middle east eye

Israel bombs Gaza building used by Al Jazeera and AP after one-hour ultimatum

The Israeli army gave Al Jazeera channel and other international media just one hour to evacuate the Al-Galaa Tower in the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon ahead of an air strike, the channel said in a live update. Al Jazeera aired a phone call between the building’s owner and an Israeli intelligence officer, asking to be given more time to evacuate equipment from the offices, but the officer  declined the request. The 12-storey building was mostly residential, with a number of offices for international media including Al Jazeera, the AP, along with Arab and local press. Several journalists posted live tweets expressing outrage at the Israeli warning and the short notice. One Middle East Eye photojournalist was also forced to evacuate the building.

Israel’s ambulance authority said one Israeli citizen was killed on Saturday in a rocket attack from Gaza. The new fatality raises the death toll caused by Gaza rockets over the past week to 10 Israelis. Earlier on Saturday, Hamas announced that dozens of rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv in retaliation for the bombing of a residential building in the al-Shati refugee camp in the early hours of Saturday. The air strike killed eight children and two women from the same family, according to Gaza’s health officials. Gaza’s death toll from Israeli air strikes, ongoing since Monday, has reached 140 civilians, including 39 children and 22 women, according to the health ministry.

Palestinians in the al-Shati refugee camp in the besieged Gaza Strip held a funeral of the eight children and two women from Abu Hatab family who were killed in an air strike targeting their residential building in the early hours of Saturday. The air strike hit the overcrowded refugee camp in western Gaza without early warning, health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qedra said, adding that the death toll is expected to rise with several people still under the rubble and many seriously wounded. Palestinian news website Arab48 listed the names of the victims as: five-year-old Yamen Abu Hatab, 10-year-old Bilal Abu Hatab, 11-year-old Youssef Abu Hatab, eight-year-old Abdel-Rahman al-Hadidi, 14-year-old Suhaib al-Hadidi, 36-year-old Maha al-Hadidi, and 31-year-old Yasmine Hassan. Rescue teams are searching for victims under the rubbles of the three-storey house, where several related families live. Israel intensified its air raids on Gaza before dawn on Saturday, targeting residential buildings in several areas in the Gaza Strip, including a building in al-Sahaba street in the centre of Gaza city, local media reported. At least 139 people have been killed in Israeli bombardments on Gaza since Monday, including at least 39 children and 22 women, and at least 1,000 others wounded, Qedra said on Saturday. He told Al Jazeera Arabic that 31% of the wounded are in critical condition. More than 300 of the wounded are children, and at least 180 are women, he added. Qedra said:

The number of women and children victims shows that the occupation deliberately targets civilians and overcrowded residential area.

Gaza: Eight children and two women from same family killed by Israeli air strike. New victims raise death toll of Gaza bombardment to at least 139 civilians, including 39 children and 22 women
Middle East Eye, May 15 2021

A nurse holds a baby who was pulled alive from under the rubble while other family members perished, at al-Shifa Hospital,
after an Israeli air strike hit al-Shati Refugee Camp in Gaza City on 15 May 2021 (AFP)

Israel intensified its onslaught on the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Saturday, killing at least 10 members of the Palestinian Abu Hatab family, including eight children and two women, in an attack on a refugee camp, as it also targeted residential areas across the besieged enclave. Hamas retaliated by firing rockets into Israel, as their battle entered a fifth night. The Israeli military said a rocket hit a fuel reservoir in the coastal city of Ashdod, causing a huge explosion, in the second such attack on an oil tank in the port. No injuries were reported. Air raid warning sirens blared in southern Israel early on Saturday.

The air strike hit the overcrowded al-Shati refugee camp without early warning, leaving at least 20 people wounded, with the death toll expected to rise, health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qedra said. Rescue teams continue searching for victims under the rubbles of the four-storey house, where several families lived. Israel’s overnight air raids targeted residential buildings in several areas of Gaza, local media reported. The Palestinian religious affairs ministry said Israeli planes destroyed the Qalibu mosque.

Israel’s ambulance authority said one Israeli citizen was killed on Saturday in a rocket attack from Gaza. The new fatality raises the death toll caused by Gaza rockets over the past week to 10 Israelis. Earlier on Saturday, Hamas announced that dozens of rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv in retaliation for the bombing of a residential building in the al-Shati refugee camp in the early hours of Saturday. The air strike killed eight children and two women from the same family, according to Gaza’s health officials. Gaza’s death toll from Israeli air strikes, ongoing since Monday, has reached 140 civilians, including 39 children and 22 women, according to the health ministry.

Hospitals, medical and security sources told Reuters that Egypt sent 10 ambulances into Gaza on Saturday to pick up casualties for treatment in Egyptian hospitals. The ambulances entered Gaza via the Rafah crossing, which is otherwise closed for five days over the Eid al-Fitr holiday and the weekend and is due to reopen on Monday. A further five ambulances have been deployed to enter Gaza later and three Egyptian hospitals have been readied to provide treatment, the sources and local health officials said. The General Authority for Healthcare, an executive arm of the Egyptian Ministry of Health, said on Friday that it had made preparations for treating Gaza’s wounded victims who were expected to arrive in Egypt in the next few hours. The authority’s head, Ahmed al-Sobki, told MEE that three major health facilities in Ismailia were ready to receive Gaza’s victims and offer them the necessary care. Sobki said:

Our hospitals are ready for receiving Gaza’s Palestinians and providing them with care.

