Tuesday, 17 January 2012

UK's Natural History Museum collaborates in reserach with Israel's settlement-based Ahava

The Natural History Museum is today accused by a coalition of prominent academics and cultural figures of helping to break international law by leading a research project which involves an Israeli cosmetics company based in an “illegal” settlement in the occupied West Bank.

In a letter to The Independent, leading scientists and the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, condemn the London museum - which is the fourth most visited in Britain - for its research collaboration with Ahava - Dead Sea Laboratories (DSL), which sells beauty products based on minerals extracted from the Dead Sea.

The museum, which has a substantial academic research team, is co-ordinating NANORETOX, a European Union-funded project looking at any risks to human health and the environment posed by so-called nanoparticles - microscopic engineered materials which scientists are developing for multiple uses from cancer treatment to double glazing.

Ahava-DSL, which is one of a dozen institutions and companies involved in the project including two University of London colleges, has its registered headquarters listed in Israel but most of its activities are carried out in Mitzpe Shalem, a Jewish settlement on the edge of the Dead Sea in the West Bank. more

UNRWA launches $300m emergency appeal for Gaza and West Bank reconstruction and aid efforts


GAZA, January 17, 2012 (WAFA) - The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has launched an emergency appeal for Gaza and the West Bank worth just over 300 million US dollars, according to an UNRWA press release issued Tuesday.

Speaking at UNRWA Headquarters in Gaza, Deputy Commissioner General, Margo Ellis, said “The effects of the war still persist today and the humanitarian needs of the women, men and children of Gaza remain widespread and acute”. In reference to the continuing Israeli blockade, she said, “despite an easing of access, Gaza remains under a blockade and its population subject to collective punishment, an act illegal under international law”.

Meanwhile, UNRWA has continued its reconstruction efforts; Out of a $667 million reconstruction plan, UNRWA has been able to complete 22 projects worth some $22.5 million and is presently working on implementation of further projects worth some $115 million.

The press release said that this appeal is a sizeable amount and reflects good progress made, but dozens more schools and thousands of homes still need to be built. more

Israel allows flower and strawberry trucks to leave Gaza for export market


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel permitted the export of one truck of flowers and another of strawberries from the blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday, a Palestinian official said.

The produce will leave Gaza through Kerem Shalom, the sole remaining crossing into Israel, while 220 trucks will enter the Gaza Strip, Palestinian crossings liaison Raed Fattouh said.

Under an agreement between the Dutch government and Israeli authorities, limited exports of agricultural produce are permitted to leave the blockaded strip in the growing season.

The Israeli legal rights organization Gisha says the winter export deal allows just 1 percent of the 400 export trucks a day Israel agreed to permit under a 2005 deal with the Palestinian Authority. more

Gaza rights activist stabbed by masked assailants after criticising repression


A Palestinian rights activist in Gaza who criticised the Palestinian government and "resistance" in an article has been stabbed after receiving death threats, his NGO said on Tuesday.

Mahmud Abu Rahma, international relations director at the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, was stabbed multiple times by several masked attackers on Friday evening, the Gaza-based centre said in a statement released on Tuesday.

He was stabbed in the back, leg and shoulders, but used his laptop to prevent the attackers from stabbing him in the chest, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) said in a separate statement on the incident.

He sustained injuries to his thigh and left hand that required stitches, PCHR said.

Al Mezan said the attack was the second time Abu Rahma had been targeted since the publication of an article he authored on 2 January.

"Mr. Abu Rahma has received many threats on his mobile and email, including messages threatening his safety and life," the centre said, adding that the threats made reference to an article by Abu Rahma entitled "The Gap between Resistance and Governance."

The article, published in Arabic on several websites and later translated into English, warned that both the Palestinian "resistance" groups and government were failing ordinary citizens.

"Who will protect citizens from the mighty resistance and the powerful government when one, or both, of them harm them?," he wrote in an English-language version of the article published on 5 January by Palestinian news agency Maan. more

IDF prepares for 'major operation' in Gaza to take place within months


The IDF General Staff has ordered the Southern Command to prepare for a possible large Gaza operation that could occur within the next few months, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Preparations include finalizing operational plans and distributing them between the various units that would be deployed inside Gaza.

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s anti-Hamas ground incursion launched in late 2008, the IDF established brigade-level units that combined armor, infantry and combat engineer forces.

A similar model would likely be applied in a future operation in Gaza as well.

The Gaza Division, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Yossi Bachar, is spearheading the preparations for such an operation, which senior officers said could be significantly larger than Cast Lead.

“Every officer will need to know where he needs to be with his troops and what his mission will be,” a senior officer explained. “Gaza has changed and the weaponry in Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s hands has significantly grown in quantity and quality.”

Hamas is believed to have a fighting force number over 20,000 armed men who are split into five brigades corresponding with different sections of the Gaza Strip. Each brigade is then split into a number of battalions. In addition, Hamas also has special teams for surveillance, anti-tank missiles, mortar and rocket fire and anti-aircraft shoulder-to-air missiles.


Preparations include finalizing operational plans and distributing them between the various units that would be deployed inside Gaza.

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s anti-Hamas ground incursion launched in late 2008, the IDF established brigade-level units that combined armor, infantry and combat engineer forces.

A similar model would likely be applied in a future operation in Gaza as well.

The Gaza Division, under the command of Brig.-Gen. Yossi Bachar, is spearheading the preparations for such an operation, which senior officers said could be significantly larger than Cast Lead.

“Every officer will need to know where he needs to be with his troops and what his mission will be,” a senior officer explained. “Gaza has changed and the weaponry in Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s hands has significantly grown in quantity and quality.”

Hamas is believed to have a fighting force number over 20,000 armed men who are split into five brigades corresponding with different sections of the Gaza Strip. Each brigade is then split into a number of battalions. In addition, Hamas also has special teams for surveillance, anti-tank missiles, mortar and rocket fire and anti-aircraft shoulder-to-air missiles. more