Protests as Palestinian death-toll mounts
For something of the significance of prisoners in Palestinian life and politics, see The beliefs that sustain the courage of prisoners
These stories are posted here:
1) Reuters: Palestinian funerals draw thousands in tense West Bank ;
2) AP: Israeli army kills Palestinian protester after West Bank riots, renewed Israel-Gaza fighting;
3) Ma’an news: Abu Hamdiyeh’s death raises tensions in Israeli jails;
4) Ma’an news: Obituary: Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh (1949 – 2013);
Palestinian medical students hold posters depicting Maysara Abu Hamdeya outside a hospital morgue before his funeral in the West Bank city of Hebron April 4, 2013. Photo by Mussa Qawasma, Reuters
Palestinian funerals draw thousands in tense West Bank
By Noah Browning, Reuters
April 04, 2013
ANABTA, West Bank – Thousands of mourners turned out on Thursday for the funerals of three Palestinians, including two teenagers killed by Israeli army gunfire in some of the worst violence in the occupied West Bank in years.
The upsurge in unrest was triggered on Tuesday by the death of Maysara Abu Hamdeya, a 64-year-old prisoner serving a life term in an Israeli jail and suffering from cancer.
Palestinian officials accused Israel of delaying treatment for Hamdeya and gave him full military honors at a funeral on Thursday in Hebron, where masked gunmen fired into the air as his body arrived at a mosque in the divided West Bank city.
In the wave of disturbances that followed his death, four Palestinian youths threw firebombs at an Israeli checkpoint near Tulkarm in the northern West Bank on Wednesday, the army said.
Soldiers returned fire and killed two teenagers from the nearby town of Anabta – Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18.
Palestinians carry the bodies of Amer Nassar, 17, and Naji Belbisi, 18, during their funeral in the West Bank village of Anabta near Tulkarm April 4, 2013. Photo by Darren Whiteside/ Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Israel’s use of lethal force showed that it wanted to “provoke chaos” in the Palestinian Territories and avoid any moves toward a peace deal.
The wave of violence erupted two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama paid his first official visit to the region, urging the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume long-stalled peace talks but offering no initiative to break the deadlock.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to travel to Jerusalem again next week to review the stalemate.
Nine dead this year
The United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Israeli forces had killed nine Palestinians, most of them in clashes in the West Bank, so far this year, compared with three in the same period in 2012.
The bodies of Nassar and Belbisi, their blood-stained faces clearly visible, were carried on stretchers through the packed streets of Anabta, held aloft by uniformed members of the Palestinian security forces.
“O martyrs rest, rest. We will continue the struggle,” the crowds chanted as the lifeless teenagers passed by.
Israeli officials urged Palestinian leaders to push for calm, and dismissed suggestions that a third uprising, or Intifada, was brewing in the West Bank – territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which is now home to more than 340,000 Jewish settlers.
“The term ‘Third Intifada’ is meant to describe a general breakdown and uprising … There are no powers there pushing for a third Intifada or general uprising,” senior defense official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio.
Underscoring the potential for more violence, the Israeli army said that for a third straight day, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Israel on Thursday. No casualties or damage were reported.
Following initial rocket fire on Tuesday, Israeli jets carried out their first air strike on Gaza since a truce ended several days of fighting in November.
An al Qaeda-linked group, Magles Shoura al-Mujahadeen, claimed responsibility for rocket attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday, saying it was responding to the death of Hamdeya.
Israel says Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement bears overall responsibility for any rocket fire and has urged Egypt, which helped broker the November truce, to use its influence with the Islamist group.
“The Egyptians are very active. Dialogue with them is constant and their interest is in keeping stability and preventing firing, violence and terrorism,” Gilad said.
For the second time this year, the death of a Palestinian prisoner has sparked widespread anti-Israeli disturbances.
In February, Arafat Jaradat, 30, died after an interrogation session. Palestinian officials said he had been tortured, an allegation Israel denied.
Palestinians say Hamdeya complained of feeling sick last August, but was only discovered to be suffering from cancer in January. They say he did not receive adequate treatment and should have been released because of the gravity of the illness.
Israelis said Hamdeya, serving a life term for attempted murder after sending a suicide bomber to a Jerusalem cafe, was a heavy smoker and had received adequate care.
Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem
Protest at death in prison of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who had throat cancer. He was serving a life sentence for his role in a failed bomb plot.
