Palestine in Pictures: February 2023

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Burnt cars in the Palestinian town of Huwwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on 28 February after hundreds of settlers guarded by soldiers attacked homes, shops and vehicles two days earlier. (Oren Ziv, ActiveStills)

Israeli occupation forces and settlers killed 28 Palestinians in the West Bank during February – an average of one fatality per day – according to The Electronic Intifada’s tracking based on reports from media outlets and human rights groups.

Seven Israelis were killed during what occupation authorities said were attacks by Palestinians during the month. That figure includes a police officer who was shot by an Israeli civilian guard after he was allegedly stabbed by a 13-year-old Palestinian in the Shuafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem on 13 February.

Tor Wennesland, the UN secretary-general’s Middle East envoy, told the Security Council in late February that “we are witnessing a surge in violence, including some of the deadliest incidents in nearly 20 years.”

A coalition of Palestinian civil society groups meanwhile urged the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor to “urgently issue a preventive statement to deter the commission of more crimes by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians.”

More than half of all Palestinian fatalities in February occurred during two separate raids.

Five Palestinians were reportedly killed during a raid in Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho on 6 February. The deadly raid followed a 10-day siege after what Israel said was an attempted shooting attack during which a Palestinian allegedly fired one bullet at a road junction.

Israel announced that five were killed and three were arrested during the raid. But the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq said that “the actual fate of those Palestinians remains unknown as Israel continues to withhold the bodies of those killed” and those arrested were “illegally transferred” into Israel.

Eleven people were killed during a daytime incursion into Nablus’ city center on 22 February – the single deadliest Israeli operation in the West Bank since the UN began tracking data in 2005.

The second most deadly Israeli operation during that period occurred in January, when occupation forces killed 9 Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp; a 10th person later died from his injuries.

Among those killed during the Nablus raid were a boy and at least two men over the age of 60 and three armed resistance activists who were apparently extrajudicially executed when Israel applied the pressure cooker procedure on a structure in which they were hiding.

Video documentation of the raid shows Israel using lethal force against Palestinians in an apparently wanton manner. Dozens of Palestinians were injured by live fire.

Sixty-seven Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, or died from injuries sustained previously, according to The Electronic Intifada’s monitoring.


On 3 February, Abdullah Qalalweh, 25, was shot and killed by soldiers after he reportedly ran towards them at Huwwara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus and didn’t heed their commands to stop.

On 7 February, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 16-year-old Hamza Amjad Yousif Ashqar as Palestinian youth confronted occupation forces during a raid in Nablus.

Two days later, Sharif Hasan Rabbaa, 22, was shot and killed after allegedly attempting to stab soldiers in Fawwar refugee camp near the West Bank city of Hebron.

On 10 February, Hussein Qaraqe was apparently extrajudicially executed by an off-duty police officer after he crashed his car into a group of people at a bus stop in Ramot, a settlement in the occupied West Bank north of Jerusalem.

Three Israelis, including two children, were killed in addition to Qaraqe. Israel alleges that the crash was a car ramming attack but the driver’s family said that Qaraqe lived with severe psychological difficulties resulting from a fall from a crane years earlier.

Qaraqe was released from a psychiatric ward after experiencing a psychotic episode in the days before the deadly crash. A relative told Israeli media that Qaraqe was heavily medicated and denied that it was a “terror attack,” as claimed by Israeli authorities.

On 11 February, 27-year-old Mithqal Suleiman Rayyan was shot in the head and killed by a settler in Qarawat Bani Hassan, a town near Salfit. The town’s mayor said that settlers, who frequently attack the community, had provoked residents, who attempted to defend themselves by throwing stones.

Palestinians in Qarawat Bani Hassan told Israeli media that witnesses who can identify the settlers who killed Rayyan were not interviewed by Israeli authorities.

The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din points to “a longstanding systemic failure” by Israeli authorities in response to settler violence against Palestinians.

The following day, an Israeli sniper shot and killed Qusai Radwan Yousif Waked, 14, during a daytime raid in Jenin refugee camp. The teen, who was unarmed, was standing some 100 feet between three armed men “when an Israeli sniper exchanged fire” with the latter, according to Defense for Children International-Palestine.

Another Palestinian, 21-year-old Amir Bustami, was shot and killed during a raid in Nablus on 13 February.

The following day, an Israeli sniper shot and killed 17-year-old Majid Muhammad Ayed while Palestinians confronted raiding occupation forces in al-Faraa refugee camp near Nablus.

Also on 14 February, Harun Abu Aram, 25, died from injuries sustained when he was shot by Israeli soldiers in the Masafer Yatta area south of Hebron in 2021. Abu Aram and others were trying to take back an electricity generator that soldiers had confiscated from a family when he was paralyzed by an Israeli bullet.

