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‘Price tag’ hate crimes against Palestinians on the rise in Israel and West Bank



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JERUSALEM — Of the 200 saplings Moni Shama planted in the Greek Orthodox Gardens on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, seven remain. The rest were snapped at the stem, burned or otherwise destroyed, the caretaker said.

Shama has also grappled with defacement of the gardens and verbal harassment and abuse that he and church officials blame on Jewish extremists. He said he’s cleaned up after vandals scrawled anti-Christian slogans on its gates, lit fires in the seminary and dumped old furniture and trash in an underground shrine on the site.

“Sometimes they tell me I am an abomination,” Shama said.

Image: Moni Sharma, 55, caretaker of the grounds of the Greek Orthodox seminary on Mount Zion
Moni Sharma, 55, caretaker Orthodox gardens on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.Dusan Vranic / AP

He is describing a hate crime often known as “price tag” attacks, in which Jewish extremists set fire to or desecrate property belonging to Palestinians or left wing Israelis. The name refers to the price the extremists seek to extract for the loss of each outpost.

Experts and officials warn the practice is on the rise in Israel and the occupied West Bank, as hardline elements of Israeli society become increasingly emboldened.

Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, has recorded 13 such incidents so far this year in the Israel West Bank — up from eight in all of 2017. Last year there were 105 indictments of Israeli officials versus 23 so far this year.

The figures for the West Bank reflect a jump in hate crimes against Christian and Muslim Arabs across Israel in addition to the occupied territories, according to Nidal Othman, executive director of the Coalition Against Racism, which is based in Haifa and tracks such attacks.

He estimated that there had been a twofold increase in attacks in the Palestinian territories over the last three years.

Image: Palestinian village attacked by Jewish settlers
A Palestinian car with slashed tires is covered with graffiti in Hebrew reading “price tag” in West Bank village of Farata on April 4.Alaa Badarneh / EPA

On Monday, several cars were vandalized in a town near Ramallah in the West Bank — one of a spate of anti-Arab hate crimes this week.

Earlier this month, Israeli police opened an investigation into an attempt to set fire to a mosque in the West Bank village of Aqraba. The mosque door was singed by flames and red graffiti on a nearby wall read “price tag.”

A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said the incident appeared to have had been carried out by radical Jewish groups with nationalistic motives.

“She is 9 years old and I want her to at least grow up a little bit before I explain to her that a bad group — not Jews but a bad group — have done this.”

“She is 9 years old and I want her to at least grow up a little bit before I explain to her that a bad group — not Jews but a bad group — have done this.”

In March, three brothers from a settlement in the West Bank were sent to prison for attacking Palestinians and damaging property. According to the Haaretz newspaper, the court said the group “set out to terrorize and strike fear in the Palestinian population.”

And early on Wednesday, Akram Habshi, a farmer in Iksal, near Nazareth in northern Israel, and his family woke to find that two of their cars had been set on fire and the words “Jews will win” scrawled on a wall of their house.

The graffiti was quickly scrubbed off the yellow stone, but Habshi said it has been harder to deal with the lingering impact the incident has had on his daughter.

“I didn’t explain to her for now,” Habshi, 34, told NBC News via telephone. “She is 9 years old and I want her to at least grow up a little bit before I explain to her that a bad group — not Jews but a bad group — have done this.”

Image: Burned car
One of two cars burned in the village of Iksal in northern Israel early Wednesday.Akram Habshi

He said it was hard for him to understand how this had happened in his community, where Jews and Arabs had lived peacefully for years.

While he said he did not know exactly who committed the crime, others blamed such attacks on Jews intent on driving Arabs off the land.

“We all know that the police … do not take this stuff seriously,” Habshi said.

While such attacks have been condemned across the political spectrum in Israel, Habshi is not alone in believing that Israeli officials are not doing enough.

Anna Koulouris, a communications adviser for the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, has said police in Israel have a “90 percent tolerance to abuse and desecration of holy sites.”

The Anti-Defamation League, an American civil rights group focused on anti-Semitic attacks, criticized the attack in Iksal on Twitter: “It’s not only incumbent on law enforcement to confront this phenomenon,” it said, “political, religious and community leaders must publicly make clear that anti-Arab hate crimes have no place in Israeli society.”

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Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong back behind bars over corruption scandal | Business News



Samsung boss Lee Jae-yong has been sent back to jail after receiving a two-and- a-half year sentence over his involvement in a major corruption scandal.

The 52-year-old, South Korea’s most powerful businessman, was convicted at a retrial on charges of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of criminal proceeds worth about 8.6 billion won (£5.7m).

It leaves Lee sidelined for the time being from major decision making at the company, one of the world’s largest makers of computer chips and smartphones.

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Z Fold2 today
Samsung has performed robustly in the latest financial year

Shares dipped 3%.

Lee had previously served a year behind bars for bribing an associate of former president Park Geun-hye before an appeals court suspended the jail term in 2018.

A year later, the supreme court ordered a retrial. Time served will count towards the latest sentence.

