Entries in Palestinians (24)


Phone Call Tells Gazans to Get Out; Missiles Hit Minutes Later

MAJDI FATHI/AFP/Getty Images(JABALIYA, Gaza) -- Anger boiled over in Gaza on Monday as the death toll passed 100 and the civilian casualties mounted. Volleys of Palestinian militant rockets flew into Israel as Israeli drones buzzed endlessly overhead and warplanes streaked through the air to unleash missile strikes.

As Israel comes under fierce criticism for the bombing of a home on Sunday that killed 11, including nine from a single family, it is emphasizing how careful it has been in striking its targets. It has released videos from drone cameras, highlighting conversations between drone pilots that show them waiting until civilians are gone to carry out their strikes. Leaflets have been dropped and Hamas' radio station was taken over by Israel to issue warnings.

And in the Jabaliya refugee camp, a phone call to a four-story building caused a mass evacuation on Sunday. A voice told Fateh Nasser he and everyone in the building had five minutes to get out.

The 40 people inside did not hesitate. And right on schedule, an Israeli missile flattened the building.

Israel says it has been careful about all its strikes, and its missiles have been accurate.

But Nasser and others who were standing outside the demolished building Monday claim they were not aware of any militants in the building.

"This house consists of five families with high number of children," Nasser told ABC News.

Nearby, kids were sweeping up debris on the dusty street and men sat on street corners. Most of the homes and shops were locked up tight. The atmosphere is punctuated with the steady hum of Israeli drones, the whoosh of rockets taking off and heading for Israel, and the blasts of incoming Israeli missiles and artillery from Israeli ships at sea.

During ABC News' interview in Jabaliya, an explosion from an Israeli missile went off close by.

Mohammed Matar, 30, an architect who has a young daughter, said he was furious at the extent of Israel's collateral damage.

"It was like hell. It's war. They bombed everywhere. They say in their news that they're just attacking like kind of Hamas people or something. It's wrong. They're attacking children everywhere," Matar said.

He scoffed at Israel's claim they are firing in self-defense.

"Look, I mean, everyone has the right to defend himself. They are saying that they're defending their selves. Of what? Of rockets. They have no missiles in them. It's an empty rocket. It's just a kind of tube kind of going and doing nothing. But it's our way of defense. We have nothing," Matar said.

"I have only one kid, a little girl, and I want her to live in peace. I want her to live in Palestine. We have the right to defense ourselves. No one wants war, no one....But what kind of peace we need, that is the question," he said.

A Palestinian man at a Gaza hospital Monday was more blunt as dead bodies were brought out for funerals. The bodies included some of the nine members of the Daloo family who died Sunday when the Israeli missile destroyed the building in which they had been.

When asked whether he thought the toll on civilians, particularly children, was too high and Hamas and its allies should stop firing rockets at Israel, he replied that the victims included a woman in her 70s and a 4-year-old child.

"All the Israeli media said that there are fighters inside the house, but we are from the family. We're denying totally that there is a fighter inside the house that was bombarded," he said.

"And we ask all the groups to retaliate for these massacres and we believe now we shouldn't talk about ceasefire at all," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rising Palestinian Death Toll Spurs Calls for Ceasefire in Gaza

Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) -- Mourners on Monday buried the 11 victims of an Israeli air strike Sunday, the single deadliest incident since the escalation between Hamas and Israel began last Wednesday.

Among the dead were nine members of the Daloo family, killed when an Israeli warplane targeted their home in Gaza City while trying to kill a Hamas rocket maker, whose fate is unknown.

Palestinian deaths climbed to more than 90 on Monday when four more, including two children, were killed in a strike on a sports stadium the Israel Defense Forces said was being used to launch rockets.  Gaza health officials said half of those killed were children, women or elderly men.

Israel carried out 80 air strikes Monday morning, down from previous morning totals.  There were just 16 militant rocket launches, the Israeli military said, also a relatively low tally.  

