Monday, 28 May 2012

Appeal to save the life of Mamoud Sarsak, imprisoned by Israel for 3 years without charge or trial


Our brother and son, Mahmoud Sarsak, is a 25 years old professional footballer from Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, today entering his 67th day of hunger strike. We ask you to support Mahmoud and his demand for fair treatment. Your voice can contribute to saving his life and to a little victory against injustice.

Mahmoud has been imprisoned by Israel for the past three years, after being arrested by the Israeli military on 22nd July 2009 at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza while on his way to join the Palestine National Football team for a match in Balata refugee camp in the West Bank.

After his arrest he was transferred to Ashkelon prison where he was interrogated for 30 days, before being given a detention order on 23rd August 2009 under Israel’s “Unlawful Combatants Law”. Addameer, the Prisoners’ Support and Human Rights group, state that “in practice, the Unlawful Combatants Law contains fewer protections for detainees than even the few that are granted under administrative detention orders in the West Bank”, and allows the Israeli state to hold Palestinians from Gaza for indefinite periods without charge or trial.

Mahmoud started a hunger strike on 19th March 2012 to protest being held without charge or trial, demanding to be informed of the reasons for his three year detention and to be allowed to defend himself, as is his most basic right under international law. After starting his hunger strike he was transferred to Naqab prison on 8th April and then moved to solitary confinement at Eshel prison. On 16th April he was transferred to Ramleh prison hospital as a result of his deteriorating health. He is now on his 67 day of hunger strike, an extremely dangerous milestone that could see his death at any moment.

He is one of over 4400 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in violation of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of occupied peoples (Palestinians), to the territory of the occupier (Israel). Grave breaches of these Articles are considered war crimes in international law.

For us it is unbearable to see Israel has been awarded the hosting of the UEFA Under 21s football championship in 2013 and gears up to participate in the London Olympics, while it routinely arrests, tortures, imprisons and kills Palestinians, including football players, without consequence. This is not fair play. Sports should show solidarity.

As Mahmoud’s family, we call on all people of conscience to demand his immediate release, and to pressure governments and international organisations to force Israel’s compliance with the most basic standards of international law. In particular we ask fellow football players and athletes to speak out in support of Mahmoud – don’t be silent when Israeli cruelty and arbitrariness has destroyed the aspirations of a rising athlete and keeps thousands under inhumane conditions in their jails. We ask sports teams and anti-racist fan clubs to organize in support of Mahmoud and all the other Palestinian political prisoners. Your voice can contribute to saving his life and to a little victory against injustice.

It is time to end Israeli crimes carried out with impunity, and to demand the release of Palestinians held illegally by Israel, including our beloved Mahmoud, hunger striking for his dignity and freedom.

Mahmoud Kamel Muhammad Sarsak
Father of Mahmoud
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Israeli soldiers prevent two members of election commission from entering Gaza


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two members of the Central Elections Commission were denied entry into Gaza on Monday, as a delegation arrived to begin work in the coastal enclave.

Ahmad al-Khalidi and Shukri al-Nashashibi were prevented from entering Gaza by Israeli soldiers, executive manager of the delegation Hisham Khail told Ma'an.

The head of the Central Elections Commission Hanna Nasser told reporters at Erez border crossing that the CEC did not come to Gaza to fail, confirming that the commission would start work right away. more

Mavi Marmara massacre: senior Israeli officers face Turkish trial after court issues charges


A Turkish court has charged four senior Israeli military commanders over the killing of nine Turkish activists trying to reach Gaza in 2010.

Ex-military chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and former heads of military intelligence, the navy and air force are expected to be tried in absentia.

The nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed after Israeli troops boarded their ship, the Mavi Marmara.

They had been hoping to breach Israel's naval blockade and deliver aid to Gaza.

A prosecutor at the court in Istanbul has called for each of the four Israeli officers to face nine life sentences, Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.

The other three commanders are ex-naval chief Vice Admiral Eliezer Marom, former head of military intelligence Major General Amos Yadlin, and former head of the air force Brigadier General Avishai Lev.

