Friday, 31 January 2014

15 Palestinians shot in West Bank, Gaza demos: Medics

Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 15 Palestinians near the West Bank town of Ramallah during a protest Friday over the killing of a teenager, Palestinian medics and security sources said.

In Gaza, meanwhile, medics said five more Palestinians were wounded by Israeli army gunfire near the border fence with Israel.

The sources said the Palestinians in the West Bank were hit by live rounds on the outskirts of Jalazun refugee camp and hospitalised in Ramallah, including one with serious injuries.

Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the protest, many of them hurling rocks at the soldiers.

The demonstration was called to protest at the Israeli army's killing on Wednesday of Mohammed Mubarak, a 19-year-old from Jalazun working on a project funded by USAID and son of the camp's locally elected leader.

The army said he was shot dead near a Jewish settlement outside Ramallah after opening fire on them, but witnesses insisted he was unarmed.

Palestinian housing and public works minister Maher Ghneim has condemned what he branded the "cold-blooded killing" of a labourer working on a project run by the ministry in coordination with USAID.

Ghneim said the youth had been "carrying a sign to direct the traffic" when he was shot. more

Israeli airstrikes injure 7 Palestinians in Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Seven Palestinians were injured early Friday when Israeli warplanes launched a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, a Ma'an reporter said.

Israeli aircraft attacked a site in northwest Gaza, lightly wounding a child and damaging a number of houses.

Additionally, two missiles targeted an abandoned building near Beisan park in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, injuring civilians.

Israeli missiles also struck near a mosque north of Rafah in the southern Gaza strip, injuring four people.

Also in Rafah, Israeli aircraft targeted a military site of al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing, without causing injuries.

The injured were taken to hospitals, where medics described their wounds as light to moderate.

Israel's army said in a statement that in response to rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, "aircrafts targeted overnight a terror activity site and a weapon manufacturing facility in the northern Gaza strip and a weapon storage facility in the southern Gaza Strip." more

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Gaza warned of looming water crisis

Residents of Tel Aviv will wake up in February to discover a huge hourglass full of polluted water standing in the city's central Rabin Square. The installation is the centrepiece of a campaign launched by the Friends of the Earth Middle East under the headline: Water Can't Wait, designed to draw Israelis' attention to an approaching water crisis – particularly in the Gaza Strip.

Gidon Bromberg, director of FoE in Tel Aviv, said the environment was being held hostage by the logjam in the Middle East peace process and internal Palestinian disputes between Hamas and Fatah. As the politicians dawdle, fresh drinking water is running out for the 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Last November, the World Bank completed construction of a wastewater treatment plant designed to prevent pollution of the underground aquifer that provides fresh water to 400,000 people in the northern Gaza Strip, but it stands idle, silenced by political wrangling. Gaza is dependent on Israel for most of its electricity supply but Israel is refusing to provide the extra three megawatts required to power the plant until Gaza's existing electricity bills are paid. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority cannot agree on who should settle the debt.

"Until a solution is found to provide electricity, untreated sewage will continue to contaminate the coastal aquifer and flow into the Mediterranean," said Bromberg. He said the waste also threatens to pollute an Israeli desalination plant in nearby Ashkelon.

Unicef says that more than 90% of the water extracted from Gaza's sole aquifer is unfit for human consumption. More than four out of five Gazans buy their drinking water from expensive, unregulated private vendors. Most of it is contaminated. more

Scarlett Johansson quits Oxfam over settlement product row

LOS ANGELES (Ma'an) -- Actress Scarlett Johansson has stepped down as an ambassador for global charity Oxfam after clashing with the group over her support for a company operating in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, The Associated Press reported.

Johansson's spokesman said Wednesday that the actress had a "fundamental difference" with Oxfam, a global humanitarian charity, over their opposition to trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, AP said.

The actress, who has worked with Oxfam for eight years, signed an agreement in January with SodaStream International Ltd to be a global ambassador for the company and is set to appear in an advertisement during the US Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

The company operates a large factory in an industrial zone of the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem. more

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Palestinian man shot dead by Israeli forces near Ramallah

RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian man near the Ramallah village of Ein Siniya on Wednesday.