On 20 February, two days before Israel’s deadly raid in Nablus, 16-year-old Muntaser Muhammad Deeb Shawa died from wounds sustained while he was participating in confrontations against Israeli soldiers during an incursion in Balata refugee camp on 8 February. Soldiers had raided the Nablus area in order to escort Israeli settlers to Joseph’s Tomb, a flashpoint of deadly occupation violence.

Another Palestinian, 30-year-old Ahmad Nabil Sabah, died on 23 February after being shot in the stomach during a raid in Jenin on 12 February. Sabah was reportedly a fighter with the Jenin Brigade.

On 24 February, 22-year-old Ahmad Jawabreh died one day after being shot by Israeli forces during confrontations in Arroub refugee camp near Hebron.

Huwwara attack

Sameh Aqtash, 37, was killed in Huwwara, near Nablus, on 26 February as hundreds of settlers attacked the town, hours after two Israelis were shot dead by a Palestinian assailant who has evaded capture.

Aqtash’s family contends that he was killed by soldiers.

Days before he was killed, Aqtash had returned from Turkey, where he was volunteering to support earthquake victims.

Two other Palestinians were shot and wounded during the rampage, another was stabbed and another beaten with an iron bar. Nearly 100 Palestinians were injured as a result of inhaling tear gas fired by the military.

During their eight-hour siege on Huwwara, Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian homes and businesses, as well as trees and vehicles. The Israeli military “facilitated” the attack, according to Al-Haq, “by closing off all the entrances to the town in advance” and by “permitting the entrance of hundreds of settlers by foot and preventing the entry of medics and journalists.”

Earlier in the day, a settler leader put out a call for Huwwara to be “wiped out.” The settler leader’s tweet – which was liked by Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, newly appointed to head the civil administration in the West Bank – stated that “the deterrence that was lost must return now, there’s no room for mercy.”

The call to “wipe out” Huwwara was repeated by Smotrich and Zvika Fogel, a lawmaker in the former’s Jewish Power party, in the following days.

One day after the attack in Huwwara, Elan Ganeles, a 27-year-old dual US-Israeli citizen and Israeli army veteran, was shot and killed while driving in the Jordan Valley of the West Bank.

On 1 March, 22-year-old Mahmoud Jamal Hasan Hamdan was shot and killed during a raid into Aqbat Jaber refugee camp, which had been under siege following the slaying of Ganeles.

Israeli authorities said that “two suspects” in the killing of Ganeles were captured during the raid.

And on 2 March, Israeli forces shot and killed 17-year-old Muhammad Nidal Ibrahim Salim in the town of Azzoun, near the West Bank city of Qalqilya. Defense for Children International-Palestine said that the teen was the 14th Palestinian child killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.

Also during February, a 75-year-old Israeli man died eight months after he was injured by an ax blow to his head during an attack in Elad, a city in Israel. His death brings to four the number of people who were allegedly slain by two Palestinians who were arrested after a 60-hour manhunt.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian prisoner died in Israeli custody with less than two years remaining in his 12-year sentence. The Palestinian Prisoners Club accused Israeli prison authorities of “deliberate procrastination” in providing Ahmad Abu Ali, 47, with necessary medical treatment.

More than 100 Palestinians were reported among the more than 50,000 people killed in catastrophic earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria on 6 February.

A Palestinian man observes the rubble after Israeli forces demolished two homes in Duma, a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, on 2 February. (Wahaj Bani Moufleh, ActiveStills)

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas attends the signing of a financial support package from the European Union in the West Bank city of Ramallah 2 February. (Thaer Ganaim, APA images)

Ahmed Abu Jazar is welcomed by friends and relatives in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, following his release after 19 years in Israeli prison, 3 February. (Ashraf Amra, APA images)

A Palestinian woman cooks during a rainy day in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on 4 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

A protester carries a sign reading “Palestinian lives matter” in Paris, France, soon after a state visit by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, 4 February. The French president met with Netanyahu without publicly criticizing his new far-right government and the rise of violence, including extra-judicial killings, against Palestinians in the West Bank and elsewhere. Anne Paq, ActiveStills

Israeli protesters carry a banner with the names of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the context of the occupation in January during a mass protest against the far-right government in Tel Aviv, 4 February. Oren Ziv, ActiveStills

Barriers placed by the Israeli military block the road at Huwwara checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus after a Jewish settler’s car was hit by stones on 6 February. Mohammed Nasser, APA images

Palestinians protest in solidarity with political prisoners in Israeli jails and in protest of punitive measures against them in front of the Gaza City offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, 6 February. Belal Salem, APA images

Relatives of Abdulkarim Abu Jalhoum, who died with his wife and their four children in the deadly earthquake in Turkey, mourn in their home in Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, 8 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Palestinians protest after the Israeli military closed Huwwara checkpoint, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, 10 February. Mohammed Nasser, APA images

Israeli emergency responders at the scene where a Palestinian driver struck several people at a bus stop near an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, killing three and seriously injuring several others, 10 February. Ilia Yefimovich, DPA

