electronic intifada

Palestinians killed in escalation of West Bank violence
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Oct 5 2022

The family of Alaa Zaghal mourn over the body of the young man, killed earlier in the day by the Israeli military
during an arrest raid at a hospital in Deir al-Hatab village, Oct 5. Photo: Stringer/APA

A UN human rights expert said on Thursday that she was “extremely alarmed by the escalation of violence” in the West Bank, where IOF have killed five Palestinians since the beginning of October. Francesca Albanese, the UN special rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza, added that “settlers’ incursions and attacks, from Jerusalem to Hebron and Nablus, are heightening the tension at a sensitive moment.” Settlers blocked roads and threw stones at Palestinian drivers attempting to drive in and out of Nablus and Ramallah, major West Bank cities under nominal Palestinian Authority control, in the lead-up to Yom Kippur.

The Times of Israel reported:

In Bat Yam a mob attacked and overturned a vehicle carrying five Palestinians on Wednesday. The attackers claimed the men had arrived in the city with the deliberate aim of disturbing the peace during Yom Kippur. It was unclear how the motivation of the men had been ascertained by the crowd.

The incident was reminiscent of an attack on a Palestinian motorist in the city during a spasm of communal violence coinciding with Israel’s operation in Gaza in May 2021. At that time, Israeli Jewish mobs planned and coordinated widespread attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel using messaging apps.

Israeli soldiers stand guard as Jewish settlers attempt to storm Nablus near Huwara checkpoint
in the northern West Bank, Oct 4. Photo: Nasser Ishayeh/SOPA

Meanwhile, a Palestinian man was killed during an Israeli raid in the northern West Bank on Wednesday. Alaa Zaghal, 21, died after he was shot in the head in Deir al-Hatab, a town near Nablus. IOF besieged a home in the village where they arrested Salman Omran after an hours-long standoff and firefight. In an audio clip apparently recorded while he was under siege, Omran said that he was engaged with the Israeli army and appealed to young people in the area to join the battle before praying to God to accept him as a martyr.

Omran’s son told media that Israeli soldiers came to arrest his father after he had returned home from school:

The boy described Israeli soldiers shooting at his home, which was left badly damaged. The Israeli military reportedly accused Omran of carrying out a shooting attack on Sunday. An Israeli taxi driver was lightly wounded during that alleged shooting near Elon Moreh, a settlement in the Nablus area. The windshields of both the taxi and a bus were damaged in the shooting, an Israeli military spokesperson told media. Also on Sunday, an Israeli soldier was reportedly lightly wounded in a shooting attack during a protest by Jewish settlers demanding a military crackdown on Palestinian armed resistance, according to Haaretz. An alliance of Palestinian resistance fighters based in the Nablus area dubbed “the Lion’s Den” reportedly claimed responsibility for the shooting. Both Nablus and Jenin, another city in the northern West Bank, have re-emerged as centers of armed resistance to the Israeli military occupation. In recent months, Israel and the PA have stepped up their attacks in these areas amid concerns among Israeli leaders that they are slipping out of the occupation’s control. Two journalists from Palestine TV, Mahmoud Fawzi and Luai Samhan, were among the at least six others wounded by IOF during the fatal military operation in Deir al-Hatab on Wednesday. The journalists and their network accused Israel of deliberately targeting the reporters, who were wearing helmets and protective vests identifying them as press. In a video recorded during the attack on the journalists, one of the reporters said that they were under direct fire and that his colleague was shot in the arm, which is apparent in the clip:

Israel has come under unprecedented scrutiny after one of its sharpshooters shot and killed Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh while she was covering a military raid in Jenin during May. No soldier has been held accountable over what an independent forensic investigation concluded was a deliberate killing. Israeli leaders have rebuffed US calls to examine the military’s open fire policy. Some 100 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, so far this year amid “a massive increase in military raids,” as described by the BBC.

