Monday, 31 December 2012

Witnesses: Israeli tanks breach south Gaza border


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli tanks and bulldozers entered around 100 meters inside the southern Gaza Strip to level land on Monday, witnesses told Ma'an.

They said several vehicles entered via the Sufa area of the border and dug up land in the al-Nahda area east of Rafah city. more

PCBS: Palestinian population reaches 11.6 million in 2012


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The population of Palestinians around the world totaled 11.6 million in 2012, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said.

Based on the latest population projections, the bureau said 4.4 million Palestinians reside inside Palestine, 1.4 million in Israel, 5.5 million in Arab countries, and 655,000 in other states.

In Palestine, 2.7 million reside in the West Bank and 1.7 million in Gaza Strip. Of them, 44.2 percent are refugees. more

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ikea attempts to dodge responsibility for Israel store’s discriminatory delivery practices


Ikea shows no intention of ending delivery of its products to Israel’s illegal settlement colonies in the West Bank, a 10 December letter from the furniture giant shows.

For years, Ikea has been facilitating the delivery of products from its Israeli stores to residents of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Ikea has been informed several times that facilitation of such transport services boils down to complicity with Israel’s settlement colony enterprise.

Ikea was asked by the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre to respond to the fact that Ikea in Israel’s transport company, Moviley Dror, delivers to Israeli settlements but refuses to deliver products to Palestinian population centers in the occupied West Bank, as I reported on my Electronic Intifada blog last month.

In its response (which can be downloaded from the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website), Ikea attempts to evade responsibility for this blatant discrimination and normalization of an illegal situation and fails to address its delivery to Israel’s West Bank settlements. The company simply states that its local franchisee is responsible for the local management, investments and business decisions related to the Ikea stores in Israel. more

Israel allows gravel to enter Gaza for first time since 2007


GAZA (Reuters) -- Israel allowed a shipment of gravel for private construction to enter Gaza on Sunday for the first time since Hamas seized control in 2007.

A Palestinian official with knowledge of an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that ended eight days of fighting last month between Israel and Gaza militants said the move had been expected as part of the deal.

"This is the first time gravel has been allowed into Gaza for the Palestinian private sector since the blockade," said Raed Fattouh, a Palestinian crossings official overseeing the shipment of 20 truckloads of the material.

Israel tightened its blockade on Gaza after Hamas took power five years ago. But under international pressure, Israel began to ease the restrictions in 2010 and has allowed international aid agencies to import construction material. more

Israel to seize Jerusalem village land to construct wall


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities issued notices on Friday to annex 456 dunams of land from a Jerusalem village in order to build part of its separation wall, local officials said.

Head of Beit Iksa village council Kamal Hababa said villagers were shocked when they saw the notices detailing plans to seize agricultural land, officials news agency Wafa reported.

The notices invited residents to participate in a tour with Israeli military officers along the proposed route of the barrier, Hababa said, adding that villagers refused to take part and vowed to confront soldiers if they come to the village.

The wall, when finished, will surround the village on all sides and annex around 12,000 dunams of agricultural land used for growing olive trees and grape vineyards.

Beit Iksa's 2,000 residents will be left with only 300 dunams of land for natural growth and will be separated from Jerusalem and isolated from the rest of the West Bank, Jerusalem governorate official Muhammad Tari said. more

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Qatari-donated construction material to enter Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egypt authorized the first batch of Qatari-donated construction materials to enter the Gaza Strip via their shared border on Saturday, an official said.

The official in the Qatari committee for reconstruction of Gaza said the delivery would take place later in the day.

Qatar announced in September it was contributing $400 million earlier to reconstruct the war-torn Gaza Strip.

Equipment and material needed for construction work in Gaza had been held up by Israel's blockade of Gaza, tightened in 2007 when Hamas took power.

Palestinian officials said Israel was relaxing controls on construction material as part of a truce deal with the Hamas government that ended eight days of fighting in November. more

Gaza man killed in Syria was 'Qassam commander'


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man who was killed in Syria on Friday was a senior figure in Hamas' armed wing, rebels and Hamas officials said Saturday.

Muhammad Qunneita, 31, from Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, had been in Syria for four months, his brother told Ma'an.

Rebels told Reuters on Saturday Qunneita was killed in fighting around Aleppo airport where he had been helping to train Arab and Muslim fighters. Activists in Syria also said he had been a prominent figure in Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades. more

Friday, 28 December 2012

Video: Israeli soldier killed Hebron teenager after he had already retreated



Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, wrote to The Lede on Thursday to draw our attention to the fact that more video of a fatal shooting at a checkpoint in Hebron this month has been posted online.

As The Lede reported last week, when the Israel Defense Forces released security-camera footage of an Israeli officer killing a 17-year-old Palestinian at the checkpoint in the occupied West Bank on Dec. 12, activists and bloggers in the region asked why the video had been edited before release.

