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Israel evicting Palestinian family to replace them with settlers | Palestine News

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Sheikh Jarrah, Occupied East Jerusalem – Huddled around an electric heater on a chilly winter day, four Palestinian women sit nervously, making calls to acquaintances to ask about homes for rent in the city.

“We can’t leave it to the last minute. We have to figure it out – the Israelis can come at any time to evict us from our homes,” says 31-year-old Ramziyeh Sabbagh. She is due to give birth to a baby girl in five days.

“My husband is in denial that we may be evicted,” says Khadija Sabbagh, Ramziyeh’s aunt. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. We only have God at this point.”

Umm Alaa Skafi, who lives next door and whose family is also facing eviction, came over to check on her dear neighbour.

“Keep praying. Don’t let your mind wonder. Keep yourself busy. I am here for you. I’ll make a dish and bring it over for you and your family,” Umm Alaa tells Khadija.

On January 12, Israeli authorities handed an eviction order to the Sabbagh family – numbering about 45 people – so Israeli settlers could move into their homes.

The five Sabbagh brothers, their wives, children and grandchildren were given until January 23 to leave their homes. On Tuesday, the lawyers representing the family said Israeli authorities agreed to freeze the eviction until a final decision was reached within a month. The families have lived there since 1956.

They were forcibly displaced from their hometown of Jaffa during the 1948 Palestinian Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist militias to create the state of Israel. Having had relatives in the nearby neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz, they settled in Jerusalem.

Along with the United Nations‘ refugee agency (UNRWA), Jordan, which assumed control of the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, provided apartments for 28 Palestinian refugee families, including the Sabbagh family, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.

Battle to evict Palestinians

Not long after the 1967 War, in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, settler groups began claiming ownership of the property. In 2003, the groups, which claimed they had registered the lands in their names in 1972, sold the property to Nahalat Shimon, a settler company that is registered overseas.

Nahalat Shimon then launched a lengthy legal battle to evict several Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah. In 2009, the company evicted three families. In 2017, another family was told to leave.

In November 2018, after more than a decade of legal proceedings, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected the appeal made by the lawyers representing the Sabbagh family, in which they sought to challenge the settler group’s ownership of the land.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling in which it refused to open the question over who owned the land, or to examine the documents put forth by the families and their lawyers, on the basis the statute of limitations had expired.





‘Israel wants to throw us out on the streets, but we’re going to keep fighting until the end,’ says Mohammad Sabbagh [Zena Tahhan/Al Jazeera] 

“We’ve been here for 62 years. Even if we are not the owners of the land, or the building, how are there laws that allow for the eviction of people after 62 years?” says 70-year-old Mohammad Sabbagh, the eldest brother who fled with his parents to Jerusalem before the rest of his siblings were born.

“We had one apartment in 1956. When the family grew, we built homes next door for my brothers and their families. Every stone, tile and wall in these homes is telling of the fact that we have been here for 62 years,” he tells Al Jazeera.

“The situation we’re in breaks my heart. It’s very, very hard,” he says, his voice trembling.

The Sabbagh family home in Jaffa still stands. But under discriminatory Israeli law, Palestinians, unlike Jews, cannot claim homes they fled during 1948, meaning they are barred from returning.

‘Little hope’

Zakaria Odeh, director of the Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem – the association providing the lawyers – explains there is little hope for the families.

“The courts have refused to even examine the files. We know that we are under Israeli occupation, dealing with the occupation’s courts, but we’re trying to postpone the eviction as much as possible,” Odeh tells Al Jazeera.

“The general political atmosphere has encouraged the Israeli government and the settler groups to intensify their efforts – particularly with this unrestricted support from the United States government under Trump,” he continued.

While the eviction of the Sabbagh family is the most imminent, there are at least nine other families from Sheikh Jarrah whose legal proceedings are ongoing.

And the case of Sheikh Jarrah is not unique. Israeli settler groups, many of which are supported by the government, have long targeted – and managed to move into – a number of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

In Silwan, south of the Old City, some 700 Palestinians are currently facing eviction and displacement.

Since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967, the Israeli population living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has risen to between 600,000 and 750,000. The figure means roughly 11 percent of Israel’s 6.6 million Jewish population now lives on occupied land, outside the internationally recognised borders of their state, in contravention of international law.

Ignoring the law

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines humanitarian protections for civilians caught in a war zone, an occupying power is forbidden from transferring parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.

This rationale aims to ensure that occupation is temporary, to protect civilians from the theft of resources, to prohibit a de facto situation in which two groups living on the same land are subject to two different legal systems, and to prevent changes in the demographic makeup of the occupied territory.





Ramziyeh Sabbagh, who is nine months pregnant, lives with her ill mother, brother and his two children in their Sheikh Jarrah home [Zena Tahhan/Al Jazeera]

Back in Sheikh Jarrah, the Sabbagh families are frantic with worry and fear.

“I watched them evict our neighbours,” says 55-year-old Khadija, the wife of Mohammad’s brother. “It was horrific. They raided their homes while they were sleeping and kicked them out.”

“I prefer death to this kind of life; this slow torture that eats away at your nerves,” Khadija continues with tears streaming down her cheeks.

“If they’re going to evict us from here, then let them give us our homes in Jaffa back. We still have the key to our home in Jaffa. I know we will return someday.”

Khadija’s 15-year-old daughter chuckles at her mother’s remarks. 

“Keep dreaming,” she says.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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