Top News from Israel & Palestine: September 13, 2021

What We’re Reading

Prison Break

Israel Captures 4 of 6 Palestinian Fugitives Who Escaped Prison,

“The Israeli police said on Saturday that they had captured four of the six Palestinian fugitives who escaped a maximum-security prison this week, in a case seen as a rare humiliation of the country’s security establishment. Two of the prisoners, Mahmoud al-Arida and Yaqoub Qadri, were captured Friday night on the southern edge of Nazareth, in northern Israel, five days after they had escaped through a hole in the floor of the shower cubicle in their cell and tunneled out of a prison about 15 miles southeast of the city. A second pair, Zakaria Zubeidi and Mohammad al-Arida, Mahmoud’s brother, were seized on Saturday morning in a truck parking lot in Umm el-Ghanem, a village east of Nazareth.” Also See – “Israel catches four of six Palestinian militants who escaped from jail” (The Guardian)

Palestinians said to shoot at IDF troops searching for fugitives in West Bank,

“Heavy gunfire was heard in the Jenin region on Sunday, as Israeli security forces reportedly came under fire during a manhunt for two escaped Palestinian prisoners who remain on the run following the capture of four other escapees. Palestinian media reports claimed militants had opened fire toward Israeli troops near the town of Araqah, west of the city of Jenin in the northern West Bank.”

Israel bans family visit for Palestinian prisoners,

Israel has banned family visits for Palestinian prisoners until the end of the month, according to the Palestine Prisoner’s Society (PPS). Citing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), PPS said that the Israeli occupation authorities have canceled family visits for Palestinian inmates until the end of this month following the current simmering tensions in prisons.”

Israel ministers to call for more restrictions on Palestine prisoners,

“A number of Israeli cabinet ministers are planning to ask the committee tasked with probing the Israeli Prisons Service over last week’s jailbreak to put more restrictions on Palestinian prisoners. Al Hodhod news network reported that Israeli Communication Minister Yoaz Hendel intends to put this on the agenda of the cabinet’s next meeting. The conditions under which Palestinian prisoners are held inside Israeli jails will then be discussed, it added. It is expected that Agriculture Minister Oded Forer will support tightening the conditions under which Palestinians are detained. Deputy Minister of Public Security Yoav Segalovitz is also expected to call for similar discussions.”

Israel lashes out against Palestinian prisoners after Gilboa Prison breakout, arrests family,

“Israel has put prisons holding Palestinian detainees under lockdown after a daring prison break, a Palestinian official has said, as authorities arrest family members of the escapees.” Also See – “Israel arrests family members of Palestinian jail escapees” (France 24)

Palestinian media alleges rights abuses during Israeli search for escaped prisoners,

“Israeli authorities are infringing on Palestinians’ rights during the massive manhunt for six escaped prisoners, according to Palestinian media. Dozens were injured Wednesday night in raids near Jenin. Israeli troops also interrogated travelers, detained residents and confiscated surveillance footage, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) official WAFA news agency reported.”

What fate awaits the rearrested Palestinian prisoners? ,

“In previous incidents where Palestinian prisoners escaped from Israeli prisons and were rearrested, several faced punitive measures such as long periods in solitary confinement but did not receive longer sentences, according to lawyers. On Saturday, a spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, said in a televised statement it would place the six prisoners at the top of any future prisoner exchange deal with Israel…The four prisoners are being held at the Jalama Interrogation Facility near Haifa and, according to their lawyers, have undergone interrogation by the Israeli intelligence services and the Lahav 443 unit of the police. The interrogation could last for up to 45 days, lawyers said, during which time they will remain at the Jalama facility. The prisoners have been banned from accessing their lawyers under an order from the Israeli intelligence services effective until September 14 and likely to be renewed, according to Mahajneh. Due to the ban, the lawyers have not been able to speak to the prisoners and have little information about the nature of the interrogations and potential violations being carried out against the prisoners…He said authorities are expected to be using “ugly tactics” including long interrogations that exceed 20 consecutive hours, sleep deprivation, providing them with insufficient, bad quality food, as well as physical assault and torture. While the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed the use of torture in 1999, interrogators – particularly the intelligence services – have continued to use violence against Palestinian detainees, which courts have retroactively sanctioned.”

