Hussam Khader freed from 15 months in Israeli Administrative Detention

Hussam Khader, a Fatah leader and activist from Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus, was freed today from 15 months’ Administrative Detention in Israel.

His lawyer, Jawad Bulous, who was appointed by the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society headed by Qaddoura Fares, said that he had gone to Megiddo Prison in the morning to make sure that there would be no surprises. He said he left when he was sure — as sure as possible — that Hussam “will be sleeping in his own home tonight”.

Bulous explained that when Hussam had made his appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court in Jerusalem in June, after one year in Administrative Detention, the military courts had already decided to give a three-month extension, which the State Prosecutor wanted to be extended to six months. According to Bulous, the Supreme Court panel of judges who heard Hussam’s appeal had denied the six-month extension — barring, as usual, any “new discoveries” by the security forces.

As there was nothing new, Hussam had to be freed, Bulous said. And, suddenly, finally, he was free.

No solace for family in Haifa court's verdict on investigation into Rachel Corrie's death

There was no solace in a Haifa District Court on Tuesday morning for the family of American activist Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by an enormous Israeli military D9 bulldozer as she sought to protect a Palestinian home in the southern Gaza Strip in 2003.

The verdict called the 23-year-old activist’s death a “regrettable accident”, just as the Israeli Army did after its own military investigation into Rachel’s death.

The Haifa District Court judge noted that the area was then designated as a “combat zone”, and that Rachel herself was therefore responsible for having taken the risk of being there.

At a press conference after the verdict, Rachel’s mother Cindy said that it had been clear to the family from the beginning that the military’s process of investigation was flawed and that it was in fact “a well-fueled system to protect the Israeli military and soldiers … and to provide them with impunity”. The family filed their civil case in 2005, and hearings began in 2010.

The Israeli State Prosecutor’s office [Tel Aviv District] issued a statement later saying that “the bulldozer and its commander had a very limited field of vision, such that they had no possibility of seeing Ms. Corrie and thus are exonerated of any blame for negligence”. According to the State Prosecutor, three different investigations had reached the same conclusion.

The D9 is a huge bulldozer, manufactured by Caterpiller Corporation and specially adapted in Israel for Israeli military with the addition of amoured plating for use in combat situations.

Israeli Attorney Yohanna Lerman, based in Tel Aviv, who has represented Palestinian clients against the Israeli military in other wrongful killing cases, said today that “even in a state of war, there is an obligation on an army and on all those who are working for the army or following army orders, according to international law, they have to check if their actions are reasonable, and if they are needed to protect lives, including their own” – and this is not what happened in this case, she said.

Although Lerman said she had not yet seen the full details of the 130-page ruling online, she indicated that a look at the full picture shows that Rachel was in front of the bulldozer, she was with a group who the driver had seen in the area, and he knew there were civilians in that place. “Rachel was not in military clothes, and she was not holding a weapon”.

“Civilians need to be treated totally different from terrorist groups”, Lerman said.

Continue reading “No solace for family in Haifa court's verdict on investigation into Rachel Corrie's death”

Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto killed in Aleppo fighting

International [paraphrasing, here] and Arabic blood had been mixed in Aleppo: the words last night of “Captain Ahmad Ghazali, Commander [and spokesperson] of the ‘Northern Storm Brigade’ [Liwa Asifat al-Shamal in Aleppo] said as his comrades moved the body of 45-year-old award-winning Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto into a van for transport into Turkey.

Yamamoto, a “veteran war correspondent” [words of the The Guardan] who worked for the Tokyo-based Japan Press photo and film agency [described in The Guardian here as an independent TV news provider that specializes in conflict zone coverage], and a former television anchorwoman died hours earlier during fighting she and a colleague [perhaps also her husband/partner?] were covering in Aleppo.

Captain Ahmad Ghazali actually said that “Western and Arabic blood have been mixed in Aleppo”, but that is a little narrow in focus — and with Yamamoto’s death the word “international” would be more accurate. Yamamoto is the fourth international journalist killed during the Syrian uprising, and some 20 Syrian journalists have reportedly died covering the conflict.

Here is an undated still photo that has been posted by MSNBC here:
Maki Yamomoto, Japanese war correspondent killed in Aleppo,

And here is another photo posted by AFP

Maki Yamomoto who was killed in Aleppo on 20 Aug 2012

AFP reported overnight from Tokyo that “Veteran war reporter Mika Yamamoto died after being shot in the neck as she covered the anti-regime movement in the city, her long-time collaborator Kazutaka Sato told Japanese broadcasters”.  Sato also works with The Japan Press agency.

