Israel detains foreign activists in occupied West Bank

            By Qais Abu Samra <br>

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – The Israeli army on Friday detained 15 people, including both Palestinians and pro-Palestine foreign activists, in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil [Hebron], according to an Anadolu Agency photojournalist.

An Israeli military force detained the 15 as they attempted to fix a road that runs through the Israeli-occupied city, the photojournalist said.

According to the same source, roughly 150 foreign solidarity activists, along with a number of local residents, had been taking part in the road-construction project when the arrests were made.

The Israeli army has since reportedly designated the area a “closed military zone”.

The road in question falls within “Area C” of the West Bank, according to the terms of the Oslo Agreement.

Signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel, the 1993 agreement divides the Israeli-occupied West Bank into three areas.

“Area A” falls under the full administrative and security control of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA); “Area B” falls under the PA’s administrative control and Israeli security control; and “Area C” — in which Hebron is located — falls under the exclusive administrative and security control of Israel.

In a related incident, Jewish settlers on Friday vandalized several Palestinian homes in the West Bank city of Nablus, according to a Palestinian official.

Ghassan Daghlas, the PA official in charge of the Israeli settlement file, told Anadolu Agency that Jewish settlers had raided the Arab town of Hawwara in Nablus, where they spray-painted racist and anti-Arab slogans on Palestinian-owned homes and vehicles.

Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank complain of frequent attacks by Jewish settlers, which often include acts of physical violence, vandalism and the destruction of Palestinian farmland.

Last year alone, Jewish settlers carried out 482 separate attacks on Palestinians and their property across the West Bank, according to Israeli media reports.

There are currently 250 Jewish-only settlements built across the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967. Considered illegal under international law, these settlements are home to an estimated 600,000 Israeli Jews.

Global coalition needed to support Palestine: Thinker

By Ali Abo Rezeg

ISTANBUL (AA) – A prominent Islamic thinker has called for forming a global coalition to help the Palestinian people in their struggle against the decades-long Israeli occupation.

Speaking on the sidelines of an Istanbul-hosted conference on the Palestinian issue, Tarek al-Suwaidan, a Kuwaiti thinker and writer of several books on Palestine, said this coalition should include academics, politicians, actors, sport figures from all around the globe.

“There are millions of people across the world who believe and seek to support the Palestinian cause, especially among student unions,” he said on Sunday.

He clarified that many students in the U.S. and across the world have managed to “exert pressure on their universities to boycott Israel.”

Al-Suwaidan noted that the proposed coalition should include people of different religions, cultures, and races “to stand by the goal of supporting the Palestinian cause.”

Themed: “The Question of Palestine: Examining History, Geo-politics, and Future Prospects”, the three-day conference opened in Istanbul on Saturday with a wide participation of academics, researchers, experts and students.

Organized by the Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University’s Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), over 25 speakers from nearly 10 countries are expected to make speeches at the conference.

Discussions are tackling several aspects of the Palestinian issue, including Jerusalem, the right of return, Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as well as the ordeal of the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The conference will end on Monday with a session titled “Challenges and Responses: The Pro-Israeli Lobbies, Normalization, and Building a Transnational Solidarity Movement."

Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ is ‘hoax’: Experts

By Ali Abo Rezeg

ISTANBUL (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”, a backchannel plan to reach peace between the Palestinians and Israel, is nothing but a mere “hoax”, experts believe.

Since taking office in early 2017, Trump has been formulating the plan, along with senior adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner and special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt.

According to past statements by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the scheme would give Israel parts of the West Bank which are considered “occupied territory” under international law.

“The deal of the century is a pro-Israel colonial plan,” Rabab Abdulhadi of the San Francisco State University told Anadolu Agency on Sunday.

“Peace means respecting the inalienable Palestinian rights and self-determination, allowing the Palestinians to decide their own future, giving refugees the right to return to their lands, eliminating racism and discrimination, and stopping all the abusive practices against the Palestinians.”

“If you [U.S.] don’t provide this, there will never be peace,” Abdulhadi said.

She argued that Trump, Kushner and Greenblatt are all “pro-Israel, pro-racism, and pro-Islamophobia”.

