Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Gaza al-Qassam Brigades fighter killed in mysterious explosion


GAZA CITY: A militant with the armed wing of Gaza's ruling Hamas movement died in Gaza City on Wednesday after the car he was travelling in exploded, Palestinian medical sources said.

There was no accusation against Israel, prompting suspicions it was a "work accident" -- the euphemism for the accidental detonation of explosives held by militants.

Medics named the victim as Ayman al-Shufra, a member of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and said two other Palestinians who had also been in the car with him were wounded. more

'The Gaza Hacker Group' launches attack on Israeli websites


The personal website of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein was hacked Tuesday, with anti-Israel slogans posted on the page.

The hackers, who identified themselves as “The Gaza Hacker Group,” wrote “Death to Israel” and other rants against the State of Israel and against Edelstein, the Nana 10 news outlet reported.

“This hacking is an act of terror in every way,” Edelstein said of the incident. He declared that no one could silence his advocacy on behalf of Israel and the Jewish residents of the West Bank.

“We are defeating our enemies every day on all fronts, and it will be the same on the Internet and in the various new media,” he said. more

Israeli spending on West Bank settlements up 38%


Israeli government spending on West Bank settlements has increased by 38% under prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, according to official figures disclosed as the cabinet voted to implement an austerity package of tax increases and budget cuts.

According to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, obtained by the business newspaper Calcalist, spending on Jewish settlements in the West Bank was 1.1bn shekels in 2011, up from 0.8bn the previous two years. The overall state budget increased by 2.7% in 2011, Calcalist reported.

Last year's figure was well below a 2003 high of 2.1bn shekels, but since then there has been a steady decrease in settlement spending until 2011.

The money mainly goes on housing, education and services, such as transport and utilities. It does not include security costs.

According to a spokesperson for the Settlers Council quoted by Calcalist, the Jewish population in the West Bank has grown at a rate of 5% a year, almost two and a half times the population growth of Israel. more

Amid shortages Egyptian generals finally OK fuel shipment to Gaza


Over half a million liters of industrial fuel are headed for the Gaza strip from Egypt, according to state run news agency MENA, making it one of the largest shipments since the beginning of the blockade on Gaza.

The containers travelled from Suez to Al-Awja border crossing in North Sinai on Monday.

“No legal document or agreement prevents Egypt from sending fuel to Gaza,” said Saeed Okasha, political expert at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, noting the legality of such a move from an international law standpoint.

“Such forms of aid to Gaza have been ongoing from the Egyptian side since the siege was started,” he added.

The increased shipment looks tied to President Mohamed Morsy’s strong relationship with Gaza’s Hamas government, but the fuel also forms part of over 5.5 million litres that have already traveled to Gaza from Egypt following a decision by the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to supply Gaza with 20,000 tons of industrial fuel that has been in place since 7 June. more

Monday, 30 July 2012

Caterpillar machinery once again involved in Israeli occupation activity


Who Profits?, a project of the Tel Aviv-based Coalition of Women for Peace, found photo’s of the A1 high-speed train project that will connect Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on the Israel Railways’ Facebook page. The photo’s - published on 4 June 2012 - document the use of Caterpillar equipment in the construction of tunnel 3A which lies within the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel’s A1 high-speed train crosses the Green Line - the 1949 Armistice Line (also known as the “1967 line” or “Green Line”) that is internationally recognized as the boundary between Israel and the occupied West Bank. When completed, the A1 high-speed train will exclusively serve Israeli commuters between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Who Profits published a report on the A1 fast train in October 2010.

Israel builds railway tunnel 3A on occupied land

The railway will run for six kilometers on occupied Palestinian land, violating international law in several ways. For example, Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids Israel as occupying power from destroying Palestinian property. The construction of the A1 railway also constitutes a significant alteration of the infrastructure of the West Bank contrary to the Hague Regulations of 1907, Section 3. Israel’s entire settlement enterprise in the West Bank has been declared illegal and illegitimate countless times by governments all over the world and by the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice although no action has ever been taken to enforce those decisions.
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Supply convoy for Jordan’s military field hospital in the Gaza Strip enters through Beit Hanoun


GAZA (Petra) - A supply convoy for Jordan’s military field hospital in the Gaza Strip, dubbed "Gaza 19", arrived in the coastal enclave on Monday through the Beit Hanoun border crossing.

"Gaza 19" hospital director Mohammad Al Itna said the ten-truck convoy was laden with medical equipment and other supplies.

Also today Jordan’s military field hospital Gaza 20 began arriving at the coastal enclave.

Since its deployment in Gaza in January 2009, upon directives of His Majesty King Abdullah II, the hospital provided treatment to more than 863,000 Palestinians in Gaza. more

CIA considers Israel the largest counterintelligence threat in the Middle East


WASHINGTON (AP) — The CIA station chief opened the locked box containing the sensitive equipment he used from his home in Tel Aviv, Israel, to communicate with CIA headquarters in Virginia, only to find that someone had tampered with it. He sent word to his superiors about the break-in.

The incident, described by three former senior U.S. intelligence officials, might have been dismissed as just another cloak-and-dagger incident in the world of international espionage, except that the same thing had happened to the previous station chief in Israel.

It was a not-so-subtle reminder that, even in a country friendly to the United States, the CIA was itself being watched.

In a separate episode, according to another two former U.S. officials, a CIA officer in Israel came home to find the food in the refrigerator had been rearranged. In all the cases, the U.S. government believes Israel's security services were responsible.

Such meddling underscores what is widely known but rarely discussed outside intelligence circles: Despite inarguable ties between the U.S. and its closest ally in the Middle East and despite statements from U.S. politicians trumpeting the friendship, U.S. national security officials consider Israel to be, at times, a frustrating ally and a genuine counterintelligence threat.

