Thursday, 26 September 2013

Gaza’s construction sector still crushed by siege

“From 1975 to 2007, our business had been quite sustainable and profitable. Since 2007, the business has been badly affected by the Israeli blockade,” said Ahmad al-Breim, a building supplies trader in Gaza, as he waited for his first shipment of raw materials from Israel in more than six years on Monday.

Last week, Israeli occupation authorities decided to allow an additional fifty truckloads of raw construction materials including cement, steel and concrete into Gaza, but in quantities that fall far short of the territory’s needs. Israel previously allowed in just twenty truckloads daily for the private sector.

“We have relied on underground tunnels from Egypt, but prices and availability of goods have been fluctuating,” al-Breim told The Electronic Intifada.

Since early July, when Egypt’s military regime began a renewed assault on the underground tunnels, the price of one ton of cement spiked at $280, al-Breim said.

By 21 September, only about ten of three hundred tunnels were still operating, according to a report this week from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (“The humanitarian impact of reduced access between Gaza and Egypt,” 23 September 2013 [PDF]).

This meant that less than 100 tons of supplies were coming in per day, compared with 7,500 tons daily before the Egyptian campaign. more

Number of Gaza resistance groups now possess handheld anti-aircraft missiles

In March 2005, then Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told senior US officials that some Strela antiaircraft missiles had made their way into the Gaza Strip. Six months later, senior Israeli official Amos Gilad told US officials that "thousands of rifles, rockets, rocket propelled grenades, and maybe even Strela missiles" had been smuggled into the Gaza Strip.

The following December, the then Director General of the Multinational Force & Observers, Ambassador James Larocco, told a conference that the MFO had stopped conducting helicopter flights near the Gaza border due to the presence of Strela missiles, among other weapons.

Almost four years later, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that 200 surface-to-air missiles destined for the Gaza Strip had been seized by Egyptian authorities in the Sinai. Unidentified Israeli sources told Haaretz that the missiles were likely Strela missiles. Then, in October 2011, Haaretz reported that Hamas was taking advantage of the looting of weapon stockpiles in Libya and increasing its antiaircraft arsenal.

The following October, the Israeli Defense Force confirmed that Palestinian terrorists operating in the Gaza Strip had fired their first Strela 2 (SA-7 Grail) missile at an IDF helicopter operating over Gaza. Around the same time, the Associated Press reported that a senior Israeli official was warning that "Gaza is being flooded with sophisticated weapons from Libya," including antiaircraft missiles.

Despite all of these reports, there had rarely been hard evidence that Hamas or other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip were in possession of the Strela 2.

Photos and video from Gaza, however, provide clear evidence that at least three terror groups -- Hamas, Al Ansar Brigades, and the al Nasser Salah al Deen Brigades -- are in possession of Strela 2s. more

Soldiers detain, beat, four children near Bethlehem

Wednesday evening [September 25, 2013] Israeli soldiers detained, for several hours, four Palestinian children in the Al-Khader town, south of Bethlehem, and violently beat them before handing them back to the Palestinians.

Ahmad Salah, Coordinator of the Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements in Al-Khader, told the Radio Bethlehem 2000 that the soldiers detained the four children for several hours in the Nashash area, at the southern entrance of Al-Khader.

The four children have been identified as Hussein Shady Salah, 8, Ahmad Wa’el Salah, 9, in addition to Mo’tasem Mustafa Al-Masry and his brother Hamza.

He added that the children were violently beaten and kicked before the soldiers moved them to the District Coordination Office (DCO), west of Beit Jala city, and handed them to the Palestinian DCO.

In related news, two Palestinians have been injured by rounds of live ammunition fired by the army at Palestinians at the entrance of the Al-Jalazoun refugee camp, north of the central West Bank city of Ramallah.

The two have been identified as Mohammad Yousef Zomra, 24, and Mohammad Adnan, 21. more

Power cuts endanger lives of babies in Gaza

Standing worriedly in a room full of beeping machines and busy nurses, Abdullah al-Nabih's eyes remain glued to his baby boy – born prematurely – who is covered in wires and tubes that keep him alive in a small incubator in Gaza's largest hospital.

Al-Nabih's infant son, Mohamed, is one of 32 newborns kept alive with feeding tubes in Al-Shifa Hospital's maternity ward after being born too early.

The nervous father mutters a prayer, asking God to keep the intensive-care units working smoothly without any disruption.

"The machines connected to my son's body are what keep him alive; any disruption could have a negative impact on his future life," he said.

Al-Nabih is mainly concerned now with the power outages that have become a daily occurrence in Gaza – often lasting as long as 12 hours a day.

In recent months, the hospital has been able to cope with mounting electricity cuts with the use of power generators that rely on fuel. But since the Egyptian army launched a crackdown on the border tunnels linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which are dedicated largely to transporting items restricted by Israel, including fuel, the coastal enclave – home to roughly 1.7 million people – has been hit by a crippling energy crisis that has affected public transport, electricity and construction.

Last week, Mufid al-Mekhalilati, health minister in the Gaza government, said the current dearth of Egyptian fuel had affected electricity generators in the strip's hospitals and the operational capacities of its ambulance and rescue services. more