The Gaza Electricity Company warned of the collapse of vital sectors in the besieged coastal enclave which now suffers “an acute shortage of energy” due to the continued air strikes for the fifth night in a row. The company announced on Saturday that eight out of 10 main electricity lines carrying the current from Israel had been cut off as a result of the bombing by the Israeli warplanes, which affected large areas in the Gaza Strip. The company warned of “the collapse of vital sectors,” and called on all parties to intervene urgently to stop the worsening of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s ambulance authority said one Israeli citizen was killed on Saturday in a rocket attack from Gaza. The new fatality raises the death toll caused by Gaza rockets over the past week to 10 Israelis. Earlier on Saturday, the armed wing of the Palestinian movement Hamas, the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, announced that dozens of rockets were fired towards Tel Aviv in retaliation for the bombing of a residential building in the al-Shati refugee camp in the early hours of Saturday. The air strike killed eight children and two women from the same family, according to Gaza’s health officials. Gaza’s death toll from Israeli air strikes, ongoing since Monday, has reached 140 civilians, including 39 children and 22 women, according to the health ministry.

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Israeli police have arrested Kamal al-Khatib, vice president of the Islamic Movement for Palestinian citizens in Israel. According to local media, police detained Khatib after storming his house in Galilee. Khatib’s son told Al Jazeera Arabic that Israeli forces entered the home violently, after a large crackdown on protesters in the area. The arrest came after Palestinians warned that a number of prominent activists had received messages from Israeli intelligence officers threatening protesters. Khatib’s son said:

Many people got a text message, including influential protesters, saying that they were recorded as being present at al-Aqsa and they would be held accountable.

Three Palestinians were killed on Friday evening, one of them in a settler attack on citizens near Hebron, raising the day’s death toll in the occupied West Bank to 10. The Ministry of Health stated that Ismail al-Tobasi was shot in the head with a live bullet, and arrived in critical condition at the Yatta governmental hospital before being announced dead. Two others were killed in Nablus, sources told MEE.

The Israeli army has shot dead a Lebanese man who was demonstrating at the northern border with Lebanon in support of Palestinians facing bombardment in Gaza and imminent eviction in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The man, identified by local media as Mohammed Tahan, 21, died from his wounds after the Israeli army had fired at dozens of protesters along the Israel-Lebanon border. According to the report, the Israeli army said in a statement that they fired warning shots towards a number of rioters who were attempting to cross into Israeli territory. Lebanese medical sources said that some injuries were sustained as a result of the Israeli army firing into the area where protesters had gathered in large numbers.

Settlers fired live ammunition at Palestinian protesters in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, according to local media. Earlier Friday, IOF were heavily patrolling the neighbourhood and dispersing any large gatherings of people in an effort to deter them from collecting. Skunk water was also sprayed at people gathering and singing protest songs. Sheikh Jarrah has been the focal point of protests in recent days, as a number of families face imminent eviction from an Israeli court. IOF continued to break up groups of protesters in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Friday. Trucks disseminated skunk water in an effort to disperse large gatherings of people, a tactic that has been witnessed over the past week in order to prevent people from carrying out protests. Many Palestinians have raised concerns over the use of skunk water, which leaves an unbearable smell that can sometimes last for weeks, on skin and clothes. The tactic has also been outside the highly revered al-Aqsa Mosque.

Meanwhile, large numbers of armed Israeli police were deployed on the ground, some shown arresting protesters who gathered in the area. Some left-wing Israelis stood in solidarity with Palestinian protesters being removed from the area. Israeli police also harassed and intimidated members of the press covering the events in the neighbourhood, disrupting reports and footage coming from on the ground. In recent days, Israeli protesters have provoked the ongoing Palestinian protesters by setting up demonstrations opposite them, blaring music from loudspeakers. A number of Palestinian families are facing eviction in Sheikh Jarrah from an Israeli court, which has sparked protests across many parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as from Palestinian citizens in Israel.

The Palestinian Red Crescent in Nablus has reiterated its calls for health centres to open their doors and receive wounded Palestinians, after a number of its ambulances were blocked from entering vital locations due to road cordons imposed by Israeli authorities. Mamoun Abbas, the official spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent, told Middle East Eye that since the start of the confrontations in Jerusalem earlier this week, its medical teams have faced major problems in accessing key areas with ambulances. He said:

We are finding it difficult to move around our ambulances and medical staff. If the Israeli army obstructs roads and prevent them from reaching areas of confrontation, we can’t help people.

According to Abbas, despite contacting the International Federation of the Red Cross, and Israeli authorities, the group has not received any justification or any convincing explanation as to why their ambulances were denied access to the scenes. Abbas also said that last week, the Israeli army fired live ammunition directly at ambulances while staff were trying to transport a wounded person at the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus. The Palestininan Red Crescent has continued to record numerous cases of injuries, as a result of rubber coated-steel bullets being shot at people, as well as the beating of their medical staff in Jerusalem. Abbas said:

The Occupying forces do not respect humanitarian or international laws.

A Palestinian man was killed in Jericho on Friday, taking the total number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank to seven. The man was named as 20-year-old Mohammed Shger.