A Ma'an reporter identified the victim as Muhammad Mahmoud Mubarak, 22, from al-Jalazun refugee camp.

Israeli forces in the area denied Palestinian ambulances access to the body before medics were eventually allowed to transfer the man to Ramallah Medical Complex.

A Palestinian official in the military liaison department told Ma'an that Mubarak was shot dead by a soldier positioned in a military watchtower.

"A Palestinian terrorist opened fire at an IDF (army) post near Ofra. The soldiers responded immediately in order to eliminate the imminent threat to their lives and fired towards the terrorist, identifying a hit," Israel's army said.

Eyewitnesses in the area told Ma'an that Mubarak was a laborer working with the al-Tarifi company on a USAID funded project to refurbish the main road in Ein Siniya.

Earlier, he had been directing traffic in the area with a handheld sign. more

Scarlett Johansson goes viral in anti-Israel settler campaign

“If only I could make this message go viral,” Scarlett Johansson muses in her new advertisement for SodaStream, the Israeli home fizzy-drink dispenser company that helps the environment, she says, by using “less sugar, less bottles”.

Ms Johansson’s new brand ambassador role and advert for SodaStream, launched online earlier this month and due to air during next Sunday’s Super Bowl, has indeed now gone viral – but in ways neither the husky-voiced Hollywood actress nor the Nasdaq-listed company probably imagined.

The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has seized on Ms Johansson and her association with SodaStream as a rare opportunity to add some unpaid star wattage to their long-running campaign to isolate Israel economically until it withdraws from occupied Palestinian land.

SodaStream makes some of its dispensers, CO2 cylinders and bottles at a former munitions factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone, outside Jerusalem, in one of Israel’s sprawling settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are illegal under international law.

BDS campaigners are now gathering signatures to pressure Oxfam, for which Ms Johansson has also served as an ambassador since 2005, to drop her. The charity says it is opposed to all trade with Israeli settlements, and that it is now “engaged in dialogue” with Ms Johansson over her association with Oxfam.

The ScarJo/SodaStream conundrum has given birth to its own internet memes: Photoshopped images of Ms Johansson sipping soda complacently alongside Palestinians crammed into an Israeli checkpoint, or smiling as she dispenses drinks in front of Israel’s concrete separation wall that runs through the West Bank, and saying: “Set the bubbles free! Palestinians can wait.”

Activists have launched the Twitter hashtag #ScarJos FavoriteSodaStream Flavor, garnering suggestions such as Doctor Pepper Spray, Gaza Calorie Count and Palestinian Punch. more

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Two Palestinian fishermen, including child, kidnapped by Israeli forces off Gaza

On Monday, 20th January, at about 6:00 am, Yousef Amin Abo Warda (age 18) and his cousin Ahmad Kamal Abo Warda (age 16) left their house to go fishing in a small boat without an engine.

Around 7:30 am they were fishing in front of the al-Waha area, in the northern Gaza Strip, and sank their fishing nets about three kilometers, or 1.6 nautical miles, offshore.

The arrest

Yousef said two large Israeli gunboats approached the fishing boats. While other fishermen were able to escape, for Yousef and Ahmad it was impossible, as their boat had no engine and was made heavy seawater seeping through a hole. “Soldiers from one of the gunboats began shooting into the water, while the second gunboat quickly turned around us to create waves,” Yousef said.

The soldiers, as they usually do when they want to arrest fishermen, asked the two young Palestinians to undress, dive into the water and swim to the Israeli ship.

“I tried to get closer to their ship by swimming, but the ship moved away, so it became hard for me,” Yousef said. ”I cried that I was tired moving my arms. I could no longer swim. The ship stopped. I went directly to the ladder that they putdown and I climbed on board the ship.” “They made me kneel down and handcuffed my hands behind my back,” Yousef added. ”They gave me some clothes and helped me put them on. They yelled to my cousin Ahmad to swim toward the ship. After about half hour Ahmad was sitting behind me. Our hands and feet were tied.”

