Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Greater Gaza Plan: Is Israel trying to force Palestinians into Sinai?

What is Israel’s endgame in Gaza? It is a question that has been puzzling analysts and observers for some time. But indications of the future Israel and Washington may have in mind for Gaza are emerging.

Desperately overcrowded, short on basic resources like fresh water, blockaded for eight years by Israel, with its infrastructure intermittently destroyed by Israeli bombing campaigns, Gaza looks like a giant pressure cooker waiting to explode.

It is difficult to imagine that sooner or later Israel will not face a massive upheaval on its doorstep. So how does Israel propose to avert a scenario in which it must either savagely repress a mass uprising by Palestinians in Gaza or sit by and watch them tear down their prison walls?

Reports in the Arab and Israeli media – in part corroborated by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas – suggest that Egypt may be at the heart of plans to solve the problem on Israel’s behalf.

This month the Israeli media reported claims, apparently leaked by Israeli officials, that Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, had offered the Palestinian leadership the chance to annex to Gaza an area of 1,600 sq km in Sinai. The donated territory would expand Gaza fivefold.

The scheme is said to have received the blessing of the United States.

‘Greater Gaza’ plan

According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas would have autonomous rule over the cities in the West Bank, comprising about a fifth of that territory. In return, Abbas would have to give up the right to a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. more

Hundreds of Israeli settlers invade Al Aqsa mosque

Security officers at Al Aqsa Mosque stated that over 200 extremist Israeli settlers entered the compound in occupied East Jerusalem, early Tuesday, under protection of armed escort.

According to Ma'an News Agency, Israel maintains a compromise with the Islamic trust which controls the compound to restrict the mosque for Muslim prayers, due to the sensitive nature of the area.

Israeli forces, however, regularly escort Jewish visitors to the site, often leading to violent confrontations with Palestinian devotees.

Last Sunday, when the mosque was attacked and worshippers were denied access, soldiers threw teargas bombs and caused the injury of 15 worshippers.

For Muslims, the mosque represents the world's third holiest site, where the prophet Mohammed was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to Al Aqsa during the Night Journey. more

Three Israeli soldiers committed suicide after Israeli war on Gaza

The Israeli military police have opened an investigation after three members of an elite military unit committed suicide, sources revealed yesterday.

The soldiers from the Givati Brigade, who took part in the ground operation during the recent assault, committed suicide after the Israeli war on Gaza ended.

According to the Israeli daily Maariv, in the three cases bullets from personal guns caused the deaths. Two of the soldiers shot themselves on army bases along the borders of the Gaza Strip.

All the three cases were similar, the newspaper said, as the personal guns were found beside the dead soldiers, and it is hoped the investigation will reveal how the suicides were committed. more

Gaza transfers lions to Jordan after Israel's war destroys zoo

A trio of traumatised lions were brought into Israel from Gaza on Wednesday on their way to a safer home at a wildlife sanctuary in Jordan after their zoo was largely destroyed during this summer’s conflict in the Palestinian enclave.

The three, two males and a pregnant lioness, were sedated by a team of Austrian veterinarians at Al-Bisan zoo in the Gaza Strip, loaded into metal crates and transported through the Erez border crossing into Israel.

Amir Khalil of the Four Paws International welfare group said the lions were in desperate need of help after the zoo was hit by airstrikes during the 50-day Israeli offensive against Gaza.

“The lions are stressed, violent and afraid of the slightest movement,” Khalil told AFP. “The animals are very sensitive and the detonations from the bombings and explosions had a very strong impact on them.” more

Palestinian, Israeli officials to discuss Gaza reconstruction

Israeli and Palestinian officials are scheduled to meet Thursday to agree on mechanisms for rebuilding the Gaza Strip after Israel's devastating military offensive.

Discussion points from the meeting will be submitted to an upcoming donor conference in Cairo, the Palestinian Authority's Media Center said.

Robert Serry, the United Nations special envoy for the Middle East peace process, will attend the meeting and Hussein al-Sheikh will represent the PA.

The meeting will follow up on a discussion on Tuesday between Israel's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Deputy PM Muhammad Mustafa, Hussein al-Sheikh and other Palestinian officials. more

Ceasefire broken again: IDF enter Gaza, soldiers open fire at farms

Israeli military vehicles entered the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday and soldiers opened fire towards Palestinian agricultural areas, locals told Ma'an.

Twelve military vehicles entered Gaza from a gate east of the town of al-Fukhari in the Khan Younis district, witnesses said.

The vehicles reportedly crossed some 200 meters into the Strip, and soldiers scanned the area before shooting towards Palestinian farms in an apparent ceasefire violation.