On Monday, IOF killed two Palestinians in Jalazone refugee camp in the central West Bank in what the military claimed was a car ramming attack. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights refuted the Israeli account and said that Salameh Rafat Shariah, 19, and Khaled Fadi Anbar, 19, posed no imminent danger when they were fatally injured and another passenger, Basel Kathem Basbous, 18, was wounded. The rights group said that Israeli soldiers ambushed the car carrying the three Palestinian men and that there were no confrontations taking place at the time. Soldiers prevented Palestine Red Crescent Society medics from accessing the injured men, who were left to bleed inside the car for more than half an hour, the rights group said. The slain Palestinians’ families told the rights group that the young men were on their way home after finishing work at a pizza restaurant. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights noted that the deadly ambush on Monday bore similarities to the killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon. Fayez Khaled Mahmoud Damdan, 17, was shot in the back by a border policeman while riding his motorcycle in the Jerusalem-area town of al-Eizariya. According to Defense for Children International-Palestine:

The teen, who was driving the motorcycle with a friend, attempted to slow down as the Israeli military vehicles in front of him slowed down, but the motorcycle slipped. He fell and was dragged by the motorcycle while his friend was able to jump off and run away. After Fayez got up and ran for a distance of less than one meter, Israeli forces shot and killed him from a distance of two to four meters. The single bullet settled in Fayez’s brain.

Israeli forces and settlers have killed 23 Palestinian children in the West Bank so far this year, according to the rights group. That is in addition to 17 children killed during Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in August.

Israeli authorities impose a general closure in Jerusalem ahead of Yom Kippur, Oct 4. Photo: Saeed Qaq/APA

On Wednesday, Arnaud Meffre, an ICRC official in the West Bank, said:

We are deeply concerned by the intensification of armed violence in parts of the West Bank leading to numerous civilian casualties. It is unacceptable that civilians are injured or killed in these episodes of violence. It is very worrying that children in schools nearby witness such levels of violence, and too often are victims of it.

Meffre was likely referring to an Israeli raid in Nablus last week that left four Palestinian fighters dead and nearly 60 more people injured. Videos showed children crying in terror during the daytime invasion. Adam Bouloukos, the West Bank director of UNRWA, said on Monday:

Students at our elementary school in Jenin refugee camp sheltered at the back of their classroom during the incursion. They huddled under their desks and stayed in a closed area for nearly three hours with no water and no food. The level of violence in Jenin camp and across the West Bank is the highest we have seen in years. We call on Israeli forces to limit the use of excessive force and spare the loss of civilian life in Jenin and across the West Bank.

The ICRC’s Meffre called for ensuring the safety of Palestine Red Crescent Society paramedics who “have been at the forefront of responding to urgent humanitarian needs.” The Palestine Red Crescent Society said:

IOF attacked two of our medics in Beit Furik, a village south of Nablus, on Sunday. The two medics were threatened at gunpoint, kicked and beaten. One of them was also hit on the head with a rifle, and both sustained injuries and were held by Israeli soldiers who also kicked the ambulance and struck it with their rifle butts.

Part of the assault was recorded on video:

PRCS said that it has recorded nearly 400 violations against it so far this year, including more than a dozen attacks against staff and volunteers.

Will Pakistan surrender to pro-Israel pressure?
Ali Abunimah, Tamara Nassar, Electronic Intifada, Oct 6 2022

Pakistan’s PM Shehbaz Sharif speaks during a session of the UNGA in New York, Sep 23 2022. Photo: Wang Ying/Xinhua

Sharaka, a shadowy organization based in the UAE and Israel, is pushing forward with efforts to promote diplomatic ties between Pakistan and the Zionist state. Pakistan has always refused such ties, in solidarity with the Palestinian people. But while Islamabad has distanced itself from Sharaka’s normalization efforts, it has not clearly denounced or discouraged them, sending at the very least a mixed signal about its stance. Sharaka is bringing Pakistanis to Israel under the guise of promoting “interfaith” cooperation. But the real purpose of these visits, typically led by Muslim Zionists, is to open a path to formal diplomatic and even military relations between Islamabad and Tel Aviv. One such Pakistani delegation made a trip to Israel last month, and it included a former government official. Sharaka said in an email newsletter:

The goal was to create another stepping stone toward Israel-Pakistan relations.

The Washington-based American Muslim and Multifaith Women’s Empowerment Council also helped arrange the junket. Previously, Nasim Ashraf served as a minister of state and chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board. He also holds US citizenship. Ashraf openly discussed the political motivations behind the “interfaith” charade in an interview with Israeli satellite channel i24 News while in Jerusalem. He said:

Pakistan wants to have relations. But at the same time, Pakistan has consistently supported the Palestinian issue and its position vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In response to a question about future Israeli “military cooperation” with Pakistan given the latter’s nuclear capabilities, Ashraf reassured the Israeli anchor. The former minister said:

Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and nuclear assets have absolutely nothing to do and are of no threat to Israel. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are a defensive deterrent against India. It’s not at all directed at anyone else, least of all Israel.