Dispelling Israeli myths about Palestinian prisoners,

“If there is one issue that unites Palestinians in the occupied territories, it is that of political prisoners. According to the Palestinian Authority, one in five Palestinians has sat in an Israeli prison since the occupation began in 1967. In a reality in which any child can end up spending months in a military prison simply for demonstrating in their own village, prisoners are given a special status in Palestinian society. As such, the escape has allowed many Palestinians, if only for a moment, to imagine a “self-liberation” of all prisoners locked up by Israel. The event should also serve as a moment for Israelis to reflect on the Palestinian struggle. For Palestinians, the escaped prisoners — along with the other 4,650 Palestinians currently imprisoned by Israel — are not “terrorists” but rather political prisoners and prisoners of war. And for many, like in other anti-colonial struggles, even those who take part in or help plan attacks against Israeli civilians are part of the legitimate fight against a systematically violent occupation.”

Arab Israeli reporter attacked over mistranslation of his post on prison break,

“Ali Mograbi, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 13 news, has been covering the story of the six Palestinian security prisoners who escaped from the high-security Gilboa Prison on Monday. Over the weekend, four of the six fugitives were recaptured by Israeli security forces, assisted in part by a family in Nazareth that reported sightings of the men. Mograbi wrote a post on Facebook in Arabic reporting that the family assisted in turning in some of the prisoners, but a mistranslation into Hebrew implied that Mograbi had named the family involved. While reporting on Saturday night from outside the Northern District Court in Nazareth where four of the prisoners were appearing at a hearing, Mograbi was accosted by a group of Arab Israeli protesters, some of whom shouted at him and shoved him. Mograbi said he has been inundated with threats against him and his family due to the mistranslation.”

Joint List chief: If 6 could escape, millions of Palestinians can end occupation,

“Lawmakers from the predominantly Arab Joint List party spoke in support of the six escaped Palestinian security prisoners, after four of them were captured over the weekend. The six were all jailed for terror-related offenses. Some of them were accused or found guilty of murders. In party members’ statements, the escapees were generally characterized as freedom fighters. “If six prisoners managed to break through the narrow and crowded prison, then millions of the Palestinian people can end the occupation — so that the people will be released and the prisoners will be released,” Joint List leader Ayman Odeh wrote in a Facebook post.”

Palestinian prison break embarrasses Israeli government,

“Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had good reason to be optimistic on the eve of the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, on Sept. 6. His gamble on the coronavirus vaccine booster proved successful, stemming a fourth wave of the disease and allowing Israelis to celebrate the holiday season free of lockdowns or significant limitations, following three lengthy, draconian closures imposed by the Netanyahu government during previous holidays. The state budget had made it through a preliminary Knesset vote with relative ease. Bennett seemed to have been dealt a pretty good hand. But in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 6, six Palestinian inmates tunneled their way out of the high-security Gilboa Prison in the Jezre’el Valley, turning the traditional Rosh Hashanah dish of apple dipped in sweet honey into a bitter joke.”


Israel hits Hamas targets in Gaza in response to rocket fire,

“Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets in the Gaza Strip early Monday in response to rocket launches out of the Hamas-ruled territory. It was the third consecutive night of fighting between the two sides, even as Israel’s foreign minister sought to dangle incentives for calm. Tensions have risen after last week’s escape from an Israeli prison by six Palestinian inmates, as well as struggling efforts by Egypt to broker a long-term cease-fire in the wake of an 11-day war last May. The Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches late Sunday and early Monday, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses. In response, it said it attacked a number of Hamas targets. There were no reports of casualties on either side.”


Also See

UN to begin dispensing Qatari cash to needy Gazan families Monday under new deal,

“The United Nations said Sunday that it would begin distributing Qatari cash to some eligible Gazan families on Monday, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett denied reports that his government was weighing a resumption of the previous leadership’s policy of allowing cash payments to be sent in suitcases from Doha to Hamas civil servants. “Tomorrow, some vulnerable families in Gaza, out of the nearly 100,000 beneficiaries, will begin to receive their aid as part of the UN’s Humanitarian Cash Assistance programme, supported by the State of Qatar,” the United Nations office tasked with handling Middle East peace efforts tweeted. Qatari support is considered a crucial lifeline for impoverished Palestinians living in the Strip, which has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt for years.” Also See – “UN to distribute Qatari aid to Gaza on Monday, envoy says” (Ynet)