Israel has refused to co-operate with any prosecution of those who took part in the attack.

If they are convicted, the Turkish court could issue a warrant for their arrest. more

Outrage as Israeli firms win contracts for Gaza reconstruction work


A number of Israeli companies have recently won UN tenders for reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip, enraging Palestinian contractors who claim they were outbid by the country that destroyed their infrastructure.

More than three years after Israel inflicted widespread damage on the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip during Operation Cast Lead, an offensive aimed at curtailing relentless Hamas rocket fire into Israel, two Israeli companies won bids issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to construct water plants in Gaza, London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Thursday.

Osama Kahil, deputy head of the Palestinian Contractors Union, told the daily that a number of Israeli companies have contacted contractors in Gaza offering them half of the bids’ revenue to execute the projects.

“It is unreasonable for the Israeli occupation to be rewarded for its destruction of Gaza’s economy,” Kahil told Al-Quds Al-Arabi. “It waged a relentless war on our livelihood, and now our markets are being opened to its companies.”

Kahil said his union sent letters to all contractors in Gaza, warning them against cooperation with Israeli companies. more

Karem Abu Shalom crossing reopens after three-day closure


RAFAH, May 28, 2012 (WAFA) – Israel re-opened Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing with the Gaza Strip on Monday to allow entry of 240 trucks carrying products into Gaza as well as pumping fuel to the power station while allowing only one truck to leave the Strip, according to crossing officials.

Raed Fattouh, who heads a committee in charge of entry of products into Gaza, told WAFA that while only one truckload of Gaza tomatoes will be allowed to leave Gaza on its way to Jordan, between 230 and 240 truckloads of aid and various goods will be allowed in.

He said the goods include 30 new vehicles, 11 cement and steel shipments and 36 loads of gravel for projects carried out by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and 11 truckloads of cement for projects by the World Bank. more

South African relief agency to join convoy to Gaza


The Durban-based NGO, South African Relief Agency (Sara), will be flying in aid to help citizens of the besieged Gaza strip in June.

The 14-strong convoy, which includes religious leaders, university professors, advocates, lawyers, school principals, doctors, and therapists, will fly to Cairo on June 14, before joining a convoy of trucks carrying aid to Gaza via the Rafah crossing.

“We will be taking aid in the form of medical equipment – dental chairs, X-ray machines, 200 wheelchairs, air mattresses, five containers of incontinence pads, milk powder, three truckloads of nappies, three truckloads of stationery, 200 crutches, and clothing,” said the agency’s secretary-general, Sheikh Walid El Saadi.

“We will be distributing the aid ourselves and visiting hospitals, schools, the aged and disabled, as well as seeing to ongoing projects and supporting traumatised children and those most affected by the ongoing war.”

El Saadi said agency’s mission was to show solidarity with the people of Palestine.

“As citizens of a democratic and free South Africa that fought and defeated apartheid, we believe that it is up to us to ensure that their plight is brought to the world’s attention,” he said.

The agency was formed in 2006 as a response to pleas from Palestinians who required international help. more

Palestinian Airlines resumes flights after 7 years


MARKA AIRBASE, Jordan (AP) — Palestinian Airlines is back in the skies after being grounded for seven years by the deepening enmities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Once hailed as a symbol of Palestinian statehood dreams, the carrier is a tiny operation, with just two 48-seat turboprop planes, two weekly flights and a borrowed hub in Egypt.

But Palestinians say just being on the map again is what matters.

"My hands were shaking when I bought the ticket ... and it said the name of the carrier is Palestinian Airlines," said recent passenger Zuhair Mohammed, a 38-year-old teacher from Gaza.

The 15-year-old airline's fortunes have been closely tied to the quest for a Palestinian state.

In the late 1990s, when Palestinians appeared on the verge of a statehood deal with Israel, Palestinian Airlines operated from Gaza International Airport, flew tens of thousands of passengers a year to Middle Eastern destinations and planned to expand to Europe. more