On Wednesday, a correspondent for Israel’s Channel 10 uploaded what appears to be unedited video of the encounter at the checkpoint to his personal YouTube channel. According to the correspondent, Roy Sharon, the security-camera footage, which includes 19 seconds omitted from the edit posted on an Israeli military channel last week, was “raw material provided by the I.D.F. Spokesperson’s unit.”

The longer version displays a time stamp indicating that it was recorded on Dec. 12, from 8:09 p.m. to 8:10 p.m. The unedited recording includes about 14 seconds that was cut from the middle of the version released by the military last week and another five seconds that was trimmed from the end of the encounter.

The newly released video of the end of the incident appears to show that the Israeli officer fired at least three shots at the Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Salameh, after he had already retreated from the officer he had been fighting with when the first shot was fired. The officer’s final shot, which was omitted entirely from the military’s edited version, looks to have been fired from some distance, after the boy had doubled over, perhaps from the impact of the earlier shots. The boy was not close to any of the Israeli officers visible in the footage. more

Thousands remain without water, power one month after attack on Gaza


GAZA CITY (IPS) - On 17 November, four days into Israel’s eight-day assault on the Gaza Strip, deputy Israeli Prime Minister Eli Yishai publicly called for the Israeli army to “blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.”

The following day, Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon, called for Israel to “flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing,” adding, “there is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip” (“A decisive conclusion is necessary,” The Jerusalem Post, 18 November 2012).

Now, nearly a month after the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, the government and international bodies in Gaza are still assessing the total damage caused by Israeli bombings on infrastructure throughout the Strip.

Preliminary estimates put direct damage at $250 million, with another $700 million in indirect damages, according to Hamas government spokesperson Taher al-Nunu (“Leveling Gaza: Israeli airstrikes to cost Gaza over $1.2 billion,” Russia Today, 25 November 2012).

In more tangible terms, the vast destruction has affected bridges, thousands of homes, hundreds of UN shelters, tens of mosques, many government buildings, media offices, financial institutions, hospitals and health centers, two stadiums, a training center for disabled athletes, water and sewage and electricity networks, more than 100 schools, Gaza’s “life-line” tunnels, and innumerable roads.

During the Israeli bombings, Al Jazeera reported that 400,000 were without electricity after five different transformers were hit. more

Gaza ministry releases 6 Fatah detainees


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza's interior ministry released 26 prisoners on Thursday, including 6 detainees affiliated with Fatah, an official said.

Kamal Abu Madi, an official from the ministry, said in a press conference that the release of Fatah prisoners was a gesture to create a positive environment for national reconciliation.

Six Fatah members imprisoned for criminal and security offenses were released, he added. more

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Israel to allow imports to ease Gaza blockade


Israel will allow 20 trucks a day loaded with construction material to enter the Gaza Strip starting next week, in an attempt to ease its blockade under the terms of a truce deal signed with an Egyptian-mediation between Hamas and Israel after the eight days escalation last month.

The new construction material will be for the Palestinian sector, and this decision will allow private companies and individuals to import construction materials that were previously restricted and only embarked for internationally funded building projects. more

Official: Israel demands 52,500 shekels to delay home demolitions


NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israel's high court on Wednesday ordered 21 Palestinians to pay 52,500 shekels to delay the demolition of their homes in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian Authority official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity, told Ma'an the homeowners, from Yatma, were ordered to pay 2,500 shekels to the court by Friday to delay demolition while the court considers their case. more

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Qatari surgeons to carry out open-heart surgeries for Gaza children


EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) – Qatari cardiac surgeons have been granted permission to enter the Gaza Strip where they are scheduled to carry out open-heart surgeries for children, an official at the crossing said Tuesday.

The delegation of 10 cardiac surgeons arrived in Cairo Tuesday and was scheduled to cross Wednesday via Rafah crossing. more

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Human Rights Watch: Israel’s justifications for killing journalists are "evidence of war crimes"


Human Rights Watch, which maintained a conspicuous silence during Israel’s eight consecutive days of intensive bombing of Gaza last month, has issued a report unambiguously condemning Israel’s targeting of Gaza journalists during the November attacks.

The New York-based group investigated four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza, finding that Israel “violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations.”

Toddler killed

Two media workers and a toddler were killed and ten members of the press were wounded in the four attacks, according to Human Rights Watch. The two-year-old boy who was killed, Abdelrahman Naim, lived across the street from one of the media towers which were targeted by Israel. His mother, Najal Naim, told Human Rights Watch:
Abdelrahman was playing here [in the living room]. I heard the missile hit the tower; all the glass in the apartment broke, and some of the pieces came in. Mohamed, my son, was playing with Abdelrahman and two nephews. A small piece of shrapnel hit his chest, and he died immediately. Blood came from his mouth and nose. He made no sound.
more

Monday, 24 December 2012

Lawmakers join hunger strike in solidarity with prisoners


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Several Hamas-affiliated MPs including parliament speaker Aziz Dweik went on hunger strike on Sunday in solidarity with prisoners in Israeli jails.