According to the AFP, Sato told Japanese public television broadcaster NHK that: “We saw a group of 10 to 15 troops ahead on the right, who were walking in double file…When they started shooting, I dashed towards my left where I saw a Free Syrian Army soldier”.  AFP added that Sato told Japanese national television NTV that “The one at the front (of the group of troops) was wearing a helmet and I immediately thought they were government troops. I think I told her to run. At that moment, they started shooting. “We all ran and scattered. After that, I couldn’t see Yamamoto and was told to go to hospital. I found Yamamoto’s body there”.

AFP reported that “Sato was told by a hospital official that Yamamoto was already dead when she arrived, NHK said. The TBS network cited Sato as saying she had been shot in the neck”.

Was the shot fired by a sniper? Was Yamamoto, an international female correspondent, deliberatedly targetted?

The current heavy fighting in Aleppo has been billed as decisive and determinative — an important show-down between the Free Syria Army and the Syrian government.

A very brief video was available yesterday, showing Yamamoto, apparently already dead, and Sato near her — published on Syria Freedom’s Tumblr website [described as “a compilation of Resources and Archives from the Syrian Revolution”, here], but because of the graphic showing of a severe wound to her arm, Youtube has now restricted viewing to those 18 and older here.

Captain Ghazali said, with bitterness, that “We welcome all the media and journalists who come here. We secure their entry, but we are not responsible for Assad’s killing and attacks on foreign media, not even the Syrian media … we are not safe here, every journalist enters on their responsibility, or on the responsibility of the country that they belong to, or the media organisation that sent them … We are now securing the exit of the body of the Japanese journalist and we are ready to secure the exit of any wounded journalist or body, that is all we can do .. I repeat .. that the security of those entering is their own responsibility, and that of the countries that sent them. I hope that those countries would react for their own people, though they didn’t react for the Syrian people”. A translation of his words was posted here

A video [that begins with a close up of Yamamoto’s corpse] and that shows Captain Gazali speaking [backed by four armed men] is posted on Youtube here.

A screenshot of Yamamoto’s face, taken from this video, is shown on Facebook, here.

Captain Ghazali said also said that a local correspondent for the U.S.-government funded Al-Hurra TV is missing [named here as Bashar Abu Anas, elsewhere as Bashar Fahmy], who was captured along with his cameraman [Cuneyt Unal], as well as a Turkish journalist who is not otherwise identified.

Earlier this year, in February, American journalist Marie Colvin [working for the Times of London] and French photographer Reme Ochlin were killed in Homs, and a British cameraman and a French correspondent were injured, when they were filing materials with colleagues in a Free Syria Army media center. It appears that in this case, the Syrian Army was able to target the journalists by tracking the journalists satellite phone signals, as we reported earlier here. And, in January, French television reporter Gilles Jacques, was killed in a sudden shelling attack on a square in Homs.

All these journalists, including Yamamoto, were with the Free Syria Army when they were killed.

Continue reading “Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto killed in Aleppo fighting”

Ilene Prusher report in Jerusalem Post on firebombing attack on Palestinian taxi

Yes, this is an event of major significance, and it deserves all the attention it has been getting [even though it is only one of many significant events here]. And, Ilene Prusher has an excellent report in the Jerusalem Post about the firebombing attack on a Palestinian taxi and the victims who were riding happily inside, until the moment of the attack in the southern West Bank during the last days in Ramadan.

The working theory is that one or more Israeli settlers threw the firebomb. The taxi was attacked near the Bat Ayin settlement. [And, the fact that the victims, who are Palestinian residents of the West Bank, were taken to an Israeli hospital for treatement is an indication that the Israeli military believes there is Israeli responsibility here.]

But first, here are some photos of the Palestinians who were attacked. The photos, by Active Stills, did not appear in the Jerusalem Post piece. This photo is posted here:

Victims of firebombing attack in Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital - Photo by: JC/Activestills.org

Active Stills caption: “A four-year old Palestinian child in intensive care at West Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital on August 18, 2012, a day after he was seriously injured in a molotov attack by Israeli settlers on the taxi in which he was travelling with his family on the road from Bethlehem to Hebron, in the West Bank. The child, seen here with his grandmother, is from Nahalin, a small village west of Bethlehem that, after losing 60% of its lands to the nearby Israeli settlements, comes under regular attacks by Israeli settlers…”

Hassan Hassan being treated for firebombing wounds in Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital - Photo by: JC/Activestills.org

Active Stills caption: “Hassan Hassan in intensive care at West Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital on August 18, 2012, a day after he was seriously injured in a molotov attack by Israeli settlers on the taxi in which he was driving on the road from Bethlehem to Hebron, in the West Bank. Hassan is from Nahalin … In the attack, which happened as the family was on the way to a breakfast at the mother’s family in Al-Arrub refugee camp and which took place in an area under exclusive Israeli security control, two children, the mother and father and the driver were seriously injured”.