Palestinian artist Mohammed Totah with his sand sculpture expressing solidarity with Turkey and Syria following a devastating earthquake, Gaza City, 11 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Mourners carry the body of Mithkal Suleiman Rayyan, 27, shot dead by Jewish settlers in the village of Qarawat Bani Hassan, during his funeral procession near the northern West Bank city of Nablus on 12 February. Mohammed Nasser, APA images

Palestinians inspect a site in Gaza City hit in an Israeli airstrike, 13 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Palestinians harvest flowers for Valentine’s Day in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on 14 February. Valentine’s Day is increasingly popular in the region as people have taken up the custom of giving flowers, cards, chocolates and gifts to sweethearts to celebrate the occasion. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Mourners attend the funeral of 17-year-old Mahmoud Ayed, shot and killed by Israeli forces during a raid, at al-Faraa refugee camp near the West Bank town of Tubas on 14 February. Stringer, APA images

Palestinians hold Friday prayers next to a building that houses 13 Palestinian families and is threatened with demolition by Israeli authorities in Silwan, East Jerusalem, 17 February. Oren Ziv, ActiveStills

Fatma Falah makes a basket with palm leaves using a traditional method at her family’s home in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on 18 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Israeli soldiers attempt to violently remove activists from a checkpoint in the Masafer Yatta area of the West Bank on 18 February. Israeli and international activists blocked the military checkpoint in protest against restrictions on Palestinian residents’ movement and plans to expel them. Heather Sharona Weiss, ActiveStills

Palestinian Sufis celebrate the Islamic holiday of Isra Miraj in the old city of Nablus on 18 February. The holiday marks what Muslims believe is the Prophet Mohammad’s journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and it is believed to be followed by his ascension to heaven. Shadi Jarar’ah, APA images

Israelis protest against the Netanyahu government’s judicial reforms outside Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem. Ilia Yefimovich, DPA

A Palestinian laborer works at the construction site of Rafah hospital in the southern Gaza Strip on 22 February. Atia Darwish, APA images

Palestinians confront occupation forces during an Israeli military raid in the West Bank city of Nablus on 22 February. Ten Palestinians were killed by live fire during the raid and one man over the age of 60 died from tear gas inhalation. Wajed Nobani, APA images

Damage at the site where Israeli forces killed Palestinians during a raid in the West Bank city of Nablus the previous day, 23 February. Mohammed Nasser, APA images

Palestinians protest in the West Bank city of Hebron on the 29th anniversary of the Ibrahimi mosque massacre, 24 February. On that day in 1994, an American-born settler opened fire inside the mosque during drawn prayers, killing 29 Palestinian men and boys and wounding more than 100 others. Mamoun Wazwaz, APA images

A Palestinian holds a tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces towards Palestinian protesters during a demonstration near the Israel-Gaza boundary in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, 24 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

A Palestinian man walks by a car set on fire by Jewish settlers in Burin village near the West Bank city of Nablus, 25 February. Ghassan Daghlas, a local Palestinian official, said that a group of settlers attacked homes on the outskirts of the village and hurled stones at them, terrorizing residents. Shadi Jarar’ah, APA images

Palestinians in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, protest against the deadly Israeli raid in Nablus on 26 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Palestinian students protest in support of armed resistance and against “security coordination” with Israel in Gaza City on 26 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Israeli occupation forces gather at the scene of a shooting attack in Huwwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, on 26 February. Two Israeli brothers who lived in a nearby settlement were killed in the attack by a gunman who evaded Israeli capture. Mohammed Nasser, APA images

Palestinians enjoy themselves during a traditional folk event near the boundary fence between Israel and Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on 27 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Israeli settlers gather in Huwwara near the West Bank city of Nablus on 27 February. The previous day, hundreds of settlers attacked the town following the shooting death of two Israelis who lived in a nearby settlement. Shadi Jarar’ah, APA images

Palestinians in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, donate blood during a solidarity campaign with Turkey and Syria following a deadly earthquake, 8 February. Ashraf Amra, APA images

Nawal Dumeidi looks at the burned entryway to her home in Huwwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, after the town was attacked by hundreds of settlers two days earlier, 28 February. Oren Ziv, ActiveStills

Hady Amr (sixth from the right), the US special representative for Palestinian affairs, stands among community leaders as they look at remains of a car torched by Jewish settlers in Huwwara on 28 February. US State Department spokesman Ned Price says the Biden administration expects Israel to prosecute those responsible for the deadly settler rampage of Huwwara and provide compensation for the Palestinians whose homes and property were destroyed or damaged. Eyal Warshavsky, SOPA Images


Victory for Khalil

182-day Palestinian hunger striker to be released

madison4pali on Instagram

Yesterday, we planned to hold a demonstration to #FreeKhalil, the 182-day Palestinian hunger-striker protesting his evidence-free incarceration — but then we learned that Khalil suspended his hunger strike in exchange for an October 2 release, so we canceled our demonstration and instead a handful of us went to the Capitol and covered the State Street entrance with pro-Palestine, pro-resistance, and messages of victory 🇵🇸❤️‍🔥

