Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Gaza Civil Peace Service monitoring boat attacked with water cannons by Israeli navy


Israeli naval forces attacked the Civil Peace Service Gaza monitoring boat with water cannons earlier today.

Civil Peace Service Gaza is an international third party non-violent initiative to monitor potential human rights violations in Gazan territorial waters.

The initial attack happened at 12.05pm local time. There were four people aboard the Oliva boat at the time, two CPS Gaza crew members (from the UK and Sweden), the captain and a journalist.

British human rights worker Ruqaya Al-Samarrai stated: “We were fewer than two miles away from the Gaza coast when they fired at us. We saw them firing water at some fishing boats so we headed to the area. When we got close, the warships left the fishing boats, and turned on us. They attacked us for about ten minutes, following us as we tried to head to shore and eventually lagged when we reached about one mile off the Gaza coast.”

A fishing boat was also fired at and damaged with live rounds. Currently Israel claims to allow fishing boats to work within three miles off the coast of Gaza, but the limit is rarely respected and fishermen as close as 1.5 nautical miles are regularly targeted.

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Background

Restrictions on the fishing zone are of comparable significance to Palestinian livelihood. Initially 20 nautical miles, it is presently often enforced between 1.5 – 2 nautical miles (PCHR: 2010). The marine ‘buffer zone’ restricts Gazan fishermen from accessing 85% of Gaza’s fishing waters agreed to by Oslo.

During the Oslo Accords, specifically under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of 1994, representatives of Palestine agreed to 20 nautical miles for fishing access. In 2002 the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan empowered Catherine Bertini to negotiate with Israel on key issues regarding the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and a 12 nautical mile fishing limit was agreed upon. In June 2006, following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit near the crossing of Kerem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom), the navy imposed a complete sea blockade for several months. When the complete blockade was finally lifted, Palestinian fishermen found that a 6 nautical mile limit was being enforced. When Hamas gained political control of the Gaza Strip, the limit was reduced to 3 nautical miles. During the massive assault on the Strip in 2008-2009, a complete blockade was again declared. After Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli army began imposing a 1.5 – 2 nautical miles (PCHR: 2010).

The fishing community is often similarly targeted as the farmers in the ‘buffer zone’ and the fishing limit is enforced with comparable aggression, with boats shot at or rammed as near as 2nm to the Gazan coast by Israeli gunboats.

The fishermen have been devastated, directly affecting an estimated 65,000 people and reducing the catch by 90%. The coastal areas are now grossly over-fished and 2/3 of fishermen have left the industry since 2000 (PCHR: 2009). Recent statistics of the General Union of Fishing Workers indicate that the direct losses since the second Intifada in September 2000 were estimated at a million dollars and the indirect losses were estimated at 13.25 million dollars during the same period. The 2009 fishing catch amounted to a total of 1,525 metric tones, only 53 percent of the amount during 2008 (2,845 metric tones) and 41 percent of the amount in 1999 (3,650 metric tones), when the fishermen of Gaza could still fish up to ten nautical miles from the coast. Current figures indicate that during 2010 the decline in the fishing catch continues. This has caused an absurd arrangement to become standard practice. The fisherman sail out not to fish, but to buy fish off of Egyptian boats and then sell this fish in Gaza. According to the Fishermen’s Union, a monthly average of 105 tons of fish has been entering Gaza through the tunnels since the beginning of 2010 (PCHR 2009).

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). “The Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip.” Oct. 2010. http://www.pchrgaza.org/facts/factsheet-bufferzone-aug.pdf

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. “A report on: Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Fishers in the Gaza Strip.” August 2009. http://www.pchrgaza.org/files/Reports/English/pdf_spec/fishermen3.pdf

University student shot dead by Israeli soldier when leaving a mosque near Nablus

(pic: Maan Images)

NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man early Wednesday near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli security officials said.

University student Ibrahim Sarhan was shot while emerging from a mosque during a search operation in Al-Farah refugee camp near Nablus, Palestinian security sources told AFP.

Soldiers were looking for an activist of the Islamic Jihad movement but Sarhan did not belong to any Palestinian political group, they said.

A Ma'an correspondent said Sarhan sustained a gunshot wound to the thigh following his arrest and subsequently bled to death. His body was transferred to Rafidia Hospital. more

Former Australian Green MP on 'Welcome to Palestine' initative fights deportation from Israel


From the Sydney Morning Herald

Former Greens MP Sylvia Hale and another Australian woman have been detained by Israeli authorities and are awaiting a court hearing to determine if they will be deported.