Now, to Ilene Prusher’s report. Here’s a photo of the burned-out taxi, taken from a screen capture of the television footage, that illustrates this JPost piece: Screencapture by the JPost

Ilene writes: “On a day when the Jayada family planned to be at home celebrating the end of Ramadan, they instead paced the hallways of Hadassah University Medical Center in Ein Kerem on Sunday, as their loved ones’ lives hung by a thread…Two of the victims remain in intensive care, including Ayman Jayada, who is in a coma, Jamila, who is in serious condition, and Hassan, who is communicative but drowsy from the drugs used to ease the pain of the burns over most of his body”.

Continue reading “Ilene Prusher report in Jerusalem Post on firebombing attack on Palestinian taxi”

15-year-old Israeli suspect in "Death to Arabs" attack that nearly killed a Palestinian East Jerusalem teens: "I hope he dies"

The Jerusalem Post’s Melanie Lidman reported Monday that a “15-year-old Jewish boy” admitted in court on Monday that he’d participated in the most recent “Death to Arabs” attack last Thursday night.

And, the boy, who police think is one of the prime suspects in the attack, said of Jamal Julani [the most-injured victim, a 17-year old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem who is still hospitalized in critical condition]: “I hope he dies”.

Jamal Julani was not breathing and had no pulse when Magen David Adom emergency rescuers arrived on the scene in central downtown West Jerusalem around midnight on Thursday. The resuscitation effort took “a long time”.

Jamal was with three cousins, out visiting popular night-life site where many young people gather in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square.

Eyewitnesses said the small group of Palestinian teens was set upon by a group of dozens, perhaps as many as 50, young Israeli attackers who were shouting “Death to Arabs”.

This phrase is not at all unusual — it has been adopted by fans of one of the Jerusalem football clubs, Beitar Jerusalem, and is heard not infrequently around the country. The UN Committee Against Racism has called on Israel, a state member of the Committee Against Racism, to penalize such remarks whether spoken by politicians or football fans, but this phrase is not unheard-of…

    UPDATE: A Haaretz editorial posted here on on Tuesday 21 August said that “Dozens of Israelis watched this happen without lifting a finger. Their apathy is only slightly less grave than the behavior of those who perpetrated the lynching … The suspected perpetrators are children and teens. They absorbed their hatred of Arabs from their environment: perhaps at home, certainly from the educational and political systems. When incitement against Arabs has become politically correct, when rabbis urge the public to treat Arabs in a racist manner and aren’t fired from their posts, when the Knesset passes legislation over which a nationalist and racist flag waves, when the education minister extols Jewish supremacy over the Palestinians in Hebron, it’s impossible to complain solely about those teens, who translated all this into the language of violence … Israeli society can no longer continue to play the innocent and pretend that it’s shocked by an incident like this, to treat it as an exception and make do with limp denunciations. It’s necessary to pull this hatred up by the roots, which were planted, inter alia, by our leadership”.

Jeffrey Goldberg has written in The Atlantic, here that “the police made arrests in the case, but the acid test comes if these suspects are convicted. Will they be given sentences that match the gravity of the crime, or will they get off easy? It would be appalling, but unsurprising, if this is ultimately not treated as an attempted murder”.

The JPost reported that, at the 15-year-old’s Court appearance in court on Monday, the suspect “testified at his remand hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate Court on Monday, admitting his involvement in the incident but expressing no remorse for his actions. ‘Yes, I was there’, said the boy, who police suspect was the first of the group to strike the victim. ‘He insulted my mom. So I caught him and beat him. I hit him and I hope he gets it again. I hope he dies. You can’t go by Damascus Gate [an East Jerusalem entrance to the Old City] without getting stabbed. So why do they come here? I beat him and I’d beat him again’.” This is published here.

Continue reading “15-year-old Israeli suspect in "Death to Arabs" attack that nearly killed a Palestinian East Jerusalem teens: "I hope he dies"”

17-year-old resident of East Jerusalem nearly killed in "Death to Arabs" attack by mob of teens in West Jerusalem

The Times of Israel has published the first photo of the worst-injured victim in Thursday night’s “Death to Arabs” attack in central West Jerusalem — Jamal Julani, a 17-year-old Palestinian resident of Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem.  In other words, he is a minor — legally, a child [as, apparently, are some of those who attack him.  He was very nearly killed — when Magen David Adom rescue team arrived, they found him without a pulse and not breathing.  It took a long time to rescusitate him, and he was hospitalized in intensive care.

