Qatar condemns Israeli closure of Al-Aqsa gate

            By Serdar Bitmez, Ali Semerci and Gulsen Topcu 

DOHA (AA) – Qatar condemned late Wednesday Israel’s continued closure of a gate of the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, Israeli forces were deployed near the Al-Rahma Gate on the east side of the mosque compound amid mounting tensions with Palestinian worshippers.

The statement by the Qatari Foreign Ministry called on the international community to voice opposition against Israel’s policy as well as for Palestinians to act in unity.

On Monday, the Israeli authorities sealed the gate, preventing hundreds of Muslim worshippers from entering Al-Aqsa, and detained several Palestinians inside the mosque complex.

The following day, the Israeli authorities reportedly reopened the gate temporarily.

Jewish settlers attack Palestinian homes in West Bank

            By Zeynep Tufekci</p>  <p>RAMALLAH, Palestine (AA) – Jewish settlers attacked around 25 Palestinian homes Tuesday in the occupied West Bank city of Al-Khalil, also known as Hebron.</p>  <p>Isa Amr, a Palestinian activist, told Anadolu Agency a group of settlers threw stones at the houses and also tried to set fire to some of them.</p>  <p>According to Israeli media, Jewish settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank carried out 482 attacks against Palestinians in 2018.</p>  <p>Labeled “racist attacks” by the Israeli authorities, they included physical violence, throwing stones, writing racist slogans on the walls of houses, damaging vehicles and property and ruining farmlands.</p>  <p>There are around 250 illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Israel occupied after the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Over 600,000 Israelis are living there.</p>  <p>According to international law, all Jewish settlements are illegal in the occupied territories.</p>  <p> 

Israel demolishes 3 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem

            By Esat Firat</p>  <p>JERUSALEM (AA) – The Israeli military demolished three Palestinian-owned homes and a store late Tuesday in East Jerusalem.</p>  <p>The Jerusalem Municipality decided to raze the buildings in the towns of Jabal al-Mukaber and Silwan without prior notice to the owners on the pretext that they built the structures without authorization, according to the Wadi Helwa Information Center in the occupied territory.</p>  <p>Two homes and a store owned by Jamal Idkiydik were located in Silwan and Feryal Jeabis’ 130-square-meter (1,400-square-foot) house, which hosted seven people, was located in Jabal al-Mukaber.</p>  <p>The center stressed that Jeabis’ home was demolished even though the municipality had delayed the decision.</p>  <p>Palestinians, along with several international rights groups, say the Jerusalem Municipality has deliberately hindered construction by Palestinians since Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967.</p>  <p>Rights groups also point out that Israeli settlers, in contrast, encounter little difficulty obtaining permits to build Jewish-only housing units on confiscated Palestinian land in the city.</p>  <p>Palestinian sources say that Israeli forces have demolished over 5,000 homes in East Jerusalem since 1967.</p>  <p>Palestinians hope East Jerusalem might eventually serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders.

Al-Quds TV faces risk of shutdown

            By Moustafa Maged Haboosh and Afra Aksoy</p>  <p>GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) – Lebanon-based Palestinian television channel Al-Quds TV will go off the air by the end of February if it does not receive desperately needed funding, its director in Gaza said Tuesday.</p>  <p>“If the necessary funds aren’t provided by the end of this month, it is inevitable that the channel will shut down,” Imad Ifranji told Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>The channel has been experiencing a financial crisis for the last three years which it has failed to overcome despite tightly managing its expenses and cutting staff, Ifranji said.</p>  <p>He said the channel’s Gaza office has been unable to cover its operational costs for the past four months and around 50 employees have not received their salaries for nearly a year.</p>  <p>Al-Quds TV had 350 personnel when it was founded in 2008 but now has only 150, he said.</p>  <p>He noted that the channel is around $6 million in debt.</p>  <p>“If no savior comes and the Palestinian authorities take action, we will lose a significant media outlet that conveys the message of the Palestinian people and undertakes the duty of fighting against occupation forces through the media,” Ifranji added.</p>  <p>He recalled that the Gaza office was targeted by Israeli forces in 2012 and eight personnel were killed in the attack.</p>  <p>Al-Quds TV was founded in Beirut by Palestinian businessmen and leading members of the diaspora.</p>  <p> 

Israel expels 50 Bedouin families for military drill

JERUSALEM (AA) – The Israeli army has ordered 50 Palestinian Bedouin families to leave their homes in the Jordan Valley ahead of a new military drill, for the second such move in one week, according to a local Palestinian official.

"Fifty families have received orders from the Israeli military to evacuate their homes and lands by Wednesday," Motaz Bsharat, who is responsible for monitoring Israeli settlement building in the Jordan Valley, told Anadolu Agency.

He said an Israeli military force broke into Bedouin communities in the area this morning and "handed over the orders to the families to leave their homes".

Almost 300 Palestinians, including 140 children, currently live in these areas.

Last week, the Israeli military expelled dozens of Bedouin families in the Jordan Valley for a week-long exercise.

