Friday, 31 May 2013

Mavi Marmara victims commemorated on third anniversary in Gaza

GAZA -- A ceremony to commemorate the victims of the Mavi Marmara raid was held on the third anniversary on Friday at Gaza port.

Kemal Ozturk, the Anadolu Agency Executive Board Chairman and Director General, who was in Gaza for the inauguration of the agency's Gaza office, delivered a speech at the ceremony where authorities representing the Foreign Ministry of Palestine in Gaza and the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) and head of Anadolu Agency Arabic Desk Turan Kislakci were also present.

Ozturk stated the Mavi Marmara flotilla attack marked one of the deepest sorrows of Turkey in history.

Stating that nine people were killed and tens others were wounded, Ozturk said, "I'd like to say something to the brave children of Palestine. The Palestine issue is the issue of all Muslims. And the Muslim community expects one thing from you. They expect Palestinian brothers reconcile. And hopefully we will be first to announce their news of making peace."

Gaza representative of IHH Mehmet Kaya sent his condolences and added, "Muslims from Turkey are always on your side and hopefully will be until Palestine is freed." more

Gaza Sky Geeks backs tech startups in the Gaza Strip

Between Gaza’s five universities, more than 2,000 young people graduate with technical degrees every year. Mercy Corps started the Arab Developer Network Initiative (ADNI) with a grant from a few years ago, and a number of programs supporting young entrepreneurs have come out of it, including Gaza Sky Geeks.

The laboratory will support standout technology entrepreneurs in Gaza, providing a wide range of free services designed to help them turn their ideas into viable investments. Global Envision connected with Reem Omran, co-founder of Gaza Sky Geeks, to talk about the effort – and whether Gaza could become the next IT hub in the Arab world.

What’s the blueprint for helping start-ups?
Reem Omran: The primary objective of Gaza Sky Geeks is to prepare start-ups for the next stage. We will provide logistical and consulting services, as well as workshops that can help them turn their ideas into concrete business plans capable of securing investment.

What resources does the accelerator offer?
Gaza Sky Geeks is outfitted with high-speed internet, desktop computers, iPads, and Androids[mc1] so that members have a reliable space to work on their projects. Members also have access to meeting spaces and a coffee shop, where they can network and collaborate on ideas. more

'Very confident' Assad talks of new front with Israel

BEIRUT (AFP) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad threatened Israel with renewed fighting in the Golan Heights and said Russia was committed to supplying him with advanced missiles, in an interview broadcast Thursday.

Washington warned that any such weapon deliveries from Moscow would only prolong the conflict between government forces and Assad's foes in Syria, where activists say more than 94,000 people have been killed since March 2011.

"There is clear popular pressure to open a new front of resistance in the Golan," Assad told Al-Manar television, run by his close ally, the Lebanon-based Shiite movement Hezbollah which has been fighting alongside his forces.

"There are several factors, including repeated Israeli aggression," he said, referring to reported Israeli air strikes on Syria.

"We have informed all the parties who have contacted us that we will respond to any Israeli aggression next time."

There was no immediate comment on Assad's remarks from Israel, which annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, years after seizing it, in a move never recognized by the international community. more

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Man dies after setting himself on fire in Rafah

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A Palestinian man burned to death Thursday afternoon after he set himself ablaze in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, witnesses said.

A young man showered his body with a flammable liquid before he clicked a lighter and set fire to his clothes at the Moraj crossroads in northern Rafah, witnesses told Ma'an. more

Israeli army, navy damage farmland in Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces briefly entered the Gaza Strip overnight Wednesday, damaging land near the border, as Israel's navy fired at the coast, setting fire to farm land.

Five military bulldozers entered the southern Gaza Strip near al-Qarara village east of Khan Younis as army planes hovered above. The bulldozers dug up agricultural fields near the border, damaging the crops, before withdrawing, a Ma'an correspondent said. more

Israel to build 1,100 new settler homes in East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is preparing to build 1,100 new settler homes in occupied East Jerusalem as the United States strives to revive dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, an NGO said.

Danny Seidemann, director of Jerusalem settlement watchdog Terrestrial Jerusalem, told AFP that contracts for 300 homes in the northeastern settlement of Ramot were signed and another 797 plots were to be offered for sale in the southern Jerusalem settlement of Gilo, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Both are in Palestinian areas of the holy city which were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day war then annexed, in a move still unrecognized by the international community.

Seidemann said that the plans were approved last year, before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quietly ordered a settlement freeze, but the latest steps in their implementation were leaked to media by the office of hardline Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.

"This does not mean that the freeze is over, it does mean that Netanyahu's minister of construction is trying to achieve that," Seidemann said. more

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Video: Israeli soldiers beat Palestinian during arrest, camera turns away

The human rights organization B'tselem published on Tuesday 27th May, a footage featuring a number of Israeli soldiers and Border Guard officers beating a Palestinian man from Ramallah village during his arrest.

According to B'tselem Statement, the incident occurred in late April in the village of Silwad, located east of Ramallah in the West Bank, and was documented by a security camera belonging to the Ofra settlement.

The footage shows an Israeli soldier while arresting the Palestinian, Muhammad Da'ar Sa'ad from the village of Al-Mazra'a Al-Sharqiya, during confrontations erupted in the area back then. One of the soldiers knocked him to the ground and started beating him, and then other soldiers joined and hit the Palestinian.

The statement added, the footage was exposed due to the efforts of the Palestinian's attorney. The Military Prosecution withdrew its claim that he had thrown stones and then he was released. more

Israeli military vehicles, bulldozers enter Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles escorted bulldozers into a border area in central Gaza on Wednesday, locals said.

Seven bulldozers flanked by four military vehicles crossed into a border area near al-Bureij refugee camp at around 6 a.m., penetrating 300 meters into fields and leveling agricultural lands, witnesses told Ma'an.

Israeli drones were hovering at a low distance during the incident, locals added, with Israeli forces firing smoke bombs. more

Settlers burn cars, spray graffiti across West Bank

JENIN (Ma'an) -- Settlers torched at least nine Palestinian vehicles and vandalized property in the occupied West Bank overnight Tuesday, locals said.

In the Jericho village of Az-Zubeidat, four cars and a tractor were found burnt by villagers, locals said. Local NGO coordinator Hamza Zbeidat told Ma'an that settlers raided the village at around 3 a.m. and poured gasoline on the vehicles before setting them alight.

Four vehicles were also set on fire in the nearby village of Marj Naja and settlers sprayed 'price-tag' graffiti reading "For the anniversary of Evitar" and "Regards from Evitar" in both villages, referring to a settler stabbed to death in Nablus one month ago.

B'Tselem also reported that two cars were set on fire in Rantis, west of Ramallah, and graffiti was found in the area. Israeli police confirmed the reports, according to Israeli news site Ynet.

The tires of three Palestinian vehicles were slashed in Shufat refugee camp in East Jerusalem and four cars were vandalized in Sheikh Jarrah. more

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Video: Shackling the Scholar: Israel’s administrative detention of Palestinian students

“They used to renew my detention the day before or the same day that I was supposed to get out. So every 6 months, I would face renewal again. They used to take me for investigation but nothing actually happened there – it was just to tease me. There were no charges against me in the investigation. One time I was supposed to go home but they left me in prison that day, and the next day they told me that they renewed my detention…I stayed there for two and a half years and I didn’t even make my bed because I had the hope that I’m going home the next day.”
- Tariq, 24, Student at Birzeit University, held under administrative detention by Israel.

There are currently over 4,700 Palestinians were being held in Israeli jails, 178 of them under administrative detention. In the past ten years, many thousands of Palestinians have been detained under administrative detention. more

'Rocket' from Gaza aims for Arab Idol crown

Arab Idol is an over-the-top TV ratings smash in the Middle East, and a young crooner from a Palestinian refugee family, whom admirers have nicknamed "the Rocket", is stealing the show.

The surprise breakout of the second season is a 23-year-old Gaza Strip resident named Mohammed Assaf, whose patriotic folk songs and romantic ballads - with their themes of grit, longing and love - have propelled him into the final rounds. He is doing more than all the politicians to unify the Palestinian people.

"I think this shows the world there are many normal people in Gaza, that Gaza is not just this place of terrorists and criminals but nice people," said Ala'a Nabrees, 22, a long-time friend. "He is the Palestinian dream."

This sounds corny, Nabrees acknowledged. "But it is true," he said. "Young people in Gaza? They really want to see somebody make it."

Assaf's fans at home and in the Palestinian diaspora praise the university student and moonlighting wedding singer as the complete package. He is the dutiful son who called out to his parents in the audience on Friday night, telling them that they were "the crown on top of my head".

He performed in an earlier show in a kaffiyeh, a scarf that is a symbol of Palestinian pride and resistance. Plus, he looks as if he just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, the fans say. more

Prominent Fatah leader passes away in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A prominent Fatah leader passed away in Gaza City on Tuesday after falling into a coma overnight, the group said.

Abdul Aziz Shahin, 80, suffered from partial liver failure and had been in and out of hospital in recent years. He received medical treatment abroad, but asked to be treated and buried in his homeland.

His funeral will take place on Tuesday in Rafah.

Shahin's father and five uncles were killed fighting Israel in the Gaza Strip between 1948 and 1967, and are all buried in Rafah. more

Monday, 27 May 2013

Malaysian NGO delegation arrives in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- A delegation of Malaysian NGOs arrived in the Gaza Strip Sunday to check the humanitarian situation and open projects.

The delegation includes 80 representatives and activists from humanitarian work groups in Malaysia.

Azmi Abed al-Hamid, the chairman of the board, held a news conference at the Rafah crossing where he stressed the strategic relationship between Malaysia and Palestine. more

Handful of Palestinian companies to breach boycott in meet with Israeli hi-tech companies

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Representatives from Palestinian and Israeli high-tech companies are scheduled to meet on Monday in Tel Aviv, Israeli radio reported.

A joint forum entitled "Business not barriers" is due to be held in the coastal city, with Palestinian representatives from eleven high-tech companies due to attend along with Israeli and international companies, including Microsoft and Cisco, the report said.

The event is organized by the Peres Center for Peace, the union of high-tech companies in Israel and the union of the chamber of commerce.

President Abbas' adviser on high-tech affairs, Sabri Saydam, told Ma'an that such meetings are "unacceptable."

He told Ma'an that the Palestinian Authority disapproved of the move and urged Palestinian companies to reconsider their participation and "give priority to Palestinian interests." more

Israel allows 81 Gaza Palestinians to visit jailed relatives

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Some 81 relatives of prisoners at Israel's Ramon jail crossed the Erez terminal along the border with Gaza to visit their loved ones on Monday, the Red Cross said.

A spokesman said the relatives including 12 children visited the prison.

Israel barred Gaza families from visiting their loved ones in jail after imposing a siege on the territory in 2007. more

Israel raids Jenin, detains 14 across West Bank, set dogs on 70-year-old man and 7-year child

JENIN (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces detained four men from Jenin on Monday, residents said.

Israeli special forces raided the northern West Bank city and detained Shadi al-Darbi, 30, Hassan Meri, 19, Waseem Ortani, 18, and Sleiman Lahlouh, 20. Sleiman was later released.

Al-Derbi's father told Ma’an that Israeli troops surrounded the house and damaged an entrance gate using explosives. He said soldiers treated the family "brutally" and caused a "huge mess" before leaving.

He added that the soldiers harassed his son Ahmad and his wife.

Onlookers said police dogs attacked 70-year-old Ahmad al-Darbi and his seven-year-old grandson, Ali. Neither was injured. more

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Palestinian company to deliver Qatar-donated fuel to Gaza

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) – A shipment of Qatar-donated fuel to the Gaza Strip will be delivered in a day or two, Egyptian security sources said Sunday.

The sources told Ma'an that a Palestinian freight company will replace the Egyptian Delta company which used to deliver fuel from Suez port to al-Auja crossing.

The Egyptian army used to escort fuel tankers traveling through Sinai to al-Auja crossing. The source highlighted that the Palestinian Petroleum Authority contracted a Gaza-based freight company to carry the Qatar-donated fuel to al-Auja. more

Ramallah company organizes event to support Gaza Arab Idol finalist

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Thousands of Palestinians gathered Friday in front of offices of Qirrish Motor Mall in Beitunia near Ramallah to watch the live transmission of the Arab Idol competition and express support to the Palestinian finalist from the Gaza Strip Muhammad Assaf.

Several folkloric performances and entertaining activities were performed during the event and the audience had a chance to win symbolic awards during the gathering which was aired live on several radio and TV stations.

The event was organized by Qirrish Motor Mall, a car dealer of Chevrolet, Opel, Cadillac, Buick, and Isuzu in Palestine.

General manager Adnan Qirrish delivered a short speech welcoming the attendants and thanking local organizations and media outlets which attended the event. Supporting the Palestinian star Assaf, he said, is part of the social responsibilities of his company. “As a private sector, we must support Palestinian talents by all possible means.” more

Gaza exports have plummeted under Israeli blockade

After a wave of international flotillas laden with humanitarian supplies for Gaza were headed off by Israeli forces, with one standoff resulting in nine deaths, Mahfouz Kabariti had a new idea: a reverse flotilla that would carry symbolic Gazan exports like embroidery, carpets, and dates to foreign customers.

Gazans need “trade not aid,” says the dapper Mr. Kabariti as he polishes his glasses at an open-air restaurant in Gaza City. The vast Mediterranean stretches into the distance behind him, a seemingly open portal to the world.

But since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel has enforced a strict naval blockade off Gaza’s coast, citing security concerns such as ships carrying Iranian-supplied weapons to Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist group by Israel, the US, and Europe. The blockade has put the kibosh on exporting anything from Gaza by sea, and only very limited exports are allowed by land through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, stymieing Gaza’s manufacturing potential.

“If Israel is telling the truth that they have not occupied since 2005, they will allow the ship out,” says Kabariti, head of the Palestine Association for Fishing and Marine Sports. He plans to have “Gaza’s Ark” ready by the end of summer. “If not, they are a liar; this is collective punishment and it’s against international law.” more

Saturday, 25 May 2013

$35 million funding for Gaza Strip municipalities from GCC and Islamic Devleopment Bank

The Gulf Cooperation Council program to reconstruct Gaza continues to fund street and road rehabilitation and maintenance projects in the Gaza Strip and has granted $35.7 million to Gaza municipalities through the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah.

The Director General of the department of coordination and facilitation of aid in PECDAR, Wael Salah, has made a statement explaining that the projects funded included a number of roads and streets in need of repair and maintenance in order for them to be suitable for traffic and to prevent accidents.

He also added that most municipalities in the Strip will benefit from these projects, and stressed the program's interest in the road sector as it significantly impacts people's lives and the mobility of the residents.

He also pointed out that the project funded five bundles of road and street maintenance and rehabilitation projects, such as the Coastal Road, which is 6 km long, the expansion of Gamal Abdel Nasser Street between Rafah and Khan Younis, the completion of the Al-Tufah Street in Khan Younis, as well as the Coastal Road. more

Hamas's Haniyeh urges Egypt to rethink peace treaty with Israel

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The prime minister of the Hamas-run government in the Gaza Strip called Friday on Egypt to reconsider the Camp David peace accords with Israel.

Ismail Haniyeh said during noon prayers that Egypt would be better off if its leaders reconsidered or even canceled the US-brokered peace agreement.

He also called on Egypt to adopt a new strategy to deal with the Sinai, after an armed group's kidnapping of soldiers led to the closure of the Rafah crossing for days.

“Gaza is not a sanctuary for fugitives. We do not cover up crimes,” Haniyeh said. more

Gaza man dies in Rafah tunnnel collapse - 232nd such death since siege

Friday evening, May 254 2013, Palestinian medical sources have reported that one Palestinian was killed and another was injured when a siege-busting tunnel collapsed on them, in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The sources said that Hamad Odah Abu Shallouf, 25, was buried under the rubble of the collapsed tunnel. Medics and rescue teams arrived at the scene and located him body, one resident was also injured in the incident.

At least 232 Palestinians have been killed in similar accidents since the Israeli siege was imposed on Gaza in June of 2007. more

Friday, 24 May 2013

Audio: Sahar Francis on connecting Israeli jails, Guantanamo and US mass incarceration

This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:

- Settlers attack a West Bank farmer twice a week - Palestinian prisoners who starved for art are honored by a Gaza show - Human rights attorney Sahar Francis of the Palestinian prisoners’ advocacy organization Addameer speaks out about holding Israel accountable for its system of mass incarceration of Palestinians - Investigate the killing of a US teen, a rights group tells Obama - News from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement including activists gearing up for a protest in London to call for the cancellation of Israel as the location for the European Under-21 football championship

Toxic gas used as anesthesia in Gaza hospital

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Anesthesiologists in Gaza hospitals confirmed Wednesday that a nitrous oxide canister, bought from Israel, contained carbon monoxide and was used mistakenly.

Gaza minister of health Mufeed Mukhallalati says medics at al-Shifa Hospital had an “unprecedented case which almost killed several patients at the hospital’s main operation room.”

He added that anesthesiologists noticed that the patients’ reaction to the anesthetic gas was very dangerous. Four patients suffered severe cardiac arrest but medics managed to save the patients’ lives.

“We decided to stop all surgeries Wednesday” as a precaution, he said. more

Gaza: 2 convicted collaborators sentenced to death

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – A court in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday sentenced two people to death and a third to hard labor after they were found guilty of collaboration with Israeli intelligence.

A Ma’an reporter said two convicts, one of whom is 43 years old, were sentenced to death by hanging. A 53-year-old man was sentenced to hard labor. Neither were identified by name.

A military high court in Gaza approved the verdicts.

The Hamas-run security services have cracked down on collaborators in the Gaza Strip since launching a campaign in the media to discourage working with Israeli intelligence. more

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Hunger-striker agrees to Gaza deportation for 10 years

HEBRON (Ma’an) – Palestinian prisoner Ayman Abu Dawood on Thursday accepted an Israeli proposal to send him to the Gaza Strip for 10 years after he ends a hunger strike he started on April 14.

Abu Dawood notified his lawyer Fadi Qawasmi in person about accepting the Israeli suggestion. Qawasmi has visited Abu Dawood at Affula prison, according to the senior lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society Jawad Bolous.

According to the agreement, Abu Dawood will be sent to the Gaza Strip three months from now. more

Amnesty: Israel, Hamas committed war crimes in Gaza assault

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israel and Hamas committed war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law during Israel's assault on Gaza in November 2012, Amnesty International said Thursday.

In the London-based rights group's annual report, released Thursday, Amnesty said the Israeli air force carried out bomb and missile strikes on residential areas, including strikes that were "disproportionate and caused heavy civilian casualties."

It said that in most cases, Israel did not present evidence that these specific sites had been used for military purposes, while the Israeli navy launched "indiscriminate attacks" on populated coastal sites.

The group also said the military wing of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired rockets and other weapons into Israel, killing civilians and damaging civilian property.

It also said armed groups were responsible for the deaths of at least two Palestinians after rockets fell short of their targets in Israel.

The report accused Hamas as well as the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority of abuses including arbitrary arrests of political opponents and torture in Palestinian prisons.

Hamas denies

A Hamas spokesman dismissed the report as unfair. more

'Wars on Gaza have become part of Israel's system of governance': interview with filmmaker Yotam Feldman

In his new documentary, ‘The Lab,’ Yotam Feldman explores how Israel’s weapons industries interacts with the country’s politics, economy and military decision-making. Israeli weapons, military technology and know-how become more valuable because they have been field-tested in its wars and combat against Palestinians and neighboring countries. A conversation with Yotam Feldman about his film, arms dealers and Israel’s war economy.

Perhaps we should start with the question of Israel’s international standing. In recent years it is often termed as “growing global isolation.” This isolation may diminish at times, but there is a wall-to-wall consensus about Israel becoming less popular with every war and military operation. You say that in fact the opposite is true. In your film, one can see officers from armies the world over coming to Israel to purchase arms – from Europe, India, Latin America, and of course – the U.S. So is this talk of criticism and isolation a show in which everyone partakes? Or is this criticism another force that we need to take into account?
I think that a view of Israel as an unrestrained savage that resides in a brutal neighborhood and therefore has to exercise excessive/immense albeit necessary force, has taken hold. It follows that this view is usually condescending-forgiving. More importantly, I believe that Israel’s security marketing succeeds where Israeli Hasbara [advocacy] is less fruitful. Many people fail to make the connection between Israel’s hi-tech weapons and the unrestrained military force about which one can read in reports by human rights NGOs. People think of these as two disparate phenomena merely existing in spatial and temporal proximity. If you read the Goldstone Report about the bombing of the ceremony at the police academy in Gaza on the first day of Cast Lead, and then read a marketing brochure of Rafael about the operational experiment involving “Spike 4″ (the missile used by Israel in that incident), some effort is required in order for you to realize that these are different accounts of one historical event. The same goes for the drones used for assassinations in Gaza. On the other hand, It is possible that the Europeans understand all this and simply don’t care.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Prisoners who starved for art honored by Gaza show

For former Palestinian detainee Abdelfattah Abu Jahil, prison art is a victory.

“At the beginning, it was really hard,” he said of painting, embroidery and sculpture during his first detention by Israeli forces in 1983. “It wasn’t allowed. We had to keep it hidden from the guards. And we had to smuggle the tools, like beads and threads, to make the art.”

That changed, he said, when a mass hunger strike forced the Israeli Prison Service to let Palestinian detainees keep and use art supplies.

“The greatest achievements of the prisoners’ movement were in 1985,” Abu Jahil said. “We went on hunger strike to force the Israelis to allow us to make art, among other things. I myself went on hunger strike for 79 days.”

Their success allowed art by detainees to flourish, he explained. “After the [Israeli Prison Service] allowed prisoners to make art, we were able to ask our families to send supplies, or buy them from the small shops in the prisons.”

Today, Abu Jahil, who was finally released from his fourth detention in 2002, continues to make art about detainees and the prisoners’ movement in Gaza. more

Egypt reopens Rafah after kidnapped soldiers released

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian police officers reopened the Rafah crossing on Wednesday following the release of seven Egyptian officers on Wednesday, military officials said.

The crossing had been closed for 5 days following the abduction of the servicemen on Thursday by armed gunmen.

The seven officers were released in a desert area south of el-Arish city, Egyptian security services told Ma'an. A military helicopter immediately headed to the area and took the Egyptian officers back to Cairo.

A spokesman for the Egyptian armed forces, colonel Ahmad Muhammad Ali, confirmed that the soldiers had been released and were on their way to Cairo. more

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Thousands of Gazans stranded as Rafah crossing closed for fifth day

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities kept the Rafah crossing with Gaza closed for a fifth consecutive day on Tuesday, despite efforts by Palestinian officials to reopen the terminal.

Egyptian police closed the Rafah crossing on Friday after gunmen ambushed two minibuses in Sinai's Wadi al-Akhdar and detained seven Egyptian servicemen.

The police said they would not reopen Rafah crossing until their colleagues were released.

A Gaza based center for human rights said that over 2,400 Palestinians are stranded at both sides of the crossing. The group urged Egyptian authorities to open the crossing and "exclude it from the internal affairs of both sides."

Passengers told Ma'an on Monday that they were making do with cardboard and newspapers to sleep at night, and to avoid the heat of the sun during the day. Some sleep in mosques, and very few can afford to hire a hotel room in el-Arish.

Some passengers have even managed to cross into Gaza through smuggling tunnels. more

Official: Hamas willing to close down tunnels if commercial crossings opened

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas government in Gaza is willing to close down all smuggling tunnels under the Egyptian border once a commercial crossing opens, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

"We do not want the tunnels in the first place," said Ghazi Hamad. "They burden citizens and cause hundreds of fatalities, but they are essential because there is no alternative."

"The tunnels issue can be resolved by finding a solution that balances the security needs of Egypt and the humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip through lawful commercial transactions monitored by both," he added in a statement.

The tunnel industry thrived under Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, providing a lifeline by smuggling goods into the besieged enclave. Egypt has cracked down on the network, flooding tunnels with sewage over fears that they are being used to smuggle weapons and fighters into the restive Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt's reopening of the Rafah crossing on its border with Gaza in May 2011 eased travel for Palestinians, many of whom had not been able to leave the enclave since 2007. However, commercial goods do not pass through the terminal, and Palestinians in Gaza still rely on the tunnels. more

Israel demolishes 4 homes in East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces demolished two homes in the Jabal al-Mukabbir neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Tuesday, having earlier destroyed two Palestinian homes in al-Tur.

Witnesses said that a large Israeli police force surrounded the buildings in Jabal al-Mukabbir and closed off the area before demolishing the buildings.

One building belonged to the Abu al-Dabaat family and consisted of three floors housing four families. The second building was home to the al-Qaq family and housed three people.

The al-Qaq family built the property 13 years ago and received a demolition order in 2002 for lacking a building permit. The demolition order was halted and an Israeli court ordered the family to pay 80,000 shekels ($21,800) as a penalty.

The family then tried to obtain a building permit, but were unable to do so. more

Israel to re-extend Gaza fishing zone to 6 miles

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Israeli government has decided to re-extend Gaza's fishing zone to 6 miles, after reducing it in March following a rocket attack from the coastal territory, a statement from Israel's army said Tuesday.

The decision was announced after a meeting between Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Moshe Yaalon, who then informed the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

Senior Egyptian and international officials were also informed about the decision, the statement added.

In March, Israel's army announced that the fishing zone for Palestinians in Gaza would be reduced from six to three miles following a rocket attack. more

Gaza rappers persevere despite Hamas ban

The Gazan hip-hop group Palestinian Unit has been traveling across Europe, performing for a growing fan base. Although their popularity is on the rise in Spain, France and Denmark, in Gaza they are banned. According to one of the group’s members, rapper Ayman Jamal Mghames, the official excuse of the Hamas-led government is that hip-hop is too “Western.” He has no doubt, however, that it is the messages in the group's songs that the authorities find problematic.

“We are political rappers. We talk about our daily life, and since we live a daily political life, political issues are part of our music,” Mghames told Al-Monitor in Gaza City. “We criticize the government’s actions, whether here or in the West Bank. We disagree with most of the politicians’ actions, not forgetting to mention the Israeli occupation.” Mghames acknowledges the difficulty of being a hip-hop artist in Gaza, explaining that when he and his group tried to obtain permission from the Ministry of Culture to perform, they were offered a venue for free if they agreed to perform under the Hamas banner. The group walked away, giving the offer little consideration. For now they perform in their homes and record in private studios. more

Palestinian youths make their way into Jerusalem through Israel's apartheid wall

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PIC) 18 May -- A group of Palestinian young men was able on Friday evening to knock down part of Israel's segregation wall near Abu Dis town to the east of occupied Jerusalem, particularly in the area known as Kabsa. The young men used pickaxes to make a hole in the wall and then entered Jerusalem carrying Palestinian flags in a step intended to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe).

The Palestinian information center (PIC) reporter in Jerusalem said that the Israeli army immediately dispatched a unit of Israeli soldiers to the area to confront the young men. more

Monday, 20 May 2013

London protest outside UEFA congress to call for cancellation of Israel tournament

On Friday, 24 May, protestors from several European countries will assemble outside UEFA’s annual congress to call for the cancelation of Israel as location for the European Under-21 football championship. The European football’s governing body awarded Israel the prestigious tournament despite the country’s systematic violation of Palestinians’ rights.

The rally outside Grosvenor House hotel, the venue of the UEFA meeting, will last from 11am til 3pm. At approximately 2pm a protest march outside companies which are complicit in the Israeli occupation will join the rally at Grosvenor House hotel for a mass gathering. The protest march starts at noon near the main entrance of St. Pancras station. There will be live music, red cards, footballs and goals. Protestors are requested to bring or wear football shirts (see here for more information). more

Gaza passengers sleep on cardboard for fourth day, stranded in Egypt after Rafah crossing closure

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) – Palestinian passengers stranded at the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for a fourth day say they are suffering day and night.

Passengers told Ma'an on Monday that they were making do with cardboard and newspapers to sleep at night, and to avoid the heat of the sun during the day. Some sleep in mosques, and very few can afford to hire a hotel room in el-Arish.

Some passengers managed to cross to Gaza through smuggling tunnels.

"Thank God, I managed to come through tunnels despite the dangers. I had to do that because the situation at the Egyptian side of Rafah crossing is very difficult especially since I have my grandmother with me and she can't wait there," said one of the passengers who came through the tunnels.

"There are sick people, children, women and elderly people spending days without basic living requirements." more

Israeli report on shooting by IDF of Muhammad al-Durrah claims boy it killed might be alive

Capping another round of denials by Israeli officials, the government has formally demanded that France 2 retract a September 2000 media report accusing Israeli soldiers of killing Mohammad al-Durrah, a 12-year-old boy, insisting that the report fueled “anti-Semitism.”

The “al-Durrah incident” involves a France 2 video of Durrah’s death, apparently in the crossfire of fighting during the beginning of the Second Intifada. The Israeli military conceded to the incident at the time, and the Israeli government apologized, though they later issued a retraction for that apology.

The retraction, and today’s demands, center on a growing conspiracy theory which has gained traction in Israeli circles, starting with it being unclear if they were Israeli bullets that killed the boy, and later doubting that he’d been killed at all.

That’s where we’re at now. Israeli officials insist that not only did the video of Durrah’s killing not happen as it seemed, but that Durrah “might be alive” somewhere. Not that they have any idea where he would be, nor can they prove that he survived.

Durrah’s father insists his son is where he’s been since 2000, in a grave. more

Gaza film 'Condom Lead' nominated for Cannes award

A couple was trying to have sex, but the act turned suddenly into guilt and inability as a drone in the background drowns out all other sounds and words.

The wife approached her husband. He wanted to kiss her when a new round of bombardments started, interrupting them once again. Their daughter started to cry; the mother went to lull her back to sleep and returned to her husband. The sound of the drone still drowned out everything. The woman touched her husband’s foot with hers and then: Boom! Another explosion. The little girl started to cry again. The mother went to her daughter. The father blew up the condom, which turned into a balloon. Balloons filled the house; 22 days have passed since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza. The husband went out on the balcony to see condom balloons floating out of every house in Gaza that night.

This is the story of Condom Lead, a film parody of the first war on the Gaza Strip in 2008-29, known as Operation Cast Lead. It has been entered into the short-film competition at the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival. This movie is the first from the Gaza Strip to make it to the international competition.

The directors are twin brothers Arab and Tarazan Nasser. They left the Gaza Strip a few months ago to participate in a film festival in Jordan and remained there to shoot their daring idea, which they would have never been able to shoot in Gaza, as Tarazan noted in an interview with Al-Monitor via Skype. more

“Torching Arabs for education" - the anti-Arab racism displayed on shirts of Israel youth movement

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) – Picnickers in northern Israel were surprised Thursday when they saw anti-Arab racist slogans printed on T-shirts of a guide affiliated to a religious youth movement Ezra.

“Torching Arabs for education,” was written on the guide’s shirt, families who were picnicking in the north told the Israeli daily Maariv.

Maariv reported that it was not the first time such slogans were seen on T-shirts. more

Keeping alive Gaza's culinary traditions

Despite food shortages and irregular power supplies, people in Gaza are finding ways to keep their culinary traditions alive - and eat their own distinctive spicy dishes.

Amid the loud whir of fans and clatter of plates in his kitchen, Asad Abu Haseera ladles a rich, tomato and chilli sauce over the fresh prawns sizzling in a pan.

When the mixture is simmering, he pours it into a traditional clay bowl - or zibdiya - and slides it under the flames lapping around an open grill.

A few minutes later, as the top of the stew bubbles like molten lava, the young chef removes it from the heat and sprinkles on some crushed pistachio nuts. This is zibdiyit gambari, a cherished Gazan dish.

"People in Gaza love to eat fish and seafood of all kinds. It's good for the health and full of vitamins," says Abu Haseera, who trained under his father at the family restaurant from the age of 13. "We say it's the best tonic and can even give you sexual energy."

The Gaza Strip is a small, coastal sliver of land that is home to over 1.6 million Palestinians. Most people's primary associations with it probably involve its Islamist Hamas government, militants fighting Israel and the Israeli border blockade.

However, a new cookbook - The Gaza Kitchen - that went on sale in the UK last week, tries to give an alternative perspective by focusing on the distinctive, and piquant, local cuisine. more

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Negev demolitions 'war in the full sense'

NEGEV (Ma'an) – "What I have seen was like post-war footage rather than home demolition as the Hebrew media misleadingly describe it," says the head of the Islamic movement in northern Israel Sheikh Raed Salah.

Salah's remarks Sunday came during a visit to the Bedouin Negev village of Attir where Israeli municipal staff demolished 18 houses.

"Demolishing 18 houses, uprooting 460 olive saplings, cutting down olive trees and sycamore fig trees, destroying roads, power generators and solar cells is war in the full sense of the term," Salah added.

He urged all Palestinian residents of the Negev and across Israel to visit the demolished village to see the truth firsthand.

Salah was accompanied by other members of the Islamic Movement in Israel. The delegation was welcomed by dignitaries from the Abu Al-Quian family whose houses were demolished.

"Nothing was left on the ground. They leveled everything cutting down trees and turning the place into debris. However, we will remain firm and our spirits are stronger than before," said Hajj Shihdeh Abu al-Queian. more

Egypt closes Gaza crossing for third day in row

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egyptian police at Rafah are closing the crossing for a third day in a row Sunday after the kidnappings of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, officials said.

They are preventing all Palestinians from traveling through the crossing or leaving the Gaza Strip, the Gaza interior ministry said Sunday.

The Hamas-run Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Saturday that talks were underway with Egypt to reopen the crossing.

"The ministry of foreign affairs is holding talks with senior officials in Egypt to re-open the Rafah crossing and ensure the safe return of people stranded by the closure," deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad told Ma'an.

Maher Abu Sabha, the general director of crossings and borders, said 800 Palestinians were stranded on the Egyptian side of the crossing on Saturday morning. more

Gaza filmmakers look to 3D ‘Scarecrow’ film as a showcase

Filmmakers in Gaza have finished making what is believed to be the first Palestinian animated feature in 3D in a bid to show a fresh perspective on life through a child’s eyes.

Called “The Scarecrow”, the 40-minute production tells the story of a nine-year-old orphan named Rima and the scarecrow she was given by her parents who died in a car crash.

One day, the scarecrow — who represents the guardian of Palestinian land — is taken away by an Israeli soldier from the family’s land near the border, and Rima sets off with her school friends on a mission to find it.

It is a story which evokes some of the suffering of Palestinian refugees, says director Khalil al-Mazen.

“The world is used to seeing Palestinian children surrounded by death, destruction and war, but this film focuses on their simple dreams,” he told AFP.

“Judgement (on the conflict) is left to the viewer,” says Mazen, who holds a diploma in filmmaking from the Saint Petersburg Academy in Russia and has already made several films and documentaries. more

Hamas says talks underway to reopen Rafah crossing

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Hamas-run Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Gaza said Saturday that talks are underway with Egypt to reopen the Rafah crossing.

The crossing on Gaza's border remained shut for the second day on Saturday as Egyptian police closed the gates in protest at the kidnapping of their colleagues.

"The ministry of foreign affairs is holding talks with senior officials in Egypt to re-open the Rafah crossing and ensure the safe return of people stranded by the closure," deputy foreign minister Ghazi Hamad told Ma'an.

Maher Abu Sabha, the general director of crossings and borders, said 800 Palestinians were stranded on the Egyptian side of the crossing on Saturday morning.

The number was expected to reach 1,000 by the end of the day. more

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Man killed in Gaza tunnel collapse

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A man was killed on Saturday when a smuggling tunnel in Rafah collapsed, a Gaza medical official said.

Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that Mousa Ghunaim, 26, was pronounced dead on arrival at a Gaza hospital after a tunnel collapsed while he was working.

In January, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights urged the Gaza government to implement better safety measures and assess the benefits of the tunnel network as a whole, saying 232 people had been killed in collapsing tunnels. more

Hundreds stranded as Egyptian police refuse to open Rafah crossing

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Hundreds of Palestinian travelers were stranded at Rafah crossing on Gaza's border on Saturday as Egyptian police refused to open the terminal, in protest over the kidnapping of their colleagues.

Meanwhile, Egyptian security forces closed the airport and seaport in el-Arish on Saturday, also in protest over the kidnapping of seven Egyptian police and soldiers on Thursday in Sinai.

Egypt's Interior Minister Mohammad Ibrahim dispatched his assistant to Rafah to convince police to reopen the crossing, but police refused to let the ministry official enter the terminal, a Ma'an reporter said.

The minister's assistant spoke with police at the crossing gates, and the officers told him they would not reopen the border until their colleagues were released. more

Friday, 17 May 2013

Video: challenging Catalan and Spanish governments collaboration with the Israeli occupation

The above video is part of a campaign to pressure the Catalan and Spanish governments to end military and security cooperation with Israel. The website explains:

This year, the Palestine solidarity movement in Catalonia, formed by the platform “Amb Palestina al Cor”, “BDS Catalunya”, “Plataforma: Aturem la Guerra”, “Rumb a Gaza” and “Dones en Rebel·lia”, denounce the role that Israel plays in the dessign, research, implementation and global sale of different security and repression systems.

We have proves that Catalonia and Spain are their customers. Specifically, the catalan government has commercial agreements in the security field, most of them, haven’t made them public. Catalonia buys part of the anti-riot equipment from Israel, which are used by mossos d’esquadra, the catalan forces, as the bulletproof vests.

The close relationship from our government and Israel make us complicit of the systematic violation of the Human Rights in the Occupied Territories in Palestine. Therefore, we demand the interruption of any commercial and / or academic relation.

The palestinian population is not alone. We don’t forget them. One more time, we show our solidarity. more

Israeli authorities to legalize four settlement outposts

On Thursday 16th May, Haaretz Israeli newspaper revealed that the Israeli authorities informed the the Israeli Supreme Court that it intends to examine the possibility of legalizing four West Bank settlement outposts, which were supposed to be evacuated a year ago.

The newspaper added that the Israeli authorities decided to legalize the four settlement outposts; Givat Assaf, which was constructed on a Palestinian-owned land, in addition to the three outposts Mitzpe Lachish, Givat Haroeh and Ma'ale Rehavam. more

Turkish premier will ‘most probably’ visit Gaza, West Bank

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he will ‘most probably’ visit the Israeli besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank in June despite opposition from the United States.

“According to my plan, most probably I would be visiting Gaza in June,” Erdogan said during a joint press conference with US President Barack Obama in Washington on Thursday.

“But it will not be a visit only to Gaza. I will also go to the West Bank,” the Turkish premier added.

Erdogan further said he places a lot of significance on this visit in terms of peace in the Middle East, expressing hope that the trip would contribute to unity in Palestine.

The United States had earlier called on the Turkish prime minister to put off any visit to Gaza, describing such a trip as a “distraction” from efforts to revive the peace process in the region. more

Egypt police close Rafah crossing in protest over kidnappings

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma'an) -- Egyptian police on Friday closed the Rafah crossing on Gaza's border in protest at the abduction of their colleagues.

The police closed the gates of Rafah crossing and prevented general and military intelligence officers from entering the terminal in protest at the kidnapping of their colleagues, a Ma'an reporter said.

The police said they would not reopen Rafah crossing until their colleagues were released.

Gunmen on Thursday ambushed two minibuses in Sinai's Wadi al-Akhdar and detained seven Egyptian servicemen.

Four of the captured men worked at Rafah crossing, sources at the terminal said, identifying them as Ahmad Osama Fathi, Karim al-Husini Ibrahim, Ahmad Abed al-Hamid, and Ahmad Abed al-Bade.

The three others were identified as border guards Ibrahim Subhi, Mohammad Abed al-Aziz Mohammad, and Mohammad Shaban. more

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Israelis fire at Palestinian farmers in eastern Gaza Strip

Israeli forces have opened fire on Palestinian farmers working to the east of Khan Younis in the south of the Gaza Strip. The incident took place on Thursday morning.

Witnesses said that farmers fled from their land due to the severity of the attack by Israeli soldiers stationed at the Kisuffim border crossing. The firing was accompanied by the repositioning of Israeli tanks and other heavily-armoured vehicles in the area. No casualties have been reported.

Farmers are reaping their wheat from the fields adjacent to the border with Israel. They should be able to tend to the crops following the truce agreement reached between Israel and the Hamas-led Palestinian government in Gaza which brought to an end the Israeli offensive against civilians last November. Israel has maintained a unilaterally-declared 300 metre "buffer zone" inside Palestinian territory. more

Gaza border on high alert after kidnappings

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Gaza's Interior Ministry announced a state of alert along its border with Egypt on Thursday after gunmen kidnapped seven Egyptian soldiers and police officers in Sinai.

The Hamas-run ministry said security was heightened in case the kidnappers tried to smuggle the Egyptian servicemen into the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses told Ma'an that Egyptian forces closed seven smuggling tunnels in al-Sarsoryeh, east of Rafah, on the Egypt-Gaza border. Large forces of Egyptian soldiers were seen along the border, witnesses said.

Early Thursday, gunmen ambushed two minibuses in Wadi al-Akhdar, between el-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid cities, and kidnapped seven Egyptian servicemen en route to Cairo for their monthly vacation, Egyptian security officials told Ma'an.

The three captured policemen are from the Central Security Forces, the branch of the Interior Ministry used to quell protest. The four other men belong to the armed forces. more