Khalil Awawdeh Announces End to Hunger Strike

The Palestinian hunger striker, whose images shocked the world amid his more than 170-day strike, has ended his strike after striking a deal to be released

Palestinian administrative prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been on a hunger strike for more than 170 days with a two week pause, is seen at Assaf Harofeh hospital in Be’er Ya’akov, Israel, last week. Credit: Sinan Abu Mayzer/Reuters

Hagar Shezaf, Haaretz, Aug 31, 2022

Khalil Awawdeh, whose lawyers have warned he could die at any moment over 170 days into his hunger strike, announced that he is ending his strike after an agreement was reached to end his administrative detention on October 2nd.

In a video, Awawdeh said he will stay in the hospital for treatment and supervision until he recovers.

“This is another victory in the series of wins for administrative detainees who led a struggle for their release and freedom. I am ending the strike after I received word of my victory.”

Awawdeh’s wife celebrated the news of her husband’s release. “Khalil proved that the Palestinian prisoner can achieve victory over the occupation.”

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the “historic campaign he led will be recorded in the annals of Palestinian struggle.”

A senior Egyptian source told Haaretz that Egyptian officials were part of backdoor talks with Israel to secure Awawdeh’s release, which was apparently a condition promised as part of the recent ceasefire agreement in the Gaza Strip. The source added that talks to secure senior Islamic Jihad commander Bassam al-Saadi’s release are still under way.

Back by an Egyptian guarantee, Awawdeh signed that he will not return to “terrorist activities” as a condition of his October 2 release, an Israeli security source said, adding that Israel will release him as long as there is no reason to believe otherwise.

Weighing under 90 pounds, Awawdeh’s photos shocked the world and led world leaders to urge Israel to either release him or charge him in court. On Tuesday, Israel’s High Court rejected a petition demanding his release and an end to his administrative detention, a practice employed by Israel to hold political prisoners indefinitely without trial.

Dr. Bettina Birmans, a neurologist who volunteers at Physicians for Human Rights visited Awawdeh last Friday. In her opinion, which was submitted with the petition for his release, Birmans said that compared to summaries of previous tests Awawdeh has undergone, there has been a deterioration in his condition – he can barely move his limbs, is unable to complete sentences, suffers from weakness and pain throughout his body, and is experiencing deterioration of his eyesight, memory, and cognitive function.

Israel has provided few details about the accusations facing Awawdeh. An Israeli military spokesperson said last week his detention had been confirmed several times by military courts “and it was determined that the confidential material in his case indicates that his release will threaten the security of the area.”

Awawdeh was recently transferred from Ramle Prison to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Israel due to his failing health.

Earlier this month, the Israeli military temporarily suspended the administrative detention order against Awawdeh because his condition was deteriorating. However, Israel’s High Court rejected an appeal to release him — the judges wrote that the court has no room to intervene in the decision to keep Awawdeh under arrest despite his condition.

Israel’s top court rejects 2nd petition to release Awawdeh

A video showing Khalil Awawdeh and the toll his detention has taken on his body was shared on Monday, where he urged the world to stop Israel from detaining Palestinians without charge.

Awawdeh was detained on 27 December last year near Hebron in the southern West Bank [Getty]
Awawdeh was detained on 27 December last year near Hebron in the southern West Bank [Getty]

New Arab Staff, 30 August, 2022

The Israeli Supreme Court has rejected a second petition to release Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian prisoner detained without charge by Israeli forces, on the 171st day of his hunger strike to protest his administrative detention.

The Israeli government, judiciary and military continue to illegally practice administrative detention, according to rights group Adalah, and are consequently endangering Awawdah’s life.

Administrative detention is “incarceration without trial or charge, alleging that a person plans to commit a future offense,” according to B’TSelem’s website, a Jerusalem based human rights organisation.

“The systematic violation of the most basic human rights of Palestinians amounts to crimes against humanity, which necessitate immediate international action,” tweeted Adalah on Tuesday. 

A video of Khalil Awawdeh was shared by the Samidoun Network on Twitter on Monday, showing the toll his detention and hunger strike has taken on his body. 

“Oh, free people of the world,” Awahdeh said in the video, “this suffering body, of which nothing remains but skin and bones, does not reflect a weakness and vulnerability of the Palestinian people, but rather is a mirror reflecting the true face of the occupation which claims to be a ‘democratic state’, at a time when it holds a prisoner without any charges in the brutal administrative detention, taking a stand against it, to say: No to administrative detention! No to administrative detention!”

“We are a people who have a just cause that will remain a just cause, and we will always stand against administrative detention, this injustice, even if the skin is gone, even if the bone deteriorates, even if the soul is gone,” he added. 