Hebron lawmaker Hatim Qafisha told Ma’an the goal of the one-day protest was to embody the suffering of detainees on hunger strike.

"It is a sentimental and actual participation and a message to the hunger strikers to encourage them to remain firm," Qafisha said.

Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic movement in Israel, is also participating in the hunger strike.

Jafar Azzidine, Tarek Qaadan and Yousef Yassin have been on hunger strike for 27 days in protest at their administrative detention, without charge or trial. more

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter under pressure over 2013 UEFA under 21s being held in Israel


World football boss, FIFA President Sepp Blatter, is feeling pressure over the 2013 UEFA Under 21 tournament scheduled to be hosted by Israel, though he thinks the tournament will go ahead.

There has been growing opposition to allowing Israel to host the tournament, including from top world players, following Israel’s November attack on Gaza which killed more than 170 people and injured more than 1,200.

Blatter also promised that FIFA would help rebuild the Palestine Stadium in Gaza City that was badly damaged in the Israeli attacks.

The FIFA boss made the comments in an interview on the 21 December edition of the World Football program on the BBC World Service.

“It’s not a question of money here, it’s really a question of heart and soul of football,” Blatter said about the Gaza stadium, noting that the recent attack, although more devastating, was the second since 2008.

“I’m very much touched because I think let people play football because football is connecting people and football is giving hope. So therefore to destroy something which has been done for football hurts me personally,” Blatter added.

“My immediate reaction was to send them [Palestinians] a letter saying ‘we will rebuild that,’” Blatter revealed, and “with the help of the other entities we can rebuild the playing field.” more

Minister: Sharawneh suspends hunger strike after 176 days


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Ayman Sharawneh suspended his hunger strike on Sunday after 176 days because doctors warned he risked death, the minister of prisoner affairs said Sunday.

Issa Qaraqe told Ma'an that Sharawneh would suspend his protest for one week but will resume the strike if Israel does not release him.

Sharawneh was rearrested after his release in the Oct. 2011 prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas. more

Sunday, 23 December 2012

5 Palestinians hurt as Israeli troops fire at funeral near Hebron


HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Israeli soldiers opened fire and injured five young Palestinian men Saturday north of Hebron in the southern West Bank as clashes erupted when soldiers attacked a funeral procession.

Muhammad Ayyad Awad, a spokesman of a local popular committee against the wall and settlements, said hundreds of residents took part in a funeral procession of Ahmad Ibrahim Salim Adi in Beit Ummar.

The deceased, aged 44, was found dead Friday in an ancient well about two months after he disappeared. He was reported missing in October.

Awad added that when the mourners arrived at the cemetery near the main street, Israeli soldiers stationed at the town’s northern entrance started to fire tear-gas canisters at them. After that, young men threw stones at the soldiers who fired live bullets and rubber-coated bullets.

Omar Mahmoud Awad was hit by a live bullet to the thigh, and Nizar Ali Awad received a gunshot to his lower back, according to Awad. They were evacuated to a public hospital in Hebron. more

Saturday, 22 December 2012

OIC warns of crisis in Gaza due to shortage of medicines


GAZA, (PIC)-- The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has warned of the collapse of Gaza's health sector which continues to suffer shortages of two-thirds of medicines in hospitals and medical centers in the Strip.

The Organization said, in its monthly report monitoring the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and issued on Saturday, that there is shortage of more than 305 medications out of 478, in addition to the shortage of medical supplies and most of the humanitarian needs.

The report stated that there is an urgent need to provide shelter for the Palestinian citizens whose houses had been destroyed during the Israeli recent war on Gaza.

It called the OIC member states and the humanitarian organizations to prepare a program and an urgent plan to cope with the deteriorating situation in Gaza, particularly in the health sector, and to support the Gaza reconstruction projects. more

Russian plane with aid for Gaza lands in Sinai


EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) -- A Russian plane loaded with aid for the people in Gaza arrived to el-Arish airport Friday evening, an Egyptian security source said.

The airplane, which belongs to the Russian government, carried 43 tons of humanitarian aid to be distributed to Gaza on Saturday. more

Friday, 21 December 2012

Official: 5 injured by Israeli fire in Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces shot and injured five Palestinians on Friday in the northern Gaza Strip, a health ministry spokesman said. Ashraf al-Qidra said five Palestinians were hospitalized with moderate wounds after being shot near the border with Israel.

Medics told Ma'an a number of injured Palestinians were brought to the Kamal Udwan and al-Awdah hospitals.

An Israeli military spokesman said several Palestinians "approached the security fence in the northern Gaza Strip.

Soldiers acted "according to the rules of engagement," the spokesman told Ma'an, declining to comment on whether or not live fire was used.