Palestinians have been demonstrating on Friday afternoon, more than a week since tensions reached a boiling point over planned expropriations in occupied East Jerusalem, the violent crackdown by Israeli forces on worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque and an ongoing Israeli military operation on the besieged Gaza Strip. With Israeli forces deployed to repress Palestinian protesters inside Israel, East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, the situation has effectively reached every corner of the occupied Palestinian territories. Official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency Wafa has confirmed the deaths of four Palestinians killed by IOF in separate incidents on Friday. The first was identified as Mohammed Ruhi Hammad, killed in the town of Silwad east of Ramallah after allegedly attempting to carry out a car ramming attack according to the Israeli army. Shortly after, a Palestinian man identified by a Middle East Eye correspondent on the scene as 26-year-old Youssef Nawasra was killed near the village of Yabad, in the northern occupied West Bank governorate of Jenin, during a demonstration. Later, Wafa reported the deaths of Awad Ahmed Harb, 23, and Sharif Khaled Suleiman, 38, killed during demonstrations in the Salfit-area villages of Iskaka and Marada respectively.

Two Palestinian men were shot and killed in the villages of Iskaka and Marda, in the Salfit governorate, Wafa news agency reported. Wafa identified the men as Awad Ahmed Harb, 23, and Sharif Khaled Suleiman, 38. Ammar Harb, an activist from Iskaka, near the city of Salfit, told Middle East Eye that the village had been violently attacked by Israeli settlers and that Palestinians went out to confront them. According to Harb, settlers fired live bullets at the demonstrators, seriously wounding a 26-year-old man, identified as Awad Munir, in the chest. A number of other people were also wounded by live ammunition. Harb said:

This area is always being exposed to settler attacks, but this has been one of the most violent ones we’ve witnessed.

He added that despite the presence of Israeli police, settlers were not stopped from carrying out attacks. The Palestinian Red Crescent in Nablus is also calling on health and medical centres to the south to open their doors, in order to allow ambulances in and treat those who have sustained injuries as a result of israeli forces shooting at crowds. The Palestinian Red Crescent has previously raised concerns over Israeli forces obstructing their way, closing roads and, in some cases, attacking medical staff who are treating wounded individuals on the scene. These two deaths bring the total number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank Friday to four.

Lebanese protesters gathered near Israel in southern Lebanon on Friday afternoon. It was unclear if they managed to crossed into Israel or if there were any injuries. Separately, a security source in south Lebanon told Middle East Eye that three rockets fired towards Israel on Thursday evening were launched from Basateen al-Qulayla, a coastal area near al-Qulayla village. The area lies around 1km from the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Rashidiya, outside the city of Tyre. Speaking from the Jalamah checkpoint in the far northern West Bank, Khadr Adnan, a leader of the Islamic Jihad movement, told Middle East Eye that the widespread mobilisation of Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel showed unity unseen in years. He said:

The demonstrations that took place at dawn, where thousands participated despite there being no prior warning or organisation, have not been witnessed in the West Bank since the end of the al-Aqsa Intifada. People are going out to support the people of Gaza and reject the aggression by Israeli forces.

According to Adnan, the Jalamah checkpoint is witnessing an influx of hundreds of demonstrators, with some violent confrontations breaking out with IOF. Adnan said that IOF have shot a number of young Palestinians in the area with live bullets. The Friday update from the Gaza Ministry of Health states that 122 people have been killed in the besieged Palestinian enclave since Monday, including 31 children and 20 women. A further 900 people have been wounded, amid escalating air strikes. Murad Abu Karam, an activist from Jabal Sabih in the West Bank district of Nablus, told Middle East Eye that the town was witnessing a wave of very violent confrontations with IOF, who have reportedly been firing live bullets and large amounts of tear gas at protesting Palestinians. Abu Karam says that Jabal Sabih has long been threatened with land confiscations, as Israeli settlers seek to establish an outpost in the area, leading to regular tensions with Palestinian residents. He called for journalists to document the ongoing Israeli repression of Palestinian protests. He said:

This time, these confrontations are different from when we’ve gone out to defend our land before. This is not just about my hometown, it’s about Jerusalem and about Gaza, which is suffering under bombardment. The occupation forces are escalating their crackdown on us and firing live ammunition in the absence of media and journalists covering what is going on.

Sami Shami, a journalist from the nearby town of Madama, told MEE that he witnessed IOF attempting to arrest a demonstrator who was able to escape with the help of others. According to Shami, IOF have been preventing ambulances from reaching key locations and treating Palestinians who are injured. He said:

There are a number of key flashpoints of violence in Nablus now, particularly in the villages of Burin, Madama, Beita and Huwayra.

Official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency Wafa has reported that a Palestinian has been shot and killed by IOF near the village of Yabad, in the northern occupied West Bank governorate of Jenin. The PA Ministry of Health confirmed the death without providing more information. Middle East Eye correspondents on the ground report the man was 26-year-old Youssef Nawasarah. This is the second Palestinian to have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank today (Friday), after Mohammed Ruhi Hammad, killed in the town of Silwad east of Ramallah after allegedly attempting to carry out a car ramming attack, according to the Israeli army. In neighbouring Jordan, hundreds have gathered near the border with the occupied West Bank today to show their solidarity with Palestinians. Palestinians are coming out in large numbers across various cities in the West Bank to voice their rejection of Israel’s use of air strikes on Gaza and draconian crackdowns on protesters and worshippers. Our correspondent on the ground, Shatha Hammad, has reported the following:

  • South Nablus: An altercation broke out today between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
    Huwara: Large numbers of demonstrators, chanting protest songs, have gathered in the town’s checkpoint, south of Nablus.
  • Al-Khalil, Hebron: A Palestinian man was injured during violent confrontations. Protesters have also gathered in the village of Tarkuma, west of al-Khalil.
  • Nabi Saleh: Violent confrontations are taking place in the village north of Ramallah.
  • Qarawat Bani Hassan: Israeli forces have cracked down on tens of protesters in the town west of Salfit.
  • Qalqilya: A Palestinian woman has been injured by live ammunition from Israeli forces. Over 25 protesters also suffered from breathing difficulties as a result of tear gas fired.
  • Tulkarm: A Palestinian has been injured as the situation escalates.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 101 injuries were recorded from Friday morning until Saturday morning. Nine protesters were wounded by gunfire in Jenin, while in Nablus four have sustained gunshot injuries. The Palestinian Red Crescent also recorded a number of cases of Israeli forces violently quashing protests, causing numerous injuries. This comes after another night of fear and unrest on Thursday.

