JAKARTA (AFP) -- Iran's foreign minister on Friday sharply rejected an Israeli allegation that Tehran tried to ship missiles to the Gaza Strip, calling it a "lie".
Israel has said it captured a Gaza-bound ship Wednesday carrying dozens of Syrian-made rockets "capable of striking anywhere in Israel".
The raid coincided with a high-profile US trip by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who met with US President Barack Obama for discussions on a Middle East peace deal.
"Netanyahu is in Washington ... and all of a sudden as a godsend, they capture a ship from Iran with missiles. Just a coincidence?" Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during an official visit to Jakarta.
"If Netanyahu is a saint and can produce miracles I believe the Israelis themselves will be amused by that," he said.
"So if you cannot believe in miracles by Netanyahu, the only thing that you can believe is that this is a lie. And it is a lie."
The Israeli raid targeted a Panamanian-flagged ship in the Red Sea between Eritrea and Sudan. more
By iGaza's correspondent in Gaza Hazem Zatma
Palestinian workers held a protest Wednesday to lift the ban on construction materials and the eight-year siege on Gaza, calling on the international community to support the workers' cause.
During the protest, which was organized by the supreme national committee and the General Association of Palestinian Workers' Syndicates. Workers at the protest hoisted banners such as, "what is our sin to be deprived from building our homes and renovating our streets", "Gaza tests the Arab chivalry and humanitarian justice" and chanted: "Lift the siege on Gaza, eight years of construction materials ban"
MP Marwan Abu Ras said that work in many professions has been halted due to the construction materials ban, in addition to a large number of other related activities that play a significant role in promoting the process of reconstruction in the besieged territory, calling on the Muslim and Arab world to take a serious stand to support Palestinian workers.
Sami el-'amassi, President of the General Association of Palestinian Workers' Syndicates, said that maintaining the stranglehold and effective control over the Gaza Strip has resulted in a high unemployment rate of 45, stating that all this is crystal clear to those in the Muslim and Western worlds that do anything to support Gaza.
Regarding the workers' suffering in Gaza, el-'amassi said that the continuing crises have made 30,000 workers jobless in the construction sector and another 40,000 in other related sectors.
El-'amassi added that the siege forced 97% of industrial facilities to close with 35,000 workers being laid off, among them 7,000 workers in the mineral industries, in addition to prolonged suffering of more than 40,000 farmers and the closing of 100 tailoring factories that resulted in a further 1000 layoffs. more
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Egyptian security services have started to collect information about thousands of Hamas members who were granted Egyptian citizenship during the rule of ousted president Mohamed Mursi, according to Egyptian media.
Egypt's Day Seven news website reported that Egyptian authorities plan to revoke the citizenship of 13,757 Hamas members for being "affiliated to an offshoot of the terrorist group the Muslim Brotherhood."
Egyptian authorities are investigating whether Hamas members have been involved in what they describe as "terrorist attacks," adding that the prime minister has the right to revoke the citizenship of Hamas members without a court ruling if it is deemed that they endanger public security.
The Egyptian news site blamed Mursi for facilitating the entry of Hamas supporters into Egypt and granting them citizenship.
On Tuesday, an Egyptian court banned the activities of Hamas and ordered its assets seized. more
CAIRO (AFP) -- Egypt detained and deported Northern Irish Nobel Laureate and peace activist Mairead Maguire on Wednesday and held up others who had been planning to go to neighboring Gaza, the activists and officials said.
Maguire had intended to join a delegation of women activists going to the blockaded Palestinian enclave on Thursday.
The group could embarrass the military-installed government, which is at odds with Gaza's Hamas rulers, yet does not want to be seen as party to a siege of Palestinians, blockaded by Israel.
On Tuesday, airport police had already detained and deported American anti-war activist Medea Benjamin, also part of the delegation, who told AFP police broke her arm.
Maguire said she arrived at Cairo airport on Tuesday night with fellow activist Ann Patterson.
"We were taken to the detention center and questioned and held for eight hours, and were told we would not be allowed entry into Cairo and would be put on a plane," she told AFP by telephone from Britain after her expulsion.
She said police were polite but gave no reason for barring her, while an airport official told AFP she had been blacklisted. more
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel claimed that it intercepted a ship in the Red Sea on Wednesday carrying Iranian "advanced weaponry" bound for Palestinian militants in Gaza, the military said.
Hamas leaders denied the accusations, pointing out that Gaza is under a complete naval blockade by Israel that would make any shipment of arms into the besieged coastal enclave impossible.
Gaza Ministry of Interior spokesman Islam Shahwan said in a statement that Israeli claims were a "dangerous move" to justify Israel's seven-year long blockade.
Shahwan urged journalists to avoid "being tricked by the Israeli narrative about capturing a ship carrying weapons to Gaza," adding that "the sea is completely besieged and closed by the Israeli navy, and any ship which sails will be obstructed."
Israel, which has long accused Iran and Syria of providing military aid to Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, said the ship was carrying "advanced weaponry," including rockets "capable of striking anywhere in Israel." more
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egypt is no longer a neutral party in resolving the political split between Hamas and Fatah, an Hamas official said Wednesday.