In addition to what the former U.S. officials described as intrusions in homes in the past decade, Israel has been implicated in U.S. criminal espionage cases and disciplinary proceedings against CIA officers and blamed in the presumed death of an important spy in Syria for the CIA during the administration of President George W. Bush.

The CIA considers Israel its No. 1 counterintelligence threat in the agency's Near East Division, the group that oversees spying across the Middle East, according to current and former officials. more

Romney causes outrage with racist comments inferring Israeli superiority to Palestinians

(Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Israel's economic success compared to its Palestinian neighbours was due in part to "the hand of providence", Mitt Romney told a $25,000-a-head fundraising event in Jerusalem on Monday.

"And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognise the power of at least culture and a few other things," the presumptive Republican candidate told his audience. He cited a climate of innovation, the Jewish history of thriving in adversity and the "hand of providence"....

...Romney drew a comparison between Israel's economic success and the Palestinians'. "As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality," he said.

In fact, according to the World Bank, Israel had a per capita gross domestic product of about $31,000 in 2011, while the West Bank and Gaza had a per capita GDP of just over $1,500.

Romney did not visit the West Bank during his brief visit, although he met the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian official Saeb Erekat condemned Romney's comments. "What is this man doing here? Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn't this racism? Israelis and Palestinians have a conflict, but they are people, they are equal, it is not a better culture or advanced culture.

"It's Israeli occupiers and Palestinians under occupation, and that's why Palestinians cannot realise their potential," he said. more

Gaza families visit relatives in Israeli jails


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A group of Gaza families left the the coastal enclave early on Monday to visit relatives in Israeli jails, a prisoners group said.

Around 30 people left Gaza to see imprisoned relatives in Israel in the third visit of its kind since 2007, Gaza-based prisoners group Waed said.

"Israeli authorities do not allow young children to visit their relatives in Israel’s custody," director of Waed, Sabir Abu Karsh, said. The pretext given by Israel is that these visits are experimental, he added.

Ayman Shihabi, the public information officer of the International Committee of the Red Cross, told Ma'an that the ICRC would continue to coordinate with all parties to make sure the visit is successful. more

Palestinian killed, two injured, by army fire in Jerusalem


Palestinian medical sources in Jerusalem reported that one Palestinian was killed on Monday at dawn, and two others were wounded, when Israeli soldiers, stationed at a roadblock east of occupied East Jerusalem, opened fire at their car under the pretext that they did not heed to soldiers ordering them to stop.

The sources said that that Akram Badee’, from Beitello village near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, was moved by the army to the Hadassah Israeli hospital in Jerusalem, but died of his wounds later on; he was hit by a live round in his head.

The two wounded residents were moved by Red Crescent medics to a local hospital in Ramallah.

One Israeli soldier was not reportedly mildly wounded, likely by friendly fire, as the driver, nor that passengers, were armed. more

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Occupation forces Jerusalemite to demolish part of his home, arrests another


OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) forced a Palestinian Jerusalemite, Yacob Rasheq, to demolish an annex in his house in the town of Silwan in Jerusalem.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that the IOA obliged Rasheq to demolish a part of his house in Al-Bustan neighborhood under the pretext that he did not obtain a construction license from the municipality.

The Israeli municipality of Jerusalem forced the Palestinian civilian to demolish his house giving him seven days to demolish it by himself or the municipality would do it and he would pay a fine of at least 17 thousand dollars.

Israeli authorities had notified more than 88 houses of demolition in AL-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan town three years ago under the pretext of establishing tourism projects and public facilities for Jewish settlers. more

Fatah, Hamas to meet in Cairo for national reconciliation talks, sources say


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Preparations are currently underway for a meeting between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo, Palestinian sources said Sunday.

Egypt is exerting efforts to hold a meeting between the two political movements and it is expected that President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal would attend, sources told Ma'an.

The meeting is set to take place in Cairo within a few days and the leaders will discuss political reconciliation, the terms of which have still yet to be fully implemented.

Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi on Thursday in an official visit that signaled a shift in Cairo's stance toward Hamas after the election of a Muslim Brotherhood head of state. more

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Brothers jailed by US and expelled to Gaza speak out


By Joe Catron

When Basman Elashi reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas, Texas on 9 July, he expected nothing unusual. He had visited the federal agency regularly since his release from its custody in March 2009.

"At first I was only reporting every six months," he said over tea in his family's Gaza home. "Then they reduced it to three months. Then, the last time, they asked me to report the following month."

"They held me for three hours," he said of his final visit. "I asked them why they were holding me so long. As it turns out, they were waiting for [my brother] Bayan to come in the afternoon. Then five people surrounded me, told me they were deporting me, and handcuffed me. I didn't see Bayan until we were in the van."

Unlike his brother, Bayan Elashi had been forced to wear a monitoring anklet and report every week after his April 2009 release. "When I reported to them on Monday, 9 July, as I always do, they arrested me and said that I would be leaving the country within 24 to 48 hours," he said.

"At the detention center, they said we had two hours to call our families to bring us anything we needed for our deportations," Basman said. "This was the only window we had to call or see them."

The brothers' ordeal began much earlier, when the US government arrested them on 18 December 2002. "The [US] government actually indicted us on three counts: a sealed one; the second one, based on which they arrested us; and a third one after it was finalized," Bayan recalled. more

Hamas invites Egypt's Mursi to visit Gaza


Hamas on Saturday invited newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to visit the Gaza Strip.

The invitation was relayed to Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who is currently visiting Egypt for the first time since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

The PA leadership in the West Bank, meanwhile, has expressed disappointment with Mursi for inviting the Hamas Prime Minister to Cairo.