Egyptian government officials told Middle East Eye on Friday that hospitals in Egypt’s North Sinai governorate, on the border with Gaza, and Ismailia, near the Suez Canal, have started preparing to receive victims of Israeli attacks. Hospitals and medical professionals in Gaza have been struggling to cope with the rising number of casualties. The General Authority for Healthcare, an executive arm of the Egyptian Ministry of Health, said the wounded were expected to soon arrive in Egypt. The authority’s head, Ahmed al-Sobki, said three major health facilities in Ismailia were ready to receive Gaza’s victims. Medical teams from different universities, including in Cairo, have already left to North Sinai and Ismailia to assist in responding to the needs of the Palestinians. The Egyptian Doctors Syndicate said that so far 86 doctors have submitted applications to travel to the border region to help deal with the expected influx of casualties.

Israeli forces continued all day Friday to violently crack down on protests throughout Israel, East Jerusalem and occupied West Bank. In the West Bank, 11 Palestinians were shot dead in separate attacks by Israeli forces and settlers on Friday. Most of the victims were killed either while taking part in protests or while confronting settlers who were harassing Palestinians. The Palestinian health ministry said more than 150 had been wounded in the West Bank and appealed for blood donations. Israeli settlers, according to local media, also used live ammunition against Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, where the fate of four families threatened with forced displacement from their homes has fuelled the anger of Palestinians. A video posted on Twitter appeared to show Jewish ultra-nationalists firing at Palestinians who were throwing rocks and fireworks at them.

On Friday evening, Israeli forces carried out rounds of arrests and intimidation of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. Police patrolled the neighbourhood, with units stationed in different areas. Earlier in the day, the police used “skunk water,” a foul-smelling and liquid concoction that can cause nausea, to stop people from gathering in groups. Israeli forces also attacked journalists covering confrontations in the West Bank. Middle East Eye’s correspondent Shatha Hammad reported late on Friday that four photojournalists (Hisham Abu Shakra, Mutasim Saqf al-Heit, Issam Al-Rimawi, and Ramiz Awad) had been hit by steel bullets. Palestinians have been protesting over the past week, in solidarity with Sheikh Jarrah residents and the attacks and restrictions by Israeli forces on al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

The unrest has escalated in the course of the week into violent confrontations between Palestinian citizens of Israel and far-right Jewish Israelis in different mixed cities in Israel. In the Israeli city of Jaffa, far-right Israelis firebombed a Palestinian home in the Ajami neighbourhood, wounding two children, on Friday evening. The siblings, a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, respectively sustained a head injury and upper body burns, according to Haaretz. Dozens of protesters gathered at Lebanon’s southern border with Israel in support of Palestinians in Gaza. The Israeli army responded by firing into the area, killing a 21-year-old Lebanese man, Mohammed Tahhan. Footage on social media appeared to show dozens of Lebanese protesters storming border fences with Israel on Friday afternoon. It was unclear if the protesters entered Israeli territory or sustained any injuries. On Israel’s border with Jordan, meanwhile, hundreds of protesters tried to reach the Allenby Bridge, which leads to the West Bank, but were met by Jordanian riot police who fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse the crowd.

Meet the young Jewish ultra-nationalists stoking violence
Lubna Masarwa, Middle East Eye, May 15 2021

The eruption of violence this week, first in Jerusalem, then in Gaza, has drawn unprecedented levels of Palestinians living in Israel on to the streets, and with them have come a new breed of Israeli ultra-nationalists storming Palestinian towns inside Israel. But what is new is just how openly and unabashedly far-right Israelis, frequently young and sometimes armed, are now roaming Palestinian communities in Israel under the protection of the Israeli police and army, calling for the death of Arabs while citing quotes from the Torah. 21-year-old Noam, who is Jewish, told Middle East Eye this week in Lod:

When they get crazy like animals, to shoot one in the chest or in the head, just once is enough and it will be over.

Palestinians in Israel carry the coffin of Mousa Hassouna, killed during demonstrations, in Lod on 11 May 2021 (AFP).

The Palestinian-minority city, just south of Tel Aviv and known as Lydd to Palestinians, has been on edge after days of protest, fires, and the murder of a Palestinian protester. Mosques, synagogues and cars have been vandalised, police reinforcements sent in and a night curfew imposed. Calling for the transfer and death of Palestinians has now become a normal, everyday occurrence here. Relaxed and matter-of-fact, Noam said he and his friends were walking around the Palestinian-minority city just south of Tel Aviv to “show it’s Jewish” and were wanting to “settle in the houses of people who left because they were scared of the Arabs.” Noam is one of dozens of young ultra-nationalists with whom MEE spoke during the past 10 days. Among this new wave are young Israelis from West Bank settlements who came to Jerusalem and various cities across Israel to offer their support, joining with other young people who have grown up in Israel in families that have been here for several generations. On Monday, thousands of right-wing Jews attended the Jerusalem Day march, which marks Israel’s capture and subsequent occupation of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war. They included teenage boys, dancing with Israeli flags and wearing T-shirts that said “Sovereignty Now” and other slogans supportive of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated the killing of Palestinians and was banned from entering the Knesset in the 1980s after he was identified by the state as a terrorist. One sticker that most of the young men carried with them said:

The Ravi Kahan was right.