The Israel Defense Forces said that since Wednesday, when Hamas' top military commander was assassinated by Israel, around 1,100 strikes had been carried out in Gaza, while militants have launched about 1,000 rockets.

Sunday proved to be one the deadliest days of what Israel has called "Operation Pillar of Defense," with at least 23 people reported killed.  Of those, at least 14 were women and children, according to a Gaza health official.  

The Israel Defense Forces told ABC News it was targeting Hamas rocket maker Yehiya Bia, who lives near the Daloo family in a densely populated Gaza neighborhood and has not been accounted for.

Rescue workers worked frantically Monday morning looking for any survivors in the rubble of the attack.

Israel shifted its tactics this weekend from striking rocket arsenals and firing positions to targeting the homes of senior Hamas commanders and the offices of Hamas politicians in Gaza.  Doing so brought the violence into Gaza's most densely populated areas.

Israel also hit two high-rise buildings on Sunday that house the offices of Hamas and international media outlets, injuring at least six journalists.

Meanwhile, militant rockets continued to rain down on Israel Sunday.  More than 100 rockets were fired Sunday, with 76 landing in Israel, according to the Israel Defense Forces.  

The military said that more than 500 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel.  More than 300 have been intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system.

Three Israeli civilians died from militant rocket fire in one attack Thursday and dozens have been wounded.

The pace of diplomacy has stepped up as civilian casualties in Gaza continue to rise.  An Israeli envoy is in Cairo to talk with Egyptian officials but Hamas sources say no progress has been made.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to arrive later Monday, and has called for an immediate ceasefire.  Leaders of Qatar, Turkey and Hamas, as well as an Israeli envoy, are working toward a ceasefire proposal.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Administration: Hamas to Blame for Gaza Violence

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to the escalating border violence between Israel and the Gaza strip, Obama administration officials have made the U.S. position clear: Hamas is to blame.

Aboard Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the administration strongly condemns the ongoing  rocket fire from Gaza. Carney lamented the civilian casualties among both the Israelis and Palestinians over the last few days, but said it is Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group, which governs the Gaza strip, that is instigating the violence.

“Hamas claims to have the best interest of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause,” Carney said. “Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self-determination.”

This is the worst flare-up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians in several years. After contending with a steady stream of missiles being fired by Hamas into Southern Israel over the course of this year, the Jewish state launched its own offensive on Wednesday, killing Ahmed Jabari, a Hamas military leader. In retaliation, the group launched nearly 150 more rockets at Israel on Thursday. The attack killed three Israelis in the southern town of Kiryat Malakhi, with rocket fire reaching Israel’s largest city of Tel Aviv.

In just the last two days at least 15 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, in addition to the Israeli casualties. There are also reports that Israel may be preparing for a ground operation as it moves troops near the border. A ground incursion by Israel into Gaza could signal the beginning of an all-out war.

When asked about the possibility of a ground offensive, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call that the United States respects Israel’s right to defend itself, but would not like to see the conflict escalate further.

“Our view is the Israelis have a right of self-defense when their citizens are faced with the threat of indiscriminate rocket fire from within Gaza. Ultimately it’s up to the Israeli government to make a determination about how they are going to carry out their military objective,” said Rhodes. "But we’ve also said the best course of action would be for there to be a general de-escalation of the violence, but the onus is on Hamas and those with influence over Hamas to help bring about that de-escalation so we don’t see a widening conflict.”

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman told ABC News that there are no immediate plans to begin a ground operation in Gaza,  though the military is prepared to do so if needed.

“At this point, we have not received directives from the political echelon to embark on a ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip,” the spokesman said. "We are prepared for the possible expansion of the operation if necessary but are currently engaged in the aerial phase that has included pinpoint targeting of approximately 250 sites. These sites include medium- and short-range rockets, launching pits, storage depots and senior terrorist leaders.”

Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have contacted leaders in Egypt, Turkey and other European allies who have influence with Hamas.