Moreover, the soldiers kicked the two fishermen on their back. more

Towards a better education system in Gaza

By Hazem in Rafah

Education in Palestine is considered among the best in the Arab world. This can be seen in the the low rates of illiterate people and the commitment of Palestinians towards pursuing their education goals. It can also be seen in the number of Palestinians who work in prestigious jobs. However, the difficult situation in Gaza has its effect on the scoring rate for pupils in the schools because children have to work in the hard jobs to help their families secure desperately needed things; it is an early end for their childhood.

What does the education system look like and how can we improve it?

We can bring about changes for the better by making better use of computers in the education process - making education more interactive and bringing it closer to the realities of pupils' environment and sensibilities. We should supply schools with more computers and other tools to implement interactive lessons alongside the traditional teaching approach the pupils receive

The effects of the occupation on pupils' educational attainment

The continuous unstable situation in Gaza, with a war taking place approximately every 4 or 5 years, affects a lot of the overall education process. For example, schools face the constant threat of shelling and airstrikes, especially where schools have been directly affected. The consequences are reflected in the pupils who attend these schools, who see themselves in a war zone and as such having to concentrate on security issues, as they are living in fear of an imminent airstrike, attack or shelling. This is not just a problem in school but also on their way there and back home after school. This has a distorting impact when pupils are trying to concentrate on their studies. You might say these things happen i other conflict areas but in the case of Gaza it perhaps the longest and most permanent such situation compared to other places.

Also an environment of consistent instability creates a negative image of education in the minds of the pupils. It can lead to the attitude that it is not worthwhile because they will not be able to realize their ambitions and aspirations as they move on to higher levels of education.

This is understandable in a situation where hundreds of lives can be wiped out in a war while others see their futures wiped out and have to rebuild their lives from the bottom up again.

How we can challenge the occupation and its affects?

One way we can do this is to show the reality that the Gazan people are a highly educated cohort. This would help to counter the Israeli propaganda that tries to say we are all illiterate and unworthy people who have to be fought because we are supposedly threatening them!

So with a more effective education framework we can make Gaza a spring of energy.

More specifically, we can convince people that through education their life will be reshaped.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the education system in Gaza?
What are the real needs we face in the education system?

There is the potential to transform the situation at all levels of the education system (Elementary, Preparatory and Secondary) by delivering a rich interactive educational experience so that education is no longer seen as just a duty or routine to be carried out.

Throughout the educational year the pupils and their families are faced with the difficulty of trying to provide expensive educational resources. For pupils it means having to take to school many of the tools and books the school cannot provide which involves carrying heavy backpacks to and from school everyday.

How we can leverage the education of the Gazans to solve their problems?

Education is rightly considered as fundamental for development and progress of any people in the world and the Gazans have the ability within their own hands to exploit their educational achievements to move their situation forward. If we can reduce the number of pupils that have stopped going to school or can make the Palestinian curriculum more interactive and relevant to people, it would be a big step forward.

The higher rate of educational achievement means there is a stronger possibility that the people of Gaza can help themselves.

We can also use the education as a tool to convert the potential the pupils have into positive and productive outcomes.

Improving the education system will contribute to the fight against the occupation , so how can we make more efficient use of the aid given to the Gazan education sector?

These days just giving aid is not enough. We should track the aid until we are sure that it has achieved the outcome we sought. Specifically regarding the aid given to the education sector in Gaza, organisations or individuals give monetary aid to Palestinian students but no successful outcome is necessarily apparent later. For example, aid may be donated for study aids, backpacks, notes and other equipment, but the pupils in receipt of this aid may not be improving their attainment or attitude towards the learning process.

Looking at if from the point of view of those being taught, even if students are given all these resources they could still be stuck with the same curriculum which doesn't relate to their needs and may still be boring for them. To overcome this it is vitally important that the educational curriculum becomes more linked to reality.

