Israeli Troops Beat Palestinian Minister to Death at Ramallah Protest

Israel Defends Crackdown as ‘Riot Dispersal’

55-year-old Palestinian Authority cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ein was killed today during a protest march in Ramallah, when Israeli troops arrived on the scene and beat him to death.

Abu Ein was choked and beaten with rifle butts during the crackdown and reportedly suffered a stroke on the scene. He was rushed to a nearby Palestinian hospital but died shortly thereafter.

westbank-israelThough the entire killing was not caught on tape, video of the early moments of the crackdown on the protest were shown by Sky News,which included an Israeli soldier putting his hands around Abu Ein’s throat.

The protesters were complaining about the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and was carried out entirely on Palestinian territory in the occupied West Bank, with a march to farmland illegally seized by settlers to plant olive trees. Israeli officials defended the crackdown as simply using standard riot dispersal methods.

The European Union and United Nations are both demanding an independent investigation into the killing, though the Israeli government insisted that the only probe will be an internal one by the Israeli military.

The killing is being called an assassination by some Palestinian officials, though it seems more to be business as usual for the occupation forces, who kill Palestinians at protests with alarming regularity. The death is fueling calls from PA officials to end security cooperation with the Israeli military.

by Jason Ditz

Israel’s Ill-Treatment of Detained Palestinian Children “Widespread”

Zein Abu-Mariya (17) with his parents after nine months in Israeli custody. Credit: Pierre Klochendler/IPS.

They pressured my son to confess

“Three interrogators questioned me for three hours. I was handcuffed. They beat me, slapped me, kicked me, boxed me, accused me of throwing stones; played a video of a demonstration. I denied I was there. So again, they beat me up,” recounts Zein Abu-Mariya, 17, seated on a sofa next to dad.

“They pressured my son to confess,” Hisham chimes in. “‘If you don’t sign, you’ll be treated like an animal,’ they threatened.” Zein acquiesces.

In March 2012, in the dead of night, he was arrested by Israeli soldiers. Thirty-six hours later, he was brought before a judge. He stood at 35 court hearings, spent nine months in the HaSharon jail minors section; yet was never convicted.

In January, his father finally managed to bail him out. Back home, waiting for an impending court hearing, Zein strikes a defiant pose: “I don’t want to go back to jail, but I’m not afraid; I got used to it.”

He’s gone back to school, but he was held back one year. “My friends ask me what jail is like – just in case.”

Zein’s testimony – like that of many other minors – reveals one of the most painfully enduring experiences of life under occupation.

“Put yourself in their shoes,” U.S. President Barack Obama recently told young Israelis. The issue of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention provides a dramatic example of just how far the U.S. president’s plea is from being fulfilled.

In February, 236 Palestinian minors were incarcerated – 39 aged 12 to 15 – reports rights group Defence of Children International.

Each year for the past ten years, 700 children aged 12 to 17, most of them boys, are arrested by Israel – an average of two per day– estimates the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in a report also published in February.

UNICEF concludes that ill-treatment of imprisoned children “appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised” throughout the process, from arrest to interrogation, prosecution, eventual conviction and condemnation.

Its report points to practices that “amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture” ratified by Israel.

Parents aren’t always notified of their child’s arrest. Most arrests occur at night. During questioning, minors are denied access to a lawyer, or the presence of a relative. Most are accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and vehicles.

“These stones can cause death,” maintains Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Ilana Stein. “But putting children in jail isn’t something we like.”

The report’s 38 recommendations for bettering the rightful protection of Palestinian children are assigned dutiful consideration. “We actually worked on the report with UNICEF because we want to improve the treatment of detained Palestinian children,” Stein says.

“Such Israeli reaction is good,” welcomes ‘Adli Da’ana, education officer with UNICEF in Hebron. “But on March 20, they grabbed 27 kids in the Old City of Hebron, just like that, in one fell swoop. So is this what they call re-considering their policy?”

Military laws are particularly harsh on children.

The alternative Israeli website 972.com recently brought up the imaginary case study of two 12-year-olds – one Israeli settler, one Palestinian – getting into a fight, and compared the judicial consequences.

An Israeli minor sees a judge within 12 hours; for a Palestinian child, it could take up to four days. Before seeing a lawyer, an Israeli child can be held for two days, a Palestinian child for 90 days. An Israeli child can be held 40 days without charge; a Palestinian child, 60 days.

A 12-year-old Israeli can’t be held during trial; a 12-year-old Palestinian can be held up to 18 months before trial.

Chances of bail before trial stand at 80 percent for Israeli children, at 13 percent for Palestinian children. And while there is no custodial sentencing in Israeli civilian law for a minor under 14, a 12 year-old Palestinian can be incarcerated under Israeli military law.