Israeli troops have shot at Gazans near the border at least 10 times since the end of an eight-day offensive last month. Some 30 people have been wounded in the incidents, Gaza officials said. more

UK lawsuit challenges college union’s right to boycott Israel


In October and November, a London court heard a case with potential consequences for the Palestine solidarity movement and for trade unions’ gradual adoption of the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The director of Academic Friends of Israel is suing his own union in an employment tribunal. Ronnie Fraser accuses the 120,000-member-strong University and College Union of “institutional anti-Semitism” after its congress passed motions calling for members to discuss the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli universities.

But according to one court document seen by The Electronic Intifada, Fraser follows a definition of anti-Semitism that seems to include any criticism of Israel. It says he considers “anti-Semitism” to include comments “targeting specifically the State of Israel which was conceived as a Jewish state.”

The suit is part of a “lawfare” strategy that anti-Palestinian groups are resorting to, having effectively lost the debate around Israel boycott measures in the unions several years ago.

Sue Blackwell, a University and College Union activist and former national executive member who has been vocal in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, said Fraser would lose because “there is not a shred of evidence” to support his claims. Even so, “he will have caused UCU a huge headache in terms of money and resources,” she said. more

Official: Israel lets 557 Christians out of Gaza for holidays


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israel will allow 557 Christians from the Gaza Strip to leave to the West Bank to participate in holiday celebrations, Palestinian officials and the Israeli army said.

A Palestinian official told Ma'an that the Israeli side delivered 557 permits to Christians seeking to temporarily leave Gaza to join religious celebrations in the occupied West Bank.

They will be allowed to leave Gaza from Dec. 24 until Jan. 8. The time period covers the two main Christmas observances for Catholic and Orthodox, on Dec. 25 and Jan. 7. more

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Study: Older children hit hardest by Gaza war


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Older children were more affected by Israel's war on the Gaza Strip than younger children, a survey by UNICEF found.

UNICEF worked with the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution and Birzeit University to conduct a rapid psycho-social assessment of children in the hardest-hit areas of the Gaza Strip, four days after the Nov. 21 ceasefire.

Around three-quarters of the children surveyed had witnessed at least four violent events during the 8-day war.

"Older children reported significantly more experience in witnessing violent events, with no difference in exposure between boys and girls. The highest levels of children witnessing violence were found in Gaza City, followed by Khan Younis and north Gaza," UNICEF said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 83 percent reported that their homes were damaged or destroyed in the war. Of those surveyed, 14 percent were injured by Israeli shelling. more

Attacks on Palestinian media unlawful says Human Rights Watch


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel's attacks on journalists and media facilities during its assault on Gaza in November violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

The attacks in mid-November killed two cameramen, wounded 10 employees of media organizations and caused serious damage to media and offices housing them.

Human Rights Watch says a detailed investigation found no evidence that the sites were being used for military objectives, despite such assertions by the Israeli army and government.

“Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.” more

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Gaza fisherman jailed for serving Hamas coffee


GAZA CITY (IPS) - Shortly after Israel and Hamas signed a ceasefire agreement on 21 November, the Israeli navy abducted thirty Palestinian fishermen from Gaza’s waters, destroyed and sank a Palestinian fishing vessel, and confiscated nine fishing boats in the space of four days.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 14 fishermen from a single family, stationed just three nautical miles from the coast of the Gaza Strip, were all arrested on 1 December.

Some fishermen were only two miles off Gaza’s coast when they were attacked with machine gun fire and arrested by the Israeli navy. Ranging from the ages of 14 to 52, the majority in their late teens and early twenties, these fishermen come from some of Gaza’s poorest families (“In new violation of ceasefire, Israeli forces arrest 14 fishermen and confiscate three fishing boats,” 2 December 2012).

According to Mifleh Abu Riyala, a representative of the General Syndicate of Marine Fishermen, the ceasefire has made no difference to Palestinian fishermen.

Palestinians are allowed, under the current Israel-Hamas ceasefire, “to fish six miles out,” he said, “but the Israeli gunboats still attack us, whether we are six or three miles out.”

The Oslo accords granted Palestinian fishermen the right to fish twenty nautical miles out at sea — a right the Israeli navy has unilaterally vetoed, downsizing the fishing “limits” since the 1990s to a mere three miles until last month’s ceasefire allowed a slight increase to six nautical miles. more

Jailed hunger strikers in fourth week: We are fighting for dignity


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike for over three weeks say their battle is a fight for freedom and dignity, in a message sent from Israel's Megiddo jail.

In a statement dictated to lawyer Samer Samaan, the group said the goal of their open hunger strike "is not just to gain our individual freedom but to end the practice of administrative detention, the pointed sword on the neck of the Palestinians."

"This is a battle in the fight for freedom and dignity despite all the continuing pain and torments that impair us, and despite all the pressure that we endure and is practiced against us by the Israeli Prison Service and Shabak to break our will from our steadfastness."