There is a proverb in Arabic that says: "Teaching children is like carving stones" So I would like to see the Schools4Change programme paying more attention to this by focusing on other important things in life, such as manners, Islam Principles, Good Conduct and how to have a true meaningful life.

These things are essential for teaching academic subjects competently because it is important to prioritise the basics and core things in life.

Given the above, I would like to suggest these points to Schools4Change to consider in its work: When implementing the projects, do it on a qualitative basis.
Focus on future needs.
Link education with the real world.
Give enough space for pupils' imagination.
Help the education authorities to make the curriculum more contemporary.
Make the education process an interactive process.
Prioritise what could be used or important in the children's life when they are growing up.

Double punishment for family of boy shot dead by Israeli soldier

On the 18th January 2013 at 3.20pm 15 year old Saleh Elamareen was standing outside a youth centre with a group of friends in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, when he was shot in the head with a suspected dumdum bullet, fired by an Israeli soldier.

After being rushed to the nearby Beit Jala Government hospital, where doctors treating him said he was close to death, he then was transferred to an Israeli Hadassah. The Israeli hospital reportedly claimed he was stable, but almost exactly a year ago, 5 days after he was shot, his death was officially announced and his body returned to the West Bank.

He had suffered large intracranial bleeding and the CT scan obtained shows the shattered bullet still in his skull. Two doctors who treated Saleh claimed the bullet that hit him was likely to be a dumdum bullet, which expands after impact and is illegal under international law. A third doctor claimed it was definitely a dumdum bullet. Dumdum bullets are internationally outlawed due to their design which is aimed to cause maximum damage and pain to the victim, the use of which, under certain circumstances, is a war crime.

In the days preceding Elamareen's killing, Aida youth had been protesting after a hole in the separation wall was made, but video footage taken from Lajee Refugee Center's security camera, the youth center Saleh was standing outside when he was shot, and witness testimonies, confirm that there was no protest happening at the time of the shooting.

As the anniversary of his death passes, the family still await any form of justice. His father, Ahmad, who used to earn his income from working inside Israel, has had his permit to work in Israel withdrawn following his son's death. more

Hamas to allow return of Fatah members to push reconciliation

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday that his government will allow 120 Fatah members to return to the Gaza Strip in order to push the reconciliation process forward.

"The reconciliation file is moving forward in the presence of the convergence of wills, in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank," said Mr Haniyeh in a statement. "This is to aid reconciliation and putting an end to the political division."

The prime minister added that the arrangements need to be such that Hamas and Fatah can complete the reconciliation process "in the right way", noting that the government's actions are evidence of its intentions in this respect. "We will not retreat from achieving this," he insisted.

He pointed out the need to proceed with reconciliation in parallel to the student and trade union elections and the re-formation of the municipal councils by a national consensus as a transitional phase. "Communal and political reconciliation is essential," said Mr Haniyeh, "and the two should coincide to form a government, policies and a single political system." more

Israeli forces violate Gaza border, level agricultural lands

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli bulldozers escorted by military vehicles entered the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning, violating the coastal enclave's borders and destroying agricultural land nearby.

Eyewitnesses told a Ma'an reporter that bulldozers violated the border near Abasan east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip in order to level agricultural land.

Eyewitnesses added that Israeli troops escorted the bulldozers and fired smoke bombs in order to obscure locals' vision of the operation.

An Israeli army spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment. more

Monday, 27 January 2014

Israeli forces shoot, injure man in central Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli soldiers on Monday shot and injured a Palestinian man east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, a medical official said.

Spokesman for Gaza's Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, told Ma'an that a 34-year-old man was shot in the chest by Israeli fire.

The man, who was not identified, is in a critical condition.

Shortly before the man was shot Israeli forces opened fire indiscriminately after an explosion rocked the central border area as an Israeli military jeep was passing by.

A large group of Israeli troops were seen in the area and fired smoke bombs in order to evacuate the jeep, witnesses said. more

Israeli forces demolish 3-storey building in East Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces demolished a 3-storey building under construction in East Jerusalem on Monday, a local official said.