“The most urgent change is to ensure children spend the least possible time in jail,” urges Na’ama Baumgarten-Sharon, researcher at B’tselem, the Israeli human right organisation. “Children must be brought before a judge in much less time.”

Implemented starting Apr. 2, a military order supposed to reduce the length of pre-trial detention stipulates that Palestinian children under 14 should be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest and children aged 14 to 18 within 48 hours.

“Even when there’s realisation that things need to change, it’s a slow process,” notes Baumgarten-Sharon. “The only form of punishment is jail. There’s no other alternative.”

Smain Najjar lives in the Jewish-controlled part of Hebron. Only 17, he’s already been arrested four times on suspicion of stone throwing.

“The first time, it was while playing soccer with friends. I was nine. They locked me in a cold-storage box for six hours; then let me go.

“The second time – I was 11 – they held me for three hours at a nearby checkpoint because I got into an argument with a settler my age.

“The third time, they took me to the nearby settlement’s police station; I was 14.

“The fourth time – last November, during Israel’s military operation on Gaza – I spent four days at the Ofer detention centre. I’d been arrested on my way home from an evening shift at a coffee shop.”

Anxious, his mother Suad kept calling his cellphone. After a while, a voice answered, and ordered, “Stop calling this number, we’ve arrested your child.”

Smain has dropped out of school. “Maybe I’ll become a sports coach,” he says.

“We help these kids find their future, rebuild their personality. Unfortunately, sometimes we fail. Once arrested, it’s a cycle of arrests,” says psycho-social counsellor Ala’ Abu-Ayyash.

Smain likes to take refuge in his dovecote. He says the doves provide an escape from the darkness of life. The doves circle in disarray till one is caught.

This article was originally published at IPS News.

Israeli military court sentences 14 yr old Palestinian child to 8 years

The Israeli military court in Salem has sentenced a Palestinian child from Azzun village, Qalqilia province, to eight years behind bars.

Quds Press quoted Hassan Shubaita, in charge of recording Israeli violations in Azzun, as saying that the “convicted” child Ihab Hani Mishaal is only 14 years old.

He said that the Israeli military prosecution asked for similar harsh sentences against a group of children from the same village.

He lashed out at the Israeli court, saying that the sentence against the child, who was arrested a few months ago, was in grave violation of the children’s rights.

Shubaita called for pressuring the Israeli occupation authority to end its policy of targeting children.

Iran indicts 15 ‘American and Zionist’ spies

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s official news agency says the country’s judiciary has issued indictments against 15 ‘American and Zionist’ spies.

IRNA on Tuesday quoted Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi as saying the suspects carried out espionage activities against Iran.

He did not elaborate on the nationality of the suspects, nor say when they were detained.

The report does not say whether the suspects include any of the 12 alleged agents that Tehran said in November had been arrested for ties to the American CIA, Israel’s Mossad and regional intelligence agencies.

Iran periodically announces the capture or execution of alleged U.S. or Israeli spies, and often no further information is released.

This just days after Iranian TV broadcasted footage of an advanced US drone aircraft that Tehran says it brought down using electronic methods to override its controls.

The film was captioned “RQ170 – advanced US spy plane” and carried on the Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 channel.

Iran’s Press TV said that the Iranian army’s “electronic warfare unit” brought down the drone on 4 December as it was flying over the city of Kashmar.

Brig General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace unit, told Iranian media that the drone “fell into the trap” of the unit “who then managed to land it with minimum damage”.

He said Iran was “well aware of what priceless technological information” could be gleaned from the aircraft.

Nato said at the weekend that an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft had been flying a mission over western Afghanistan late last week when its operators lost control of it.

Pentagon officials have said they are concerned about Iran possibly acquiring information about the technology.

Iranian media said on Thursday that the foreign ministry had summoned the Swiss envoy to express its “strongest protest over the invasion of a US spy drone deep into its airspace”.

Washington has no diplomatic relations with Iran and US affairs in the country are dealt with via the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

A statement said the ministry had asked for an immediate explanation and had demanded compensation from Washington.

A report in The New York Times on Thursday said the “stealth” drone had been part of a US surveillance programme mapping Iran’s suspected nuclear sites.

The US and its allies suspect Iran of secretly trying to build a nuclear weapon – something Tehran strongly denies.

A recent report by the UN’s nuclear watchdog said Iran had carried out tests “relevant to the development of a nuclear device”.

Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities if sanctions and diplomacy fail.

Iran has vowed to respond by attacking Israeli and US interests in the region.

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