According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, "Area C" of the West Bank — which includes the Jordan Valley — falls under full Israeli administrative and security control.

Roughly 6,000 Jewish settlers currently live in 21 Israeli settlements scattered across the Jordan Valley region.

The self-proclaimed Jewish state sees the strategic valley as a vital economic and security zone for its settlements and wants to keep the region under its firm control in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Palestinians, for their part, want the valley — a large, fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one quarter of the West Bank — as part of a sought-for Palestinian state.

Israel to offset 'welfare' funds to Palestinians: PM

By Osama al-Ghassani

JERUSALEM (AA) – The Israeli government will approve a law to confiscate funds allocated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to Palestinians involved in attacks against Israeli targets, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

"Next Sunday, I will convene the security cabinet and we will make the necessary decision to offset the funds," Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

"The money will be deducted, no one should have any doubt about it,” he said.

On Thursday, Israeli forces arrested a Palestinian for allegedly killing a female settler near Jerusalem.

Israeli media said the suspect had confessed, but denied the killing was related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Israel collects tariffs and duties on behalf of the Ramallah-based PA under the 1994 Oslo Accords.

Last week, the PA threatened not to accept the money if Israel deducts any funds.

In July, the Knesset (Israel's parliament) passed legislation requiring the Defense Ministry to inform the security cabinet of how much the PA pays in “welfare” payments to Palestinians involved in attacks against Israeli targets.

UPDATE – 2 Palestinian teens killed near Gaza-Israel buffer zone

                            ADDS SECOND FATALITY</p>  <p>By Mohamed Majed</p>  <p>GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) - Two Palestinian teenagers were martyred Friday by Israeli army gunfire near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.</p>  <p>In a statement, the ministry said that Hassan Shalabi, 14, and Hamza Ashtiwi, 18, had been “martyred by Israeli forces”.</p>  <p>According to the ministry, at least 17 other Palestinians were injured by live ammunition.</p>  <p>Since Palestinians began holding almost-daily rallies along the buffer zone in March of last year, more than 250 have been martyred -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli troops deployed in the vicinity.</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.

Palestinian teen cut down near Gaza-Israel buffer zone

            <p>By Mohamed Majed</p>    <p>GAZA CITY, Palestine (AA) - A Palestinian teenager was killed Friday by Israeli army gunfire near the Gaza-Israel buffer zone, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.</p>    <p>In a statement, the ministry said that Hassan Shalabi, 14, “was martyred after being shot in the chest by Israeli troops on the outskirts of Khan Yunis”.</p>    <p>According to the ministry, eight other Palestinians were injured by live ammunition.</p>    <p>Since Palestinians began holding almost-daily rallies along the buffer zone in March of last year, more than 250 have been killed -- and thousands more injured -- by Israeli troops deployed in the vicinity.</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> 

US blocks UN statement on Hebron observer force

            By Servet Gunerigok</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The United States on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council statement expressing regret over Israel’s decision to expel an international observer force from the West Bank city of Hebron. </p>  <p>Kuwait and Indonesia asked the council to issue a joint statement expressing concern over Israel's decision to eject the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) after deciding not to renew its mandate. The force had been monitoring the city for the past 20 years.</p>  <p>&quot;We will not allow the presence of an international force that operates against us,&quot; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month, without elaborating.</p>  <p>The proposed statement suggested Israeli settlements in Palestine breached international law and called for a two-state solution. </p>  <p>Composed of 64 international observers from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey, the TIPH was established by UN Security Council Resolution 904. </p>  <p>The resolution was adopted following Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in 1994, when Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Palestinian worshippers. </p>  <p>Hebron is currently home to some 160,000 Palestinian Muslims and around 500 Jewish settlers. The latter live in a series of Jewish-only enclaves heavily guarded by Israeli troops.

Israel evicts Jordan Valley families for military drill

RAMALLAH (AA) – The Israeli army has expelled dozens of Bedouin families in the Jordan Valley ahead of a military drill in the area, according to a local Palestinian official.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Aref Daraghmeh said 50 families have received orders from the Israeli military to evacuate their lands in the Bedouin communities of Ras al-Ahmar, al-Meytah and al-Burj.

The Israeli exercise is slated for Feb. 6-12.

"An Israeli army force broke into the communities since last night and forced the families to leave their homes,” said Daraghmeh, the head of al-Maleh local council.

Daraghmeh said almost 300 Palestinians, including 140 children, currently live in these areas.

According to the 1993 Oslo Accords, "Area C" of the West Bank — which includes the Jordan Valley — falls under full Israeli administrative and security control.

Roughly 6,000 Jewish settlers currently live in 21 Israeli settlements scattered across the Jordan Valley region.

The Jewish state sees the strategic valley as a vital economic and security zone for its settlements and wants to keep the region under its firm control in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Palestinians, for their part, want the valley — a large, fertile strip of land that accounts for roughly one quarter of the West Bank — as part of a sought-for Palestinian state.