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Latest News in Israel – 22nd September

Attack on Israeli Embassy in Turkey foiled, assailant arrested

An attack on the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, was foiled Wednesday, as security guards shot and wounded an assailant near the diplomatic compound’s gate, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said, stressing the embassy’s staff was unharmed. Ankara Police are investigating the incident.

According to available details, the man, named as Osman Nuri Caliskan, had approached Turkish security guards stationed at the embassy’s gate with a knife in hand, and refused to heed their warnings to stop. He was shot in the leg and then arrested.

“The staff is safe. The attacker was wounded before he reached the embassy,” the spokesman said in a text message. “The assailant was shot and wounded by a local security man.”

CNN Turk reported Caliskan shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and “We’ll stop bloodshed in the Middle East,” before charging the guards.

The Ankara Governor’s Office reportedly said that the attacker was mentally unstable, and that no link with any organization had been identified.

Turkish private broadcaster NTV said the incident happened when two people attempted to breach the embassy compound. It was not immediately clear if there was a second would-be assailant, but Turkish

Ahead of the High Holidays, the Counterterrorism Bureau at the Prime Minister’s Office updated list of travel advisories on Monday, which included serious warnings against travel to Turkey and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, two popular vacation destinations.

The most recent advisory urged Israelis to avoid travel to Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Sinai.

Given recent attempts by Islamic extremists to carry out terrorist attacks in a number of countries, especially in the West, the bureau recommended that Israelis flying abroad remain alert.      (Israel Hayom)

Palestinian girl rushes guards in apparent suicide attempt

Security guards at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank shot a 13-year-old Palestinian girl who did not heed their calls to halt on Wednesday morning, in what appears to have been a suicide attempt, the Defense Ministry said.

The incident was initially misreported as an attempted stabbing attack. However, upon searching her possessions, a sapper “did not find anything,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The girl approached the vehicle crossing by foot, holding a bag,” arousing the suspicion of the security guards, the statement said.

They “ordered her to stop and even fired warning shots into the air,” the ministry said, but when the teenager continued approaching despite the calls to halt, the guards “shot her in the legs in order to stop her.”

During an initial investigation of the incident, the teenager said, “I came to die,” according to the ministry.

The girl was lightly injured and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The past year of Palestinian attacks has seen several instances in which teenagers appeared to provoke gunfire from Israeli security forces in order to commit suicide.

One such case, in late April, was echoed in Wednesday’s incident: A Palestinian brother and sister — Maram Hassan Abu Ismail, 23, and her brother Ibrahim Saleh Taha, 16 — were shot dead by Defense Ministry security guards at the Qalandiya crossing in the central West Bank, as they approached a vehicles-only lane on foot.

Initially, police said Abu Ismail then hurled a knife at security personnel before she was shot. A knife was recovered at the scene, and a spokeswoman said a second, identical knife was found on Taha’s belt, along with a Leatherman-style multi-tool.

But as an investigation into the incident was opened, police said they suspect the guards were wrong to shoot the Palestinians, according to a Channel 10 news report. After the incident, police said they would investigate suspicions of unlawful conduct by the guards.

The past week has seen a renewed surge in attacks, after months in which the violence that marked 2015 and early 2016 appeared to have waned. From Friday to Tuesday, Palestinian assailants carried out daily attacks on Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and the Hebron area, where Palestinians live in close proximity to settlers and Israeli troops.

Officials fear the upcoming Jewish holidays and the recently ended Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday could be behind the raised tensions.

The holiday and the month of September “are always more susceptible to spikes in violent Palestinian activities,” a military official, speaking anonymously, said Saturday. “The motivation and inspiration to carry out attacks against Israelis remains strong.”                (The Times of Israel)

As Prime Minister arrives, UN speeches ignore Palestinian violence

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in New York on Tuesday hoping to convince the international community of the need for one standard in fighting terrorism, only to be greeted by a speech from the head of the UN that slammed Israel and made no mention of Palestinian terrorism.

“As a friend of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, it pains me that this past decade has been 10 years lost to peace,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. “Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness. This is madness.”

US President Barack Obama, in his farewell address to the UN, also made no mention of Palestinian violence in the one sentence he devoted to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, referring instead to Palestinian incitement.