Times of Israel - photo by Oren Nahshon/Flash90

Though now out of a coma, Jamal Julani is still in critical condition in Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in West Jerusalem, and was reported earlier Sunday to be still on a respirator.  He is shown in the photo above, published by The Times of Israel, here, with his mother at his bedside.

The Times of Israel reported Sunday that “A representative of the police at the remand hearing on Sunday described Julani’s injuries and claimed that it was a miracle that he survived the attack. He added that the case will take time to investigate fully, because there were many suspects and ‘hundreds of witnesses’.”

The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday that Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said “The area is under video surveillance; we are checking the cameras … We will know what happened after we check the cameras”. This is posted here.

Both the JPost and the Times of Israel are now reporting that 5 suspects have now been arrested — one is 19 years old and the others are all minors, including one girl.

Continue reading “17-year-old resident of East Jerusalem nearly killed in "Death to Arabs" attack by mob of teens in West Jerusalem”

They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

This is a great photo by ActiveStills, posted on this, the last Friday in Ramadan 2012, here.

Activestills in Ar Ram on 17 August 2012

Unusually, this year, because of the way the calendar fell, Ramadan has five Fridays this year — and today is the most important.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has adopted more lenient rules this year for passage for prayer during Ramadan —  because, the IDF said,  of “the calm” — than in any year since the construction of The Wall [that the Israeli Ministry of Defense constructed for “security” reasons, meaning to separate Palestinians in the West Bank from Jerusalem and from Israel]…

But, these improved rules still say that only Palestinians under 16 years of age, or over 40 years of age, will be permitted to enter Jerusalem on the Fridays in Ramadan to worship.

Everybody else will have to try to apply for a permit — and that is almost impossible to obtain.

So, for the young men shown in this photo, they have no real prospect of entering Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa for anything up to 22 or 23 years from now!

Continue reading “They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan”

When a state kills its own citizens – cont'd

On Wednesday, the Syrian Air Force struck the Aleppo-area town of Azaz [Ezzaz or Azzaz or Izaz], very near the border with Turkey, killing over 40 people, and causing widescale damage to a civilian area, as this photo shows:

Damage in Ezzaz after Syrian Air Force bombing on 15 August

This photo was posted on Twitter here by @NMSyria.

Despite the proximity to the border, the only reported Turkish response was to take in the wounded for medical treatment.  Some of the seriously wounded later died in Turkey, compounding confusion about numbers of mortalities.

Voice of America [VOA] reporter Scott Bobb, in the town yesterday for an interview with “a local rebel commander”, was present and apparently taken by surprise at the time of the attack. He reported that “Azaz [Ezzaz] has been in rebel control for weeks and was not a government target until Wednesday…’This town had been held by the FSA for some time. It was fairly stable and many of the refugees had returned. Locals say it was the first bombing they have experienced”… His report is posted here.

Bobb also reported that “The citizens are panicking. Many have just jumped into whatever vehicle they have – cars, tractors, motorcycles – and headed away from the town with the fear that this may be the beginning of an offensive … I have seen dozens of people fleeing, often families, sometimes three or four on a motorcycle. I saw one family of about six on a farm tractor crossing through a rural road, an olive tree field, and others have come through in ambulances, pickup trucks, civilian vehicles, cars”…

But there were many who didn’t flee immediately, including those who were helping to search through the rubble of destroyed buildings, looking for survivors or for bodies, as this photo, also posted on Twitter here by @NMSyria, shows:
Survivors of air attack in Ezzat search through rubble for survivors - 15 August 2012

    UPDATE: Human Rights Watch [HRW] has compiled a report during a visit two hours after the attacks by a Syrian fighter jet on Wednesday, and is now saying that 40 people were killed, and more than 100 were wounded. HRW said that: “at least two bombs destroyed an entire block of houses in the al-Hara al-Kablie neighborhood of Azaz, in Syria’s northern Aleppo province … Azaz residents told Human Rights Watch that, at around 3 p.m., they saw a fighter jet drop at least two bombs on the residential area. Within seconds, dozens of houses in an area of approximately 70-by-70 meters – more than half a football field – were flattened. Houses on the surrounding streets were significantly damaged, with collapsed walls and ceilings. On the streets around the bombed area, windows were broken and some walls had collapsed. Two opposition Free Syrian Army facilities in the vicinity of the attack might have been targets of the Syrian aircraft, Human Rights Watch said. One was the headquarters of the local Free Syrian Army brigade, in the former building of the Baath party, two streets away from the block that was hit. The other was a detention facility where the Free Syrian Army held ‘security detainees’ – government military personnel and members of pro-government shabeeha militia. Neither of these facilities was damaged in the attack … The exact number of victims is difficult to verify. Most of the wounded were transported to hospitals across the nearby Turkish border”. This report is posted here.