Ms Hale, a former member of the NSW upper house, and activist Vivienne Porzsolt flew to Tel Aviv on Tuesday to participate in the "Welcome to Palestine" initiative before being arrested, NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge told AAP.

They were detained in the early hours of Wednesday (AEST) after they tried to enter Bethlehem, a Palestinian city in the West Bank.

"Her local lawyer has obtained a stay on the deportation order and the matter will come before the district court in Tel Aviv at midday (1910 AEST), Israeli time," Mr Shoebridge said.

Travel in and out of Bethlehem is restricted while Israeli authorities construct the West Bank barrier, an eight-metre-high security wall designed to fence Israel off from Palestine.

The blockade also extends to parts of the coast.

Both Ms Porzsolt, who represents a group called Jews Against the Occupation, and Ms Hale were unharmed and being represented by the same lawyer, Iftach Cohen, Mr Shoebridge said.

The pair were detained four hours after arriving in the country as part of a "Welcome to Palestine" protest by an international organisation of activist groups. more

Dignité still on course for Gaza - occupiers of Spanish embassy in Athens on hunger strike


ATHENS, Jul 12, 2011 (IPS) - The French vessel Dignité-Al Karama is the only boat from the Freedom Flotilla II actually sailing for Gaza in an attempt to break the Israeli blockade imposed in 2006. At the same time, six Spanish members of the humanitarian aid mission went on hunger strike in the Greek capital.

The hunger strikers, who have occupied the Spanish embassy in Athens since Jul. 5, were travelling on the Spanish ship Gernika (Guernica) that was part of the flotilla carrying 500 activists from 45 different countries, and 5,000 tonnes of aid, bound for the Gaza Strip.

Nearly all the ships have been confined to port in Greece for the last 10 days, except for the Dignité-Al Karama which sailed from the French island of Corsica Jun. 25, evaded the Greek blockade on more than one occasion and remains the only vessel of the flotilla still sailing freely.

With 10 representatives of several delegations of the humanitarian coalition on board, the Dignité received permission Jul. 9 to sail for the island of Rhodes, Manolis Plionis, a member of the Greek delegation of the Freedom Flotilla II - "Stay Human", confirmed to IPS.

From on board the Dignité, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Nicole Kiil-Nielsen told IPS that after having been stopped last week in Ormos Kouremenos, in Crete, they were taken to Sitia by the Greek coast guard and eventually allowed to sail from there.

"We had to stop in Crete to refuel, as we did not have enough fuel to reach Gaza," Kiil-Nielsen said. "Now, the Dignité is free and we are organising another group of passengers, probably international, to go on to Gaza."

Manuel Tapial, coordinator of Rumbo a Gaza (Sailing to Gaza) Spain, told IPS that "the Dignité-Al Karama is heading for Gaza on its own, representing the dignity of the flotilla, and carrying representatives of the international coalition delegations."

In addition to the crew and MEP Kiil-Nielsen, passengers include Vangelis Pissias, the coordinator of the Greek delegation, Swedish-Israeli musician Dror Feiler and actor Guillermo "Willy" Toledo, representing the Spanish delegation. more

Woman injured in Israeli airstrike on northern Gaza


Israeli forces have launched an airstrike in the eastern part of Gaza city, injuring at least one Palestinian in the besieged coastal sliver.

In the incident, which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday, Israeli F-16 fighter jets flew over the coastal enclave, and fired two rockets at a car repair shop in a residential neighborhood in the east of the city.

According to a Press TV correspondent in Gaza, a 19-year-old girl was injured in the attack and dozens of people, including children, were treated for shock.

The attack also caused severe damage to the building and shattered windows of nearby houses.

Earlier this week, Israeli warplanes also killed two Palestinians and injured another one in Gaza.

There were no immediate reports of the exact number of injuries or damage to property.

The Israeli army frequently bombs the tunnel network in Gaza, claiming that Palestinian resistance fighters use the tunnels to store and smuggle in weapons. Palestinians, however, dismiss such allegations, insisting that they were forced to resort to the underground tunnels to bring in basic living supplies to the impoverished Gazans because the territory has been sealed off to the outside world by a punishing Israeli blockade for over three years.

Some 1.5 million people are being denied their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and appropriate living conditions, work, health and education. Press TV