Muhammad Abu al-Hummus, a local committee official, told Ma'an that Israeli forces escorted bulldozers to the al-Isawiya neighborhood at around 6 a.m. and demolished a three-floor building belonging to Abdul-Hayy Dari.

Israeli forces closed the main roads in the neighborhood during the demolition, preventing students and employees access to their schools and work places.

Inspectors from Israel's Jerusalem municipality toured the neighborhood last week and took photos of several buildings.

Israel destroyed more than 500 Palestinian properties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2013, displacing over 850 people, according to UN figures. more

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Israeli media: Israel to allow storm recovery materials into Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli media reported on Sunday that Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon had approved plans to allow construction material into the Gaza Strip in order to help repair buildings destroyed in December's severe winter storm.

Israeli news site Ynet said that the plan to allow 1,000 tons of cement and "construction materials" into the besieged coastal enclave followed coordination between Israeli officials, the Palestinian Authority, and officials from the international community.

The decision was taken by the Defense Minister and its implemented will be directed by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Eitan Dangot.

It was not clear when the transfer would take place. more

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Israeli warships fire at Gaza fishermen

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli warships early Saturday fired at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Gaza City, fishermen told Ma'an.

The fishermen said Israeli ships fired machine guns at them, and that many were forced to sail back to shore.

No injuries were reported.

An army spokeswoman told Ma'an that an Israeli navy soldier identified a Palestinian boat outside of its "designated fishing zone."

After calling on the boat to stop, the Israeli ship "fired in its vicinity to halt the vessel's progress," the spokeswoman said.

Then the ship returned to its "designated" area, she said.

Palestinian fishermen are only allowed to go three nautical miles from Gaza's shore, even though Israeli-Palestinian agreements previously settled on 20 nautical miles. more

Friday, 24 January 2014

Israeli forces shoot dead Gaza protester, injure another

GAZA STRIP (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces shot dead one Palestinian and injured another on Friday during a protest east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip.

Spokesman for the Gaza Ministry of Health Ashraf al-Qidra, said that 20-year-old Bilal Samer Oweidah died after being shot dead in the chest by Israeli forces near the border.

Owiedah was among a group of Palestinians who had gathered near the border to protest the buffer zone imposed by Israel, al-Qidra said.

Another Palestinian was moderately injured when Israeli forces opened fire on the protesters, he said.

Locals said that Oweidah was taken to Kamal Adwan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. more

The life of a Gazan - a personal testimony

The fifth anniversary of Israel's 'Cast lead' war on Gaza was commemorated last weekend. Below we reproduce an article sent to iGaza by Hazem, an English translator who lives in Rafah. It was written during Israel's most recent war on the people of Gaza - the misnamed 'Pillar of Defense' in 2012. Since witnessing an airstrike at very close quarters Hazem has been receiving medical treatment for post-traumatic stress.

What is the life of a Gazan compared to those living outside?

We cannot concentrate on our daily life with the buzzing of the drones and the shaking from powerful airstrikes. The fear filled our life. The ignorance of those living in the western countries, they have everything they need easily secured for them.

Today, we woke up to the sounds of the airstrikes. We could barely steal a few hours of sleep.

I’m a student in a community college here in Gaza. It is called UCAS, the Community College of Applied Sciences. I will major in secretarial work once I finished my bachelor degree in Teaching English.

I can barely concentrate on my studies. I commute between my home and my college apprehensive with fear.

After the war on Gaza at the end of 2008[I do this because of the attack on Gaza this past Thanksgiving], I had a shocking accident when I was on my way to the university. I was at a taxi stop when a strong airstrike hit close, actually just across from me. On returning home, I was visibly shaken; the incident had very deep and negative impacts on me. I had been experiencing difficulties in being alone. While I could go for longer distances by myself, I, now, knew only psychological issues of schizophrenia, insomnia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive syndrome, high stress, phobia of almost everything, and nightmares. All this because of the sort of life I’m experiencing. It is not as if I ever experienced a quiet and peaceful stage in my life. The situation will always be uncertain. The longest I can plan into the future is just five minutes. Preoccupied with these psychological issues I was obliged to stay at home most of the time which only deepened my problem deepened more.