“This is a new attempt to divert, derail and liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Abdullhadi said. “To confront this scheme, the Palestinians have to continue what they are doing; resistance.”

Details of the U.S. plan are expected to be announced after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which will start early next month.

  • Practical steps

Mohanad Mustafa of the Haifa University in Israel said the Arab states have yet to come up with a clear position on the U.S. peace scheme.

“The Palestinians need a clear and obvious Arab stance rejecting this deal,” he told Anadolu Agency.

He called on the Arab world to take “practice steps to support the Palestinians in face of Trump’s plan”.

“The Palestinians should feel that they have an Arab shield,” he said. “However, it looks like that the Palestinians are going to face this scheme alone.”

The Cairo-based Arab League has rejected Trump’s peace plan, saying peace cannot be achieved without first guaranteeing Palestinians’ legitimate territorial rights.

The expert went on to call on the Palestinians to end their internal divisions and “come up with a unified position against the deal”.

“We, Palestinians living inside Israel, know very well the nature of the Zionist project and we, as well, should embrace a clear political position regarding this deal.”

  • Palestinian unity

Hani al-Masri, head of the Ramallah-based Masarat research center, believes that the Palestinian unity is the best effective tool to confront Trump’s plan.

“The Palestinian people should take the lead and exert pressure against the Palestinian leadership to impose unity,” he said. “Without such unity, it is difficult to regain our national rights.”

Al-Masri criticized Trump’s approach of dealing with the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“Unlike previous administrations, Trump didn’t come up with a scheme that convinces both conflicting parties,” he said. “Rather, he totally embraced the demands of the Israeli side.”

He said Trump tends to use the fait accompli policy in dealing with disputes.

“Even before he announces his plan, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights and seeks to terminate the refugees’ right to return.”

Al-Masri also said that the U.S. administration was pressuring Arab states to normalize relations with Israel.

“Israel is not only a threat to the Arab world, it’s also a threat to the whole world,” he opined.

Merkel stresses 2-state solution in call with Netanyahu

                                 By Ayhan Simsek</p>    <p>BERLIN (AA) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has reaffirmed Germany’s commitment for a “two-state solution” in a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.</p>    <p>“The Chancellor has underlined the continuing importance of a two-state solution that can be achieved through negotiations between the two parties,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.</p>    <p>“This must remain the goal of international efforts,” he stressed.</p>    <p>Merkel’s strong remarks in favor of a two-state solution came amid media reports that claimed U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan was likely to stop short of a full Palestinian statehood.</p>    <p>Washington Post reported on Sunday that Trump’s plan was expected to suggest a Palestinian “autonomy” rather than “sovereignty.”</p>    <p>On Monday, former European politicians slammed Trump for pursuing a “one-sided’ policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict.</p>    <p>“Europe should reject any plan that does not create a Palestinian state alongside Israel with Jerusalem as the capital for both countries,” they said in a letter sent to the EU and European governments as well as British newspaper The Guardian.</p>    <p>The letter was signed by more than 30 former foreign ministers and prime ministers.

Israel arrests 10 Palestinians in West Bank

By Abdelrauf Arnaut

RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Israeli forces rounded up ten Palestinians in overnight raids carried out across the occupied West Bank, according to the military on Monday.

In a statement, the army said that the individuals had been detained for “suspected involvement in popular hostile activities”.

It did not elaborate on the nature of these alleged “activities”.

The Israeli army carries out frequent arrest campaigns across the West Bank — including occupied East Jerusalem — on the pretext of searching for “wanted” Palestinians.

According to Palestinian figures, roughly 5,700 Palestinians — including numerous women and children — are currently languishing in Israeli detention facilities.

UPDATE – West Bank is 'absolutely' Palestinian territory: Erdogan

UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS

By Faruk Zorlu and Sena Guler

ANKARA (AA) – The Israeli occupied West Bank "absolutely" belongs to Palestinians, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lambasting Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu for his remarks on annexing Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected.

Speaking to reporters ahead of his departure for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the capital Moscow, Erdogan said: “West Bank is absolutely a territory of Palestinians.”