One teenage boy pointed out that a nearby Israeli police car was adorned with the same sticker. The youngsters spoke freely about killing Arabs and population transfer. When asked about the situation in Jerusalem, hours after the Israeli police stormed al-Aqsa and hours before rockets would start flying from Gaza, they said that they were not scared. Many instead declared that all of Israel belonged to them and that there was no place for Arabs. They then attempted to remove metal barriers which the Israeli police had erected to stop them from marching on the Old City. The Israelis MEE spoke to this week were young and part of what feels like a new generation. But some observers say that they are acting on impulses that have always been part of Israel, impulses that have only become socially palatable following the election of far-right politicians such as Itamar Ben Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich to the Knesset. Gil Rothschild, an expert in institutional racism based in Jerusalem, says:

This kind of racist violence has been in existence since the foundation of the state. It is in large part at the very foundations of statehood. Over the years it has maintained variably symbiotic relations with state institutions such as the military or police forces. Yet there often remained a tacit agreement whereby the state can look the other way while so-called ‘outlaws’ take matters into their own hands.

Israeli ultra-nationalists, some with weapons, patrol the streets
of Lod on 12 May, 2021 (Photo: Lubna Marsawa)

Writing for MEE, commentator Jonathan Cook described the backlash against Palestinian communities inside Israel as “a combination of official violence from Israeli police and vigilante-style violence from far-right Jewish gangs.” But Gil argues that these gangs should not be seen less as operating outside the law and more as a tacit arm of the state. He says:

Like in the case of lynchings by white supremacists in the US, historically and today, we should not readily accept the state’s formal definition of such murderous violence as ‘extra-legal.’ It is no coincidence that former slave patrols and ‘white power’ vigilante groups have transformed or been incorporated into contemporary police departments. What we see today is closer to the rule than to the exception.

Back in Lod, Noam and dozens of young Jewish Israelis, some with rifles, gather near a community centre to organise themselves before marching around the town. They tell MEE that they don’t trust the police will protect the city as they set off in 20-strong “patrol groups.” The chants echo around the streets, including “death for Arabs”, “die Mohammed” and, using a phrase from the Torah, “the sons return to their homeland.” One of them says:

We came here from different settlements and towns to support the Jewish people of Lod, and to protect them from Arabs. Some of us will sleep inside the houses and others will march in the town.

Israel’s offensive kills pregnant Palestinian journalist and four-year-old son
Maha Hussaini, Middle East Eye, May 14 2021

Reema Saad had been hoping for a baby girl. The 30-year-old Palestinian journalist was four months along in her third pregnancy, and was due to find out the sex of her baby a few days after Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Samar Saad, Reema’s sister, told Middle East Eye:

When she found out she was pregnant, Reema was very happy. Her son Zaid hoped the baby would be a boy so that he would call him Zain, but Mariam wanted a little sister, and cried every time we teased her telling her it was a baby boy.

But at 1.50 am local time on Wednesday, as the family was fast asleep in their apartment in the Gaza City neighbourhood of Tal al-Hawa, an Israeli air strike hit the residential building. Reema and four-year-old Zaid were killed on the spot, while Reema’s husband, 30-year-old Mohammed al-Telbani, was taken to a hospital in intensive care. Two-year-old Mariam remains missing under the rubble. Reema and Zaid are among the 119 Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes in the besieged Gaza Strip since Monday, amid growing violence across the occupied Palestinian territories since last week.

An undated picture circulating on social media shows Reema Saad speaking on television

According to the Gaza-based Ministry of Health, the 119 dead include 31 children and 19 women. A further 830 have been injured in the bombardments, as countless families in Gaza like Reema’s reel from the shattering loss of loved ones whose promising futures abruptly came to an end. Samia Saad, Reema’s mother, had urged her daughter to spend the night in her house, but she told MEE that Reema had decided to stay home, convinced that her residential neighbourhood would not be targeted. Samia said:

She said she wanted to stay with her husband and that her home was located in an overcrowded and safe neighbourhood. Before the attack, we video-chatted and the children showed me how they had moved their mattresses to sleep in their parents’ bedroom because they were scared. They wished me a good night and went to sleep. They were all sleeping when the air strike hit their home. Reema did not like to stay up late because her work was exhausting. She always slept early and did not expect that her neighbourhood would be targeted.

Residential towers and buildings housing dozens of media offices have been among the buildings targeted by Israeli forces in Gaza City, including two completely leveled to the ground. Samia recalls the terrifying moments trying to find out the fate of her daughter. She said:

My son woke me up and asked me to call Reema to make sure that she was okay, after they heard news that an apartment building in front of the al-Yazji bakery had been targeted. I called her repeatedly but she did not pick up. I sent her online messages, but the conversation showed that she did not have an internet connection. So I got dressed and rushed to her place with my son.

A Palestinian inspects damages in the aftermath of an Israeli air strike
on Gaza City on 12 May 2021 (Photo: /Mohammed al-Hajjar)

When she arrived in the neighbourhood, Samia was informed that her daughter’s family had been taken to al-Shifa hospital. She continued:

They told us that her husband was in the intensive care unit. When I asked about my daughter and her children, they said that we might need to check the morgue. They did not allow me to see her because they said I would break down. So my son saw her and confirmed her identity. He told me that I could not handle seeing her like this. Her skull was broken open and her brain exposed.

