Friday, 26 July 2013

Gaza’s Ark - a bid to break Israel’s blockade from within

Palestinian labourers and foreign activists are working tirelessly to transform a large fishing boat into “Gaza’s Ark” with the aim of exporting local produce in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip.

The Ark, which is being fitted out to carry goods and more than 100 passengers, is expected to set sail for Europe when it is completed by the end of July in the latest high-profile attempt to challenge Israel’s maritime lockdown on the tiny Hamas-run territory.

If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.

Significantly, this attempt to alleviate the effects of the seven-year blockade comes from within Gaza, where locals refurbishing the 24-metre-long (78 feet) vessel want to take matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for help from the outside world.

“This will help fishermen, farmers and factory workers in Gaza to market their products,” said Abu Ammar Bakr, who was a fisherman for 40 years before turning his hand to repairing boats.

Mohammed Abu Salmi, who owns a furniture shop, was equally buoyed by the prospect of shipping products overseas.

“Export by sea will resuscitate farming and light industry in Gaza and will ease unemployment… and help to lift this oppressive blockade,” he told AFP.more

Israel limits EU activities in West Bank, Gaza

Israeli Defense Minister has ordered to halt cooperation with EU officials in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It came as a response to European Commission’s guidelines that banned funding of Israel’s controversial settlement program in occupied territories.

Moshe Ya’alon’s move, which was reported by several media agencies citing unnamed Israeli officials, effectively banned any assistance to joint infrastructure projects in West Bank’s Area C.

IDF will no longer grant new permits or renew existing ones for EU construction projects in the territory, which makes the largest of the three West Bank areas created with Oslo II Accord in 1995, has 300,000 Israeli settlers against some 150,000 Palestinians, and is held under Israeli civil and military control.

Some of the EU-led projects in the West Bank which will face the ax include Palestinian Authority police training program and a waste removal program. Transfers of the EU donor funds to projects in the Palestinian territories have already been frozen, according to reports.

Ya’alon also voiced plans to limit the movement of EU officials to the Gaza Strip and back to Israel through the Erez Crossing, which reportedly includes refusal to renew transit visas to these officials.

Israeli defense officials in the West Bank have stopped holding work meetings with EU representatives, media reports said. more

In latest punitive measures Egypt bans Gaza fishermen from its waters

Palestinian fishermen have been banned by Egyptian authorities from sailing into Egyptian waters. It is the latest punitive measure slapped on Gaza following President Mohammed Morsi’s overthrow on July 3.

The fishermen often sailed toward Egyptian waters from their narrow fishing zone, which Israel has set to six nautical miles and which is described by local fishermen as a “pool.”

According to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, the Egyptian military banned fishing in the area of the northern Sinai towns of Rafah, Sheikh Zuweid and El-Arish from July 18 until further notice.

The paper claimed that the reason behind the ban is to prevent the infiltration of Palestinians and jihadi agents from Gaza to Egypt by fishing boats. more

Hamas government closes Ma'an, Al-Arabiya bureaus in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The attorney-general in the Hamas-run government on Thursday ordered the closure of the Ma'an News Agency and Al-Arabiya TV bureaus in Gaza.

A Hamas official told AFP that the attorney-general closed Al-Arabiya's office "for distributing false news regarding the smear campaign against Hamas and Gaza about what's happening in Egypt."

"We received the closure notice and an official statement from Al-Arabiya will be published to respond to this decision," its Gaza correspondent, Islam Abd Al Kareem, told AFP.

The closure order from the attorney-general was delivered to Ma'an by officials from the Hamas-run Ministry of Information and security forces.

Ministry officials accompanied by security forces questioned the Gaza bureau chief in his office on Thursday over a report published on Ma'an's Arabic site that quoted information translated from a Hebrew news site. more