Jafar Azzidine, Tarek Qaadan and Yousef Yassin have been on hunger strike for 22 days, drinking only water and refusing all vitamins and supplements. They were arrested on Nov. 22 and are being held in administrative detention, without charge or trial.

They are still being held in cells with other prisoners but are taken in handcuffs for daily medical tests, prisoner rights group Addameer says. more

Teen dies of Gaza war wounds


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A Palestinian teenager died on Wednesday from wounds sustained during Israel's recent military assault on the Gaza Strip.

Ahmad bin Saed 19, died in an Egyptian hospital where he was being treated for shrapnel wounds from an Israeli airstrike.

The strike on al-Masdar town in central Gaza on Nov. 17 killed his father, also called Ahmad. more

‘National Geographic’ and the Gaza Strip


There's an exceptionally good story about Gaza published in December's National Geographic. The writer, James Verini, captures the reality of the Strip in somber colors. He also humanizes the Palestinians in ways few other mainstream publications have managed to do:
Our interpreter, Ayman, told us that after the airport was built, he was so proud of it that he took his family there on weekends for picnics. “Look at the destruction,” he said, shaking his head. “Everything. Everything is ... destructed.” “Destructed” is a favorite malapropism of Ayman’s. It’s apt. “Destroyed” doesn’t quite capture the quality of ruination in Gaza. “Destructed,” with its ring of inordinate purpose, does.
Photographer Paolo Pellegrin's images communicate the depth of the darkness and destitution the Palestinians contend with: more

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Israel presses on with plans for 6,000 new settler homes


JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israeli officials said they would press on with plans this week to build 6,000 homes for settlers on Palestinian land, defying criticism from Western powers who fear the move will hit already faint hopes for a peace accord.

Stung by the de facto recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in a UN General Assembly vote last month, Israel announced it would expand settlements in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

An Israeli interior ministry planning committee on Monday gave preliminary approval for 1,500 new homes in the Ramat Shlomo settlement.

The panel will now start discussing plans for another 4,500 homes in two other settlements, Givat Hamatos and Gilo, in back-to-back sessions that could run into next week, ministry spokesman Efrat Orbach said Tuesday.

Israel counts the three settlements as part of its Jerusalem municipality even though they are on West Bank land seized in the 1967 Middle East war. more

Agriculture ministry warns beetles threaten Gaza date harvest


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Agriculture minister Ali al-Tarshawi on Tuesday warned that beetles are threatening the date harvest in the Gaza Strip.

The red palm weevil, a species of beetle, has been spreading in the Gaza Strip since Sept. 2011, al-Tarshawi said at a news conference in Gaza City.

Al-Tarshawi urged farmers to monitor their crops and contact the agriculture ministry if their trees are infested. more

Monday, 17 December 2012

IOF Shoots Palestinian Fishing Boats in Gaza, Palestinian Injured


On Monday 17th December, Yediot Ahranot Israeli newspaper said in a press release that Israeli Navy Forces fired gunshots on the Palestinian fishing boats that Israel claimed were discovered outside the fishing limits in the northern Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian was injured and transferred to Brazilai Medical Center in Ashkalon for treatment. more

Hamas: Fatah can celebrate anniversary in Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas-run Ministry of Interior has agreed to allow Fatah to celebrate its 48th anniversary in Gaza, a ministry spokesman said Monday.

Islam Shahwan said government authorities would contact Fatah members to coordinate arrangements for the festival, adding that Hamas would permit the celebrations "to promote the atmosphere of unity."

Earlier, Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Aita said Hamas had refused a request to hold the anniversary festival in Gaza City's al-Katiba Square.

"Al-Katiba square is the only square in Gaza suitable for a big event with a large number of people, and it's the main square for national celebrations," Abu Aita said, noting that Hamas and Islamic Jihad held rallies there. more

Hamas 'refuses Fatah rally' in Gaza City square


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Hamas government in Gaza has refused a request to hold Fatah's 48th anniversary celebrations in Gaza City's al-Katiba Square, a Fatah spokesman said Monday.

Fayez Abu Aita said Fatah "regretted" Hamas' refusal to allow the party to stage a festival in the square, which he said implied that Hamas rejected any Fatah celebrations in the Gaza Strip.

"Al-Katiba square is the only square in Gaza suitable for a big event with a large number of people, and it's the main square for national celebrations," Abu Aita said, noting that Hamas and Islamic Jihad held rallies there. more

Witnesses: Palestinian shot by forces near Gaza border


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian man was shot in the chest by Israeli forces near the Gaza border on Sunday, witnesses said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said she was not aware of the incident, which took place near al-Qarara town in south Gaza.

Locals told Ma'an a man in his 20s suffered a bullet wound after Israeli forces opened fire near the al-Sureij gate on the border.

Israeli troops have fired several times across the border since a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas went into effect in November. more

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Gaza official: Egypt pledged to end Rafah blacklist


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egyptian authorities have pledged to end a blacklist of Gaza residents who cannot use the Rafah crossing to leave the coastal strip, an official in Gaza said on Sunday.

