Al Nakba commemorated amid increasing settler attacks [May 12 - May 18]
This week Palestinians commemorated the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948 on May 15, with a variety of activities, demonstrations and events throughout the Palestinian territories and outside of its borders. Festivals were held in Ramallah and Nablus in addition to several protests and confrontations with Israeli occupation forces. In Jerusalem, clashes broke out between protesters and Israeli police and border guards when Palestinians commemorating Al Nakba, raising Palestinian flags and facing off with Jewish settlers and soldiers. Thirty people were wounded or arrested during the clashes in addition to six Israelis.
The Jerusalem clashes come at a time when settler break-ins to Al Aqsa have been on the rise amid increasing calls by extremist Jewish groups to make a presence at the compound. The break-ins have become a near daily event. Muslim worshippers and Palestinian youths have kept constant vigil at the mosque to stave off the break-ins which included settler groups who used children as a cover to enter the compound on the occasion of Shavuot.
Settlers in the West Bank have wreaked havoc this week as well. On May 17, three Palestinians were injured in clashes in Urif south of Nablus when dozens of settlers set fire to lands in three area-villages: Urif, Einabus, and Asira al-Qibliya. The settlers also attacked citizens and threw burning tires at people’s homes.
Jewish extremists attacked inside the Green Line as well. On May 14, extremists set fire to three cars and sprayed racist graffiti on a mosque south of Haifa, according to Israeli media reports.
"Price-tag" and "Eviatar," which is thought to refer to the name of a settler stabbed to death last week, were found on the mosque’s walls in addition to the Star of David. In Safed, even farther north, racist graffiti with the words "Arabs out" was found on walls in the city.
On May 13, Israeli settlers exhumed a number of graves and sprayed racist graffiti in the Sawiya village in Nablus. Ghassan Daghlas, head of the PA settlement activity file, said settlers from the Alia settlement were responsible for the damage.
On the same day settlers from Tel Hatimar begin building a religious school for children on Al Khader lands in the Bethlehem area.
The Israeli army meanwhile, uprooted over 1,200 olive tree saplings on May 16 and razed land Palestinian farmer in the northern West Bank, according to Daghlas. He said the army dug up over 40 dunums of farm land and demolished a water tank and stone walls in Ras Karker, near Nablus.
On May 17, three Palestinian laborers were wounded in Beit Ula northwest of Hebron after Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and unleashed police dogs at them according to Issa al-Amla, coordinator for the popular struggle committee. He said Omar Al-Amla, 31, and Abdulkadir Al-Amla, 28, suffered multiple dog bites to the neck and hands. A third laborer, Jihad Saleem, was shot in the leg.
In Jerusalem on May 17, Israeli forces raided the home of Iyad al-Awar and insisted on taking his two children 6-year-old Qassam and 5-year-old Nasrallah for “interrogation”. While their father prevented the forces from arresting his boys, Israeli soldiers handed him a warrant ordering him to bring his children to the Russian Compound for questioning.
"We arrived to the Russian Compound and the troops wanted to take my kids for investigation; I refused and they beat me in the ear and the leg. My kids started crying and were so scared from the troops. They took my kids by force," al-Awar said.
Israeli Intelligence officers apparently questioned the children about their detained cousin Shadad, and asked if they had seen him throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces, Al Awar said.
On the same day however, Palestinians scored a tiny victory in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis when they were able to tear a hole through part of the separation wall. Protesters marking the Nakba anniversary ripped a 4-meter hole in it, eyewitnesses said. Clashes ensued between the protesters and Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Several injuries were reported.
Peace Now reported on May 16 that the Israeli government planned to grant retroactive approval to four West Bank settlement outposts it had previously pledged to at least partially demolish.
The Israeli state attorney's office said that settlers had purchased the private Palestinian land on which they built, thus paving the way for the government to give its blessing.
"In the response, the government declares its intention to legalize four outposts, in isolated areas," Peace Now said in a statement, adding that the strategy was an affront to US Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "The intention to legalize outposts as new settlements is no less than a slap in the face of Secretary Kerry's new peace process," Peace Now said.
On May 14, Hamas and Fatah agreed in Cairo to form a national unity government within three months during which they would finalize and approve the Palestine National Council elections law. The two sides, represented by Fatah leader Azzam Al Ahmad and Hamas politburo member Mousa Abu Marzouq, came to the agreement under Egyptian sponsorship and said President Abbas would immediately begin talks on the new government formation. Once the government is formed, general elections can be held.