In this misery, I am depressed. From time to time, I miss some of my beloveds, my mother, my sister, my father, all and any of them. Sometimes I talk to myself: life on this land has no worth; why consume anything when I will soon lose them. The horror we living in is all-consuming.

Thinking on the level of crimes committed on and in Gaza is ever more depressing when the outside world hardly moves and act effectively for Gaza, as the Israeli political analysts said to each other. What happened at the meeting on Arab Foreign Affairs ministers, one replied: They had very nice desserts, the other man would reply that’s good, we are in a perfect situation.

This continues on a global scale. The Israelis are sure that nobody would exert pressure on Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza. They come to Gaza to pay condolences to the families of the martyred. Then, Israeli fighter jets (or drones) return to kill more Palestinians.

To add to this, life here is completely unaffordable. Adding to the dismemberment of Palestine, is the political divide. Still, I think that separation is compulsory. Why? The PNA (Palestinian national authority) and it’s supporters don’t even recognizes Hamas which was elected democratically, as European observers witnessed.I And, if Palestinian reconciliation occurs , Hamas members would be arrested; informants would report to the Israelis. In addition to this, Hamas ministers would not be able to hold any position of power in any coming government.

Back to the physical situation in Gaza…We are under siege. Things are not within our command. We cannot control the situation. It is in the hands of those who besiege us. Israel initiated the fight with the assassination of a Hamas commander. Then they ask: why Hamas fires rockets into Israel? Indeed it is not in our control. More importantly, as parliamentary elections approach in Israel, Israel launches an offensive in Gaza. The number of offensive strikes varies depending on how long it takes to gain the electoral shares necessary to gain a majority. Operation cast lead has shown how we are oppressed victims. We cannot stop the killing against us nor can we attract effective support from the outside. Lastly, the religious basis to such events is also of consequence: you can see the Israeli soldiers who are preparing to invade Gaza perform Jewish prayers.

In the on-going war on Gaza, we have seen many horrible, unthinkable and shocking things. When you see F-16s attacking homes, not inhabited by a single Hamas militant, you see them dropping world-banned weapons, destroying as much as they can. When you walk in any of the streets in Gaza, you will hear the voice of drones filling up the sky, which translates as a strong chance of an airstrike anywhere. That’s what I’m feeling when these circumstances exist. Killing 96 people didn’t make the outside world take effective steps towards Gaza. Even the newly-elected U.S. president, Barack Obama, would come out and say that Israel has it’s right to defend itself, Wow! Is all this brutality and oppression self-defence? Can we call it self-defence after skipping the issue of stealing Palestinian land? For Palestine to become Israel, colonial-settlers came here and stole our land and built cities on hills. Perhaps, now, we can understand how a so-called state can commit such brutal atrocities under the radar.

I felt like I died many times in one day as I recount the insane crimes that are being committed in Gaza every day.

On the seventh day of the aggression, we felt that we are on the queue to be killed. We had already seen the targeting of the innocent families inside their homes after the “bank of targets” for Israel has finished. Nothing remained for them but to kill the civilians themselves. It is unthinkable what happens in Gaza. What is seen by the outside world as crimes is now considered as self-defense by the criminals Barack Obama and criminal Netanyahu. What a blind world?! Children are burnt to death in Gaza on World Children’s Day. I have come to expect human rights to always-already be absent in the urgent times. We should take steps to bring such criminals to justice; to hold them accountable. Just today there were two marytrs from an airstrike on a home and to two cars in Al Sabra neighbourhood.