The Turkish president said every action of Netanyahu is against international law and that Turkey will continue to stand by Palestinians.

On Saturday, Netanyahu vowed to annex the occupied West Bank if he won the general election, which is slated for April 9.

In an interview with Israeli television, he said: "We will ensure that we are in charge on the ground. And we will impose sovereignty over the settlements in Judea and Samaria [West Bank]."

Erdogan went on to say: "Every action of Israel since 1948 is illegal. But, of course, it has always taken these steps with a support of the U.S."

Historical Palestine was driven from the Palestinians in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

During recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the Israeli sovereignty in Syrian Golan Heights, the U.S. took the lead, he said, adding the U.S.'s steps did not comply with the United Nations resolutions.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the Golan Heights as an Israeli territory, which Israel occupied in 1967.

In December 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump sparked international outrage when he unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and vowed to relocate Washington's embassy to that city.

Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as Israel’s “eternal undivided capital” — a move never recognized by the international community.

International law views the entire West Bank as “occupied territory” and considers all Israeli settlement building there as illegal.

Hamas slams Omani diplomat over pro-Israel remarks

GAZA CITY (AA) – Palestinian resistance group Hamas has decried a call by a top Omani diplomat for Arabs to ease Israel's fears for its future in the region.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan last week, Yusuf bin Alawi, the minister responsible for foreign affairs in Oman, urged the Palestinians and Arabs to "help Israel overcome the feeling of being threatened".

In a statement on Monday, Hamas described bin Alawi's remarks as "running counter to all facts and logic".

"Under which moral or political logic should we ask the victim to reassure the executioner and occupier about his future?" Hamas asked.

"[Israel] is a usurper, which has the most powerful army in the region, practices a systematic killing and destruction against our people, Judaizes Jerusalem, desecrates holy sites, threatens the whole region and disregards international law," it said.

Bin Alawi's statements had already drawn fire from Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi during the forum.

"The Arab world has recognized Israel's right to exist. The Palestinians themselves recognized the Israeli right to exist… that is not the issue," Safadi, whose country has signed a peace treaty with Israel, said.

"The issue is that there is an occupation. Is this occupation going to end or not?"

Oman and Israel don't have diplomatic relations.

In October, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a rare visit to Oman.

UPDATE 4 – 3 Gazans martyred by Israeli fire amid Land Day demos

UPDATES WITH INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR LAND DAY

By Mustafa Haboush

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Three Palestinians were martyred and dozens injured by Israeli army fire during protests marking the Land Day in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, according to the health ministry.

In a statement, the ministry said Nidal Saqr, 17, Jihad Saad and Tamr Hashim Abu Hayr lost their lives east of Gaza City, while another 316 demonstrators were injured — including 64 by live ammunition.

The ministry said 14 of the injured protesters were in a serious condition.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of Palestinians staged mass rallies near Gaza-Israel buffer zone to mark the first anniversary of protests against the decades-long Israeli occupation.

The protests also commemorated the 43rd anniversary of the Land Day when six people were killed in 1976 during demonstrations against seizure of Arab land in Galilee.

In the run-up to Saturday’s rallies, the Israeli army has deployed numerous tanks and armored vehicles along the buffer zone with the Gaza Strip.

Nearly 270 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire since Palestinians began holding regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone in March of last year.

Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

  • International Support

In Turkey, members of the Friends of Palestine against Imperialism and Zionism gathered in front of Israel’s Consulate General in Istanbul and showed solidarity with Palestinians who fight for their land.

Recalling the U.S. decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, Naz Sakar, speaking for the group, said it would continue to be a major security threat for the region as long as Israel controls the area.

“Israel’s existence in the Golan Heights is both illegitimate and harms the people of the region,” she said, adding the decision was also against the international law.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War.

It continues to occupy roughly two-thirds of the wider area as a de facto result of the conflict. It moved to formally annex the territory in 1981 — an action unanimously rejected at the time by the UN Security Council, which called on Israel to rescind its decision.

On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation officially recognizing Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Demonstrations in many French cities, especially in capital Paris, also supported the Great Return March of Palestinians, upon the call from the Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS).