Egypt, whose new governing Muslim Brotherhood party has a relationship with Hamas, also has a binding peace treaty with Israel. Under the previous regime, led by Hosni Mubarak, Egypt was one of the staunchest and most reliable U.S. allies in the region. State Department Deputy spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters Thursday that the administration is imploring Egypt to use its regional influence to help stop the escalating conflict.

But Egyptian officials have publicly said that the Palestinians have the right to self-defense, and diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt have been strained over the violence. This week  Egypt’s ambassador to Israel returned to Cairo for consultations, and Israel’s ambassador to Egypt also returned to Jerusalem before the offensive was launched. On Friday Egypt’s prime minister, Hesham Kandil, will travel to Gaza to speak with Hamas officials.

Toner refused to characterize the substance of the conversations between U.S. and Egyptian officials over the conflict, but said that both countries remain in agreement that the violence needs to end.

“There is a very clear path here to ending the violence and that’s for the rocket attacks to stop, so we would hope that that’s a message that would be delivered,” he said.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Romney's Overseas Comment Riles Palestinians

Oli Scarff/Getty Images(GDANSK, Poland) -- The White House was subtly gleeful Monday as Mitt Romney's campaign dealt with the latest group to be offended during the Republican presidential candidate's overseas tour that was intended to showcase his foreign policy credentials.

Romney reportedly insulted the Palestinians by suggesting that the discrepancy between the wealth of Israel and Palestinians was due in part to their different cultures. A top Palestinian labeled the analysis racist.

In addition, Romney's campaign said Monday that they had hoped to go to Germany to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, but a senior Romney adviser said that she is on vacation.

"I will say though that the governor and the chancellor will find a time to speak soon," the Romney adviser said at a briefing on the plane to Gdansk, Poland Monday.

The White House weighed in on Romney's remarks that angered the Palestinians.

"One of the challenges of being an actor on the international stage, particularly when you're traveling to such a sensitive part of the world, is that your comments are very closely scrutinized for meaning, for nuance, for motivation," Obama Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday in the White House briefing.

"And it is clear that there are some people who have taken a look at those comments and are scratching their heads a little bit."

Senior Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod weighed in on Twitter: "Is there anything about Romney's Rolling Ruckus that would inspire confidence in his ability to lead US foreign policy?"

Sniping aside, Romney's comments came down to provable dollars and cents. At a fundraiser in Jerusalem's King David Hotel earlier Monday, the presumptive GOP nominee told his donors, "As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."

"And that exists also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador; Mexico and the United States," Romney added, before noting that culture "makes all the difference." It's a point he consistently stressed on the 2008 campaign trail.

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things," Romney said.

Romney's campaign said his comments have been "grossly mischaracterized."

The controversy over his Palestinian comments come on the heels of his comments in London when he said the city's preparations for the Summer Games -- something he knows about after spear heading the 2002 Salt Lake Games -- were "disconcerting." Many news outlets and pundits had reported about lapses from the company charged with providing security for The Olympics in the days before The Games started. Those lapses -- which reportedly took U.K. soldiers to butress -- were what Gov. Romney's comment was addressing.

The comment ruffled feathers throughout this country and England and resulted in a public upbraiding by both the prime minister and London's mayor.

He was also forced to distance himself from comments anonymous advisers made to the Telegraph saying that Romney had a better appreciation of the "Anglo Saxon heritage."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Violence as Palestinians Mark ‘Catastrophe’ of Israel’s Founding

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEITUNIA, West Bank) -- Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers on Tuesday as Palestinians marked the “Nakba” — meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic — their name for the founding of Israel 64 years ago.

In contrast to recent years, the day also saw celebrations as Palestinian demonstrators reveled in what they considered a victory over Israel: a deal that brought an end to the hunger strikes of some 1,600 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, the biggest ever.

There were scattered demonstrations in East Jerusalem and across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But on the whole, the day was considerably less violent than last year, when at least a dozen protesters were killed by the Israeli military when trying to cross border fences from Syria and Lebanon into Israel.