Lee’s lawyer Lee In-jae said: “This case involves the former president’s abuse of power violating corporate freedom and property rights… The court’s decision is regrettable.”

The Samsung vice chairman’s sentence complicates the process of inheritance from his father, who died in October.

Analysts said the court’s decision was unlikely to affect day-to-day operations at the company though large-scale decisions with longer term impacts – such as takeovers and major personnel changes – could be impacted.

Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee arrives at a court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2021. Yonhap via REUTERS
Lee is South Korea’s most powerful businessman

Samsung has performed robustly in the latest financial year, with its semiconductor business rebounding thanks to strong demand for PCs and servers during lockdowns.

Meanwhile sanctions against Huawei have hindered a company that is one of Samsung’s biggest rivals in smartphones, smartphone chips and telecoms equipment.

Samsung said earlier this month that it was on course to report a 26% rise in operating profit to 9trn won (£6bn) for the last quarter.

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China gold mine blast: 12 trapped workers still alive following explosion last week | World News



Twelve miners are still alive a week after an explosion trapped 22 workers underground at a Chinese gold mine, state media says.

Rescue teams are desperately trying to bring them back to the surface following the blast in Shandong province in eastern China on 10 January.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, a note passed through a rescue shaft on Sunday night said that while 12 of the workers were still alive, the fate of the other 10 remained unknown.

The rescue shaft had been used to pass food and supplies to the group while they wait.

The handwritten message said that four of the miners had been injured and the health of the others was declining, due to the lack of fresh air and an influx of water.

It added that the group needed medical supplies and drugs, and ended with: “Keep on with the rescue efforts. We have hope, thank you.”

Managers of the operation at the Qixia gold mine, which had been under construction at the time, were arrested and detained, after failing to report the incident for more than a day.

They have since been removed from their posts, along with the mayor of the nearby city of Yantai.

More than 300 people are part of the rescue effort above ground, with teams drilling a new shaft to try and reach the chamber and expel deadly fumes.

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Alexei Navalny: Dominic Raab joins international leaders in calling for immediate release of Putin critic | World News



Dominic Raab has called for the immediate release of Putin critic Alexei Navalny.

The foreign secretary has joined a host of leading politicians who have condemned Mr Navalny’s arrest on his return to Russia, after he was poisoned with a nerve agent last year.

Mr Raab said: “It is appalling that Alexei Navalny, the victim of a despicable crime, has been detained by Russian authorities. He must be immediately released.

Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane during the flight to Moscow from the Airport Berlin Brandenburg (BER) in Schoenefeld, near Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. Leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny plans to fly home to Russia on Sunday after recovering in Germany from his poisoning in August with a nerve agent. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane during the flight to Moscow from the Airport Berlin Brandenburg

“Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny, Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil.”

Mr Navalny was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday, after spending five months in Germany recovering from poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent.

The 44-year-old, who is one of Vladimir Putin’s most outspoken critics, blames Moscow for the attack that nearly killed him, although the Kremlin denies any involvement.

His detention minutes after landing was widely expected because Russia’s prisons service said he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction.

He is due to be held until a date is set for his case. Lawyers for Mr Navalny said they have not been granted access to him.

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Moment Navalny is detained after landing in Russia

The arrest has prompted international calls for his release, with the US, the UK, Germany, and France condemning Moscow.

On Monday, vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News the UK government was “very worried” about Mr Navalny’s safety.

He said: “The foreign secretary will say more about this, but we are very worried about the wellbeing and safety of Alexei Navalny.

“And of course, we have to make sure that the Russian government answers why a poison was used.”

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said Washington “strongly condemns” the decision to arrest Mr Navalny and called his detention “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”

He added on Twitter that he was “deeply troubled” by the move.

“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor see the need to commit violence against or wrongfully detain, political opponents,” he said.

President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser called on the Russian authorities to free him.

“Mr Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable,” Jake Sullivan said in a tweet.

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‘They tried to kill me,’ says Kremlin critic

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, called Mr Navalny’s arrest “unacceptable” and demanded his immediate release.

He was echoed by the French foreign ministry and German foreign minister Heiko Maas.

Mr Maas said: “Russia is bound by its own constitution and by international obligations to the principle of the rule of law and to the protection of civil rights.

“These principles must, of course, be applied to Alexei Navalny as well. He should be released immediately.”

On leaving Berlin on Sunday, Mr Navalny said he didn’t think he would be arrested as he had “every right” to return to his home country.

The arrest raises tensions in Russia as it approaches national parliament elections this year, in which Mr Navalny’s organisation is expected to be active in trying to defeat pro-Kremlin candidates.

“This is a real act of bravery for Alexei Navalny to return to Russia, given that government agents already tried to kill him once,” Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth tweeted.

“But he understandably wants to be part of the pro-democracy movement in Russia, not a dissident in exile.”

Mr Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on 20 August.

He was transferred to a hospital in Berlin two days later.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden tested the substance he was exposed to.

It was established he was poisoned with a Soviet-era novichok nerve agent – the same kind of substance used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian double agent and his daughter, in a 2018 poisoning in Salisbury.

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