Cabinet secretary-general Abdul Salam Siyam said Egypt also promised to increase the Rafah's capacity for passengers.

Applauding Egypt's support to Gaza, Siyam noted the significant difference between the current government and that of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in their position towards Palestine. more

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Israeli hospital refuses to treat Palestinian child that has kidney cancer


NAZARETH, (PIC)-- The Israeli Kaplan hospital has expelled a Palestinian girl, Lin Hassan, who has been suffering from cancer in both her kidneys despite her treatment was not completed.

The child's mother said in a statement on Saturday that immediately after her daughter started receiving treatment, she was surprised when the hospital administration informed them of the decision to stop all treatments for Lin.

She said that her child was scheduled to be operated on for the removal of the tumor, but the hospital administration expelled her because the Palestinian Authority did not pay the dues of Lin's previous stay in the Israeli hospital. more

Video: 'New brigade' announces third intifada from Hebron


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A video released on Friday purports to show a group of Palestinians announcing the formation of a new military brigade, which it said would start a new uprising against Israel beginning in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The video, posted on YouTube on Friday, shows eight people covering their faces with scarves and holding a Quran.

"We hereby, from the heart of the West Bank, in the revolutionary city of Hebron, declare the establishment of the National Unity Brigades in the Hebron district," one of the groups says.

"We announce that our brigades include supporters of al-Yasin (Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yasin), al-Yasser (Fatah leader Yasser Arafat), al-Shiqaqi (Islamic Jihad leader Fathi al-Shiqaqi), and (PFLP leader) Abu Ali Mustafa." more

Israel violates Gaza ceasefire deal by threatening fishermen, farmers


GAZA (IRIN) - When Jaber Abu Rjaila heard about the recent ceasefire agreement in Gaza, he rushed back to his farmland — for the first time in more than ten years.

“We have been farmers for generations. It’s our life and I’m very glad that we are back here now freely working,” he said. “I’ve been longing for this moment.”

His farmland lies in the “access-denied” and buffer zone areas close to the Israeli-built barrier, but the recent ceasefire agreement holds out the promise of an easing of naval and land controls at the border.

Oxfam says the five-year blockade by Israel has “devastated Gaza’s farming and fishing industries,” leading to the closure of nearly 60 percent of Gaza’s businesses, according to a new briefing paper published this month (“Beyond Ceasefire,” 6 December 2012).

Abu Rjaila has ambitions to plant tomatoes, parsley and zucchini for sale, and to help feed his 14-member family. But he knows he is not in the clear yet.

Israeli soldiers often use their loudspeakers to tell him to keep tens of meters from the barrier — and he still worries about random shooting, sudden Israeli incursions, and unexploded shells.

Abu Rjaila’s house and land are about 450 meters from the border in eastern Khan Younis, where he owns a seven-hectare farm on some of the most fertile land in Gaza (one hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters).

After the ceasefire was introduced on 21 November, bringing to an end Israel’s eight-day attack on Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians who own houses and land in these areas returned. more

Friday, 14 December 2012

Israeli soldiers shoot, injure young Gaza man


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A young Palestinian man was shot and injured Friday evening by Israeli soldiers east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, medical officials said.

Gaza paramedics told Ma'an they evacuated a 19-year-old to Al-Awda Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip after he was hit by two live bullets in his feet near Abu Safiyya Hill east of Jabaliya.

They added that Israeli troops fired live bullets and tear gas canisters at Palestinians near the border area. One man suffered from tear-gas inhalation, they said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment. more

Hamas announces second day of West Bank rallies


TULKAREM (Ma'an) -- Hamas will hold rallies in the West Bank on Friday in the second day of its celebrations to mark the movement's 25th anniversary.

On Thursday, thousands turned out in Nablus to celebrate the founding of Hamas, the first time Hamas was authorized to hold a mass political event in the West Bank by the Fatah-dominated government.

Fatah officials took part in the Nablus rally, while the party's representatives in Gaza, where Hamas rules, have also got the go-ahead for their own anniversary event which is expected next month.

Hamas said on Friday a march will be held after Friday prayers from the Jadid Mosque in Tulkarem. more

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Gaza rally demands release of hunger strikers


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Protesters rallied in Gaza City on Thursday demanding the release of long-term hunger strikers from Israeli jails.



Ayman Sharawneh has been on hunger strike for 166 days and Samer al-Issawi has refused food for 135 days. Both were rearrested after their release in Oct. 2011 in a prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel.



The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine organized the march from UN headquarters to the offices of the Red Cross in Gaza City calling on Israel to abide by the prisoner exchange and free both men.



DFLP leader Ibrahim Mansour said both prisoners were risking death to defend freedom and rights for themselves and all Palestinians.



Mansour said Palestinians would achieve victory in the issue of prisoners as they had at the United Nations and in Israel's 8-day war on Gaza in November.