“Surely Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land,” Obama said.

Netanyahu, just before leaving for New York where he will meet with both Obama and Ban on the margins of the General Assembly meeting that began Tuesday, said Israel expects the international community to have “one standard” in the war against terrorism, hinting at a double standard the world uses when it comes to terrorism against Israelis.

In a preview of what is likely to be one of the main themes of his address, and in the wake of the recent uptick in stabbing attacks, Netanyahu said he will “speak Israel’s truth there. I will speak about Israel’s justice and heroism, the heroism of our soldiers, police officers and citizens who are waging an uncompromising struggle against cruel terrorism.

“I expect one standard from the international community in the war against terrorism,” he said. “The international community says there is a need to fight terrorism with determination and in an uncompromising manner.

Therefore they also need to support Israel’s determined and uncompromising struggle against terrorism.” Moral clarity, he said, “is essential to fight and defeat terrorism.”

In addition to meeting Obama on Wednesday afternoon, and Ban the next day, Netanyahu will also meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and a number of still unnamed African leaders.

UN Ambassador Danny Danon slammed Ban for his comments, saying the “real madness belongs to the UN.”

“Instead of focusing on Palestinian terror and incitement, and instead of compelling [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table, the secretary-general chose to criticize Israel once again,” he continued. “This is an obsession with Israel and it must end.”

Danon has called Ban out multiple times over his first year at the UN for statements directed against Israel.

Just last week, after Ban criticized Netanyahu for releasing a video accusing Palestinians of attempting to conduct ethnic cleansing of Jews in a future Palestinian state, Danon responded that Ban had a “distorted view of the situation in Israel.”

“Instead of directly condemning Hamas for building tunnels and a terrorist infrastructure, instead of investing resources in stopping Palestinian incitement and terrorism, the secretary-general has chosen to regularly condemn Israel,” he added.

One top PMO staffer who will not be sitting in on the meeting with Obama is media adviser Ran Baratz, whose appointment to the more senior position as head of the National Information Directorate was thwarted last year after a number of very critical Facebook posts he wrote about Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry and President Reuven Rivlin came to light.

Those posts were exposed last November, just prior to Netanyahu’s last meeting with the US president. Netanyahu, who came under a barrage of criticism for the appointment, suspended it just before flying to Washington, and only in June – after facing difficulties getting the appointment through the Civil Services Commission – did he finally bring Baratz on board as a media adviser.

Since then Baratz has been working quietly behind the scenes, though not traveling with Netanyahu.

He did not accompany Netanyahu either on his trip to Africa in July, nor his quick visit to the Netherlands earlier this month.

The Prime Minister’s Office provided no explanation as to why Baratz was not joining Netanyahu in New York, for what the premier himself said was “a very important diplomatic week for Israel.”           (Jerusalem Post)

Danon slams Ban Ki-moon for criticism of Israel during UNGA opening speech

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon slammed  United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for pointing fingers at Israel during his opening address at the UN General Assembly’s annual debate, which began on Tuesday.

“As a friend of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, it pains me that this past decade has been ten years lost to peace,” Ban said in his remarks. “Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness. This is madness.”

The Secretary General mentioned that “the occupation grinds into its 50th year” and added that “replacing a two-state solution with a one-state construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy towards greater global isolation.”

Ambassador Danon reacted to the UN chief’s speech and said that “the real madness belongs to the UN.”

“Instead of focusing on Palestinian terror and incitement, and instead of compelling Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table, the Secretary General chose to criticize Israel once again,” he continued. “This is an obsession with Israel and it must end.”

“At a time when Palestinian terror is on the rise in Israel, the Secretary General chose to criticize us and ignore the direct responsibility of Abbas and the Palestinian leadership who continue to incite towards terror.”

Danon has called out the Secretary General multiple times over his first year at the UN for statements directed against Israel.

Just last week, after Ban Ki-moon slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for releasing a video accusing Palestinians of attempting to conduct ethnic cleansing of Jews in a future Palestinian state, Danon responded that Ban had a “distorted view of the situation in Israel.”

