Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Cash crops season ends on sour note in Gaza as electricity and water shortages bite

Gaza's crops season ended last week with dramatically reduced income for farmers as a result of the fuel crisis and ensuing water shortages.

The ongoing fuel crisis negatively impacted the otherwise relatively good season for export farmers, with carnation growers worst hit at the end of the season with 9 million flowers exported – 2 million less than last year. Strawberry exports allowed out of Gaza by the government of Israel were slightly better than last year's at 447 tons, while sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes registered dramatic increases from 6 and 7 tons respectively last year to 44 and 75 tons this year.

Oxfam partner Palestinian Agriculture Relief Committee (PARC), which manages Gaza's cash crop exports to the Netherlands, said the unusually cold weather throughout the season also impacted carnations and vegetables production, delaying it to the end of the season when the electricity crisis was at its height. Carnation farmers speaking to Oxfam at the end of the season said the fuel crisis forced them to leave their flowers in refrigerators that became in effect morgues of wilting flowers, as there was no electricity to keep them fresh for export. The lowered quality of the wilted flowers led to lost income, as PARC observed more than 2.5 million stems sold at a lower market price. more

Lawyer: Gaza engineer still in isolation despite deal

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- A Gaza engineer kidnapped by Israel in the Ukraine last year is the last remaining prisoner held in solitary confinement, after the hunger-strike deal sought to end the practice, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Dirar Abu Sisi is still being held in an isolation cell in Ashkelon prison, while all others have been returned to normal wards, lawyer Karim Karim Ajwah said, noting his case was "kept secret in an unusual way."

Abu Sisi disappeared in February 2011 while traveling on a train in Ukraine and Israel later announced that it was holding him in a southern Israeli jail.

A former head of the Gaza power plant, he is accused of working with Hamas to improve its rocket technologies. more

Gaza paralympians escape siege to visit al-Aqsa mosque for first time

The Palestinian athletics coach Mousa Qadoum was so overcome by emotion upon entering the al-Aqsa mosque yesterday that he collapsed into silent tears.

It was a reminder of how rare it is for Gazans make it out of the territory to what for Muslims is easily the most sacred site in the Holy Land, a mere 48 miles away as the crow flies. After crouching alone by a pillar to compose himself, a still tearful Mr Qadoum, 31, from the eastern Gaza City suburb of Shejaia, explained: “I have only ever seen it in newspapers and on TV. I never imagined in my whole life that I would ever come to pray in al-Aqsa. I never imagined it until I die.”

It was thanks to the British Consulate General that a nine-strong party of Gazan paralympian athletes and coaches, including four competitors in London 2012, were able to make the coveted trip at all. Staff here worked hard for six weeks to persuade the Israeli authorities to grant the necessary permits for the Erez Crossing into Israel, which, eventually, they did for all except one wheelchair-bound competitor, refused on unspecified security grounds. more

Gaza's Ark - Building Hope: boat will be built in Gaza and sail out to trade goods

The Canadian Boat to Gaza, in cooperation, with international initiatives in the US, 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