He urged Egypt to pressure Israel to release all Palestinian detainees, especially those previously freed in the prisoner exchange that Cairo mediated. more

Gaza perfume sales soar with rocket name


GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Sales of a citrus-scented perfume marketed in Gaza have soared since it was named in honor of the rockets that Palestinians shot at Israel during a war last month, the manufacturer said.

"M-75" perfume, which comes in men's and women's fragrances, is named for the missiles Hamas shot at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in an 8-day conflict that killed more than 170 Palestinians and six Israelis, ending with an Egyptian-brokered truce.

Although both sides proclaimed victory, and Israel said it had halted rocket fire at its towns, many in Gaza take pride in militants having shot a rocket as far as Tel Aviv, the longest-range aerial strike by the Palestinians so far.

"I hope the smell is strong enough for them to whiff in Tel Aviv and remind the Jews of the Palestinian victory," Ahmed Hassan, a customer from neighboring Egypt, said as he bought 30 vials of the perfume as souvenirs in a Gaza City shop. more

Israeli forces kill Hebron teenager


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- An Israeli border guard officer on Wednesday shot dead a Palestinian teenager in Hebron's Old City in the southern West Bank.

Locals identified the victim as 16-year-old Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah.

A local doctor, hearing shots fired, rushed to the Salaymah neighborhood, near the Ibrahimi Mosque, but was unable to revive the teenager.

The doctor told Ma'an that local women were arguing with Israeli forces who were preventing them from reaching Salaymah.

"I followed the women, and when I felt his pulse, I found that he was dead," the doctor said. more

Israeli forces fire on Gaza Farmers and Internationals in Khuza’a


Gaza- Israeli forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at unarmed farmers and international solidarity activists working in Khuza’a, a small village outside of Khan Younis located near the Israeli border. At 10:30 AM, the farmers arrived and began to plough approximately 100 meters from the separation fence while internationals lined up in between the border and the farmers. They were quickly met by an Israeli military jeep and transport vehicle. An Israeli soldier issued a warning in Arabic to leave the area and then fired two rounds into the air. The farmers and internationals remained calm and continued their work and the Israeli soldiers left the area.

At around 11 AM, approximately 20 Palestinians and farmers gathered around 300meters back from the fence. Two military jeeps returned to the area. One soldier exited his vehicle and fired four shots in the direction of the farmers and activists. The fourth shot crossed the line of the activists and landed in the field being ploughed. Again, the Palestinians and internationals were not deterred. The Israeli jeeps left and the farmers finished working on this section of land and moved on to an adjacent plot.

Fifteen minutes later, two Israeli jeeps returned, one equipped with an automatic machine gun. A soldier fired three canisters of tear gas directly in front of the activists. He proceeded to shoot at the tractor, damaging its engine and bringing the work to a halt. An international was accompanying the driver aboard the tractor. The accompaniment team included participants from Spain, Italy, France, England, Scotland, Germany and the United States. more

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Gaza doctors rebuild medical center destroyed by Israel


GAZA CITY (IPS) - The Abu Shabaan complex in eastern Gaza City hosted a medical center. The center was severely damaged when eight Israeli bombs struck a government compound 10 meters across the road on 21 November.

The bombings also took a considerable toll on the homes and businesses nearby, including the Gaza bureau of Al Jazeera.

More than 50 percent of the private medical center in the Abu Shabaan building was destroyed, said Dr. Naim Shariff, 42, owner of the Benoon In Vitro Fertilization clinic.



Two weeks after the bombing tore apart the sixth floor and ravaged the fifth floor, Shariff put new panes in the windows, ordered new specialized machinery, and re-opened for clients.

“The problem with replacing my machines and equipment is that most of it doesn’t exist in Gaza. It takes months to arrive and costs more money than it would elsewhere,” he said.

“What else can I do but start again? There’s no insurance here for war damages.”

Three floors down, a privately-run dentist’s office has replaced broken windows and office glass, and installed a new reclining dental chair in place of the destroyed one.

“The walls were completely black before,” says Doaa Moshaawi, 32, a dentist. “Everything was damaged here, all the jars of medicine and instruments we use in our practice were destroyed.”

The blown-out Abu Shabaan building, and the testimonies of its tenants, add to the mounting body of evidence that Israel’s bombing sprees in the Gaza Strip disproportionately affect civilian property, homes and lives.

The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks that will lead to “loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof.” All of these things are inevitable in the overcrowded Gaza Strip. more

Israel to withhold Palestinian funds until March, at least


JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Israel will withhold tax revenues from President Mahmoud Abbas's administration until March at least in response to his statehood campaign at the United Nations, Israel's foreign minister said.

Under interim peace deals, Israel collects some $100 million a month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank -- money that is badly needed to pay public sector salaries.