Paramedics told Reema’s family that Mariam’s small body, still missing, may have been torn to pieces under the rubble. Samia said:

I couldn’t see her or say goodbye. I asked them to at least bring her home one last time before they bury her. They brought her, but did not allow me to open her coffin.

Grieving the fresh loss of her daughter and at least one of her grandchildren, Samia, 51, is reminded of her brother, who was killed by Israeli forces during the First Intifada, and her husband, who died in 2009 due to lack of drugs and medical equipment in Gaza under the ongoing Israeli-led blockade. Samar says the whole family was incredibly close. She said:

My mum was very attached to Reema. She always told us that she did not differentiate between us, but that Reema was special. That’s why Reema used to visit mum daily, and when they could not see each other due to Reema’s work and busy life, they would video-chat on messenger. I once told Reema that I was thinking of living abroad, but she begged me not to leave her alone.

Zaid, 4, and Mariam Saad, 2

Reema’s sister recalls how excited her nephew and niece had been about her own months-old daughter. She said:

Zaid and Mariam were waiting for my daughter to grow up so that they could play with her. But now they are gone before she could know them. They have left me and my daughter alone.

Samar, who lives in the southern Gaza district of Khan Younis, was unable to travel to Gaza City in time to attend Reema and Zaid’s funerals amid the ongoing threat of air strikes. She said:

“My mum asked me not to come because of the intensive shelling. She told me that she did not want to lose another daughter. We are still in complete shock. It is a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from. I never thought I would lose her.

Amid the grief of losing her sister, Samar has had no respite. As she was speaking to MEE, she received the news that another air strike had hit her family’s neighbourhood in western Gaza City. She said:

God, my heart is boiling, they have just targeted the Rabat college besides my family’s home.

It took her several minutes to confirm that her family was okay, with neighbouring homes only suffering material damage. As Samar felt light years away from her family only a few kilometres away, the third Saad sister, Sally, found out about Reema’s death in Belgium, where she has lived for the past year and a half. Sally told MEE:

I was sleeping when Reema’s home was bombed. I woke up to my husband talking. He did not tell me the news immediately. He waited until it was confirmed.

Sally says that she feels devastated being so far away and unable to be with her family. She explains:

I cannot support my mum and siblings because I am not around them; I can’t even talk to them often because of the air strikes. We used to video-chat every day; me, mum, Samar, Reema and her children. Now, I can only talk to mum and my siblings when they are able to, due to the intensive shelling.

Sally wants to remember her sister as a caring mother, but also as a dedicated journalist, recalling her last conversations with Reema ahead of Eid celebrations. Sally says:

She was constantly asking us about the clothes she should buy for her children for Eid, but she was also very ambitious, always discussing her plans to start a project assisting people in finding freelance jobs.

Between 2000 and 2020, IOF have killed at least 46 Palestinian journalists, according to the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. Sixteen of them were killed during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza alone. Razan al-Saafin, one of Reema’s close friends, told MEE that she loved to work in media, but also was a known figure in the field of entrepreneurship as a coach and influencer. Razan said:

Our friendship was a unique relationship, she always told me how she cherished me. We were pure friends. She would always tell me about her worries. Since I heard the news, I have been thinking about opening the messenger and writing to her ‘May God bless your soul,’ but then I remember that she will not reply.

Israel targets Palestinian journalists covering crackdown on protests
Shatha Hammad, Middle East Eye, May 15 2021

Israeli authorities have led an unprecedented crackdown on local journalists attempting to cover the tense developments on the ground since the outbreak of Palestinian protests in Israel last week. The protesters have been voicing their rejection of an Israeli court’s decision to imminently evict a number of Palestinian families in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. In addition to the violent dispersal of protests, police and armed forces have beaten and fired live ammunition on journalists covering the unfolding of events, particularly following attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque and Israel’s deadly bombardment of Gaza since Monday. In the West Bank, photo-journalists have been hit with steel bullets while doing their job at the northern entrance to the city of al-Bireh, near the settlement of Beit El. Many journalists, including Hisham Abu Shakra, Mutasim Saqf al-Heit, Issam Al-Rimawi and Ramiz Awad, were heavily wounded as a result. Raed al-Sharif, from the West Bank, told Middle East Eye that he and other journalists, including Mahoor al-Wahwah and Jamil Salhab, were covering the confrontations in the city of Yatta on Friday when they were shot by snipers. He said:

We felt fear, and found ourselves being targeted directly, which prompted us to leave the place and stop our coverage.

Violent tactics have been used to quash the protests around the West Bank and other regions in recent weeks, including beatings, the use of teargas, sound grenades and rubber bullets. Many people have reported difficulties in breathing as a result of the continued use of teargas, with some needing medical attention. “Skunk water,” which has been used by IOF as a tactic to disperse crowds, has also targeted journalists, forcing them to evacuate areas and hindering their ability to carry out their job. Skunk water, a crowd-control weapon developed by an Israeli company, is described as a concoction of chemicals that causes intense nausea, obstructing normal breathing, causing violent gagging and vomiting. In Sheikh Jarrah, which has been a flashpoint of tension in recent days, large numbers of heavily armed police have been deployed in an effort to quell any gatherings of protesters. Israeli police have also been seen intimidating members of the press covering the events, as well as disrupting reports and footage coming from the ground. Anadolu Agency’s Middle East news editor, Turgut Alp Boyraz, was shot twice by Israeli police while reporting. Two other journalists from the same agency were targeted in the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

On 12 May, Israeli air strikes destroyed the al-Jawhara tower, a multi-storey building in Gaza City that houses offices of over a dozen media organisations, including Palestine Newspaper, Al Kufiya Channel, Bawaba 24 and the Palestinian Media Forum. Another building, the al Shorouk Tower, which housed seven media outlets, was also destroyed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza on the same day. According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, 90 people have been arrested in the West Bank since tensions escalated earlier this week. The Palestinian Authority’s Commission of Detainees Affairs also said that over the past three weeks Israeli authorities have carried out a mass campaign of arrests against Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Palestinian government agency estimates that Israel has carried out around 600 arrests in the past few weeks, with the majority of them being in the Israeli town of Lod, known to Palestinians as Lydd, as well as in Jerusalem and Ramleh.