The PA position was delivered to the Egyptians through their envoy to Ramallah, a PA official told The Jerusalem Post. more

Haniyeh: Egypt agrees to Rafah crossing opening for 12 hours each day


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egypt will follow a new policy on the Rafah crossing between it and the Gaza Strip, and the people of Gaza will experience changes in travel procedures and times, says prime minister of the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh.

Speaking to the Gaza-based Hamas-affiliated Palestine newspaper following a meeting with Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi, Haniyeh said that the crossing would operate 12 hours a day, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Further, the number of travelers leaving the enclave will rise to 1,500 a day, and all arrivals from abroad will be let in. “Sixty percent of the Gazan citizens blacklisted by Egypt and denied entry have been removed from the list,” Haniyeh added.

In addition, he said, an agreement has been reached that any Palestinian citizen who arrives in Egypt from other countries will be granted a 72-hour visa, so as to make travel arrangements and avoid been deported.

The electricity crisis was also discussed, he said.

“Three major steps will be carried out to solve the power crisis starting with an increase in the amount of fuel to Gaza’s power plant in tandem with amplifying the power grid from Egypt to Gaza from 22 to 30 megawatt. After that, a gas pipeline will be built to provide Egyptian natural gas to the sole power plant in the coastal enclave. Then, the Gaza Strip will be connected to the joint Arab grid known as the 8th grid.” more

Friday, 27 July 2012

Video: Israeli soldier headbutts Palestinian teen at army checkpoint


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- An Israeli soldier was caught on camera headbutting a Palestinian teenager on Wednesday, according to footage captured by a volunteer for Israeli organization B'Tselem.

The incident occurs at an Israeli army checkpoint in the West Bank city. Soldiers order a group of young Palestinians to present their ID cards, and one of the teenagers is shown arguing with the soldier.

An Israeli officer arrives at the scene and is seen, at 1:05 in the video, headbutting the teenager, identified by B'Tselem as 17-year-old Thaer Ghanam.

Ghanam can be seen bleeding from his face as the soldier continues to assault him. more

Israeli military calls for demolition of village on pretext it's built on archaeological site


Israeli daily Ha’aretz is reporting that the Israeli military has called for the demolition of a Palestinian village under the pretext that it is built on an archaeological site.
The village in question is Zanuta located in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank, situated close to the construction route of the annexation wall. The village falls under the designation of Area C, meaning that the Israeli military has full control of both administrative and security affairs under the guise of the so-called Civil Administration.

Ha’aretz states that the area was designated an archaeological area under the British Mandate, the period following the fall of the Ottoman empire till 1948 when several parts of the Middle East, including Palestine, where subject to occupation by the United Kingdom.

The military is claiming that the homes in the village, which comprise numerous improvised structures, were built without permission and that no master plan for the village is registered with the Civil Administration thus making all construction illegal. more

Damaged power line exacerbates power crisis in Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Residents of northern Gaza and Gaza City are experiencing power outages due to a damaged electricity line, the power company in Gaza said Thursday.

Spokesman for Gaza's electricity company Jamal al-Dardasawi told Ma'an the main power line running from Israel to Gaza was damaged, but that Palestinian technicians could not repair the line as the damage was in Israel. more

Video: Gisha presents - strawberries for sale


This week we are asking Israelis to devote two minutes of their day to a worthy cause. We know that many others are also asking for two minutes for a multitude of worthy causes, but trust us, these will be two minutes well spent. Each day we are asking people to send a letter to a different individual who can play a role in allowing sale of goods from Gaza in the West Bank. Why?

Let’s start at the beginning

With the exception of two shipments of date bar snacks, for the past five years there has been a complete ban on the sale of Gaza-made products in the West Bank and Israel. This ban has had a dramatic impact on Gaza’s economy, which, like any other economy, depends on commerce for its survival and development. Before the closure, about 85% of the goods shipped out of Gaza were sold in the West Bank and Israel. Now that this is no longer possible, commerce out of Gaza has all but ground to a halt and months can go by without a single truck leaving the Strip. These restrictions play a major role in the fact that the manufacturing sectors in Gaza are paralyzed, that the rate of unemployment is 31.5% and that 70% of the population receives humanitarian aid. more

Israeli study concludes that it's necessary to lift the Gaza siege


Researchers at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) have advised Israeli politicians to allow the opening of the Rafah Crossing and lift the Gaza siege to avoid a potential military confrontation with Egypt.

The study, which was conducted by senior academic researchers from various disciplines, is based on an analysis of the discussions of Egyptian intellectuals on Facebook and the discourse of journalists since the victory of Muslim Brotherhood nominee, Mohammed Morsi, in Egypt's presidential election.

The INSS is an external research unit for Tel Aviv University, which has strong ties with the political and military establishment. According to the institute, five key issues connected to Israeli-Egyptian relations dominated the discussions studied.

The prime issue is the unstable security situation in Sinai, which is the result of a lack of government control over the region's Bedouin. "The greatest security challenge currently facing Egypt is the spread of terrorism and crime in Sinai due to ineffective governance and the lack of integration of the Bedouin tribes in wider Egyptian society," the study stated. more

In shift by Egypt, president meets Hamas leader


(Reuters) - Gaza Islamist leader Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on Thursday in an official visit that signalled a big shift in Cairo's stance toward the Hamas movement after the election of a Muslim Brotherhood head of state in Egypt.

A Palestinian official said the head of Egyptian intelligence had promised measures to increase the flow of fuel supplied by Qatar to Gaza via Egypt and needed to ease the small Palestinian territory's power shortages. The sides had also discussed increasing the flow of Palestinians across the border.

But there was no immediate sign that Cairo was ready to open up its border with Gaza to the extent sought by Hamas, something analysts partly attributed to the influence still wielded by the Hosni Mubarak-era security establishment. more

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Israel bans 5 Gaza women from study in West Bank


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel's Defense Ministry said Thursday it would not allow five female students from Gaza to go to university in the West Bank, rights groups said.