"The Palestinians can forget about getting even one cent in the coming four months, and in four months' time we will decide how to proceed," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a speech on Tuesday night.

Israel says Abbas violated previous peace accords by sidestepping stalled negotiations and securing a Palestinian status upgrade in the United Nations last month.

Israel has already withheld the December transfer, saying the money would be used to start paying off $200 million the Palestinians owe the Israel Electric Corporation. more

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Palestinians call for freer access to Gaza land and sea


GAZA CITY (IRIN) -- When Jaber Abu Rjaila heard about the recent ceasefire agreement in Gaza, he rushed back to his farmland - for the first time in more than 10 years.

"We have been farmers for generations. It's our life and I'm very glad that we are back here now freely working," he told IRIN. "I've been longing for this moment."

His farmland lies in the "access-denied" and buffer zone areas close to the Israeli-built barrier, but the recent ceasefire agreement holds out the promise of an easing of naval and land controls at the border.

Oxfam says the five-year blockade by Israel has "devastated Gaza's farming and fishing industries" leading to the closure of nearly 60 percent of Gaza's businesses, according to a new briefing paper published this month.

Israel imposed the blockade, it says, for security reasons.

Abu Rjaila has ambitions to plant tomatoes, parsley and zucchini for sale, and to help feed his 14-member family. But he knows he is not in the clear yet.

Israeli soldiers often use their loudspeakers to tell him to keep tens of meters from the border - and he says he still worries about "random shooting, sudden Israeli incursions, and unexploded shells". more

Qatar committee to begin Gaza reconstruction projects


Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh walks with the emir of Qatar at Rafah crossing on Oct. 23. (Reuters/Mohammed Abed, Pool) GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Qatari committee will begin work on reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a committee official said.

Muhammad al-Amadi, head of Qatar's committee for reconstructing Gaza, said 24 projects would be launched on Wednesday.

Some 52 companies applied for the Gaza reconstruction bids and the Qatari committee is in the process of finalizing the contracts, al-Amadi told Ma'an.

A number of Hamas ministers will take part in the launch ceremony for the reconstruction projects, including Yousef al-Ghaziz, minister for public works and housing, minister of agriculture Ali al-Tarshawi and head of local government Muhammad al-Farra. more

Israeli forces raid NGO offices in Ramallah


RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces raided three civil society organizations in Ramallah early Tuesday, a Ma'an correspondent said.

Soldiers raided the offices of the Agricultural Work Committees, prisoners group Addameer, and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees, located in Qaddura refugee camp.

Four laptops, one hard disk and a video camera were taken from Addameer's office, a statement from the group said. It is the first time the prisoners group has been raided since 2002, during the height of the second Palestinian intifada.

Israeli forces confiscated files and computer hardware from the women's committee before ransacking the office, witnesses said.

During the raid, clashes broke out with local youths and Israeli soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas.

Military forces also raided the offices of the Palestinian NGO Network, Ma'an's reporter said. more

Monday, 10 December 2012

PA allows Hamas to hold an anniversary rally in the West Bank


On Monday 10th December, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he will launch a new initiative to resume negotiations with Israel that include the demand to release prisoners and a call to cease settlement construction.

According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper, President Abbas said that only a full six-month settlement freeze, including Jewish building in east Jerusalem, could push ahead negotiations.

He also added, "We want to discuss a mechanism that would lead to an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian and Arab territories, including Jerusalem, the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails and halting settlement construction."

"If this happens, there could be feasible negotiations. Also, we could return from point zero," said Abba. more

Israeli authorities 'to demolish West Bank road'


SALFIT (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities on Monday notified Palestinian farmers in a northern West Bank village that a road connecting them to their fields will be demolished, locals told Ma'an.

Residents of Qarawat Bani Hassan, near Salfit, said Israeli planning officers told them the al-Hurriya (Freedom) road will be demolished in two weeks.

Farmers were told to avoid agricultural work in the area. more

Witnesses: Israeli army vehicles breach Gaza border


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Witnesses said Israeli military vehicles crossed the border into the Gaza Strip near Khan Younis on Monday morning.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said forces were carrying out "routine activity" in the area.

Eyewitnesses told Ma'an the vehicles came several hundred meters into Gaza territory and were scanning the area.

Israel's recent 8-day war on Gaza ended with a ceasefire on Nov. 21, which included a pledge to end incursions into Gaza's territory. more

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Man dies of wounds sustained in Gaza war


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A man died on Sunday from wounds sustained in Israel's eight day assault on the Gaza Strip in November, medics said.

Zeidan al-Nahhal, 48, died in an Egyptian hospital on Sunday after being injured in Israel's week-long bombardment of Gaza, which began after the targeted assassination of Hamas military commander Ahmed al-Jaabari on Nov. 14.

Several people have died from their injuries since a ceasefire agreement was signed on Nov. 21 to end violence in Gaza.

Israel's assault on the coastal enclave killed at least 170 people and wounded over 1,000. more