Stone-throwing Palestinian youths were met Tuesday with tear gas and rubber bullets at the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem and at Ofer prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestinians use May 15 each year to mark the fleeing or eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during and after the Arab-Israeli War of Independence that followed the establishment of Israel in 1948.

“Today, our people from all walks of life unite to commemorate the Nakba, which displaced our people — and they continue to suffer as a result,” Palestinian President Abbas said in a speech Tuesday. “Every Palestinian, man and women, [suffers] whether living under occupation or in the refugee camps.”

In the center of Ramallah, the demonstrations took on a more festive tone as they celebrated Monday’s deal that ended the hunger strikes of 1,600 prisoners, most of whom had been on strike for almost a month.  Two prisoners were on their 78th day without food. They had been protesting solitary confinement, lack of family visits and the practice of “administrative detention,” which allows Israel to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge. Israel agreed to roll back the practices if the prisoners agreed “to completely halt terrorist activity inside Israeli prisons.”

Palestinian and Israeli officials had warned of an outbreak in violence if one or more of the hunger strikers died. The hunger strike hit close to home for Palestinians, many of whom have seen relatives spend time in Israeli prisons.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


With Palestinian Hunger Strikers Near Death, Fear of Violence

Kevin Horan/Stone(TEL AVIV) – Six Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons are in danger of “imminent death,” a result that could trigger an outbreak of violence in the relatively peaceful occupied West Bank, according to Israeli and Palestinian officials and activists.

The six are part of a larger group that some activists estimate is now in the thousands after some 1,600 Palestinians joined a smaller hunger strike on April 17; more joined in solidarity after that. They are protesting a lack of rights in Israeli prisons, as well as “administrative detention,” which allows Israel to indefinitely renew six-month prison terms with no charges.

Friday was the 74th day of hunger striking for administrative detainees Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, currently in a prison clinic despite pleas from the Red Cross and Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights to transfer them to hospitals. The four other prisoners have been striking for over 40 days.

The six “are in imminent danger of dying,” the Red Cross said in a statement this week. “We urge the detaining authorities to transfer all six detainees without delay to a suitable hospital so that their condition can be continuously monitored and so that they can receive specialized medical and nursing care.”

An Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman told the Palestinian Ma’an news service Friday that the men would be transferred to a hospital “if it is necessary,” but that “as of now, I know that those who should be receiving extra care are receiving it.”

“We need immediate intervention now” from the international community, activist Raya Ziada told ABC News. Her brother is in an Israeli prison serving a 30 year sentence. If prisoners die, she said, “I think there will be an explosion of frustration for not intervening.”

Top Palestinian officials have warned of an outbreak of violence in the West Bank with President Mahmoud Abbas saying “it is very dangerous.”

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wouldn’t discuss ongoing negotiations, but said they want to see an end to the hunger strikes as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of “riots all over the West Bank.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House 'Disappointed' with Construction of New Israeli Settlements

AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Palestinians' bid to get United Nations membership is having no effect on Israel's plans to continue building settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Both developments are angering the Obama administration, which had at least hoped that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would back off on settlement construction until the matter with the Palestinians is resolved.

Netanyahu went ahead this week and announced that he would accelerate the projects that many believe was in response to the U.N.'s cultural organization voting to accept the Palestinians into the group, a move that could make it easier to win a seat in the General Assembly.

Just as the State Department denounced the Palestinians' admittance to UNESCO, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the administration is "deeply disappointed" with Netanyahu.

The U.S. opposes both the construction of Israelis' settlements as well as the Palestinians’ solo attempt to achieve statehood.  According to Carney, both sides are undermining the peace process by acting unilaterally instead of holding discussions to advance their individual goals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Objected to Release of Some Palestinians Swapped for Israeli Soldier

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States objected to the release of some of the 477 Palestinian prisoners released Tuesday in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier because they were involved in attacks on Americans, the State Department said Tuesday.