Agricultural workers were forced to leave their fields when soldiers shot at their farms, the witnesses told Ma'an.

No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was looking into the incident. more

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Are Gaza protests coming to the NBA preseason?

By Dave Zirin - When Israeli sports teams travel to Europe, they are often met with protest. Palestinian solidarity and human rights organizations, such as Red Card Israeli Apartheid, have argued that such spectacles “normalize” the military occupation suffered by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. They also argue that it is fantasy to pretend that these games do not carry a strong political as well as symbolic weight.

Now the specter of a pro-Palestinian protest at an Israeli sporting event is coming to the United States. This will happen next month when the most celebrated basketball team in Israel’s history, Maccabi Tel-Aviv, will return to the United States and play two NBA preseason games against the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers. As Euroleague Champions, this will be the fifth time in nine years that Maccabi has played in the United States. But coming on the heels of the summer bombardment of Gaza, there are many activists in New York City arguing that it can no longer be hoops as usual.

I spoke to Tsvia Thier, an Israeli citizen now living in New York, who plans to be a part of whatever protest assembles outside the Barclays Center on October 7th. She said to me, “Israel dropped thousands of pounds of weapons on Gaza. More than 2,000 people died. More than 500 children were killed. There has been no justice for this. We cannot allow for these games to go forward without bearing witness…as if these criminal acts did not just take place. Our memories cannot be that short.” Thier was on her way to a meeting of the group Jewish Voice for Peace to raise plans to protest when I spoke with her.

It is not just Thier and others who are unable to separate these games from Israel’s summer war on Gaza. It is the NBA. Before the Brooklyn game, the league signed off on a “VIP celebration” at the Barclay’s Center for Maccabi Tel Aviv hosted by an organization called Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). According to the press release, “FIDF has arranged for 12 IDF soldiers wounded during the Operation in Gaza to take part in the event.” (For people who want a full accounting of the death and destruction that the Gaza War wrought, see the United Nations report here. ) The FIDF event in Brooklyn will also honor the only Jewish American player named as one of the NBA’s Top 50 All-Time players Dolph Schayes, and his son, one of my boyhood heroes, eighteen-year NBA veteran Danny Schayes. (Yes, I’m aware that I may be the first person to use “boyhood hero” and “Danny Schayes” in the same sentence.) My love for Schayes aside, this is, without pretense, an NBA/FIDF production.

The ties between people in power at the NBA and Israel are nothing new. (See the family history of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, who comes from one of Israel’s most powerful families. Or look at the Israeli connections being fostered by New York Knick forward Amar’e Stoudamire). Yet the celebrations of these bonds will be particularly boisterous this season, now that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be led by former Maccabi coach David Blatt. The Cavs, with Favorite Son LeBron James and Kevin Love on the roster, are everyone’s choice to make the NBA finals from the Eastern conference and Blatt is held in high regard amongst his fellow coaches. Blatt has dual Israeli and US citizenship and the preseason game on October 9 between Maccabi and Cleveland is already being billed as a feel-good media spectacle. Blatt was also a high-profile supporter for the summer war on Gaza. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Globes, he said, “In my opinion, this war is Israel’s most justified war I can remember in recent years. I’m really sorry about what’s happening in Gaza, but there’s no doubt that we had to act there, so that Israel will have quiet there once and for all, and we can live in peace.” He then chided the people of the United States for not cheerleading Israel’s war to a greater degree, saying, “There’s support, although sometimes it’s not enough.In my opinion, though, there’s more support this time than before.” more

Israel slaps three-month visit ban on prisoner Ahmed Saadat

RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) barred prisoner Ahmad Saadat, the secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, from receiving prison visits for three renewable months.

Saadat’s wife, Abla, said in press remarks on Thursday that the Israeli prison authority did not state the reason for its decision.

The detainee, currently held in Gilboa prison, are regularly transferred to different jails as part of the ongoing punitive measures taken against him.

His wife said the Israeli jailers always prevent her and her children from visiting their father, but the difference this time was that the visit ban decision was issued in writing. more

Israeli settler runs over Palestinian child south Hebron

Six-year-old Islam Al-‘Amour of Yatta village south Hebron, was ‘hit and run’ by an Israeli settler. Islam suffered a number of fractures, cuts and bruises in different areas of his body. He was immediately moved to Al-Ahli hospital in Hebron.

This ‘hit and run’ incident by Israeli settlers is not the first of its kind.

A similar incident took place last Thursday in Silwan town, East Jerusalem, when a 10 year old Palestinian child was deliberately run over by settler, as Wadi Hilweh information centre reports. The child suffered similar fractures in his hand bones and was transferred to hospital. more

ICC already has authority to investigate Israel for war crimes, legal group says

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), along with several other prominent legal groups, is urging the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “initiate her own investigation” into “crimes committed and ongoing during and immediately before Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.”