In May, Israel's Supreme Court ordered the ministry to reconsider its refusal to allow the students to travel to the West Bank, after Israel admitted there were no individual security concerns about any of the students.

On Thursday, Israel's General Eitan Dangot said the students would not be allowed to travel because of "substantial political and security reasons," the Israeli organization Gisha said in a statement.

The five students -- four of whom are veteran women's rights activists -- are enrolled to study gender studies, democracy and law programs at Birzeit University near Ramallah. There are no Master's programs in gender studies or democracy in the Gaza Strip. more

Over 100 Gaza families flee Syria, returning through Rafah crossing


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- More than 100 Palestinian families have fled Syria due to the deterioration in safety and security resulting from the uprising against President Bashar Assad, an official said Tuesday.

Hamza Abu Shanab of the Gaza-based Palestinian Coalition for the Syrian Revolution told Ma'an that 105 families originally from the Gaza Strip have returned safely through Egypt's Rafah crossing in recent days. The families had business ties in Syria or were students studying at Syrian universities, Abu Shanab said.

He says about 300 Palestinians were killed and 900 injured since the beginning of the turmoil in Syria. Some 10,000 Palestinians have been detained by Assad's forces, but not all of them remain in detention. more

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Video: Gaza taxi driver builds an electric vehicle in three days


Once Muzer Al-Kasas was able to collect all of the necessary materials, it only took him three days to build a small electric vehicle. Unlike Better Place EVs (which are now for sale in Israel) or any other fancy equivalents, the taxi driver’s inexpensive innovation is a slightly more viable means of transportation for a greater segment of Gaza’s impoverished population.

Using locally-sourced materials (as opposed to materials smuggled through Gaza’s tunnels) including electric cables, metal, a small battery and tires befitting a small golf cart, Al-Kasa constructed a simple vehicle that requires zero fuel to run.

This is very helpful given that Gaza has been suffering a months-long fuel shortage.

The vehicle, which looks like a cross between a Tuk-Tuk and a golf cart, won’t break any speed records. Maxing out at just 12 miles an hour, the DIY project can carry loads of up to 300 pounds. more

Egypt eases siege with end to 'deportation' practice but many restrictions remain


Even as some officials initially denied any easing, Cairo's airport officials said seven Gazans were allowed into Egypt by dawn Monday without the usual restrictions.

Egypt is allowing less restrictive temporary entry for Palestinians into the country in an unprecedented move that eases long-imposed travel restrictions, particularly on Gazans, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said Monday.

The decision comes days after a large Hamas rally in the Strip, which called on newly-elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to make good on his promise to lift the blockade. Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, said that the Palestinians understand the internal issues facing Egyptians, but added that lifting the blockade is a top priority human rights issue that deserves an immediate decision.

The decision has caused confusion among the security agencies — and appeared to bring some resistance. Some officers at the airport refused to implement the measures, an airport official said, in a sign of how deeply some in the security forces view the Palestinians as a potential threat. more

Turkish prime minister Erdogan meets with Hamas leader Mashaal


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — State-run television says Turkey's prime minister has met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to break the daily fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

TRT television says Wednesday that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted Mashaal at his residence in Ankara on Tuesday evening. more

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Under Israeli blockade of Gaza, books are a rare, cherished commodity


The Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip has been blamed for a multitude of problems facing the population there: malnutrition, unemployment, limited access to electricity and potable water.

Gazan students and educators say that under the Israeli-imposed siege, education is suffering too. The blockade makes it so difficult to bring in books that they are forced to resort to bootlegging and smuggling, they say. The limited supply of original books has driven up costs, making them difficult for most Gazans to afford.

Part of the problem is that Israel does not communicate directly with Hamas, the Islamist militant party that governs Gaza, instead relying on the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) to handle issues in both of the Palestinian territories. However, Gaza is isolated from the West Bank, both geographically and politically, so the limited number of books entering Gaza via Israel are chosen by the PA, not Gazans.
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Arab League has announced that it will unanimously support the Palestinian bid for statehood


The Arab League has announced that it will unanimously support the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition in the United Nations General Assembly.

On Monday evening the Arab League announced that its member states would support a bid for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations, reports Ma’an News.

The decision to support the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood was considered by many to be a foregone conclusion. In the face of staunch opposition from Israel and the United States it would have been difficult for members of the Arab League to side with that small but powerful minority in the face of vast international support for a Palestinian state.

The upcoming General Assembly vote on September 5 will not give Palestine a seat or a vote at the UN, but it will grant them non-member status as an observer state. Previously the Palestinian Authority had been granted the opportunity to observe several UN agencies as well as the General Assembly but always as less than a recognized state. more

Ambassador: Regulations for Palestinians' entry to Egypt not changed


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Procedures for Palestinians entering Egypt have not changed, despite earlier reports that restrictions had been eased, Cairo's ambassador to the Palestinian Authority said Monday.

Yasser Othman told Ma'an that regulations for Palestinians' entry to Egypt were still applicable, although Palestinians arriving in Egypt would be granted a 48 -72 hour visa to transit the country in limited cases.

"All the news circulated in the media about Palestinians' entry to Egypt are false, however human considerations will be taken into account regarding the deportation of Palestinians from the Egyptian airport to the Gaza Strip," Othman said. more

Monday, 23 July 2012

Israel issues demolition orders for eight Palestinian villages


Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday ordered the demolition of 8 Palestinian villages in the hills south of Hebron because the Israeli military needs the land for training exercises, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported.

A total of 1,500 residents will be evicted from their homes and have their lands confiscated in the villages of Majaz, Tabban, Sfai, Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba and Kharuba. The villages of Tuba, Mufaqara, Sarura and Megheir al-Abeid, which are also nearby, appear to have been spared.