Lapid outlines long-term vision for calm in Gaza,

“Addressing a conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, the Israeli top diplomat called the outline — dubbed “Economy for Security” — a “more realistic approach towards reconstruction [of Gaza] in exchange for disarmament [of Palestinian enclave’s terrorist groups].”…The plan consists of two phases. The first step would include an overhaul of Gaza’s electricity, health and transportation systems in exchange for Hamas ceasing its military build-up. During that time, Israel would maintain full control of electricity and water supplies into Gaza, but the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) would resume control over Gaza’s border crossings…The second phase, which is planned to begin after an unspecified period of calm, would include major infrastructure projects in the Palestinian enclave, including the construction of a seaport, connecting the Strip to the West Bank and encouraging international investment in the local economy. At this point, the Palestinian Authority would regain full control of Gaza’s civil and economic affairs.” Also See – “Israel FM proposes ‘economy for security’ plan to deal with Gaza” (MEMO)

Gaza factions suspend popular activities to advance mediation efforts,

“Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip have suspended their popular activities on the border fence with Israel in order to give room to regional mediation efforts to achieve some progress in lifting the siege. In a Sept. 6 press statement, the spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip, Abu Mujahid, said that the Palestinian factions agreed to give the Egyptian and Qatari mediation efforts> until mid-September as a deadline to lift the siege imposed on Gaza and implement the agreements stipulated in the cease-fire that ended the latest round of violence in Gaza May 21.”

Israel warns Gaza citizens living next door to Hamas members,

“Al-Majd, a security website affiliated with the Hamas movement in Gaza, revealed Sept. 4 that Israeli intelligence services sent text messages to some citizens in the Gaza Strip about Hamas members living next door or in the same apartment building. The texts reportedly warned them that their homes will be targeted in the next round of fighting. The Hamas website warned residents in Gaza not to disseminate these messages on social media. Al-Majd monitors Israeli communication with citizens in Gaza and tracks attempts to collect information from them. The website explained, “The Israeli intelligence aims to morally assassinate the resistance members, to undermine the popular base’s confidence in the resistance and to distract the resistance fighters from focusing on [military] development and training. This was not achieved.””

Gantz: Iran giving militias drone training near Isfahan, sharing know-how with Gaza,

“In what his office described as a new disclosure, Gantz said Iran was using Kashan airbase north of Isfahan to train “terror operatives from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in flying Iranian-made UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles)”. Iran was also trying to “transfer know-how that would allow the manufacturing of UAVs in the Gaza Strip,” on Israel’s southern border, Gantz told a conference at Reichman University near Tel Aviv.”

With rockets and rhetoric, Hamas seeks to leverage Palestinian prisoner escape,

“Hamas, aiming to capitalize on the public euphoria after Palestinian prisoners escaped from an Israeli prison last week, said it would demand the release of the men who have been rearrested as it remained committed to fighting. Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas militant arm, al-Qassam Brigades, spoke during a weekend of rocket fire exchanges with Israel that threatened to shatter a fragile four-month cease-fire. “An upcoming exchange deal will only take place with the liberation of these heroes,” he said Saturday night. “If the heroes of the Freedom Tunnel have liberated themselves this time from underground, we promise them and our free prisoners that they will be liberated soon, God willing, from above ground.” The video statement was released after rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Overnight Saturday, Israeli fighter jets and helicopters struck three Hamas targets in Gaza.”

West Bank & Jerusalem

Palestinian shot dead after attempted stabbing in Jerusalem's Old City,

“The Palestinian Authority identified the suspect as Hazem al-Julani, a doctor who used to work at a hospital near Tel Aviv. On Friday, he was taken to Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem where he died of his gunshot wounds. According to Army Radio, security forces raided his home and arrested several relatives.”

At Least Two Wounded in Stabbing in Central Jerusalem; Suspect Shot,

“At least two people were moderately wounded Monday in a suspected stabbing attack outside Jerusalem’s central bus station, in the city center. Police said the suspect was shot, and his situation remains unclear. He is being treated at the scene, police said. The two victims, young Haredi men, were taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the city. Earlier on Monday, a 27-year-old Palestinian was shot by Israeli forces after an attempted stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction, south of Bethlehem, the Israeli military said. His condition remains unclear.”