In a letter written in August, during the last week of Israel’s 51 days of attacks on the Gaza Strip, NLG president Azadeh Shahshahani states that “Israel’s clearly disproportionate use of force against the 1.8 million residents of Gaza appears to have little to do with any claim of security, but seems to be calculated to exact revenge against Palestinian civilians.”

The letter lists specific examples of numerous violations of the Rome Statute, the ICC’s core treaty which defines international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

The NLG and endorsing organizations also write that the international court’s investigation “should include whether certain US officials have aided and abetted the commission of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity in Gaza.” more

Displaced Palestinians receive 100 mobile homes in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Local organizations have donated 100 mobile homes to Palestinians displaced by Israel's military offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip, sources said Tuesday.

The homes, which were built locally and funded by charitable organizations, were donated to families in the Khuzaa neighborhood in Khan Younis.

Each home consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen, and bathroom and can house five people.

Suad Najjar, who lost her home in Israel's assault, told Ma'an that the mobile homes were not big enough to accommodate her family and worries that they could replace the rebuilding of her home.

"The mobile home fits only five. It is not enough for all my children, where would they live?" she said.

The mobile homes are the size of one room in her destroyed house, she said, adding that the properties should not become a permanent solution for those displaced.

"Where do we go if we do not rebuild our houses, to the sea? I will set up a tent next to my destroyed house and will cover it with plastic for the winter if I have to."

Khalil Najjar, another man displaced by Israel's war, said the mobile homes are not appropriate for winter and says his eight-member family is currently homeless.

A local charity worker, Imad al-Haddad, said that the mobile homes are temporary and the most essential step now is to allow construction material to enter Gaza. more

Settlers take over 23 Palestinian apartments in Silwan

A large group of extremist Israeli settlers, with members of the right-wing fundamentalist settlement group "Elad", broke into 23 Palestinian apartments in three buildings of Silwan town, in occupied Jerusalem, and seized them.

The Wadi Hilweh Information Center, in Silwan, said that the attack started around 1:30 am, when dozens of settlers and soldiers invaded the town, and illegally took over 22 empty apartments, and one inhabited apartment after violently forcing the family out.

The Center added that dozens of soldiers and settlers were deployed in Wadi and Beidoun neighborhoods in Silwan, before breaking into the buildings.

The apartments belong to members of the families of Beidoun, al-Karaky, Abu Sbeih, Zawahra, al-‘Abbassi, al-Khayyat, Qara’in and al-Yamani.

The Center said the ownership of some of the apartments might have been leaked to the settlers through suspicious underground deals.

“The attack itself is illegitimate, carried out by Elad group, known for its agenda aiming at getting rid of the Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem,” Wadi Hilweh said. “The group is known for its illegal practices, and underground deals.” more

PLO: Netanyahu UN speech 'blatant manipulation of facts'

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The Palestine Liberation Organisation said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blatantly manipulated the facts when he compared Hamas with the Islamic State group in a UN speech on Monday.

"Netanyahu's speech at the UN was a blatant manipulation of facts and attempted at misleading the audience through a combination of hate language, slander, and argument of obfuscation," PLO executive member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement in English.

"Obviously Netanyahu has lost touch with reality, particularly in refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes," she added.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier, Netanyahu denied accusations of Israeli war crimes during its July-August offensive on the Gaza Strip that killed 2,140 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and left the enclave in ruins.

He instead said that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was jointly culpable with Hamas, which fired thousands of rockets into Israel, bringing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes down on Gaza residents.

"Hamas embedded its missile batteries in residential areas and told Palestinians to ignore Israel's warnings to leave," Netanyahu said.

"I say to president Abbas, these are the war crimes committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government which you head and you are responsible for," he said.

The Islamic State and Hamas, Netanyahu added, "share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control."

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu was "portraying Hamas and IS as two faces of the same coin" although "Hamas is a national liberation movement, while the (Israeli) occupier is the source of evil and terrorism in the world". more

Monday, 29 September 2014

Gaza sweet potatoes exported to Europe for first time since siege

Thirty tons of sweet potatoes were exported from Gaza to Europe for the first time since Israel imposed a siege on the Strip, the Ministry of Agriculture said Monday.

Ministry official Tahsin al-Saqqa said "this small quantity" of potatoes were exported after it was permitted by Israeli authorities.

Al-Saqqa said he hoped the Israeli decision would be the beginning of a policy to allow continuous exports of farmers' goods from Gaza.

The Israeli siege has severely limited imports and exports as well as movement of people, crippling Gaza's economy. more