Around 16 foreign ministers from the Arab League came to Gaza today. Still the killing continued. We are extremely scared here in Gaza. Why? The strongest state in the world backs those who kill us. States that follow the US in military strength don’t do anything to affect what’s going on in Gaza. This enables the killers to disseminate their completely false image to communities and countries outside Gaza. They manage to produce a reality that inverted the actual materiality: victim and victimizer were reversed.. This must stop now! We should move from plan A to plan B! What is plan A? The demonstrations and solidarity activities being done throughout the world: the flotilla and the convoys. Without degrading such great things carried out by brave people, we should move to affect those sitting on the chairs of power; we should collect our efforts, unite our strength to transform it into a united, potential and mighty unification that can back Palestine in many aspects. And if that would be possible, during this war, we would have our effect on the USA to stop the Israeli aggression, we would have our impact in the united nations security council when a simple condemning resolution proposed to be passed and issued officially collides with the US veto.

Today, I learnt that there are serious efforts to make a truce between Hamas and Israel. Does this actually mean that the people of the Gaza strip will experience pause in Israeli crimes? Or is the pause the time period in which Israel will invent another reason to resume the siege on Gaza.

Abbas seeks $1-billion Gaza deal with Russia

MOSCOW (AFP) - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas sought on Thursday to secure a billion-dollar Gaza energy deal during talks with Russian leaders aimed at restoring warmer ties between the two Soviet-era allies.

Abbas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were due to sign an intergovernmental agreement that reports said included a $1.0-billion (730-million-euro) natural gas project in the Gaza section of the Mediterranean Sea.

The state ITAR-TASS news agency said Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom hoped to produce 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas at the site.

The report added that Russia's Technopromexport engineering firm was also considering a small oil development project near the West Bank city of Ramallah. more

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Seven Palestinian prisoners currently on open-ended hunger strike

The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees has reported that seven Palestinian detainees are currently holding open-ended hunger strikes in Israeli detention facilities, and that some of them are facing very serious health issues and complications.

The Palestinian Ministry of Detainees said that detainees Akram Al-Faseesy, Waheed Abu Maria, legislator Yasser Mansour, and Bilal Abdul-Aziz are striking to protest their arbitrary illegitimate Administrative Detention without charges or trial.

The Ministry added that detainee Abdul-Majid Khdeirat is striking to protest being arrested following his release under the Shalit prisoner swap deal, and detainee Yousef Nawaj’a is striking to demand the urgently needed medical attention.

Detainee Moammar Banat, along with detainee Al-Faseesy, started their hunger strike on January 9 2014, after being forced into solitary confinement at the Ofer Israeli military detention center.

They are being held under very difficult conditions, their clothes were confiscated, and each cold cell only includes one mattress and two blankets.

Abu Maria said that the detainees are frequently harassed, repeatedly searched and assaulted in an attempt to force them to quit their strikes, and that the army is blackmailing them by offering them medical attention in exchange for ending their hunger strike.

Detained Legislator, Yasser Mansour, started his hunger strike on January 16, 2014, while detainee Bilal Abdul-Aziz started his strike on January 22; both were moved to the Negev Detention camp, and are demanding an end to their administrative detention.

Detainee Abdul-Majid Khdeirat started his strike on the day of his arrest on January 15, as he could be facing eight years imprisonment. more

PA ministry condemns Israeli attack on Al-Quds campus

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Ministry of Higher Education on Wednesday strongly condemned an Israeli raid on Al-Quds University campus in Abu Dis in which dozens of students suffered tear gas inhalation and university property was damaged.

The PA ministry denounced the attack as "desecrating the sanctity of the institution, obstructing the educational process," and "intentionally horrifying thousands of students and staff members by utilizing all terrorist means including random heavy firing."

The raid on Wednesday was part of a "continuous and systematic context of violations against the Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including the educational institutions and their cadres," a statement added.

These violations aim to challenge the Palestinian presence in occupied East Jerusalem and push Palestinian society towards ignorance and poverty, the ministry said. more

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Israeli airstrike kills 2 Palestinians in Gaza

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli airstrike on Wednesday killed two Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip including one accused by Israel of ordering rocket attacks, officials said.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a car in Beit Hanoun carrying Ahmed Zaanin, 21, and Mahmoud Zaanin, 23, killing them both. They were transported to hospital by ambulance.