Demonstrators gathering in Jean Ferrat Square in Paris chanted against Israel while carrying placards which said “Free Palestine”, “Justice for Palestine,” and “No to Gaza-blockade.”

The crowd also urged Israel to immediately stop the massacre it applies to Palestinian people.

In the Netherlands’ capital Amsterdam, a group of people — including Muslims and the locals — held a demonstration to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Land Day and first anniversary of the Great Return March of Palestine.

The groups carried Palestinian flags and chanted slogans against Israel. They said in a speech that boycotting Israel and sanctions against it were seen as terrorism, while its criticizers were blamed as being anti-Semitist.

A group of Israel supporters provoked the demonstration by carrying Israeli flags, and one former Israeli soldier, who always attacked and disturbed peaceful protests against Israel in the Netherlands, caused tensions between two groups from time to time.

Police did not disperse the Israel supporters who demonstrated without permission.

Non-governmental organizations also marked the Land Day in German capital of Berlin with the attendance of around 250 people.

They carried placards, some of which said “One day we’ll be back” and “Freedom for Palestine.”

  • Huseyin Kulaoglu from Istanbul, Yusuf Ozcan from Paris, Abdullah Asiran from Amsterdam, Cuneyt Karadag from Berlin contributed to this report

  • Writing by Ali Abo Rezeg, Sibel Morrow, Sena Guler

Gazans rally on Israel buffer zone for Land Day demos

By Mustafa Habbush

GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Hundreds of Palestinians began to converge on the Gaza-Israel buffer zone on Saturday to take part in mass rallies marking the first anniversary of anti-occupation protests.

The protests also commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the Land Day when six people were killed in 1976 during demonstrations against seizure of Arab land in Galilee.

Waving Palestinian flags, demonstrators chanted slogans for an end to the 12-year-long Israeli blockade on Gaza, according to an Anadolu Agency reporter in the area.

On Friday, Palestinian resistance groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad warned Israel against attacking protesters during the planned demonstrations.

“Any Israeli assault on the marches will be met with an equal response,” the Islamic Jihad said following a meeting between group chief Jihad al-Nakhla and Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Aarouri in Lebanese capital Beirut.

In the run-up to Saturday’s rallies, the Israeli army has deployed numerous tanks and armored vehicles along the buffer zone with the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed the army to prepare for the possibility of a “broad” campaign in Gaza.

Nearly 270 Palestinian demonstrators have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire since Palestinians began holding regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone in March of last year.

Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.

They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.

Israel deploys tanks near Gaza before Saturday rallies

                              By Turgut Alp Boyraz and Mustafa Deveci</p>    <p>SDEROT, Israel (AA) - The Israeli army has deployed reinforcements along fraught Gaza-Israel buffer zone in advance of anticipated Palestinian rallies on Saturday marking the first anniversary of Gaza’s “Great Return” march.</p>    <p>Saturday’s planned demonstration will also mark Palestinian Land Day, which commemorates the killing of six Arab-Israelis by Israeli forces in 1976 during protests against land confiscations.</p>    <p>In the run-up to Saturday’s rallies, the army has deployed numerous tanks and armored vehicles along the buffer zone. It is also reportedly monitoring the region with surveillance balloons and positioning snipers throughout the area.</p>    <p>On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly instructed the army to prepare for the possibility of a “broad” campaign in Gaza.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>- Mounting tensions</p>    <p>According to Yael Lachvani, a spokeswoman for Nahal Oz, a Jewish kibbutz (agricultural community) located less than one kilometer from the buffer zone, recent escalations between Israel and Gaza-based resistance groups have adversely affected daily life in the region.</p>    <p>Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Lachvani called on Palestinians and Israelis to live together in peace, voicing hope for a better life for her children and the Palestinians “on the other side” of the buffer zone.</p>    <p>Since Palestinians began holding regular rallies along the buffer zone on March 30 of last year, more than 250 demonstrators have been killed by Israeli army gunfire.</p>    <p>In a report released last month, the UN said that Israeli aggression against Gazan protesters over the course of the last year -- including the intentional targeting of unarmed demonstrators -- could be viewed as a “war crime”.</p>    <p>Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel. </p>    <p>They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas