Irfan Sulejmani, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sub-delegation in Gaza, today called on the Israeli Government to permit the families of Gazan prisoners held in Israeli jails to be permitted visits.
He made the call at an event at the ICRC headquarters in Gaza City to commemorate four years since Israel suspended family visits to Gazan prisoners.
Hundreds of family members carrying photographs of their relatives were present, some of whom also addressed the crowd, before setting off to form a human chain from the ICRC headquarters to the Square of the Unknown Soldier in the centre of Gaza City.
The human chain was chosen to emphasise that this is the only way in which family members and detainees can have contact – by sending messages along such a chain from Gaza, to the prisons and desert detention camps in Israel.
The ICRC also launched a documentary called Unbearable Waste, which highlights the suffering caused to the families and detainees by the Israeli policy.
The ICRC has come under severe criticism – even egg-throwing attacks – for its recent demands to be allowed access to French-Israeli citizen Gilad Shalit, captured while serving in the Israeli army in 2006 and still being held by Gazan authorities. Hamas authorities – and most Gazans – fear that Israel would take advantage of such a visit to identify the location at which he is being held, and attempt to free him. It would not be the first time the Red Cross has been used in such a way. (1)
“Gaza has only one Israeli prisoner, while Israel has more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners, over 600 of them from Gaza” one person told me. “We would have no bargaining power at all without Shalit, and no hope of seeing many of our relatives again. The international community, the United Nations, they all demand Shalit’s rights, but when do you hear them demanding the rights of all the Palestinians in Israeli jails, or the rights of their families?” he asked.
It is a valid question, and one these hundreds of Gazan mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, deserve an answer to.*
************* Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles) is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She recently managed to get into Gaza during a brief period when the Rafah Gate was open.
The Arab League has confirmed it will seek full Palestinian statehood and membership of the UN at the UN General Assembly in September. The announcement was made following a committee meeting in Doha, Qatar, on Thursday.
The Secretary General of the Arab League has announced that the League will seek full membership for Palestine in the UN General Assembly based on pre 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. The UN is set to hold an open debate on the Middle East on July 26th. more
A Palestinian teenager sustained bruises after Israeli settlers pelted his car with stones near the site of the former Israeli settlement of Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005.
One of the car's passengers, Kamal Abu Awwad, said that he and some friends were driving from Nablus to Jenin when they saw a man, who they assumed to be a hitchhiker, waiting by the roadside near the evacuated Homesh settlement.
As they approached the man began shouting at them and five armed settlers emerged and began throwing stones at the car, Awwad told Ma'an.
Basim Mousa Al-Khatib was hit in the head with a stone.
“If we had stopped, we would have been killed. We heard them loading their guns which they pointed at us. It was really a narrow escape,” Awwad said. more
In breaking news, Palestine activists Sylvia Hale and Vivienne Porzsolt have been ordered by an Israeli court to be released from imigration detention and not deported.
The judge ruled that they had not broken any rules, but they have a limited time to apply to the Israeli Defence Force to visit Bethlehem and Ramallah in the West Bank. The pair had told immigration on entry to Israel that they wanted to visit Palestine.
Activists are hailing this decision as ground breaking: more than 100 Palestine solidarity activists have been deported in previous days from Tel Aviv airport for requesting to visit Palestine.
As NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said: "This case has set a precedent with the court holding that simply because a person wants to visit Palestine is not sufficient basis for them to be deported from Israel". more
Dubai/Cairo: The organisers of the Gaza aid flotilla are not ruling out the possibility of the fleet sailing from Egyptian ports should their efforts to sail from Greece fail to materialise.
Pro-Palestinian activists in Egypt have taken up the flotilla's cause, inviting organisers to launch the fleet from Egypt after Greece made it clear that it would not allow the Freedom Flotilla 2 to launch from its ports.
However, Hani Sadeq, a professor of political science at the Suez Canal University, said that Egypt's military rulers were unlikely to allow the flotilla to sail from the country.
"It is unlikely that they will agree to allow the sailing of the flotilla [from Egypt's ports] lest tensions with Israel... escalate. Instability inside Egypt would not encourage them to run the risk of opening another front of turmoil with Israel," Sadeq said.
The Egyptian government, he said, was more likely to evade public pressure by permanently opening the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. "The corporatist interests of the Egyptian military do not necessarily match the interests of the people of Egypt," said the source close to the flotilla's organisers...
..."The way we're pitching it is that one issue doesn't take priority over another, that all the issues are connected, and that this is one struggle against oppression," she said, adding that she has already seen positive signs. The campaign, she said, was being organised for two reasons.
"Firstly, Egypt's post-revolution position towards the blockade of Gaza must change completely. Egypt should [now] play an active role in ending the blockade. Second, it is an opportunity for Egypt to rewrite a rather shameful history of having contributed to the blockade under the Mubarak regime."
Lina said slogans supporting the campaign had already started appearing in Tahrir square and the response by the paper's readers has been overwhelming.
Narmeen Saleh, a pro-Palestinian activist said that because of growing public anger at the government's policies, "officials will not block public support to the campaign".
"This step will reassert Egypt's regional status, which suffered terribly under Mubarak," she said.