Sunday, 16 October 2011

Gaza wife to welcome home husband she hardly knows after his 24 years in prison

From the Los Angeles Times

REPORTING FROM SHIJAEYA, GAZA STRIP — She was still practically a newlywed when Raeda Omjamal watched Israeli security forces arrest her husband, Rawhi Mushtaha, and sentence him to 124 years in prison.

Israel called him a murderer for his role in helping to run Hamas' military operations. In Gaza, he was hailed as a freedom fighter and hero. Mushtaha is expected to be among the 1,027 Palestinian prisoners who will be released Tuesday in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Omjamal was 23 years old, a freshly transplanted Palestinian refugee from Jordan who only met her husband two months before their wedding. They had another six months after the marriage.

Now, at 47, Omjamal is preparing to welcome her husband back home after seeing him only once during 24 years of incarceration. Though they exchanged occasional messages and letters through attorneys, personal visits were mostly prohibited.

Today, the young, bearded fighter she married in 1988 is a gray-haired, wrinkled stranger. Asked how it will feel to live in the same house again, she laughed and turned red, noticeable even though a pale green veil covering most of her face.

"I don't know," she said. "It's awkward. On the one hand, I'm filled with joy, but there's also anxiety and worry. I've been waiting for him now longer than I lived at home with my family."

Four months after he was imprisoned, Mushtaha sent word to his wife that she should divorce him and move on with her life. She refused.

"I decided to stay because I thought that was my destiny,'' she said. more

Dodging bullets is all in a day's work bringing in the Gaza olive harvest

From the International Solidarity Movement

Gaza doesn’t have very much farmland left. The expanding no go zone imposed by Israeli bullets and bulldozers constantly erode the amount of land left for Palestinians to farm in Gaza. Mohamed Ashure Shimbari lives on the edge of the no-go zone. If you look east from his land you see the no go zone, what Israel euphemistically refers to as “the buffer zone.” Little grows there. Israeli bulldozers regularly come to kill anything which has managed to find a life there. You can see the destroyed well which once provided water for the orchards that used to cover the no-go zone. Now, there is no water, and no life, only a zone of death. Israel claims that the buffer zone is “only” 300 meters wide, but Mohamed’s land is about 800 meters from the border, and still he is afraid.

The Israelis often shoot into this area, especially at night.

The olive harvest has begun in Gaza. The Beit Hanoun Local Initiative and the International Solidarity Movement went to Mohamed’s land to help him harvest his olives today. The trees are pregnant with fruit, green and black olives line the branches. Mohamed’s family depends on these olives to live.

We join Mohamed and his sons in the morning, the weather is beautiful and the trees are picturesque. We spread plastic under the trees and begin to pick. Thankfully, it is quiet. The Israeli’s are not shooting today. We work quickly, stripping the branches of olives, climbing up on ladders or into the branches of the trees to get at the higher olives. Unreachable olives are smacked with a stick to knock them off the tree. Any olives that fail to fall onto the plastic sheeting are carefully picked up; these olives are too precious to waste. The olives are transferred into bushel sacks. Tomorrow, they will be processed, either cured for eating or crushed for oil.

As the sun climbs higher into the sky and the work becomes hotter we break for tea. We decide to walk over and visit Mohamed’s neighbors, a Bedouin family. We meet their young son Abed who has just come home from school. He walks five kilometers to school every morning, and he walks home at night, he does this with his sister and his brother. Abed is 10 years old. He is a shy kid; he wants to be a dentist when he grows up. He doesn’t seem to think that peace will ever come to his family, that they will ever live a life without worrying about the shooting from the Israeli’s at night. He lives a life of three directions, north, south, and west. There is no east really, you can’t walk that way, you would be killed. His family is forced to truck water from Beit Hanoun, the well that they used to depend on for water has been destroyed by the Israeli’s. His mother comes out; she tells us that she prays for peace, for a life with water and without fear of the bullets.

We return to work the olives. Tree by tree, up and down the rows, we move gathering olives. Mohamed tells us about his life. When the Israeli’s invade Gaza his home is one of the first places they came to. Not because they are afraid that he has guns, but because they want to use his house. He and his family are locked in one room while the soldiers use his house as a base for their attacks on Beit Hanoun. During Cast Lead his family was locked in the room for 23 days while the IDF carried out their slaughter on Gaza.

Throughout the world, the olive is a symbol of peace, but in Palestine it is also a symbol of people’s ties to the land. The no-go zone east of Beit Hanoun is constantly expanding. Every year or two the Israeli bulldozers come and destroy even more land. Mohamed’s house is now on the edge of the no-go zone. Maybe next year his house will be destroyed, the olive trees which we are picking from will be uprooted. Yet maybe his house will be spared, after all, if it is destroyed where will the soldiers sleep when they invade Gaza?

Gaza prepares heroes welcome for Palestinian freedom fighters

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Palestinian groups are planning celebrations to mark Israel's imminent release of hundreds of prisoner "heroes" in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Israeli President Shimon Peres received late Saturday the files of Palestinians prisoners to be pardoned as part of the deal for Shalit's release, his office said.

On Tuesday, 477 Palestinian prisoners, including 27 women, are expected to be freed in the first stage of a deal for the return of Sergeant Shalit, who has been held for more than five years by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Gaza's Hamas rulers plan to release Shalit, captured in a cross-border raid in 2006, with the understanding that another 550 Palestinian prisoners will walk free within two months.

A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees told a news conference in Gaza that "all organisations have agreed to begin preparations for the reception of the prisoners, to receive them like heroes with official and popular celebrations."

The armed Palestinian group says it is holding the Israeli soldier.

"The organisations expressed their pride in this agreement that Hamas reached with Israel, with the mediation of Egypt, and applauded the heroes who kidnapped Gilad Shalit," the spokesman added, reading a statement.

"They said they would continue to make every effort to free every prisoner held in Israel jails." more

List of first batch of Palestinian prisoners to be released has been published

The list released by the Israeli Prison Service is on an Excel spreadsheet here
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel on Sunday published the official list of 477 Palestinian prisoners to be released on Tuesday in the first stage of a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit.

The list of 450 Palestinian men and 27 women was published by the justice ministry on the website of the Israel Prisons Service, to give the public 48 hours to lodge any legal appeals against the deal which will see the return of Shalit, who has spent more than five years in captivity.

Another 550 Palestinian prisoners are to be released within two months.

As soon as the list was published, Israel's main radio and television stations began running through the long list of deadly attacks the prisoners named on the list were convicted of.

Among the names mentioned were prisoners who were found guilty of taking part in the 2001 bombing of a Tel Aviv nightclub which killed 21 people, and the so-called Passover bombing of a hotel in the coastal town of Netanya in 2002, which killed 29 people, both of which were claimed by Hamas's armed wing.

"Pursuant to the government of Israel's decision from October 11, 2011, to approve the proceedings of the agreement for the liberation of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas, prisoners will be released as detailed in the following list," said the document which details exactly where each prisoner is to be sent.

Last week, several websites affiliated with the Islamist Hamas movement and the Popular Resistance Committees, both of which were involved in capturing Shalit, published lists purportedly naming Palestinians to be freed, but Sunday's list was the first official one released. more