on the rooftops of houses, preventing shop owners from opening their shops. 

“The closure of the town will destroy Huwara’s economy and displace shopkeepers along the main street ahead of Ramadan, as trade forms the backbone of the town’s residents,” Al-Dumaidi said.

He said the closure aims to facilitate the movement of Israeli settlers who pass through the town so that they are not hindered by traffic congestion.

“Shop owners keep calling me, asking when we will be allowed to reopen them, and I have no answer,” Al-Dumaidi said.  

On Feb. 26, Israeli settlers burned more than 40 houses and over 50 vehicles in the town. 

Elisha Yared, spokesman for Israeli politician Limor Son Har Melech, called for the Palestinian town of Huwara to be wiped out. 

“Wipeout Huwara now, without apology and hesitation ... As long as we don’t understand this, the killing (of Israelis) will continue in the streets,” Yared wrote on Twitter in response to the Huwara attack.

Meanwhile, settlers assaulted Palestinians in different parts of the West Bank, such as Jericho, Ramallah, and Nablus, smashing the windows of their vehicles and assaulting them with no intervention from the IDF or police. 

They ransacked several shops in the Old City of Hebron, and slashed the tires of vehicles and wrote racist slogans on the walls of houses in Salfit. Earlier in the day, settlers smashed the windows of several cars at the entrance to Beitin village, east of Ramallah.

The Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben- Gvir signed a decision banning the official Voice of Palestine radio station in Jerusalem on Monday, removing its broadcast towers. Israeli sources said that Ben Gvir’s decision came within the framework of combating what he described as “Palestinian incitement.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians reacted angrily to statements by the Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in which he denied the existence of the Palestinian people. 

Rejecting these remarks, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said: “We are the ones who gave Palestine its name and the land its value and status … We have learned from history that colonialism is coming to an end and that the will and belonging of our people are not shaken by the statements of the falsifiers of history and their false claims.” 

Separately, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, will vote on a bill to nullify the “disengagement” law in the occupied West Bank, which allows the return to settlements that Israel evacuated in 2005 in the northern West Bank. 

The bill allows for a return to settlements in the northern occupied West Bank after lifting the ban imposed by the “disengagement” law drafted by the party of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 

Israeli media reported that the Legislative Committee in the Knesset amended the proposal’s wording to ensure that it does not apply to the settlements evacuated in the Gaza Strip in 2005. 

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the West Bank said they did not expect any change in their lives after the Sharm El-Sheikh summit on Sunday, believing that Israel will not fulfil any of the promises or agreements that have been agreed upon. 

Political analyst Riyad Qadriya told Arab News that he ruled out the implementation of any of the Sharm El-Sheikh security understandings on Sunday, either by Israel or the Palestinian Authority.

“It will be impossible to implement the security provisions of the Sharm El-Sheikh understandings without handing over all of Area A to Palestinian security,” Qadriya said.

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Legal fight opens for Australian children to leave Syria

Updated 3 sec ago

Legal fight opens for Australian children to leave Syria

  • Save the Children is asking the court to bring the 11 women and 20 children from Al-Roj camp in Syria before the court in Australia
Sydney: More than 30 Australian women and children living in “appalling conditions” in a Syrian detention camp launched court action Tuesday to compel Canberra to bring them home.
Their case opened at the High Court in Melbourne, nearly a year after Australia repatriated the last group of four women and 13 children — the wives, sons and daughters of vanquished Daesh group fighters — from Syria.
“The situation of the remaining persons detained is stark and dire,” said Peter Morrissey, counsel for the charity Save the Children, which is acting on their behalf.
“Save the Children Australia represents women and children charged with no crime, detained in piteous and appalling conditions,” he told the court.
“Their health, safety, and dignity are seriously compromised by any standard. Their detention in the camps has endured for several years.”
Save the Children is asking the court for a writ of habeas corpus (or unlawful detention) requiring the government to bring the 11 women and 20 children from Al-Roj camp in Syria before the court in Australia.
“Despite countless opportunities to repatriate these families, the Australian government has ultimately failed in its duty to bring all of its citizens home to safety,” said Save the Children Australia chief executive Mat Tinkler.
“We desperately hope these children and their mothers will be imminently repatriated home to safety. It is unfathomable that the Australian government has abandoned its citizens,” he said in a statement.
Repatriations of Australian women and children from Syrian camps are a politically contentious issue in a country long known for its hard-line approach to immigration.
The Australian women and children have lived in the Al-Hol and Al-Roj detention camps in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria since the 2019 collapse of Daesh.

Lebanese security forces detain man suspected of shooting outside US embassy

Updated 26 September 2023

Lebanese security forces detain man suspected of shooting outside US embassy

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces on Monday said they arrested a suspected gunman who fired a dozen bullets at the American embassy in Beirut, according to security sources in the country.

A source named the suspect as 26-year-old Lebanese national Muhammad Mahdi Hussein Khalil, who had worked for a delivery company. The source added Khalil had a criminal record for previously opening fired on a Lebanese Public Security center.