Palestinians injured as Israel fires teargas at protesters in Hebron,

“According to Wafa, Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian residents in the Bab Al-Zawyeh area in central Hebron. Occupation soldiers stationed at the military checkpoint at the entrance to Al-Shuhada Street stormed the city centre after firing tear gas canisters and stun grenades toward Palestinians and their shops, forcing the shops to close. Israeli occupation forces stormed the village of Masafer Yatta to the south of Hebron, raiding and searching a number of houses. A 54-year-old Palestinian was detained during the raids.”

Why Israel wants Palestinians to have guns,

“As we grew older, the story of the “gun-infested” Palestinian community in Lyd, which continues to this day, became the story of all Palestinian towns and villages in ‘48 (Israel). Murder rates are breaking records every year, with 80 Palestinian citizens killed so far since January, the vast majority by firearms. Gun Free Kitchen Table, a leading coalition that works on this issue, estimates that Palestinian citizens today may have more unlicensed firearms — most of which came from the Israeli military’s stockpiles — than those registered by the Israeli army, police, private security companies, and settlers combined (in 2013, those numbers were about 400,000 compared to 330,000, respectively, and are certainly higher today)…The idea of putting guns into the hands of Palestinians and “watch ‘em kill each other” is being applied in full force in the West Bank, too. Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority made a pact with the Israeli establishment to preserve what President Mahmoud Abbas described as “sacred” security coordination: a collaborative system that allows the PA and the Israeli army to arrest, suppress, and even kill any Palestinian who is perceived as a threat by Israel.”

The Israeli Scene

Netanyahu trial resumes after three-month delay,

“The public corruption trial of former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu resumed at Jerusalem District Court on Monday after a three-month hiatus. Despite the delay, the case is considered a major contributing factor that has led to the formation of the current coalition and the dethroning of Netanyahu.”

Zionism has no space for an Arab Jew like me,

“In our traditional Jewish home, observing our Syrian-Palestinian heritage and culture came with ease. Jewishness and Arabness fit together cohesively — there was no contradiction. But outside our home, my faith and culture clashed. The State of Israel conditioned me to see the intersection of “Jewish” and “Arab” as non-existent or impossible, even though Arab Jews have lived at this intersection for years. I learned that in order to belong to Israeli society and participate in the Zionist project, I had to reject parts of myself — the Arab parts. Zionism teaches that “Arabs” are the enemies of the Jews, and, in doing so, it completely fragmented my identity…Zionism created a racial caste system, positioning Jews of European descent, known as Ashkenazim, above everyone else. Jewish communities who were Arab or resembled Arabness were categorized as Mizrahim, Oriental Jews, and treated as inferior. Not only were we ripped out of our ancestral homes of thousands of years, but upon arrival to the newly-founded Israel, Mizrahi immigrants experienced harsh racism and were placed in ma’abarot, or transit camps. There are countless examples of the State of Israel’s ongoing racism against Mizrahim. In the 1950s Israeli authorities kidnapped thousands of Mizrahi babies, and illegally put them up for adoption with childless Ashkenazi families. The parents were told their children had died. Around that same time, a senior Israeli doctor conducted experimental radiation on thousands of Arab Jewish children for ringworm, a non-lethal skin infection, and the treatment was later discovered to cause cancer and other illnesses. The view of “Jewish liberation” under Zionism clearly did not include all Jews, nor did it treat all Jews as equal. European Zionism was rooted in an imperialist, colonial attitude that sought to create a European country in Palestine. This not only meant a war against the indigenous Palestinian communities on the land, but also a cultural war against the identities and traditions of Arab Jews. Arabness itself became the enemy of the state, and anything that resembled Arabness needed to be demeaned, disguised, or destroyed.”

News from the Region, Diplomacy, Etc

Israel's Bennett, Egypt's Sissi Meet for the First Time in Sinai,

“For the first time since taking office, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is in Egypt on Monday to meet with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, the Egyptian Presidency said. This is the first formal, public meeting between leaders of both countries in a decade. According to the statement from Cairo, the two leaders were expected to discuss “a number of bilateral issues in various fields,” as well as “ways and efforts to revive the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians.”