“Instead of directly condemning Hamas for building tunnels and a terrorist infrastructure, instead of investing resources in stopping Palestinian incitement and terrorism, the secretary-general has chosen to regularly condemn Israel,” he added.                                                        (Jerusalem Post)

Mideast Expert: Many in Washington Concerned Obama ‘Won’t Have Israel’s Back’ at UN After November Election

There is significant bipartisan concern in Washington that President Barack Obama “won’t have Israel’s back” at the United Nations following the election of his successor in November, a prominent Middle East expert said  on Tuesday.

Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, spoke with The Algemeiner a day after 88 US senators sent a letter to Obama urging him to veto any one-sided resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during the remainder of his time in office.

The letter, which was organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), made “very telling points,” May told The Algemeiner.

“A one-sided UN Security Council resolution would be damaging not just to Israel, but to any possibility of peace in the near future,” May warned.

He further explained, “I think it’s fairly obvious at this point that the UN is egregiously prejudiced against Israel. And what you don’t want to see is something like what the French have been discussing — mandated negotiations, and if those negotiations fail to produce fruit, the Palestinians would be rewarded. That would assure that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas would not make any concessions.”

In his final address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama said, “Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel, but Israel recognizes that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.”

May noted that those words would “probably feed into the concern that exists that after the election Obama will take actions that will tie the hands of the next president.”

“People in this town who are in favor of a productive peace process — those who want to see the Israelis and the Palestinians living side by side in peace — are worried and I think the idea is that if President Obama is contemplating such a move now, that needs to be discouraged,” May concluded.

In an interview with The Algemeiner last week, former State Department Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller said the signing of the new 10-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) on US security assistance to Israel might serve as a “trigger mechanism” for a fresh American-led Israeli-Palestinian peace push during the lame-duck period between the election on Nov. 8 and the inauguration of the next president on Jan. 20.

As reported by The Algemeiner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his reservations about a potential US peace drive during a meeting last month with a visiting bipartisan delegation of American foreign policy experts.             ( The Algemeiner)

‘Hamas using period of quiet to prepare for the next round’

OC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir said Wednesday that “Hamas is taking advantage of the relative calm to prepare for a future conflict,” according to Channel 10.

Zamir addressed the security situation in the South a day after a Hamas drone was shot down by the IAF over Gaza.

“In the last decade, and since the withdrawal from Gush Katif by the IDF in the Gaza Strip, we have been through three operations,” Zamir said at a congress for the Kibbutz movement.

“The last two years have been quiet relative to the last ten years and they are being used to increase Israeli communities,” Zamir added.

Zamir also addressed the issue of Hamas and said that the terror group is currently deterred, but is using this period of silence to prepare for a new campaign.

“The IDF will not allow terror organizations, the first being Hamas, to attack Israeli citizens. We do not have any intention of escalating the situation, but we will respond to any attempt to harm [Israel] with the required force,” Zamir added.

A Hamas drone was shot down over the Gazan coastline by an Israeli Air Force fighter jet on Tuesday. “The IDF will not permit any violation of its air space, and will act with determination against any such effort,” the army stated.

Operation Protective Edge in 2014 was the latest full-scale conflict between Hamas and Israel during the months of July and August.  (Jerusalem Post)

Sisi meets Jewish leaders, praises Israeli cooperation in war on terror in Sinai

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi applauded the level of cooperation between Israel and Egypt in a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders in New York on Tuesday.

Among those attending the meeting were representatives of B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress.

Sisi, who was in New York to address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, lauded Israel and Egypt’s smooth coordination to ensure a peaceful situation in the Sinai Peninsula. (Sisi urges Israel to end regional instability by making peace with the Palestinians)

According to foreign reports, the Israeli Air Force is taking part in the attacks against ISIS in Sinai and the IDF’s Military Intelligence Unit 8200 is assisting Egyptian forces to collect and decipher information about the terrorists there.

Sisi added that Egypt is on top of the terror situation in Sinai and praised the close cooperation of his country with the US and Israel in the battle against terror.

He also emphasized that Egypt is committed to getting the peace process going in different parts of the region, specifically between Israel and the Palestinians.