Awawdeh was detained on 27 December last year near Hebron in the southern West Bank. He has since been abused by prison authorities, and subjected to solitary confinement.

Khalil Awawdeh’s time is running out

Palestinian detainee Khalil Awawdeh

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, 30 Aug 2022

Geneva – Palestinian administrative detainee Khalil Awawdeh is suffering from an acute case of dyspnea and severe problems in all his vitals due to his continued hunger strike. His time is rapidly running out, Euro-Med Monitor said in a statement.

Awawdeh's health condition has become more critical than ever as he has been on hunger strike since 3 March (more than 170 days) in protest of the Israeli authorities’ refusal to release him.

The detainee emphasized that his continued detention, given his deteriorating health, means he is sentenced to a slow death.

Awawdeh's case requires immediate intervention from all parties involved to preserve his life and end his ongoing suffering since his administrative detention on 27 December 2021.

   The suffering of Palestinian detainee Khalil Awawdeh from severe breathing difficulties clearly indicates that his life could end at any moment   

Nour Olwan, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Media Officer

Today, the Israeli Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Awawdeh's lawyer to release him, based on a medical report documenting his significant deterioration in recent days.

The wife of Awawdeh, who lies at the Israeli Assaf Harofeh hospital, told the Euro-Medi Monitor team that her husband has major breathing problems, a sharp drop in haemoglobin and blood sugar levels, and he is unable to speak, walk, or move his limbs. Moreover, he suffers from a significant decline in awareness and cognition and severe weight loss.

Following his arrest last year, an Israeli court issued a six-month administrative detention order against Awawdeh, which was later extended for another four months.

On 19 August, an Israeli court froze the administrative detention order against him but refused to release him, meaning he could be transferred from the hospital back to the prison if his health improves.

Khalil Awawdeh, 40, is from Idhna in the Hebron governorate in the southern West Bank. He has four daughters, the oldest of whom is nine years old and the youngest is one and a half.

Following a widely practised policy of administrative detention in the Palestinian territories, Israeli authorities arbitrarily confiscate the freedom of Palestinian civilians. As of August, the number of administrative detainees has surpassed 720.

Administrative detainees are held for months or years without indictment, and lawyers are frequently denied access to the evidence the court relies on for extending detention orders. The evidence is allegedly classified intelligence information, in blatant violation of fair trial guarantees and conditions.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Israel in 1991, prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention and states, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.”

Nour Olwan, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Media Officer, said, “The suffering of Palestinian detainee Khalil Awawdeh from severe breathing difficulties clearly indicates that his life could end at any moment, and warns of the need to take all possible measures to save his life as soon as possible.”

“It appears that the Israeli authorities are purposefully prolonging Awawdeh's suffering, even if it puts his life in danger, to thwart attempts to rebel against the policy of administrative detention and discourage Palestinian detainees from carrying out protests,” she added.

Olwan warned that if urgent steps to save Awawdeh's life are not taken, he will join the list of about 228 other Palestinians who have died in Israeli prisons since 1967, more than 70 of whom died as a result of health deterioration and the policy of medical neglect in prisons.

Israeli authorities must immediately release Palestinian detainee Khalil Awawdeh, end his administrative detention, and provide him with all necessary medical care in a manner that ensures his safety and eliminates the danger to his life.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention must actively pursue the issue of administrative detention in Palestinian territories, using all available means to pressure Israel to end this arbitrary policy.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor is a Geneva-based independent organization with regional offices across the MENA region and Europe

Photos of Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike raise concerns

A protest in solidarity with Khalil Awawdeh, a Palestinian prisoner who is on hunger strike, 1 August 2022 [Mahmoud Nasser/ApaImages]

Middle East Monitor, August 29, 2022

Photos of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been held in Israeli administrative detention without charges, went viral on social media yesterday, raising concerns about the deterioration of his health.

The pictures showed Awawda, 40, with a slender body resembling a skeleton as a result of his hunger strike, which has been ongoing for the 169th day successively.

Awawdeh is from the town of Ithna, west of Hebron. He has been on hunger strike for more than six months in protest against his administrative detention by the Israeli authorities.

Photos of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner Khalil Awawdeh, who has been held in Israeli administrative detention without charges, went viral on social media yesterday, raising concerns about the deterioration of his health [Al Watan]

Earlier this month, an Israeli court suspended Awawdeh’s detention to allow him to receive medical care, citing his failing health.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said that the decision to freeze Awawdeh’s detention based on medical data and reports by the hospital indicate that his life is in danger. But if his health condition improves and he decides to leave the hospital, his administrative detention will resume immediately, the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club added.