Evacuation orders were first issued in 1999, but were frozen by an injunction from the Israeli High Court of Justice. The Israeli military views the land as theirs however, and the Palestinians living there as illegal squatters according to Ha’aretz. more

Apartheid Safari with the illegal settlers of Hebron


Saturday evening, around 6pm, a group of illegal Israeli settlers move through the Old City of Palestinian Al Khalil (Hebron). They are both surrounded and fortified by Israeli soldiers. On paper, this tour through is a supposed “ultimate family experience in Israel“. In reality however, families should be steering clear. This tour is living proof that apartheid is not something of the past.

HEBRON

‘Settler tours’ are guided tours throughout the Old City of Hebron, where settlers can take a walk – enforced by soldiers and police armed to the teeth. At given places, the guide tells stories about historical circumstances in and around Hebron, more or less based on biased historical views.

In 1994, the Palestinian city of Hebron was divided into 2 zones. H1 area is under Palestinian Authority control, while H2 area harbours illegal Israeli settlers within central Hebron. During the second intifada that began in 2000, more than 337 days of curfew for the Palestinians were proclaimed in H2. Today, any Palestinian entering the zone must go through check-points.

The ancient Old City centre contains, like in many other Arabic states, tightly packed and roofed alleys with small shops on either side. Hebron is different. During the morning prayers in 1994, an Israeli settler massacred almost 30 Palestinians as they prayed in the sacred Ibrahimi Mosque. As a result, Israeli forces punished the Palestinian population by closing a great deal of Palestinian shops and homes and seriously strangling a vital and once-lively Palestinian trade.

The settler tour passes through both the closed (for Palestinians) and still open part of the city centre. It is in the latter part that problems often arise, when settlers attack Palestinians and their property with impunity under protection of the Israeli military soldiers. more

Akram Rikhawi ends 102-day hunger strike as Israel agrees to early release


Akram Rikhawi, who had been on hunger strike for more than 100 days, has ended his fast in exchange for an agreement by Israel for his early release.

Prisoner’s rights group Addameer issued the following statement today:

Ramallah, 23 July 2012 - Following a visit today by Addameer lawyer Mona Nadaf, Addameer can confirm that Palestinian hunger striker Akram Rikhawi has ended his hunger strike after reaching an agreement with the Israeli Prison Service. Akram ended his hunger strike yesterday evening after 102 days.

As part of the agreement Akram will be released on 25th January 2013, which is six months prior to his original release date. Addameer’s lawyer visited Akram in Ramleh prison, where he remains in critical condition. It was agreed that upon his release he will return to his home in the Gaza Strip. more

PA, Hamas govt to meet in Cairo over Gaza electricity troubles


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A top Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader said Sunday that a technical committee composed of officials from both the West Bank and Gaza Strip will meet in Cairo to discuss alleviating a fuel crisis in Gaza.

Talal Abu Tharifeh said the committee would discuss solutions with Egyptian authorities with the aim of increasing the electricity from an Egyptian line into the besieged territory. more

Second group of Gaza families visit relatives in Israeli jails


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A group of families from the Gaza Strip visited relatives in Israeli jails early Monday, in the second visit of its kind since 2007, a prisoners group said.

A bus carrying 52 people set out from the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City to the Erez crossing, before family members were transferred to Nafha prison facility, Gaza-based prisoners group Waed said.

The Palestinian liaison department said only 33 out of the 52 family members were allowed to continue their journey by Israeli authorities.

Last week, 48 people from Gaza visited relatives in Israeli jails for the first time since 2007. more

Official: Egypt allowing Palestinians to enter without permits, visas


CAIRO — Airport officials say Egypt is allowing Palestinians free entry into the country, ending part of a five-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The decision means Palestinians can freely leave Gaza. It also applies to Palestinians in the West Bank

Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a branch of new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. The blockade was imposed after Hamas took control of Gaza by force in 2007. It banned most Palestinians from leaving.

The officials said the decision was applied early Monday for the first time, when seven Palestinians waiting at Cairo International Airport were allowed into Egypt without the usual security clearances and visas. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. more

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Political wrangling leaves Gaza patients stranded


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A dispute between the two rival Palestinian governments is preventing hundreds of patients in Gaza from receiving urgent medical care abroad, officials said Sunday.

One Gaza man said he has tried unsuccessfully for the past week to get his wife transferred out of Gaza for the removal of a brain tumor. Salman Tawfik said his wife Rasha, 50, lapsed into a coma two days ago, while he was caught in a bureaucratic maze.

"No one wants to help. No one wants to hear," Iyad Alami of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights said of the politicians involved in the dispute. He said several patients are in danger of dying if they are not moved quickly.

Alami's group has been trying to mediate between the Hamas government in Gaza and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority of internationally backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel and Egypt restricted movement in and out of Gaza after Hamas seized the territory from Abbas in 2007, leaving him with parts of the West Bank. Gaza and the West Bank are separated by about 40 kilometers (25 miles) of Israeli territory. more

Gaza youth broadcast on new TV station - produced by children for children

1A new TV and radio station was launched in Gaza strip recently tutoring the young population of children in Gaza strip that make about 60% of the 1.5 million people who are living in desperate and hard conditions.PHOTO:NASER NAJJAR/Gulf News

Gaza: A new TV and radio station was launched in the Gaza Strip recently tutoring the young population of children in the Gaza Strip that makes up about 60 per cent of the 1.5 million people who are living in desperate and hard conditions.

The multimedia station was founded by the young journalists club, an independent Palestinian non-governmental organisation broadcasting children’s programmes over the radio and via the internet.

The presenters of the TV channel are all young children between the ages of 9-15 providing talk shows discussing life, dreams and ambitions of the children in the Gaza Strip.