Marwan Abu Ras, a Palestinian lawmaker affiliated to Hamas, told Ma'an that "we won't be reassured that Egypt can play an impartial role in reconciliation while Egypt antagonizes one side of the dispute."
The Hamas official condemned a recent decision by an Egyptian court to ban the activities of Hamas in the country and seize the group's assets.
"The Egyptian judge who made the decision did not bring a single evidence incriminating Hamas. Thus, the movement considers the Egyptian decision a pure political decision rather than a judicial decision, and that decision serves the Israeli occupation." more
Israeli naval forces on Wednesday intercepted a shipment of medium-range missiles near Sudan that were headed for the Gaza Strip.
Special forces from the Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13) unit overpowered the cargo vessel named the KLOS C – which is registered in Panama – in the early morning hours. A search aboard the vessel uncovered dozens of 302mm rockets, which are manufactured in Syria and were fired into Israel by Hezbollah during the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The rockets have a range of about 100 kilometers.
"We have conclusive evidence that there were rockets on board the ship, and we have proof and can say with certainty that Iran is behind this operation," a senior Israel Defense Forces officer said.
The officer said that the rockets originated in Syria, were loaded onto airplanes at the Damascus airport from which they were transported to Iran. There they were boarded onto the cargo ship, which set sail about 10 days ago en route to a port in Sudan.
The IDF tracked the ship, saying it sailed north toward Iraq instead of heading directly toward the African country. The army believes that, in Iraq, the rockets were covered with cement bags in an attempt to disguise the shipment after which the vessel continued to sail toward Sudan.
The Israeli raid occurred about a day before the ship was set to dock in Sudan. more
The governmental Committee to Break the Siege On Gaza released its report of the number of solidarity delegations to Gaza during last January and February.
The ministry of foreign affairs said that there has been a significant decline in the number of delegations coming to Gaza. In January the ministry received three delegations consisting of 32 supporters.
The committee said that the number of convoys and delegations decreased by 95% compared to the same period last year, when the committee received 97 delegations consisted of 2,500 supporters.
For his part, committee vice president Alaa’ al-Batta said: “Egyptian authorities did not allow any delegation to enter Gaza despite the prompt attempts by the committee and other parts”
Al-Batta called for the Egyptian authorities to allow solidarity convoys to enter Gaza, emphasizing the importance of Egyptian authorities dealing with the convoys on a humanitarian basis, regardless of the political positions.
The governmental Committee to Break the Siege on Gaza constantly contacts international, regional and humanitarian organizations and briefs them on the difficult humanitarian and living conditions in Gaza, and the constant threat of a deterioration in those conditions due to the continuing closure of the Rafah crossing. more
By Hazem Zatma
Israeli forces released Monday morning detainee Abdullah Enshasi from Jabaliya camp, Northern Gaza Strip.
Wa'ed Prisoners Society Spokesman, Abdudallah Qandeel told "AlRay" that Enshasi spent 14 years in the Israeli jails.
During his detention, Enshasi was moved between the Israeli jails of Beer Sheba and Nafha where he was isolated for 6 years and then to Remon, Shattah and Ramon, from where he was released from.
Prisoner Enshasi was arrested on 3 March 2000 at Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, while he was on his way to work in the territories occupied since 1948 and sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Israeli forces accused Enshasi of being a member of Islamic Jihad Movement, attempting to stab an Israeli soldier at Erez crossing and planting an explosive device in a petrol station in the 1948 occupied territories.
Israeli forces is holding captive over 5000 Palestinians, including 200 children and women against international conventions, against common sense, unjustly, and with the silent complicity of international institutions and organizations. more
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Three workers were rescued after suffering from near suffocation as a result a gas leak in a tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, an official from the Gaza Strip health ministry said.
Gaza Strip health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that civil defense crews rescued three workers who had suffered from gas inhalation in a tunnel on the border between Rafah and Egypt as a result of the gas leak.
10 others were rescued before suffering as a result of the leak, he added.
The incident occurred in the area of Yebna refugee camp south of Rafah, the source said. more
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said in a statement on Thursday that it will respond to Israeli forces' killing of an activist affiliated with the group during an arrest raid earlier in the day.
The PFLP and its military wing Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades said that the "response is undoubtedly coming," vowing to "continue to resist until the occupation is removed from all Palestinian soil."
The statement comes hours after Muatazz Washaha, 24, was killed following a stand-off with Israeli forces in the central West Bank village of Birzeit.
The PFLP also called upon the Palestinian Authority to end security coordination with Israel, and to "return to the Palestinian people."
The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, condemned the "assassination" in a statement on Thursday and demanded the "provision of international protection to the Palestinian People," arguing that the "crime marks further escalation and an addition to the daily killing practiced by the Israeli occupation against Palestinians."
The statement argued the killing was "deliberate," highlighting that Israeli forces had surrounded the house, evacuated residents, and then shelled the house, knowing Washaha was inside.
The statement said that such actions "undermine peace efforts" and confirm that "the Israeli government is constantly seeking to foil these efforts."
Muatazz Washaha was killed in a dawn raid on the central West Bank village of Birzeit after Israeli forces surrounded and shelled his home. more