EU calls for release of Palestinian hunger striker Awawdeh, Al Jazeera, 29 Aug 2022

‘Blinding the truth’: Israeli snipers target Gaza protesters in the eyes

Twelve-year-old Mohammed Al-Najar was shot in his eye by Israeli soldiers [Getty]

Tareq Hajjaj and Pam Bailey, The New Arab — Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 20 December, 2019

    To date, Gaza's Ministry of Health reports that 50 protesters have been shot in the eye by Israeli soldiers since the demonstrations began last March leaving them permanently blind.

Tags: Gaza, Gazans, Great Return March, Israel, snipers, rubber bullets, eyes, injuries

Media coverage and social media posts went wild when Palestinian photojournalist Muath Amarneh was blinded in his left eye after he was hit by a rubber bullet while covering a protest in the West Bank. 

However, Amarneh was far from unique; Israeli snipers targeting participants in Gaza’s weekly Great Return March protests have aimed for the legs – and eyes. To date, Gaza’s Ministry of Health reports that 50 protesters have been shot in the eye since the demonstrations began March 30, 2018 – leaving them permanently blind.

“Some of these protesters and journalists were hit in the eye with teargas canisters, but most were targeted directly with what is commonly called a ‘rubber bullet,’ giving the impression they are somehow benign,” says Ashraf Alqedra, MD, a treating physician at Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital and spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.

“But there is still steel at the core, and although these bullets don’t usually kill, they do grave damage. It is impossible to save an eye hit directly by a rubber-coated steel bullet.”

However, he adds, due to the Israeli blockade, there are no artificial, glass eyes in Gaza – only a cosmetic improvement, but one that can be a significant psychological aid. These are available only by travelling out of Gaza for treatment and permits for such journeys are often not granted.

According to data released by the World Health Organization, Gaza residents submitted 25,897 applications to travel via Erez Crossing to receive medical treatment in the West Bank or Israel; an average of 2,158 were submitted each month. However, the Israeli government only approved 61 percent.

Mai Abu Rwedah: the most recent victim

Mai Abu Rwedah, 20, grew up in north Gaza’s al-Bureij Refugee Camp in a family of nine children supported by a father who works as a janitor for a UN school. She just graduated from university, hoping to start her professional life as a medical secretary and contribute her income.

But that dream was dealt a severe blow December 6, when she became the most recent Gazan to lose an eye to an Israeli bullet.

Abu Rwedah believes in using peaceful, but active, resistance to reclaim Palestinians’ right to return to their ancestral homeland. So, she has joined participants in the Great Return March protest since its launch on March 30, 2018.

On September 21 of that year, she was shot by a rubber-coated bullet in one of her legs, but that didn’t stop her from participating; she kept on going.

Doctors had to extract Mai’s right eye and the bullet damaged her jaw as well
A sit-in protest takes place in Gaza in solidarity with Mai 

Earlier this month, stood with a few friends about 100 metres from the fence that marks the border between Gaza and Israel. She glimpsed an Israeli soldier waving and pointing his finger to his eye.

“He was trying to intimidate me, but I was not afraid because I was doing nothing wrong. I wasn’t even throwing stones,” Abu Rwedeh recalls.

The soldiers fired tear gas then, and Mai and her friends ran away, but still were in sight of the young man who had threatened her.

“He was watching me; wherever I moved he kept watching. Then, suddenly, he raised his gun and pointed it at me. I was about to flee but he was too fast. He shot me in my eye.”

The bullet damaged her jaw as well. Doctors had to extract her right eye, since it was destroyed, Her determination, however, is intact. Abu Rwedeh continues to protest.

He was watching me; wherever I moved he kept watching. Then, suddenly, he raised his gun and pointed it at me. I was about to flee but he was too fast. He shot me in my eye

The youngest victim

Mohammed Al-Najar, 12, is the second-oldest son among four children, supported by a father who works in a wedding hall in Khan Younis.

In January, during the mid-year vacation from school, Mohammed begged his parents to allow him to watch the Friday protest with his cousins and other relatives, thinking it would give him an exciting story to share with classmates. 

He was given permission to ride one of the government buses that collected people from the various neighbourhoods, taking them to the protest sites. When he disembarked, teargas bombs were flying, and he shouted to warn those around him. Then next one hit him directly in his right eye.

When Mohammad learned later that his eye could not be saved, he locked himself in his room and stopped going to school. When he did go back, he struggled.

“At first his marks at school dropped and he isolated himself. He tried to hide his missing eye,” says his mother, Um Edress.

She took to him an organisation that provided psychotherapy, but he refused to speak. Today, he is socialising, but goes quiet when asked about his injury.

When Mohammad learned later that his eye could not be saved,
he locked himself in his room and stopped going to school [Getty]

The journalist

According to Dr Alqedra, most people with eye injuries from the Great Return March are journalists or photographers.

One of them is Sami Musran 35, a photographer who works for Al-Aqsa TV. On July 19, he was shot several times – first in his hand, the next two times in his shoulders and the fourth time in the chest. (Fortunately, he was wearing a bulletproof vest, so it did not harm him.) The last time cost him his left eye.

