Monday, 24 June 2013

Egypt steps up Gaza tunnel crackdown, dismaying Palestinians

(Reuters) - Egypt has intensified a crackdown on smuggling tunnels between its volatile Sinai desert and the Gaza Strip, causing a steep hike in petrol and cement prices in the Palestinian territory.

Palestinians involved in the tunnel business say that the campaign, which began in March and has included flooding of underground passages, was ramped up in the past two weeks before a wave of opposition-led protests in Egypt expected to start on June 30.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has come under political fire at home over a strong challenge to his authority by militant Islamists in the Sinai who have attacked Egyptian security forces in the peninsula.

Egypt's military, struggling to fill a security vacuum in the Sinai since autocrat Hosni Mubarak was swept from power in 2011, has pledged to shut all tunnels under the Gaza border, saying they are used by militants on both sides to smuggle activists and weapons. more

Israel breaks pledge to allow imprisoned Gaza engineer family visits

One year after Israel promised to allow Palestinian prisoners to receive visits from their families, it is still denying Dirar Abu Sisi the right to see his loved ones.

Abu Sisi, the deputy engineer of Gaza’s only power plant, was abducted in Ukraine, the country of his wife’s birth, in early 2011. He has been held in an Israeli prison since then. Throughout that time, his wife Veronika has only been able to have three telephone chats with him.

“The last call, which took ten minutes, was in January 2012,” she said. “When my mother died back in Ukraine, they refused to let us have a phone conversation.”

Tal Linoy, an Israeli attorney who is representing Abu Sisi, accused Israel of reneging on commitments that it made to Palestinian prisoners last year following a mass hunger strike. As well as agreeing to allow family visits, Israel pledged to end solitary confinement.

Yet Abu Sisi is still held in isolation. Although Abu Sisi has not yet been tried for any offense, the Israeli legal system has approved the extension of his solitary confinement on four separate occasions. The latest extension — for a six-month period — was authorized in April this year. more

Israel bars Gaza families from prison visits

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities barred Gaza residents from leaving the coastal enclave Monday to visit relatives in Israeli jails, following the closure of all crossings, a Palestinian Authority liaison official said.

Raed Fattouh said 80 relatives had headed to the Beit Hanoun (Erez) passenger crossing in northern Gaza but soldiers said they were not allowed to cross.

Earlier Monday Fattouh announced that Israel had shut down all crossings into Gaza for "security reasons," following rocket fire from Islamic Jihad, who severed ties with Hamas over the death of an affiliate by Hamas police a day earlier. more

Police: Gaza man dies after self-immolation

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A man died in the Gaza Strip on Monday after setting fire to himself a day earlier, police said.

Yousef Nassar, 30, suffered severe burns after pouring a flammable substance over himself and setting it alight in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City, a police spokesman told Ma'an. more

Israeli air force strikes Gaza and shuts crossings

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli aircraft shelled several Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza on Monday morning in response to rocket fire.

A Ma'an reporter said several F16 aircraft shelled four sites belonging to the military wing of Islamic Jihad, Saraya al-Quds, in Rafah.

Shelling was also reported in empty areas near the Asda city in Khan Younis and in the Deir al-Balah district, including the al-Zawayda village.

Tunnels were also targeted along the Rafah border, with no injuries reported.

Israel also shut down all crossings into Gaza, Palestinian Authority liaison official Raed Fattouh said.

Fattouh said he was told the closure was for "security reasons."

A source said Israel would only be allowing humanitarian cases through the passenger crossing Erez in northern Gaza. more