Israel has been widely condemned for its intense crackdown on journalists covering the escalations on the ground over the past week. In a statement on Thursday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) denounced the “disproportionate” use of force against local journalists. The head of RSF’s Middle East desk, Sabrina Bennoui, urged the Israeli authorities to halt the use of force, including stun grenades and teargas, against Palestinian reporters. She said:

Palestinian journalists, who were already struggling to work in the conditions imposed by the Israeli authorities, are once again on the front line when tension erupts. We urge the Israeli authorities to desist from this disproportionate use of force against Palestinian reporters, who should on no account be treated as if they were parties to the conflict.

Israel ranks 86 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom index.

Israel arrests senior leader of Islamic Movement in Israel
Middle East Eye, May 15 2021

Kamal al-Khatib was detained at his home by Israeli forces

Israeli police on Friday arrested Kamal al-Khatib, vice president of the Islamic Movement, after storming his house in the Palestinian town of Kafr Kanna in Galilee, Israel, according to local media. Meanwhile, a number of Palestinian demonstrators were seriously wounded in Kafr Kanna after Israeli forces attacked them with live ammunition and rubber bullets when they arrived to stage a protest in the vicinity of Sheikh Khatib’s house during and after his arrest, according to reports and footage by the local Arab48 website. Khatib’s son told Al Jazeera Arabic that Israeli forces entered the home violently, following a large crackdown on protesters in the area. The arrest came after Palestinians warned that a number of prominent activists had received messages from Israeli intelligence officers threatening protesters. Khatib’s son said:

Many people got a text message, including influential protesters, saying that they were recorded as being present at al-Aqsa and they would be held accountable.

In recent weeks, Israeli forces have used live ammunition, skunk water and tear gas to disperse protesters in a number of cities in Israeli, resulting in scores of injuries. Earlier this week, Netanyahu ordered militarised border police units to reinforce regular officers on the ground in an attempt to deal with the protests. The Likud leader has also deployed soldiers to cities where the unrest is at its most intense and has warned “rioters” that they will be subject to administrative detention. Such detention is normally used to hold Palestinians in the occupied West Bank for months without charge or trial. Netanyahu also told police officers not to fear disciplinary action for their behaviour. He said:

We will reinforce them as necessary in order to maintain law and order in the state of Israel. Our goal is to bring results and to bring them quickly. We are hearing whispers about fears of inquiry committees. We will give you all the tools. You have the support, don’t be afraid.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Friday ordered 40 tonnes of aid for Palestinians to be shipped following a crackdown by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and aerial bombardment in Gaza. The aid includes food, medicine and blankets and will be carried by military aircraft, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Morocco also denounced “the violent acts perpetrated in occupied Palestinian territories,” and reiterated support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Rabat resumed ties with Israel in December as part of a deal brokered by the United States that also includes Washington’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara. The US-brokered deal, named the “Abraham Accords,” were heavily criticised by Palestinians, who saw it as a “stab in the back.” At the time, Moroccan and Arab activists also launched an online campaign against the government’s decision to normalise ties with Israel.

Far-right Israelis attacked a Palestinian home in the Ajami neighbourhood in Jaffa with firebombs, wounding two children on Friday evening, the fifth night of violence in restive Palestinian towns in Israel. The children, a 10-year-old girl who suffered a head injury and a 12-year-old boy who sustained burns on his upper body, were taken to the Sheba Hospital and were in moderate condition, according to Haaretz. Meanwhile, in Lod, a flashpoint of confrontations between Jewish ultra-nationalists and Palestinian citizens of Israel, police shot and wounded a 15-year-old Palestinian near a mosque, claiming he had tried to target them with a firebomb. Palestinian citizens of Israel continue to protest Israeli escalation, including the ongoing Gaza onslaught, the attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque, and the threat of expulsion facing residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem.

Earlier last evening, air strikes on the northern Gaza Strip killed three Palestinians, two brothers from al-Munsi family and a man from the Sabah family, Palestinians news website Arab48 quoted medical sources. At least 139 people have been killed in Israeli bombardments on Gaza since Monday, including at least 39 children and 22 women, and at least 1k others wounded, Palestinian medical officials said. Early Saturday, the Israeli army said it had hit a Hamas “operation office” near the centre of Gaza City, and “underground launch sites” in late night strikes.

Amnesty International called on the US and other countries to pressure Israel into ending its “systematic violations” against Palestinians, in a new appeal on Friday. As Israeli forces use live and rubber ammunition against Palestinian protesters across the occupied West Bank and Israel, the rights group said in a statement:

It’s past time that the world presses Israel to address the root causes of violations and injustice. Palestinians’ experience of systemic discrimination, dispossession and displacement is at the root of the ongoing violations we see today. The international community, especially Israel’s close allies like the USA, have a responsibility to pressure Israel to end and redress its systematic violations against Palestinians.