Sami says he had received several calls from Israeli officers warning him not to take photos at the Great Return March. His mother also received calls, saying her son might be killed.

Forty times, my Facebook account was hacked or deleted for me, and I received death threats as well

“Forty times, my Facebook account was hacked or deleted for me, and I received death threats as well,” he says. “But I decided to keep on with my work to reveal the Israeli crimes against unarmed Palestinians who participate in the march.”

The night before Musran was shot, his wife tried to insist he stay home, but he refused.

“Minutes before I was hit, my mother called me twice, saying she was very worried about me. But I said that nothing happens that isn’t God’s plan,” he recalls.

He was about 250 metres away from of the Israeli fence when two women and a child were shot. Musran was taking photos of them and went in close. That’s when a rubber-coated bullet hit his eye and he lost consciousness. Two days later, he woke up in the intensive care unit to find out he had a skull fracture and an injured eye. The bullet had damaged the iris, retina and cornea and his vision was gone.

Today, it is hard for him to continue with his job; his depth perception is off, he gets headaches and the sight in his remaining eye “fades” at night. But he will keep trying.

“Israel wants to blind the eyes of the truth by sending messages to photographers saying we will hit your eyes to make you stop taking photos,” he says. “But we do not surrender.”

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Caves in the south Hebron Hills bring villages back to life

Ahmad Al-Bazz and Anne Paq, Mondoweiss, February 11, 2019

Anne Paq presented Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost at the 2017 Madison-Rafah Rachel Corrie Commemoration. Based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil, the project profiled the annihilation of Gaza families during the Israeli bombardment in 2014.

Mahmoud Abu Arram, 72 (left) and his family stand in front of a renovated cave in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez in the South Hebron Hills. (Photo:

For weeks under the cloak of night Palestinians secretly renovated four caves and built a tin-roofed house in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez where only a handful of residents live. Last week they opened the homes in a “bringing life back” ceremony.

The event was not announced in advance as to avoid any potential disruption by the Israeli army, locals said.

The caves were refurbished by Palestinians from the southern West Bank villages of Susiya, Masafer Yatta and At-Tuwani who are part of the Protection and Sumud Committee, a local group that seeks to prevent home demolitions, and with support from the Palestinian Authority.

Because of rigid Israeli planning restrictions and frequent settler harassment, most of Ar-Rakeez’s villagers moved to the nearby city of Yatta over the last 20 years. Four families said they will move into the fixed up caves, joining the three families who already live there.

Palestinian youth take shifts maintaining a presence in a cave they renovated. “We want to create life and encourage people to come back,” explains Sami, 21, one of the activists of the “Youth of Sumud” group, Sarura. (Photo:

Screening of a short documentary about activism in the South Hebron Hills from inside a caves that was inaugurated last week, Ar-Rakeez. (Photo:

Ayman Abu Arram, 40, said he will be one of the Palestinians coming back to Ar-Rakeez, “We left in 2004 because of settlers but we never completely left as we were coming from time to time to work on the land. We want to come back.”

“There is no land in Yatta and it is overcrowded. Life is better here, with clean air. I am not afraid of the army or settlers. I decided to come back with my family, and we will stay in the cave for now. We own it,” he said.

Mohammed Abu Arram, 51, who is originally from Ar-Rakeez said he wants to move back. He explained, up until the late 90s there were around nine families in the village. He also said many left due to ongoing “Israeli settler harassment.”

The South Hebron Hills has one of the highest rates of settler harassment in the West Bank. In 2017 the United Nations found 33 Palestinians were killed in violence attributed to settlers.

Extended family of Mohammed Abu Arram, 51, and his wife Hanan, 49. The cave has a simple kitchen and mats. There is no bathroom, which Hanan said is “very difficult,” and indicated they use the facilities at their neighbor’s house. (Photo:

“Life here is more beautiful. We are in our land, we can work on it. My brothers and I have 80 dunums, and we have olive trees and almond trees, but some were destroyed by settlers. I am hoping to have a greenhouse soon, and also to have animals,” Mohammed Abu Arram, 51, said in his newly renovated cave. He left Ar-Rakeez with his family in 2004 following attacks by settlers. (Photo:

Ahmad Mohammed, 72, in front of his newly built home in Ar-Rakeez. He left in 1974 to live in Yatta. “Today, we want to come back, bring back life and make it paradise. Since 10 days, I have started to sleep here everyday. It’s a collective movement, so I feel comfortable to come back. And if they [Israeli forces] demolish, I will build again. For the new generations, I don’t know. Maybe they get use to live in a city like Yatta. But for me, I am from the old generation. I am used to this life. I love the clean air, and it’s quiet. I was born in this area.” The Israeli civil administration recently issued a demolition order for the home. It was constructed three months ago without a permit. (Photo:

The hamlet of Ar-Rakeez is located near the West Bank villages of al-Tuwani and Susiya, and the Israeli settlements of Abigail and Ma’on. The village was almost completely depopulated 20 years ago following harassment from settlers and the Israeli army. After activists renovated dwelling caves, last week four families declared their intention to come back permanently to the village. (Photo:

Ar-Rakeez is located in Area C of the West Bank, an Oslo-era delineation where the Israeli military maintains full security and civil control. For scale, around 60 percent of the West Bank is in Area C. Palestinians living in this region cannot build any permanent structures without an Israeli permit, which are rarely issued as figures indicate. Between 2010 and 2014 only 1.5 percent of Palestinian construction permits were approved in Area C. Last year, a mere five permits were issued.