In his discussion with the Jewish leaders, he outlined his vision of Egypt in the future and emphasized his commitment to human rights and religious reforms. He also discussed Egyptian elections, and the high number of young people in parliament today.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Sisi urged Israel to take advantage of current opportunities to resume negotiations with the Palestinians.     (Jerusalem Post)

Syrian rebels to return body of Israeli spy, report reveals

Syrian Opposition forces will return the body of Eli Cohen, the Israeli spy who penetrated the Syrian regime during the early 1960s, the Lebanese news network LBC has reported.

The report has yet to be confirmed.

A film clip documenting the aftermath of his hanging became available Monday.

According to Reshet Bet radio’s website, the clip was released by Syrian rebel groups. The footage shows Cohen’s body hanging from the scaffold in a Damascus Square and then being taken down. The clip is credited to “The Institute of the House of Palestinian memory.”

The disquieting camera shots are accompanied by the sound of Syrian poet Nizar Qabani reading one of his poems about love, wine and Damascus. In the poem Qabani compares blood to wine.

In January 1965, Syrian intelligence announced it had caught Cohen. He was hanged four months later.

The location of a grave has remained unknown.   (Jerusalem Post)

Unprecedented Ottoman-era fisherman’s house discovered on Ashkelon beach

In an unprecedented discovery, archeologists from the Antiquities Authority recently unearthed an Ottoman-era fisherman’s house off the coast of Ashkelon, marking the first time a structure found in the area is definitively associated with the fishing industry.

According to the excavation’s directors, Federico Kobrin and Haim Mamliya, the fisherman’s house is divided into three rooms, which contained metal fishhooks, dozens of lead weights, a large bronze bell, and a stone anchor.

“The building’s entrances were fixed in the north, in order to prevent the high winds and sea storms from entering into it,” the archeologists said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

“It is the first time that a building was exposed in Ashkelon that we can attribute with certainty to the fishing industry.”

Additionally, a possible lighthouse used by local inhabitants to direct ships along the Mediterranean coast was discovered. “Two of the buildings that we uncovered are very curious, and it seems they were used as a fisherman’s house and a lookout tower, possibly a lighthouse, dating to the Ottoman period,” Kobrin said. “The tower was situated on a lofty hilltop, and it looks out over the beach and Mediterranean Sea. From the tower, one could signal and direct ships that were sailing between the ancient ports in Ashkelon and Ashdod-Yam.”

The excavation, conducted in coordination with the Ashkelon Municipality and Ashkelon Economic Company, was carried out in the northern part of the city, where a new neighborhood is slated to be constructed.

In an effort to educate young residents about their past, the IAA recruited dozens of the area’s boys and girls to assist in the dig.

ottoman

“Working with young people was both a challenge and extremely satisfying,” said Kobrin.

“The youth participated in uncovering part of their city’s past. They labored diligently and conscientiously, showed their interest and curiosity regarding the finds, and it was a pleasure to work with them.”

The archeologists said the fisherman’s house will be preserved and incorporated into the development of the new neighborhood and strip of beach “for the benefit of the residents, and to create a connection between them, and those who lived and fished there in the past.”                           (Jerusalem Post)

Palestinians: “The Mafia of Destruction”

by Khaled Abu Toameh                     The Gatestone Institute

https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/8989/palestinians-medical-corruption

Hamas and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials have turned medical care into a business that earns them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This corruption has enabled top officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to embezzle millions of shekels from the PA budget.

In 2013, the PA spent more than half a billion shekels covering medical bills of Palestinians who were referred to hospitals outside the Palestinian territories. However, no one seems to know exactly how the money was spent and whether all those who received the referrals were indeed in need of medical treatment. In one case, it appeared that 113 Palestinian patients had been admitted to Israeli hospitals at the cost of 3 million shekels, while there is no documentation of any of these cases. Even the identities of the patients remain unknown.

Hajer Harb, a courageous Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip, says she is now facing charges of “slander” for exposing the corruption. She has been repeatedly interrogated by Hamas. The PA regime, for its part, is not too happy with exposure about the scandal.

Gaza’s hospitals would be rather better equipped if Hamas used its money to build medical centers instead of tunnels for smuggling weapons from Egypt to attack Israel.

Question: How do Palestinian patients obtain permits to receive medical treatment in Israeli and other hospitals around the world? Answer: By paying bribes to senior Palestinian officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Those who cannot afford to pay the bribes are left to die in under-equipped and understaffed hospitals, especially in the Gaza Strip.