Also See

Ambassadors to mark first anniversary of Abraham Accords,

“The event, scheduled for next Tuesday, was organized by the Abraham Accords Peace Institute, a nonpartisan organization created earlier this year to increase trade and tourism between Israel and the Middle Eastern and North African countries with which it normalized ties last year. AAPI’s executive director, Robert Greenway, who served as senior director for the Middle East at the National Security Council under former President Donald Trump, will moderate a panel with the Israeli, Bahrain and Emirati ambassadors, following an address by Jared Kushner, the former senior advisor to the president who created the Institute and provided its initial funding. There are two goals for the event, which will take place at Georgetown’s Four Seasons Hotel: “The first is to discuss the progress made in the Accords,” Greenway told Jewish Insider. “Number two is to discuss the potential — what is really possible going forward,” including Greenway’s hope that additional countries will enter into their own agreements with the Jewish state. “

Who do they think they are? Israel tells US to ease off Saudi, Egypt human rights,

“The gall of Israel instructing the U.S. to prioritize Israeli foreign policy preferences aside, it is hardly surprising that Biden will not hold Saudi Arabia and Egypt accountable for human rights abuses. The Biden team increasingly orients foreign policy around the perceived threat posed by China. Israel’s exhortation against alienating Arab partners for fear of pushing them closer to China already reflects the thinking of many in the White House.”

Gulf Air to launch flights between Bahrain and Israel,

“Bahrain’s Gulf Air announced via Twitter on Thursday that it will begin two weekly, direct flights to Tel Aviv starting on Sept. 30. Ambassador Houda Nonoo, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain and former ambassador to the United States, tweeted: “I will always remember that moment when I learned that #Bahrain would be establishing relations with #Israel. There has been tremendous momentum this past year and I am just as excited today as I was then.””

UAE trade with Israel passes $500m mark,

“Trade between the UAE and Israel amounted to $523.2 million in the first half of 2021, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce (FICC) revealed on Sunday. In 2020, trade volume was $188.9 million, an increase of around 177 per cent. Excluding diamonds, the FICC said, trade between the two countries totaled $229 million between January and June this year, up 143 per cent from $94.2 million in the whole of 2020. An estimated 200,000 Israelis have visited the UAE since the normalisation of ties under last year’s Abraham Accords. Around 40 Israeli companies have been established in UAE free-trade zones. The normalisation deal was signed on 15 September 2020 in a ceremony at the White House.”

The U.S.

Department Press Briefing – September 10, 2021,

QUESTION: Okay, great. Thank you, Jalina. Really two quick questions; they are both – they’re related. It’s about the Palestinian-Israeli issue. The Times of Israel saying that their administration is pressing the PA to withdraw its efforts at the ICC. I wonder if you could confirm or deny that. And second – the Israeli prime minister, Mr. Naftali Bennett, met with settlers yesterday, and he basically told them that he will not stop, not freeze West Bank settlement construction. I wonder what is your comment on that. Thank you.


MS PORTER: Said, I’ll start with your second question first. On settlements, we’ve said it before and we’ll – it’s worth repeating that we believe it’s critical for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to refrain from any unilateral steps that would exacerbate tensions and also undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution. Of course, that includes settlement activity. To your first question, I’ll say that the United States firmly opposes the ICC investigation into the Palestinian situation. We’ll continue to uphold our strong commitment to Israel and its security, and that includes by opposing actions that seek to target Israel unfairly. The ICC has no jurisdiction over this matter, and Israel is not a party to the ICC and has not consented to the court’s jurisdiction. And we have serious concerns about the ICC’s attempt to exercise its jurisdiction over Israeli personnel.

Arizona sells Unilever bonds over Ben & Jerry’s Israel move,

“Arizona has sold off $93 million in Unilever bonds and plans to sell the remaining $50 million it has invested in the global consumer products company over subsidiary Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling its ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories, the latest in a series of actions by states with anti-Israel boycott laws. The investment moves state Treasurer Kimberly Yee announced this week were mandated by a 2019 state law that bars Arizona government agencies from holding investments or doing more than $100,000 in business with any firm that boycotts Israel or its territories. Arizona appears to be the first of 35 states with anti-boycott laws or regulation to have fully divested itself from Unilever following Ben & Jerry’s actions. Illinois warned the company in July that it had 90 days after its investment board met to change course or it too would sell. Florida and other states have taken similar action, according to IAC For Action, the policy and legislative arm for the Israeli-American Council.”