Eman Abu Waked, 15, a presenter at the channel, said: “The programmes we work on are not only made by children but also delivered to children to entertain them and fill their time with useful and good programmes that are inspiring and useful for them in their daily lives.” more

Zahhar: Hamas will not separate Gaza from the West Bank


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahhar on Sunday denied media reports that the Islamist group is considering declaring the Gaza Strip a separate entity from the Palestinian Authority controlled West Bank.

"Such news is being disseminated by the enemies of Hamas seeking to maintain the siege on Gaza," Zahhar told Ma'an.

"This issue hasn’t been addressed officially within Hamas, but some people posed it privately on their own," he added.

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday that Hamas was considering declaring Gaza a separate entity from the PA-controlled West Bank.

According to the report, Hamas officials said Egypt would back the move, which would also see improved trade ties between both parties. more

Blast rocks Egypt's gas pipeline to Israel, Jordan for the 15th time


CAIRO (Reuters) -- An explosion on Sunday rocked the Egyptian pipeline built to carry natural gas to Israel and Jordan, the 15th time it has been attacked since the start of the uprising in early 2011 that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

The blast occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning at al-Tuwail, east of the coastal Sinai town of el-Arish, at a point before the pipeline splits into separate branches to Israel and Jordan, security officials and witnesses said.

Gunmen in a small truck drove up to the pipeline, dug a hole and placed explosive charges under the pipeline that they detonated from a distance, a security official and witnesses said. more

Morsi meeting opens a door on Gaza blockade


Mr Meshaal hailed a "new era" in Egyptian-Palestinian relations, and there were signals at least of a welcome change. For many years, and certainly since the start of the crippling Israeli siege of Gaza in 2006, Egypt has played a shameful role as an accomplice to the blockade of Gaza.

The crossing at Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, is the only one not under full Israeli military control. As such, Rafah has always been the one potential link from the Strip to the outside world, as the Israeli military denies Gazans goods, services and the free movement of people. Although Egypt has allowed some items and people through - and often turned a blind eye to the tunnels under the border - traffic has been tightly controlled by quotas.

Already the Morsi era is changing that. The crossing at Rafah now allows more Palestinians through each day, and may soon be open 24 hours a day.

But a new era in relations will bring its own challenges. While Israel's settlement expansion in the West Bank continues, Gaza is being starved. Yet despite the siege, Gazans have shown enormous creativity in making products and finding ways to survive.

In that, there is a challenge: if Egypt opens the border, it is likely that Gaza will continue to draw closer to Egypt, with more business and personal links created. There is nothing wrong with stronger ties with Egypt, but Gazans' compatriots are in the West Bank, not over the border in Sinai. It may also be telling that Mr Morsi met with Mr Meshaal, and not Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who exerts more influence in the Strip.

In any case, closer relations with Palestinians will complicate Egypt's relationship with Israel, and with their mutual benefactor, the United States. more

2012 Rachel Corrie Ramadan Football Tournament closer to reality - donate today


We had a great response to our recent appeal for the 2012 Rachel Corrie Ramadan Tournament in Rafah, Gaza. Generous supporters quickly answered the call with $2,300 in donations! Because of their encouragement, we are extending our fund-raiser deadline to August 1st.

Our goal: $6,000.

Can you help?

This is a special tournament that will provide a cheerful Ramadan community event. It honors the spirit of Rachel Corrie and, this year, especially celebrates Mahmoud Sarsak, a Gazan whose 90-day hunger strike earned his release from a three-year illegal prison detention.

Your donation provides the basics: field rental, new sand for the play-field, new footballs, and other necessities. But it also provides extras that make this tournament special. The final match is a huge event in the community where two teams face off on a well maintained field, banners welcome the fans, local sports commentators call the play from a "mini-grandstand," and first and second place team members receive medals and modest prizes. Special prizes are awarded for "Most Valuable Player" and "Sportsmanship." Mr. Sarsak is invited and will be presented a special Ramadan tournament Jersey. In the evening a delicious Iftar meal celebrates the tournament organizers for a job well done. Learn more HERE.

To Contribute:

Please make your donations to the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, a 501(c)3 charitable organization.

To donate immediately online, visit our donation page.
Important!: indicate that your donation is for the "2012 Ramadan Football Tournament."

To donate by mail: Make your check to the Rachel Corrie Foundation with the notation: "Ramadan Football Tournament" in the memo line.

Mail to:
Rachel Corrie Foundation
203 East Fourth Ave.
Suite 402
Olympia, WA 98501 more

The latest reason to boycott the Red Sea Jazz Festival - internment camps for Africans


The Red Sea Jazz Festival, held twice a year in “Israel’s Riviera” of Eilat, is once again upon us. The festival, to be held from July 30th to August 2nd, has become known for attracting an eclectic array of artists from across the jazz spectrum. Naturally, it’s become a worthy target for the growing campaign for cultural boycott of Israel.

Last year New Orleans street jazz group Tuba Skinny publicly canceled their appearance at the jazz fest after being approached by members of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and discussing it among themselves. What appeared to seal the deal for them was the fresh spate of bombings Israel launched against Gaza; launched, specifically, right outside of Eilat.