According to the source, Khalil confesed to shooting at the embassy compound in the Awkar suburb of Beirut and the weapon used in the attack had been seized.

Surveillance cameras showed a lone gunman dressed in black firing a Kalashnikov rifle before fleeing the scene on a motorcycle.

“The shooter carried out his act after previous disputes between him and embassy security over food deliveries,” the source told Arab News.

There were no injuries in the shooting late on Wednesday when 15 shots were fired at the embassy complex.

Israel says US to announce it has joined Visa Waiver Program

Updated 26 September 2023

Israel says US to announce it has joined Visa Waiver Program

  • Some Palestinians have protested at Israel’s entry into the VWP, citing what they say are decades of discriminatory treatment of Arab Americans and harassment at Israel’s borders

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday it expects the United States to announce this week that it will be admitted to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would allow Israeli citizens visa-free entry to America as of November.
The deadline for Israel to show compliance with the US conditions is Sept. 30. If successful, it would offer a win for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government, whose relations with Washington have been strained over its plans to overhaul the judiciary as well as over its policies toward the Palestinians.
“Israel joining the Visa Waiver Program is a diplomatic achievement and good news for all Israeli citizens,” said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
A US State Department spokesperson said on Monday that a final decision on Israel’s candidacy had not been made.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, will make a determination in the coming days,” the spokesperson said.
For admission to the program, Washington requires countries to treat all US travelers equally, regardless of whatever other passports they may hold. In Israel’s case, that would mean free passage for Palestinian Americans at its airports and when traveling into and out of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Some Palestinians have protested at Israel’s entry into the VWP, citing what they say are decades of discriminatory treatment of Arab Americans and harassment at Israel’s borders.
In a pilot period that has been running since July 20, Israel has loosened access for Palestinian Americans through its borders and in and out of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Between 45,000 and 60,000 Palestinian Americans live in the West Bank, a US official estimated. An Israeli official gave lower figures, saying that of 70,000 to 90,000 Palestinian Americans worldwide, 15,000 to 20,000 are West Bank residents.
There are currently 40 countries in the VWP. Countries are not added frequently, with Croatia being the latest to join in 2021. 


Hundreds dead from dengue fever in Sudan

Updated 25 September 2023

Hundreds dead from dengue fever in Sudan

  • Sudanese doctors’ union said health situation ‘is deteriorating at a horrific rate’

PORT SUDAN: Outbreaks of dengue fever and acute watery diarrhea have “killed hundreds” in war-torn Sudan, medics reported Monday, warning of “catastrophic spreads” that could overwhelm the country’s decimated health system.

In a statement, the Sudanese doctors’ union warned that the health situation in the southeastern state of Gedaref, on the border with Ethiopia, “is deteriorating at a horrific rate,” with thousands infected with dengue fever.

Though Gedaref has been spared the direct effects of the brutal war between the regular army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, it has nonetheless been impacted by mass displacement and other humanitarian crises.

Over five months into the war, 80 percent of the country’s hospitals are out of service, according to the UN. Even before the war, Sudan’s fragile healthcare system struggled to contain the annual disease outbreaks that accompany the country’s rainy season starting in June, including malaria — endemic in Sudan — and dengue fever.

This year, with Gedaref hosting over 250,000 internally displaced people according to the UN, the situation is much worse.

“The hospital’s beds are all full but the cases keep coming in, particularly children,” a medical source said from Gedaref Hospital.

US-backed Kurdish forces impose curfew in eastern Syria after new clashes with rival militia

Updated 25 September 2023

US-backed Kurdish forces impose curfew in eastern Syria after new clashes with rival militia

BEIRUT: US-backed Kurdish-led forces imposed a curfew after clashes erupted again on Monday in eastern Syria, where their fighters had battled for weeks with rival militiamen, Syrian media and activists reported.

The fighting in a region where hundreds of American troops are deployed has pointed to dangerous seams in a coalition that has kept on a lid on the defeated Daesh for years.

The reports say the Syrian Democratic Forces imposed the open-ended measure in several towns in Deir Ezzor province, including the town of Ziban, close to the Iraqi border where the Americans are based. 

Hundreds of US troops have been there since 2015 to help in the fight against Daesh. 

The province is home to Syria’s largest oil fields.

Al Mayadeen, a pan-Arab TV station, said several fighters from the Kurdish-led forces were killed after gunmen took over several parts of Ziban on Monday. 

Britain-based opposition war monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some of the fighters had crossed from regime-held areas.

Local media in the province reported that some Kurdish fighters had fled the area as the clashes intensified. There were no further details.

The Kurdish-led forces have accused the Syrian regime of inciting the violence by allowing the rival militiamen to cross the Euphrates River. 

The clashes first erupted in late August when two weeks of fighting killed 25 Kurdish fighters, 29 members of tribal groups and gunmen, as well as nine civilians, according to the Syrian Democratic Forces .