The occupied West Bank is on the verge of a mass uprising


When US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman commented on Israel’s “right” to annex land in the occupied West Bank — as a dutiful Zionist he called it “Judea and Samaria” — he provided the Palestinians with an important reason for resistance to the Israeli occupation. So too does Israel’s systematic annexation policy, which is basically ethnic cleansing because the state is trying to rid itself of the Palestinians in the areas taken. There are now 20 synagogues in occupied East Jerusalem; there will probably be more. What’s more, the Israeli Supreme Court has approved a deal for the settler organisation Ateret Cohanim to buy three buildings from the Greek Orthodox Church located in the Christian quarter of occupied Jerusalem. Meanwhile, according to a report from Human Rights Watch, “The Israeli government [has] continued to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip; and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israeli forces [are] stationed on the Israeli side of the fences separating Gaza and Israel responded to demonstrations for Palestinian rights on the Gaza side with excessive lethal force.” The HRW report also mentioned the numbers of martyrs killed by the occupation forces, many of whom were not a threat to anyone, as well as the number of houses demolished by Israel during the past year. It also included a special section on the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip due to the Israeli-led blockade. All of these realities on the ground also provide reasons for increased Palestinian resistance in the West Bank.

In fact, the escalations, alongside the ongoing attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause through the so-called “deal of the century”, are all fertile ground for a mass popular uprising; in other words, another intifada. In May, 36 Palestinians, including three from the West Bank, were killed by the Israelis. Furthermore, 10 Palestinian prisoners died after being arrested by the Israeli occupation army. Israel’s prisons are places where the most severe and cruel forms of physical and psychological torture are practiced, including solitary confinement, night raids, strip searches, bans on visits, deliberate medical negligence and other violations which bring to mind fascist ideology. The arrest of Palestinians in the West Bank has become a daily occurrence and systematic policy, the only variable being the geographic extent and number. Israel believes that by resorting to arresting people, it is capable of weakening the Palestinians and thus ridding the territory of all resistance actions. The Israeli occupation army arrested 303 Palestinians last month, including 39 children and six women, in various parts of the West Bank. Ten days ago, a bloody clash broke out between the Palestinian Preventive Security Service and an Israeli military force south of Nablus. Jerusalem topped the list of governorates where the Israeli occupation forces carried out large-scale arrests. The number of Palestinians from Jerusalem who were detained reached 74; another 23 young West Bank resident were arrested during their religious retreat in Al-Aqsa Mosque in the last ten days of Ramadan. Stabbings by Palestinians have also continued, the most recent of which was an attack on two settlers near Damascus Gate on the last Friday of the fasting month.

The former Chief of Staff of the Israel army, General Gadi Eisenkot, has warned the US that the situation in the West Bank could boil over before or after the announcement of the details of the “deal of the century”. Israel’s Channel 13 explained that Eisenkot’s warning was made in a private meeting at the White House two weeks ago, attended by Israeli and American officials, including US Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt. Eisenkot recommended that the Trump administration should keep in mind the volatile situation in the West Bank when considering when to announce the details of the deal. The current Head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Michael Milshtein, has pointed out that Israelis have been issuing warnings for about a decade about the negative strategic change that is expected to occur generally in the Palestinian arena, and specifically in the West Bank. At the heart of these warnings are terrifying scenarios related to a third intifada, waves of violence and the disintegration of the Palestinian Authority. “The relative quiet in the West Bank does not attest to a dissipation of the Palestinians’ national identity and aspirations,” said Milshtein, “but rather reflects a redrawing of collective goals and their realignment with changes in the geo-strategic sphere as well as changes in the Palestinian social profile.” Yes, despite all of the brutal killings and other atrocities committed by Israel, the experts among the enemy predict that our people will continue to resist and that the West Bank is integrated with the Gaza Strip and the territories occupied in 1948. This makes all of historic Palestine a potential arena for legitimate acts of resistance to Israel’s brutal occupation. This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Khaleej on 18 June 2019

Rocket hits site of foreign oil firms in Iraq's Basra, three hurt

Three Iraqi workers wounded as rocket lands on headquarters of several major companies in latest oil attack.

A rocket landed at the headquarters of several global oil companies in Iraq's southern city of Basra on Wednesday, wounding three Iraqi workers and raising alarm amid rising tensions between the US and Iran in the region. The rocket hit the Burjesia residential and operations headquarters west of Basra, Iraqi police said. The site is home to a number of international oil giants, including US firm ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, and Italian Eni SpA. Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Basra, said a local security official confirmed Exxon evacuated 21 foreign staff in the immediate aftermath of the incident. "The oil ministry is saying that oil production in the area has not been affected by this attack," Stratford said, adding the security official described the rocket used as a Katyusha. "[But] we are seeing what can only be described as an increase in the frequency of such incidents, over the last month and a half there has been a number involving rockets fired at what has been interpreted to be foreign interests here," he added. According to security official Mahdi Raykan, the Katyusha rocket landed at dawn in the Zubair and Rumeila oil fields camp, operated by the Iraqi Drilling company, where Exxon Mobil and other foreign oil companies have tents. Raykan said the rocket was fired from a distance of up to 5km. Workers of the foreign companies were not on site at the time but still in their sleeping quarters, said another Iraqi official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.

Oil attacks continue

Wednesday's incident was the latest in a spate of attacks on oil infrastructure in the region and came after the United States evacuated hundreds of diplomatic staff from its embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, last month, citing unspecified threats from Iran.

Last Thursday, two explosions occurred on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Four oil vessels were targeted in May, also near the Strait of Hormuz - a key transit route for oil and gas from the Middle East. It remains unclear who was responsible for the blasts. US officials have pointed a finger at Iran, which has denied all accusations. On Tuesday, a rocket landed near an Iraqi military base hosting US forces in the northern city of Mosul, an Iraqi military statement said. Three rockets hit another base hosting US troops north of Baghdad on Monday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Gulf tensions soar

The series of incidents take place as tensions continue to ramp up between the US and Iran, with Iraq seen as a possible site for any violent flare-up between the two rivals.

No foreign troops in Iraq should use its territory to attack another "foreign presence" or a country in the region, Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told a news conference on Tuesday, adding no local group should work outside of the supervision of the Iraqi armed forces. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump's administration did not want war with the Islamic Republic. However, Pompeo vowed Washington would continue to pursue a "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran - which it accuses of being a destabilizing actor in the Middle East - that was rolled out after Trump's decision in May 2018 to withdraw from a landmark nuclear deal brokered between Iran and several other world powers. Pompeo's comments came after acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Monday announced the deployment of about 1,000 more troops to the Middle East for what he said were "defensive purposes", citing concerns about a threat from Iran. The move followed a 1,500-troop increase by the US following the tanker attacks in May.


Belgium suspends arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia

Belgian State Council decided on Friday to suspend the licenses of arms exports to Saudi Arabia fearing their use against civilians in Yemen, media sources reported. In recent months Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders has been a vocal advocate against arms sales to the kingdom because of its human rights violations in Yemen. In May, he said: “I think that it would be good to suspend contracts of selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” calling for the three Belgian regions to act accordingly.