Israeli army kills Palestinian protester after West Bank riots, renewed Israel-Gaza fighting
By Associated Press
April 03, 2013
JERUSALEM — Israeli forces shot and killed a teenage Palestinian protester during a clash in the West Bank late Wednesday, raising tensions already heightened by the death of a Palestinian prisoner and renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.
The late night killing capped a day of rioting throughout the West Bank in protest at the prisoner’s death from cancer and raised the likelihood of further unrest in the Palestinian territories Thursday.
Mohammed Ayyad, a spokesman for the Palestinian Red Crescent, said a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed in a clash between the Israeli army and Palestinian stone-throwers at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Tulkarem. He was hit by a bullet in the chest, Ayyad said. The spokesman did not provide the youth’s name.
The Israeli military said several Palestinians hurled firebombs at a military post near Tulkarem, and soldiers at the post fired a live round at the protesters, hitting one. The army said it was reviewing the circumstances of the incident.
Early Wednesday, Palestinian militants launched several rockets into southern Israel and Israeli aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip in the heaviest exchange of fire between the sides since a cease-fire ended a major flare-up last year.
There were no casualties, but the violence nonetheless threatened to shatter the calm that has prevailed for more than four months. Israel’s new defense minister issued a stern warning.
“We will not allow shooting of any sort (even sporadic) toward our citizens and our forces,” Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief of staff, said in a statement.
By nightfall Wednesday, calm appeared to have returned on that front. A small al-Qaida-influenced group was suspected. The rocket fire coincided with unrest in the West Bank over the death of a Palestinian prisoner.
Yaalon said he holds the Islamic militant Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, responsible for all such attacks from the seaside strip.
Israel launched an offensive against Hamas last November in response to an increase in rocket fire from Gaza. During eight days of fighting, Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Gaza, while Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets into Israel. More than 160 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, and six Israelis were killed in the fighting before Egypt brokered a truce.
In recent weeks, there have been several rocket attacks, including one as President Barack Obama was visiting Israel two weeks ago. Overnight Wednesday, Israel responded for the first time by striking a pair of empty fields in northern and eastern Gaza.
Around the time Yaalon was speaking on Wednesday morning, two more rockets exploded in the Israeli border town of Sderot, according to police. Air raid sirens sounded, and people on their way to work and school took cover. No injuries were reported.
The Israeli military said a total of five rockets were fired within 24 hours, including two that exploded prematurely inside Gaza.
Under the cease-fire, Israel pledged to halt its policy of attacking militant leaders and to ease a blockade it imposed on Gaza after the Hamas takeover in 2007. Hamas pledged to halt rocket attacks on Israel. A number of smaller militant groups also operate in Gaza, including groups that draw inspiration from the al-Qaida global terror network.
U.N. Mideast envoy Robert Serry appealed for calm in a statement. “It is of paramount importance to refrain from violence in this tense atmosphere and for parties to work constructively in addressing the underlying issues,” he said.
Ihab Ghussein, the Hamas government spokesman, accused Israel of using the airstrikes to “divert the attention” from unrest in Israeli prisons.
Palestinian prisoners have been rioting and hunger striking since a 64-year-old prisoner died of throat cancer on Tuesday. Palestinians blamed Israel for the man’s death, saying he was not given proper medical care. The prisoner, Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, was serving a life sentence for his role in a foiled attempt to bomb a busy cafe in Jerusalem in 2002.
Einav Shimron Grinbaum, spokeswoman of Israel’s health ministry, said an autopsy performed Wednesday found a cancerous growth in Abu Hamdiyeh’s throat and secondary cancerous growths in his neck, chest, lungs, liver, and spinal cord. She said hospital records showed he was a heavy smoker. The head of the Palestinian pathological institute also participated in the autopsy, she said.
At protests across the West Bank Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and rolled burning tires at soldiers, prompting a response with tear gas, the Israeli military said.
In Ramallah, protesters waved pictures of Abu Hamdiyeh and chanted “with our souls and blood we will redeem the prisoner.”
Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, accused the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, of exploiting the death to “resume popular protests.”
Prisons Authority spokeswoman Sivan Weizman said Abu Hamdiyeh was treated by Israeli specialists and died in a hospital in Beersheba.
Weizman said almost all of the 4,600 Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel refused their breakfasts Wednesday morning in a symbolic act of protest.
In a separate development, Israel’s defense minister issued a tough warning to battling forces in Syria, saying Israel would respond to any cross-border provocations.
On Tuesday, the Israeli military said a mortar shell exploded on its side of the frontier in the Golan Heights. The military said its soldiers returned the fire and said they scored a direct hit.