Yet, apparently some Palestinians are more equal than others: Palestinians whose lives are not in danger, but who pretend that they are. These include businessmen, merchants, university students and relatives of senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas officials, who receive permits to travel to Israel and other countries under the pretext of medical emergency.

Many Palestinians point a finger at the PA’s Ministry of Health in the West Bank. They argue that senior ministry officials have been abusing their powers, in order to collect bribes both from genuine patients and from other Palestinians who only want medical permits in order to leave the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Thanks to the corruption, many real patients have been denied the opportunity to receive proper medical care in Israel and other countries.

This, of course, does not apply to senior Palestinian officials and their family members, who continue to make ample use of Israeli hospitals and other medical centers in Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf and Europe.

Even top Hamas officials enjoy access to Israeli hospitals. In 2013, Amal Haniyeh, the granddaughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, was transferred to an Israeli hospital for urgent medical treatment. A year earlier, Haniyeh’s sister, Suheilah, was also brought to an Israeli hospital for urgent heart surgery.

Haniyeh, however, did not need to offer cash to get his daughter and sister medical treatment in Israel. Indeed, some Palestinians are evidently very much more equal than others.

The corruption in the Palestinian health system, both in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has long been a well-known secret. Palestinians without the right connections and without money to hand over to a senior official or physician are fully aware that they would never be allowed to receive what is called “medical referrals abroad.” The signature of a physician or a senior health official is the most precious merchandise in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This signature allows patients to receive free medical treatment in Israel and various countries.

The absence of clear regulations to define who is entitled to this privilege have facilitated widespread corruption in the Palestinian health system. Nepotism plays a major role in this form of corruption. The relative of a senior Palestinian official can easily be transferred for treatment in an Israeli, Jordanian or Egyptian hospital, while poor patients from the Gaza Strip can wait months and years before obtaining such permits.

Hamas and PA officials are trading with the lives of Palestinian patients. They have turned medical care into a business that earns them hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. This corruption, in the absence of transparency and accountability, has also enabled top officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to embezzle millions of shekels from the PA budget.

Although both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have vowed to combat this exploitation of Palestinian patients, the Palestinians themselves report no improvement. They say that more than 70% of the cases of medical referrals to Israeli hospitals and abroad have never been documented, and it remains unclear how and where the money was spent.

In 2013, for instance, the PA spent more than half a billion shekels covering medical bills of Palestinians who were referred to hospitals outside the Palestinian territories. However, no one seems to know exactly how the money was spent and whether all those who received the referrals were indeed in need of medical treatment.

The PA maintains that in 2014, more than 54,000 Palestinians from Gaza received medical referrals for treatment outside the Strip. Health officials in the Gaza Strip, however, say they are aware of only 16,382 documented cases of real patients who received such permits.

Between 1994 and 2013, the Palestinian Authority did not ask Israeli hospitals for detailed bills of the medical treatment provided to Palestinian patients. The money is deducted on a monthly basis from tax revenues collected by Israel and later paid to the PA.

The Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), a Palestinian group working in the fields of democracy, human rights and good government, to combat corruption and enhance integrity, principles of transparency and systems of accountability in Palestinian society, is one of the few bodies sounding an alarm bell about this abuse.

Last year, AMAN released a report in which it warned against corruption in the Department of Medical Referrals Abroad, which belongs to the PA Ministry of Health. The report pointed out discrepancies in the costs of medical treatment in Israeli and other hospitals, and the actual bills. For example, in one case it appeared that 113 Palestinian patients had been admitted to Israeli hospitals at the cost of 3 million shekels, while there is no documentation of any of these cases. Even the identities of the patients remain unknown.

The AMAN report stated that measures taken by Palestinian health officials to limit nepotism and bribes, and prevent the squandering of public funds, have been insufficient. Physicians, it said, faced pressure from Palestinian Authority officials to issue medical referrals to Israeli hospitals and other hospitals around the world, even to those not in need of them. Some of the cases, the report notes, could have been treated in Palestinian hospitals, and there was no need to transfer them to other hospitals at very high costs.