Other reports, on Twitter, claimed that one or more “vacuum” bombs had been dropped in the government aerial attack on Azaz on Wednesday.

In the aftermath, Syria’s membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC] was suspended overnight, as it had been months earlier in the Arab League.

And, a two-person committee appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva issued its latest report, on developments from 15 February to 20 July.  This latest report is the first since the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] made a determination [it is apparently up to the ICRC to do this] that the conflict in Syria had reached the level of civil war.

The UN HRC-appointed committee is composed of human rights expert Paulo Pinheiro of Brazil and Karen Abu Zayd of the U.S., has not been permitted to enter Syria, and is working from compiled reports and visits to neighboring countries in the region, as well as by interviews conducted over the phone and by Skype.

Their latest report said there are “reasonable grounds to believe” that the documented instances reported to them show “widespread or systematic attack against predominantly civilian population”. And, the UN HRC report said, the commission concluded that the scale of the attacks on a predominantly civilian population showed they were “conducted pursuant to State policy”.

Continue reading “When a state kills its own citizens – cont'd”

When a state kills its own citizens

What does it look like when a state kills its own citizens [people the state is meant to protect]?

Here, just seconds before death and destruction hits, a Syrian fighter plane fires rockets into the northern Syrian town of Tel Rafat, some 37 km (23 miles) north of Aleppo on 9 August:

Via The Daily Telegraph - a photo gallery of stunning shots by Goran Tomasevic in Syria for Reuters

Here, at about the same time as the photo taken above, Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic Free Syrian Army fighter fires an anti-aircraft gun as boys watch and as a Syrian Air Force fighter bomber fires rockets during an air strike on Tel Rafaat:

Goran Tomasevic photo of Free Syrian Army fighters in Tel Rafat on 9 August 2012

These photos are part of a photo gallery of Goran Tomasevic’s photos for Reuters, over a 12-day period in Syria, published by The Telegraph, here.

Continue reading “When a state kills its own citizens”

Plea bargain gives IDF soldier 45 days in jail for Gaza war shooting deaths of two women waving white flags [in January 2009]

In what has been described as the case with the most serious charges to arise out of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead three-week war [from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009] on Hamas in Gaza — a case of shooting and killing two adult women, mother and daughter, who were waving white flags who were trying to move out of a building at the start of the ground phase in the IDF’s military onslaught — an IDF soldier in the Givati Brigade has been sentenced to a plea-bargain punishment of 45 days in jail.

The shootings took place on 4 January 2009 – the first full day of the ground operation phase during the Israeli war in Gaza.

The charges against the soldier in the deaths of the two women [identified as a grandmother and her adult daughter, Raya and Majda Abu Hajaj] were reduced from unlawful killing and manslaughter to the more minor charge “unlawful use of a firearm”.

The Jerusalem Post is reporting here that “Evidence produced during the trial indicated that S. [the IDF soldier] ignored orders and fired on the group“.

The defense arguments included: 1.) a security warning was allegedly given saying that Hamas/”terrorists” would try to mount an attack while hiding among a group of Palestinian women, or, as the JPost reported, “The Givati soldiers stationed nearby received a warning that terrorists may attempt to blend in to groups of fleeing civilians and launch attacks”.

Other defense arguments were that 2.) the Israel investigators maintain that there is a suspicion there was a discrepancy between the reported time of shooting and the reported time of deaths of the two women — although, as the JPost also reported, “the prosecution said no bodies had been presented to the court to determine the women’s cause of death, and said that there many soldiers shooting in the area at the time”.

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, is reportedly calling for a reopening of the investigation, according to the JPost.

Haaretz reported here on Sunday that “The agreement will be submitted today to the Jaffa military court, after negotiations between MAG and the soldier’s attorneys. The soldier, Staff Sgt. S’, from Givati Brigade will be convicted of a relatively light offense – illegal use of weapons”.

Continue reading “Plea bargain gives IDF soldier 45 days in jail for Gaza war shooting deaths of two women waving white flags [in January 2009]”