As a result, many Palestinian houses in Area C are not connected to electrical or water lines, or sanitation services. Israeli forces have also declared some areas in the South Hebron Hills a “firing zone,” or a training ground for the military. With errant bullets from practice sessions and frequent mock raids, Palestinians read such designations as an attempt to expel them. Villagers from Ar-Rakeez said it was a quiet process of “a slow ethnic cleansing.”

Yet in recent years locals have developed a strategy to repopulate abandoned villages by renovating caves, a legal loophole that circumvents Israeli policies of demolishing homes constructed or upgraded without a permit.

A member of the Israeli border police monitors the opening of the caves event in Ar-Rakeez. (Photo:

The “Freedom Sumud camp,” located a few kilometers from Ar-Rakeez, was established two years ago by the residents of Sarura who were forced to leave the area 20 years ago. (Photo:

During Wednesday’s event, Walid Assaf, head of the Commission for Resisting the Wall and Settlements said the efforts to repopulate Ar-Rakeez is part of a larger context of the Palestinian struggle, “It is the same battle in Al Mughayer, Al Khan Al Ahmar, Susiya and here,” adding, “it is about existence.”

In 2017, a local group of young organizers called the Youth of Sumud (sumud is the Arabic word for steadfastness) held the Sumud Freedom camp with the help of international Jewish activists on the site of Sarura, a Palestinian village in the West Bank whose villagers were evicted by Israeli forces in the 1980s and 1990s when the hamlet was converted into a military firing zone. When the protest camp was raided by Israeli forces, all of the temporary structures built by the activists were destroyed. Still, the group has maintained a presence in two caves in Sarura. One of them has a small kitchen, a stove, an outdoor toilet and running water. The group works during the night. This project has allowed some of the families to visit two to three times a week to work in their lands. It also creates hurtles for nearby settlements planning to expand.

Ali Awwad, 20, one of the young activists told Mondoweiss, “The people in Ar-Rakeez follow the model we started in Sarura, and for sure we will support them.”

“Israeli settlements keep expanding. We know that Israelis want to connect the outposts of Abigail and the Ma’on settlement, and we are here to stop the plan,” he said.

Since the Sarura protest camp was established two years ago, Awwad has lived there in a cave with other activists. Once a month he leaves to visit his family in the town of Tubas in the north of the West Bank. “Settlers and soldiers come every week to harass us. Just yesterday they destroyed 22 olive trees we just planted two weeks ago. I have already been arrested three or four times,” he said.

Sami, 21, another activist in the group, helped with the construction “secretly at nighttime so Israeli forces would not confiscate our tools and equipment as they did in the past in Sarura.”

Sami said he was attacked by settlers while at the freedom camp and his leg was fractured in two places. “We did shifts in the night in Sarura. The Israelis gave us a demolition order for the toilet, but they cannot say anything about the cave,” he said.

Ahmad Al-Bazz, born in 1993, is a multi-award winning journalist, photographer and documentary filmmaker based in the West Bank city of Nablus. Ahmad holds an MA degree in Television Studies from the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, and a BA degree in Media and Mass Communication from An-Najah National University in Palestine. Since 2012, Ahmad has been a member of the Activestills documentary photography collective that operates in Palestine/Israel region.

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Anne Paq is an award-winning freelance photographer and videographer who had lived for more than a decade in Palestine. She has been a member of Activestills photo collective since 2006. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and published in various media outlets such as the NY Times Lens, Paris Match, le Nouvel Observateur, Stern, the Guardian. Her work includes documentation of the Palestinian refugees and popular resistance, the Israeli military offensive on Gaza (2012), subcultures and artists in Gaza. She has also led many participatory media projects in the the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. She has co-directed the short film “Bethlehem checkpoint, 4 am” (8’59, 2007), co-produced the award-winning documentary “Flying Paper” (52′, 2013) and co-directed “Return to Seifa” (2015, 10’49) and “Gaza: A Gaping Wound” (13’47). In 2014, she documented the Israeli military operation “Protective Edge” and its aftermath in the Gaza Strip. She is the co-author of the award-winning web documentary “Obliterated Families” which tells the story of the families whose lives were shattered by the 2014 Israeli offensive. In 2017, she won the International Photographer of the Year award, in the editorial documentary section.