This year, however, there is an added reason to boycott the Red Sea Jazz Fest in particular—namely that also in Eilat, Israel is interning hundreds of African migrants scheduled for deportation. In mid-June, Israeli authorities began rounding up Sudanese refugees from across the country. And the internment center in which they’re being held is—you guessed it—in Eilat. more

Saturday, 21 July 2012

John McCarthy was held hostage in Lebanon 25 years ago. Now he is narrating the Nakba


From Mondoweiss
The opening event at an international literature festival in Ireland this month was on the subject of Israeli theft of Palestinian land, history and identity. The inaugural speaker, British journalist John McCarthy, is famous for being held hostage by Lebanese Shi'a militia between 1986 and 1991, and his new book, You Can't Hide the Sun: A Journey Through Israel and Palestine, tells the story of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, from the Nakba to the present day. The publication - and book tour - is significant for two reasons: first, BBC broadcaster McCarthy is a 'national treasure' of sorts in the UK and Ireland - held alongside Irish hostage Brian Keenan for much of his 5 years in captivity, he is a dignified, modest hero known for his commitment to human rights causes, and writes of his captors, 'They, too, were underdogs'; second, he is not a public figure of whom it can be said, 'Well, he would say that wouldn't he' (in the words of one of the book's detractors, 'he comes across as a perfectly decent and reasonable bloke, without agenda or malice'). The book is a personal, at times highly emotional journey, and McCarthy is careful to add the disclaimer that this is not an academic work. more

Palestinian prisoner on 100th day of hunger strike


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – As Muslims all over the world start fasting the first day of Ramadan, Palestinian prisoner in Israel’s custody Akram Rekhawi enters his 100th day of hunger strike.

Fasting hours in Muslim countries range from nine to 20 hours a day, but Rekhawi, though he is diabetic, has so far been fasting for about 2,400 hours. He has been held in a clinic in Ramle prison since he was detained by Israeli forces in June 2004. He has served eight years of a nine-year sentence.

Rekhawi was detained in June 2004 at an Israeli military checkpoint on the main road as he headed from Gaza City to his home in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. more

Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the OPT (12-18 July)

Sheikh Sa’ad checkpoint in occupied Jerusalem

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)

IOF opened fire at areas in the Gaza Strip.
Two members of the Palestinian resistance were killed and two others were wounded in the northern Gaza Strip.

IOF use force to disperse peaceful protest organized by Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.
3 Palestinian civilians were wounded.
IOF arrested 7 international and Israeli human rights defenders, including a journalist.

IOF conducted 54 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and two limited ones into the Gaza Strip.
IOF arrested 23 Palestinians, including a child, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the former Mayor of al-Bireh.

Israel has continued to impose a total closure on the OPT and has isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.
IOF arrested a Palestinian patient at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.
IOF arrested two Palestinian civilians at checkpoints in the West Bank.
IOF allowed 40 members of families of Gazan prisoners in Israeli jails to visit these prisoners for the first time since 2006.

IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.
IOF ordered the demolition of two houses in ‘Azzoun village, east of Qalqilya.
IOF demolished 3 agricultural rooms and a well in Hebron.
Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian shepherd north of Ramallah. more

UN committee highlights Israeli detention, torture of Palestinian children


The UN Special Committee on Israeli Practices in the Occupied Arab Territories held a press conference in Cairo on Thursday to announce the conclusions of its annual field mission. The committee's findings, which will be delivered to the UN General Assembly in November, were based on interviews with Palestinian refugees and officials in Amman, Cairo and the Gaza Strip.
The committee's report described the testimonies it heard as "alarming," especially those pertaining to Israel's detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children.

"The mistreatment of Palestinian children starts the moment they are detained" by Israeli authorities, Palitha Kohana, committee chairman and Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN.

The committee report states that Palestinian children's homes are often surrounded by Israeli soldiers late at night. Soldiers fire sound grenades into their houses, break down their doors and fire live ammunition. Judicial warrants, the report noted, are never produced.

Children detained by Israeli authorities are tightly bound, blindfolded and forced into the backs of military vehicles. Their parents are not allowed to accompany them. They are, as a matter of course, insulted, intimidated and at times physically abused by Israeli authorities.

According to the committee, witnesses said the detention and transfer of children can last for hours, while they are denied any legal representation. more

Haniya hails Hamas-Mursi meeting as 'fruit of the revolution'


Gaza City: The head of the Hamas government Esmail Haniya on Friday hailed the meeting between head of the Islamist movement and Egypt’s new president, as the “fruit of the revolution” that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s new Islamist President Mohammad Mursi met Hamas chief Khalid Mesha’al on Thursday — the first encounter of its kind between a delegation from the Palestinian movement and Egyptian head of state.

“The previous occupant of the palace was involved in the siege and perhaps the war against Gaza, and for years refused any meeting with the resistance and its people,” Haniya said about the deposed Egyptian president Mubarak.

“But yesterday, President Mohammad Mursi received Hamas leaders and this is the fruit of patience and endurance of the people of Gaza and expresses the will of the revolution,” of the Egyptian people, he added. more

Friday, 20 July 2012

Gaza prisoner families to visit Monday


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that a second group visiting Palestinian detainees in Israel's Nafha prison will be admitted Monday.

Red Cross spokesman Ayman al-Shehabi told Ma’an that the visit would be for 40 detainees for the first time since Israel began to prevent families from Gaza from visiting their loved ones. more

Palestinian salary crisis diminish Ramadan consumption


RAMALLAH, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Samer Mohamed is calculating carefully not to spend all his 60-percent-salary that he received this month in buying things his family needs for Ramadan, fearing that he might not get paid at all next month as a fiscal crisis is pinching his employer, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

However, a large smile appeared on his face as he received a text message saying he could get the rest of his salary. "we received June's salary in two phases, 60 percent and then 40 percent, but who knows if we will receive our salaries for July."

After a 14-day delay, the PNA paid only 60 percent of its 150, 000 employees' salaries. A shortfall in the PNA budget has reached to more than 1 billion U.S. dollars according to official figures.

The crisis was partially resolved after Saudi Arabia paid the PNA an urgent financial donation to pay the rest 40 percent. Samer and other PNA employees in the West Bank and Gaza decided to reduce their spending.