The PA says that it has asked its Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate the scandal. To date, it remains unclear whether substantive measures have been taken against those responsible for the corruption.

Hamas, for its part, continues to hold the PA responsible for the misery of patients in the Gaza Strip. The Islamist movement claims that the PA government is withholding the issuance of medical permits as a means to punish Palestinians for their support of Hamas.

The truth, however, is somewhat different: health officials in the Gaza Strip who are linked to Hamas have also been exploiting the plight of patients. Hamas is uninterested in this coming to light.

Hajer Harb, a courageous Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip, recently prepared an investigative report about the corruption of health officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She has been repeatedly interrogated by Hamas.

Harb says she is now facing charges of “slander” for exposing the corruption. She was told by her interrogators that the decision to summon her for investigation came after a physician in the Gaza Strip filed a complaint against her for “defamation.”

Hamas interrogators demanded that Harb reveal her sources and the identity of those involved in the corruption scandal. “I told them that I am a journalist and I cannot provide them with the identities of my sources without a court order,” she said.

“The prosecution told me that I was facing the following charges: impersonation of another person (they claim I did not reveal my real identity during the investigative report); slandering the Ministry of Health, publishing inaccurate and incorrect information and working with ‘foreign parties’ (by preparing a report for a London-based television station under the pretext that the media organization is not registered with the Press Office in the Gaza Strip).”

In her report, Harb wrote about the middlemen who obtain medical referrals to Israeli and foreign hospitals in return for bribes. She approached one of the middlemen and claimed she wanted to travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to marry a man living there. She wrote that she received a permit to leave the Gaza Strip and receive medical treatment in East Jerusalem’s Al-Makassed Hospital after she paid a bribe to a local physician. She also found several forged medical referrals in the name of the son of a senior Palestinian official in the Gaza Strip, who obtained them in order to complete his studies in the West Bank. Harb further located a man who claimed that he works for the PA’s Preventative Security Service and who boasted that he could get a permit for medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip in return for $200. Another Palestinian bought a medical permit to leave the Gaza Strip and work in a restaurant in Ramallah.

Hamas claims to be combating the corruption of officials who are tampering with the lives of Palestinian patients. In reality, it is busy harassing journalists who speak the truth. The Palestinian Authority regime, for its part, is not too happy with exposure about the scandal.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), based in the West Bank, condemned Hamas for harassing Harb. But this critique should be seen more in the context of the power struggle between the PA and Hamas, rather than as stemming from a concern for public freedoms.

In a statement, the PJS criticized Hamas for interrogating Harb as a “grave breach of media work and freedom of expression” in the Palestinian territories. The syndicate emphasized the right of journalists not to reveal the identity of their sources, adding that Harb had abided by all moral, legal and professional standards.

Najat Abu Baker, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who belongs to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, was one of the few politicians in the West Bank who dared to come out against the corruption scandal.

In her words, the corruption in the PA’s Department of Medical Referrals has transformed it into a “real mafia headed by influential figures.” Abu Baker accused the ministry of exploiting the impoverished residents of the Gaza Strip and wasting public funds:

“The issue of medical permits has become a business and the only ones who are paying the price are the patients from the Gaza Strip. Hundreds of these patients who have died are the victims of the ministry’s measures.”

She called for a commission of inquiry into the corruption scandal. She noted that many patients from the Gaza Strip have died while waiting for medical referrals while others, who were not ill, were given the permits thanks to nepotism and bribery.

“The merchants of death are tampering with the fate of our patients. It is time to tell the truth so that we can get rid of the mafia of destruction and end their trade in the lives of our patients.”

The medical permit scandal is yet further proof that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority shamelessly exploit their people for political and financial purposes. The PA leverages its power to issue medical permits in order to pressure Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to turn against Hamas. Its officials sell the permits for cold hard cash. Hamas, which continues to hold the entire Gaza Strip hostage, has its own ideas about how money is well spent. Gaza’s hospitals would be rather better equipped if Hamas used the money it has to build medical centers instead of tunnels for smuggling weapons from Egypt to attack Israel. While medical permits are sold to the highest Palestinian bidder, we ask: What is the going rate for a permit for clarity concerning the behavior of Palestinian leaders?