Middle East Eye has received footage of Jordanians running towards the border separating Jordan from the occupied West Bank earlier on Friday. Crowds had gathered at the Israeli-controlled border in support of Palestinians protesting in several cities and towns. Watch the video here:

Protesters gathered in the Palestinian town of Bethlehem south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank on Friday were met with tear gas from Israeli forces. The protesters voiced their opposition to the continued Israeli air strikes on Gaza that have killed dozens of civilians since Monday, as well as the attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the eviction threat facing Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Below are some photos from the demonstration by Middle East Eye’s Akram al-Waraa:

Israeli forces have intensified their crackdown on journalists covering confrontations that continue to take place across the occupied West Bank, Middle East Eye’s correspondent Shatha Hammad reported late on Friday. According to Hammad, four photojournalists were hit by steel bullets while doing their job at the northern entrance to the city of al-Bireh, near the settlement of Beit El. The journalists are Hisham Abu Shakra, Mutasim Saqf al-Heit, Issam Al-Rimawi, and Ramiz Awad. Abu Shakra told MEE that the Israeli army fired live bullets at him from close range and targeted him with tear gas canisters on Friday. He also explained that he was pursued by the army, causing him to fall to the ground, subsequently causing damage to his equipment and wounding him. Raed al-Sharif, another journalist from the West Bank, told MEE that he and other journalists, including Mahoor al-Wahwah and Jamil Salhab, were covering the confrontations in the city of Yatta on Friday when they were suddenly shot by snipers. He said:

We felt fear and found ourselves being targeted directly, which prompted us to leave the place and stop our coverage.

Violent tactics have been used to quash the protests around the West Bank and other regions in recent weeks, including beating people, using tear gas, sound grenades and rubber bullets. Many have reported difficulties in breathing as a result of the continued use of tear gas, with some needing medical attention. Skunk water, which has been used by Israeli forces as a tactic to disperse crowds, has also targeted journalists, forcing them to evacuate areas and hindering their ability to carry out their job. According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, 90 people have been arrested in the West Bank since tensions escalated earlier this week. The Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Authority also said that over the last three weeks, Israeli authorities have carried out a mass campaign of arrests against Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Palestinian government agency estimates that Israel has carried out around 600 arrests in the past few weeks, with the majority of them being in the Israeli town of Lod, known to Palestinians as Lydd, as well as in Jerusalem and Ramleh.

A number of Palestinian demonstrators were seriously wounded in Kafr Kanna on Friday evening after being shot by live ammunition and rubber bullets by Israeli police and army forces that stormed the town to arrest the leader of the banned Israeli northern Islamic Movement, Sheikh Kamal Khatib, according to a report by the local Arab48 website. According to the website, IOF, using live and rubber bullets, wounded dozens of young men who arrived to demonstrate in the vicinity of Sheikh Khatib’s house. The wounded were swiftly referred to hospitals in Nazareth for treatment. Israeli police have arrested dozens of young Palestinian men in several Israeli towns that have witnessed protests against the Gaza onslaught and al-Aqsa attacks and in solidarity with the people facing eviction from Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in Jerusalem. The protest activities and marches continue in Palestinian towns in Israel for the fifth day in a row while the Israeli army continues its bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip and armed Palestinian groups respond with more rocket barrages on Israeli settlements and towns in the South.

A Palestinian man was killed late on Friday in the city of Tulkarm in the West Bank, raising the day’s death toll in the occupied territories to 11, according to the health ministry. In Gaza, the number of Palestinians killed reached 126, including 31 children and 20 women, Friday evening as Israeli air strikes continue to bombard the besieged strip, targeting civilian infrastructure. Among those killed include a 7-year-old girl, Buthaina Mahmoud Ubaid, who was hit in the head by shrapnel from an Israeli missile. At least 950 people have also been injured in the attacks.

Friday evening saw further rounds of arrests and intimidation of Palestinians in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Live ammunition was fired at residents in the neighbourhood, further inflaming tensions. Armed Israeli police have continued to patrol the neighbourhood, which has been a focal point for protests over the past week, as some residents face imminent eviction by an Israeli court. Armed police were stationed in many parts of the neighbourhood, many on horseback. Family members facing eviction came out to chant protest songs and express indignation at what they say is injustice from both the Israeli court and Israeli forces. Police have caused road blocks in the area, while earlier today, skunk water was used to stop people from gathering in groups and journalists covering the unfolding of events were harassed and told to leave. Palestinians have been protesting over the past week, over the forced evictions of Sheikh Jarrah residents and the attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque.

At least 10 Palestinians were shot dead in the West Bank on Friday, as protests have spread throughout Israel and the occupied territories and are continuing to be met by Israeli aggression. IOF have been deployed to repress Palestinian demonstrations inside Israel, East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, and have been using live ammunition against protesters in Nablus. Israeli settlers also used live ammunition against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, according to local media. MEE has confirmed the following deaths in the West Bank so far:

  • Mohammed Ruhi Hammad, 30, in Silwad near Ramallah.
  • Sharif Khaled Salman, 38, in Marada, Salfit.
  • Awad Ahmed Harb, in Eskaka, Salfit.
  • Youssef Nawasarah, 26, in Fahma, Jenin.
  • Nidal Sael Safadi, in Urif, Nablus.
  • Issa Burhom, in Nablus.
  • Ismail al-Tobasi, in Hebron.
  • Malek Hamdan, 22, in Salem, Nablus.
  • Hossam Asaireh, 18, in Asira, Nablus.

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