While he was wandering at the central market in the West Bank city of Ramallah and carrying a few bags, he told Xinhua "my wife usually prepares a shopping list for Ramadan, but this time I didn 't follow her list and I was obliged to reduce our purchasing." more

BDS at 7! – Celebrating, reflecting and further mainstreaming


Seven years after the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel was launched, the global BDS campaign has become stronger, more widespread, more effective and certainly more diverse than ever—a true cause for celebration by all those groups and conscientious citizens of the world who contributed to this success. However, Israel’s intensifying violations of international law and basic Palestinian rights, the direct threat Israel poses to the freedom of peoples across the region, and the impunity that Israel still enjoys are cause for reflection and the continuous fine-tuning of our strategies to further spread BDS and further isolate Israel as a world pariah, just as South Africa was under apartheid.

Thanks to the BDS movement, the struggle for the basic rights of the entire Palestinian people has taken a major leap during these last seven years, reaching wide audiences and achieving concrete achievements in major European countries, South Africa, Latin America, India, the Arab world, Australia, New Zealand and even North America. Following on from a similar round up published to mark five years of BDS, the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broad Palestinian civil society coalition, has put together the following selection of highlights gives a taste of the spectacular growth of BDS over the last two years.

The global reach of the BDS movement is maybe best highlighted by this year’s edition of the BDS Global Day of Action which took place in 23 countries and the fact that the 8th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) was organized this year on campuses in 202 cities across the world, causing near panic in the Israeli public diplomacy ministry, which scrambled 100 envoys to counter IAW around the world.

Popular consumer boycotts of Israeli products and campaigns against companies that export and sell Israeli products, particularly those implicated in Israel’s illegal colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory, have not only raised awareness among ordinary citizens in countless cities across the world but led to significant damage to complicit Israeli companies: more

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Gaza's Ark will build Boat in Gaza and sail out with trade goods


The Canadian Boat to Gaza, in cooperation with international initiatives in the U.S., Australia and other countries, is launching a new initiative to challenge the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza, the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping.

This new initiative: Gaza's Ark, will build a boat in Gaza, using existing resources. A crew of internationals and Palestinians will sail it out of Gaza carrying Palestinian products to fulfill trade deals with international buyers.

Gaza's Ark will be constructed in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise, with international assistance.

Gaza's Ark will help revitalize the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and help ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise (another effect of the blockade) to the younger generations.

Through Gaza's Ark and trade deals secured between Palestinian producers in Gaza and international businesses and NGOs, a channel will be established to export Palestinian products from Gaza that are available despite the blockade.

Gaza's Ark will also provide training to Gaza's sailors in the use of up-to-date electronic sailing equipment and techniques which they have been denied for years as a result of the blockade.

Although it will help in a very limited manner to alleviate Gaza's unemployment crisis by paying wages to the boat builders and providing business opportunities to traders, Gaza's Ark is not an aid project. It is a peaceful action against the blockade which Israel unilaterally and unreasonably imposes on Gaza.

Gaza's Ark also stands in solidarity with the Palestinian fishery in Gaza whose ability to operate in territorial waters and to derive a livelihood is threatened by the same Israeli blockade which our campaign is challenging.

Gaza's Ark challenges the blockade by building hope on the ground in Gaza, and affirms our confidence that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one's security.

With your support, the work on Gaza's Ark will start this summer. You will be able to follow its progress with regular updates on the web (www.GazaArk.org), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GazaArk) and Twitter (@GazaArk).

You can reach us by email at info@gazaark.org.

h/t Jane Hirschmann. more

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal meets Egypt president, hails "new era"


(Reuters) - The leader of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement which rules the Gaza Strip, met new Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi on Thursday and hailed Mursi's election as the start of a "new era" for Egypt and the Palestinians.

It was Khaled Meshaal's first visit to Egypt since Mursi won the country's first free leadership vote.

The founding of Hamas was inspired by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's oldest and most established Islamist movement - but the Palestinian group now operates independently because of its location and the conflict with Israel.

Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, is regarded by the West as a terrorist group for its refusal to recognise Israel and renounce violence.

Meshaal and Mursi discussed ways to ensure that Gaza, which borders Egypt, gets the gas and petroleum it needs despite an Israeli blockade of the territory.

"We have entered a new era in Palestine's relationship with Egypt, the big sister and the leader of the Arab nation," Meshaal said after the meeting. "We were happy with what we heard from President Mohamed Mursi and his vision to handle all these issues."

The talks lasted almost two hours, twice as long as Mursi's meeting a day earlier with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah, Hamas's rival. more

Prisons minister: Israel arrests 700 children annually subjecting 90% of them to torture


On Wednesday, July 18th, the Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said that Israel arrests 700 Palestinian minors annually. These minors are all under the age of 18, and include children as young as 12 or 13. 90% of the children are also subjected to torture, ill-treatment, pressure, and bargaining.

Qaraqe also said that Israel treats the children as constant threats or "ticking bombs" as the Israeli law puts it. Classifying a child as a "ticking bomb" grants the Israeli prison system the ability to apply certain forms of torture and bypasses International law, effectively stripping the children of their immunity. He also said that since Israel does not respect International law in relation to detained children, the institutions of the international community form a campaign to protect the children of Palestine. more

Egypt must allow more fuel into Gaza, Hamas official says


GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egypt's new president must help lift the siege on Gaza by allowing more fuel to enter the coastal enclave, a senior Hamas figure said Wednesday.

Ismail Radwan made the comments during a demonstration in the Gaza Strip, adding that the Arab community has a responsibility to help ease humanitarian problems in Gaza.

The international community must also increase pressure on Israel to end the blockade on Gaza, he added.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Israeli officials during her visit to the country on Monday that Muhammad Mursi had promised her he would not end the closure of the Gaza Strip, an Israeli news site said.

Officials in the Gaza Strip have expressed optimism that Mursi, whose Muslim Brotherhood party is close to Gaza rulers Hamas, would break a hole in the blockade by fully opening the Rafah border. more