“We have looked at some of these individuals and we’ve communicated our position after we became aware that specific individuals have been identified as part of this release,” State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said. He said, however, that the State Department welcomed the release of Gilad Shalit, who had been held in Gaza for more than five years by the militant group Hamas.

“As a matter of principal, the U.S. opposes the release of individuals who have been convicted of crimes against Americans,” he added.

Toner declined to identify the individual prisoners of concern. He said he was unaware whether Israel had chosen not to release any of the individuals due to American concerns.

A State Department official, speaking anonymously in order to discuss the sensitive issue, confirmed that multiple individuals were released despite the American objections.

The Shalit case was big news in Israel. His family camped out in front of the prime minister’s office for years to keep pressure on the Israeli government to secure his release. When the prisoner swap, which will ultimately send about 1,000 jailed Palestinians back home, was announced last week, it was also met with concerns that Israel was giving up too much for Shalit’s freedom and that it could set a precedent for future hostage situations.

The Israeli cabinet voted to approve the swap last week and on Tuesday Shalit was greeted in his hometown by cheering crowds waving Israeli flags.

Israel is reportedly considering another prisoner swap, this time with Egypt in exchange for an Israeli-American student who was arrested there and accused of spying for Israel.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


State Department Grows Frustrated with Palestinian Leaders

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department is expressing frustration over the latest Palestinian tactic to achieve statehood without conducting peace talks with Israel.

Palestinian leaders have asked for state membership to the U.N. sub-agency on education, science and culture, called UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The executive board of UNESCO has just approved that application, sending it to a vote in the general assembly of the cultural body.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged UNESCO to think again before proceeding. She called the move "inexplicable," questioning why a sub-agency would decide on a statehood matter when that issue is currently being debated by the main body of the United Nations. And Israel says it's another tactic to avoid negotiations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Palestinians Say They Seek Membership in the UN -- Not the Mafia or al Qaeda

ABC News Radio(UNITED NATIONS) -- After the White House made it clear it would veto any attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join the United Nations, the Palestinians shot back that they “are not seeking to join the Mafia, nor al Qaeda, nor an NGO.  We are seeking the United Nations that Mr. Obama talked about today so eloquently and so grandly,” referring to Mr. Obama’s annual speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday morning.

Dr. Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian Authority spokesman, added that they are “absolutely determined to go through with the requirements of joining the United Nations, but in no way are we considering that as an alternative to negotiations.”

The United States, a strong ally of Israel, argued that the Palestinian quest to join the U.N. is simply trying to take a “short cut” in the peace process, which, Obama said, has reached a stalemate over the last year.

“I know that many are frustrated by the lack of progress,” Obama said in his speech. “So am I. But the question isn’t the goal we seek -- the question is how to reach it. And I am convinced that there is no shortcut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the U.N.”

But Shaath defended the Palestinian motivations.

“We are seeking [U.N.] membership because that will give us a chance to support our rights, legitimize the borders on which our state would be done and to give us the kind of support needed to continue building the institutions of that state,” he said.

Palestinian Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said Obama’s failure to recognize the legitimacy of the Palestinian request in his address Wednesday was a “real disappointment.”

“The U.N. is precisely the place where states are born and recognized; it is precisely the place where universal rights have to be safeguarded, particularly the right to self-determination,” she said.  ”So by, in a sense, one context talking about the Arab Spring and talking about the U.N. and the charter and universal rights, he did the right thing, but when it came to the Palestinians we were excluded.”

Shaath added that the Palestinians specifically sought to petition the U.N. this year as a strategy, thinking they might take advantage of President Obama’s need to focus on U.S. elections and domestic issues.  But he added that “we are not doing it to spite the United States.  We are not doing it to confront the United States. We have no intention of confronting the United States. We disagree with many of the United States’ policies but that in no way makes us really desirous of keeping the United States outside this thing because it will not work.”

The Palestinians are expected to petition the United Nations for membership on Friday, but it’s still unclear when or if it will be put to a vote.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio