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