The delegation was taken to the Gaza-Israel boundary fence, according to tweets by a Texas-based reporter who went on the trip. The group visited the Muslim Quarter in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. They explored “Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious sites to see how Israel provides freedom of religion for all,” Sharaka said, completely disregarding Israel’s systematic violations of the rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians to practice their faiths. Sharaka added:

The purpose of the tour was to learn about the complexities of the conflict and Israel’s efforts to provide jobs, water, electricity and medicine to the Palestinians while fighting against terrorists.

All of this falls within Israel’s usual propaganda strategy typical of colonial rulers, of touting itself as a beacon of advancement and innovation even for the Indigenous people whose land and rights it is violently usurping. The organization omitted to mention Israel’s debilitating siege on the Gaza Strip, now in its 15th year, which has caused catastrophic consequences for the coastal enclave’s two million residents who are mostly refugees, while denying them life-saving medical care. Gaza has among the highest unemployment and poverty levels in the world due to the blockade and successive military attacks since 2007. The delegation also met with President Isaac Herzog, who “blessed the work Sharaka is doing,” according to the group.

In order to give a veneer of Palestinian consent and participation, the delegation met with Bassem Eid, a Palestinian who has for decades participated in Israel-backed anti-Palestinian propaganda campaigns. Qasim Khan Suri, an ex-deputy speaker of the Pakistan National Assembly tweeted about the visit, saying the group was “in Israel for secret talks.”

This is not the first trip of its kind organized by Sharaka, whose stated goal is “realizing the tremendous potential of the Abraham Accords.” The Abraham Accords are a series of deals brokered by the US between Israel and several Arab states since 2020. They aim to consolidate military, economic and political cooperation between Israel and other local American client regimes while putting an end to the Palestinian national liberation struggle. A similar trip to Israel was organized earlier this year by the same two organizations. While the latest Pakistani delegation was in Israel, i24 News reported that a “senior official from Indonesia” was also in Israel on a secret visit. The Indonesian foreign ministry flatly denied the claim. Its Middle East Director told local news site Tempo:

As long as Palestine is under Israeli occupation, Indonesia will not open diplomatic relations with Israel. This never happened and Indonesia’s stance will always be the same.

A ministry spokesperson also told media “he did not know who senior officials the article was referring to” are, according to Tempo. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. The country has no formal diplomatic relations with Israel. The report in Israeli media may have been intended to probe the reaction it would produce in Indonesia, perhaps in advance of efforts to try to co-opt that country as well. As for Pakistan, it is difficult to say which direction it is headed. Foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reaffirmed that the recent Sharaka delegation “has nothing to do with the government of Pakistan,” insisting that his country’s position on Palestine is “clear and always has been.” That echoed the position given earlier by the foreign ministry in Islamabad. But Bhutto, like the ministry, pointedly failed to denounce the recent delegations or discourage Pakistanis from participating in them, even though the organizers state clearly that their ultimate goal is to establish formal ties between Pakistan and Israel. After an effectively US-backed putsch led to Imran Khan’s removal as Pakistan’s prime minister in April, he was replaced by Shehbaz Sharif, who previously expressed enthusiasm for “deepening” Pakistan’s relationship with the US.

The Sharif family is notorious for its corruption. But even the Sharifs, regarded as reliable US allies, have begun to slip from Washington’s grip. Earlier this month, while speaking at the SCO summit in Uzbekistan, Sharif sounded consistent with his predecessor’s refusal of American pressure to cut ties with Russia following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. Sharif lavished praise on Russia and its president, promising “to build our relations with your great country with full commitment and full dedication, because you are a superpower.” Sharif told Vladimir Putin:
You are a man of action. You decide, and then you implement.

But this week, General Qamar Bajwa, the outgoing chief of Pakistan’s army, headed to Washington for meetings with top American officials. Nasim Zehra, an Islamabad-based analyst, told Al Jazeera:

We are seeing greater interaction between the political and military leadership of both countries. I wouldn’t rule out this trip involving discussions of greater military cooperation.

That is significant, as the Pakistani military has tended to have the final say over the country’s direction, having repeatedly overthrown civilian governments. The Pakistani military was a close ally of the US during its proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s and again during the so-called War on Terror following the 9/11 attacks. Islamabad is now undoubtedly caught between its traditional role as a client of the US, a waning geopolitical power, and the impulse to align with rising Eurasian powers much closer to home, especially China and Russia. One indicator as to which way it is heading is whether Sharaka’s efforts to foster ties with Tel Aviv start to meet with success. In the meantime, the Sharif government’s failure to clearly denounce and discourage such normalization efforts is not a good sign.

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