“Israel has no intention of ignoring fire from Syria toward Israeli territory, incidental or not, and will respond with a firm hand,” Yaalon said. “As far as we are concerned, the Syrian regime is to be held responsible for everything happening in its territory.”
Israel, which has warily watched the fighting in Syria raging close to its frontier, is concerned that al-Qaida-linked groups fighting alongside the rebels could set their sights on Israel after the civil war ends.
By Ma’an news
April 02/04, 2013
BETHLEHEM — The death of a cancer-stricken detainee on Tuesday raised tensions in Israeli jails as Palestinian prisoners announced a three-day hunger strike.
Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, from Hebron, died in an Israeli hospital on Tuesday from throat cancer which had spread to his spinal cord.
Abu Hamdiyeh had accused Israeli prison authorities of medical neglect and said he was only being given pain killers. He was admitted to Soroka Hospital in late March.
Israel Prisons Service said disturbances had broken out in four prisons as the news spread — in Ketziot, Eshel, Ramon and Nafha.
On Tuesday, prisoners from all factions announced a three-day hunger strike. Detainees in Eshel prison, where Abu Hamdiyeh had been detained, set fire to bed covers and later refused to return to their cells.
In Nafha jail, where prisoners had protested for Abu Hamdiyeh’s release, detainees banged on cell doors at the news of his death.
Abbas, Fayyad condemn medical neglect
President Mahmoud Abbas held Israel responsible for Abu Hamdiyeh’s death.
“The death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh shows the Israeli government’s arrogance and intransigence over the prisoners,” Abbas told reporters at the start of a meeting of his Fatah movement in Ramallah.
“We tried to get him released for treatment but the Israeli government refused to let him out, which led to his death,” the president said.
“The Palestinian presidency holds the Netanyahu government responsible for the martyrdom of prisoner Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said.
Palestinian Authority premier Salam Fayyad also condemned Israel’s “policy of medical negligence against Palestinian prisoners,” in a statement from his office.
“Prime Minister Salam Fayyad expresses his deep sorrow and sincere condolences to the nation and prisoner movement for the death of prisoner Maisara Abu Hamdiya,” the statement added.
Fayyad said Abu Hamdiyeh had played a distinguished role in the national struggle and that “his contributions to the just cause of our people will remain alive in our national memory and continued struggle for freedom.”
The premier said the delay in treating Abu Hamdiyeh until the cancer had spread throughout his body was a primary reason for his death.
In Hebron, shops closed as Fatah announced three days of mourning for Abu Hamdiyeh.
By Ma’an news
April 02/04, 2013
BETHLEHEM — Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who died on Tuesday as a prisoner of Israel, was a married father of four who spent decades of his life in exile.
Born in Hebron on Sept. 25, 1949, Abu Hamdiyeh was first imprisoned by Israel in 1969, accused of membership of the General Union of Palestinian Students.
Abu Hamdiyeh received a diploma in electronics in Cairo, and later studied law at university in Beirut. Wanted by Israel, he never graduated.
Between 1970 and 1975, Abu Hamdiyeh lived in Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan. Every time he returned to the West Bank he was detained without charge.
In 1978, Abu Hamdiyeh was exiled to Jordan but returned to Palestine two decades later. He worked as a general in the Palestinian Authority’s Preventive Security.
Abu Hamdiyeh was arrested again in May 2002, and in 2005 an Israeli court sentenced him to 25 years. Israeli military authorities appealed for a lengthier sentence, and in 2007 Abu Hamdiyeh was sentenced to life.
Since Abu Hamdiyeh’s arrest in 2002, Israel banned his four children from visiting him.
In August 2012, Abu Hamdiyeh suffered severe throat pain. Five months later, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
He complained of medical neglect by Israeli prison authorities, and said in March that he was only given pain killers. At times he was transferred to Soroka Hospital, a trip he described as “another journey of suffering.” The cancer spread to his spinal cord.
In late March, Abu Hamdiyeh was finally admitted to the hospital, where he died on Tuesday morning.
Expressing his sorrow and condolences, Palestinian Authority premier Salam Fayyad praised Abu Hamdiyeh’s distinguished role in the national struggle for freedom and said “his contributions to the just cause of our people will remain alive in our national memory and continued struggle for freedom.”
There are 25 Palestinians diagnosed with cancer in Israeli jails. Some 207 Palestinians have died in Israeli jails since 1967, including 54 who died from medical negligence, the Palestinian Authority says.