The Israeli army described Ahmed as a "terrorist operative" belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and involved in recent attacks against Israel and in the planning of "further attacks in the coming days."

The army accused him of organizing rocket attacks against Israel during the funeral of former prime minister Ariel Sharon on Jan. 15.

"To tolerate Gaza rocket attacks would be to succumb to extremist aggression. It is the IDF's moral obligation and right to defend its soldiers and civilians from the deadly actions and intentions of terrorists of the likes of Zaanin," said Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner in an emailed statement.

Islamic Jihad's military wing said in the a statement that both men were affiliated with the group.

"The blood of martyrs will not be in vain, but a curse that chases the occupier everywhere," the al-Quds Brigades said. more

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

'Democracy' Israeli-style: Peaceful protest ends in deportation and imprisonment

On Saturday 18th January during a peaceful protest in the Jordan Valley, 19-year-old Ahmad Walid Atatreh, a Palestinian activist and 24-year-old Sven W, a German activist who lives in Switzerland, were arrested and beaten after a march held in Jiftlik Adam Junction. Ahmad is a law student, studying at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

The march in Jiftlik was organized in protest against a legislation bill recently approved in the Knesset to annex the Jordan Valley to the current state of Israel. While the Israeli government declares that the move is purely for security reasons, the large number of illegal agricultural settlements and theft of Palestinian water rights demonstrate that the motives are largely economic.

Almost 95% of the Jordan Valley lies in Area C, under full Israeli civil and military control. Palestinian Bedouin herders suffer repeated demolitions of their homes and animal shelters, and water tanks are frequently confiscated. A large section of the area is reserved as a firing zone and residents are often forcibly removed from their homes to make way for military exercises.

Approximately 60 people gathered in the Jordan Valley and began a protest holding banners and chanting against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As the march ended, Israeli forces invaded the area and began to arrest Palestinian demonstrators. Sven W and a British volunteer succeeded in stopping the detention of a Palestinian youth and in the process were both arrested by the Israeli army.

The two international activists were violently pushed to the ground by an Israeli soldier and handcuffed. The British activist managed to escape detention, whilst Sven was blindfolded and forced to kneel on the ground.

One Israeli soldier purposefully pushed Sven’s face in dirty water before taking him behind a military jeep and repeatedly kicking him in the ribs. Ahmad was also beaten after his arrest and received injuries to his knee. The British activist received a similar assault before escaping detention.

During the arrests, Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition into the air, and on several occasions pointed their rifles at protesters’ faces.

Sven and Ahmad were blindfolded for 3 hours and were driven to an Israeli military base. While they were blindfolded, Israeli forces attempted to intimidate and frighten the activists by pointing guns in their faces.

At the military base Sven was told he was a “terrorist” and was arrested because he “threw stones”. more

Israel PM threatens to teach Hamas lesson 'very soon'

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threatened to teach Hamas a lesson "very soon" after recent cross-border violence.

"We foil terrorist attacks when we identify that they are in the making and we respond against those who attack us," Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem at a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper.

"If Hamas and the other terror organizations forgot this lesson, they will learn it again the hard way and very soon," he said.

His warning was issued shortly after Hamas said it had deployed forces in Gaza to "preserve the truce" following an uptick of rocket fire on Israel.

Over the past month, tensions have risen in and around Gaza after more than a year of relative calm following Israel's war on the coastal territory in November 2012 which killed over 170 people, mainly civilians, and injured thousands.

Since Dec. 20, four Palestinians and an Israeli have been killed in violence in and around Gaza. more

Explosion heard in southern Gaza near Israel border

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- An explosive device went off in the southeastern Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning about 200 meters away from the border with Israel.

Witnesses told a Ma’an reporter that they heard thunderous blast east of al-Qarara village in Khan Younis district. They highlighted that several Israeli military vehicles arrived in the area after the explosion.

An Israeli forces spokesperson confirmed to Israeli media that an explosive device went off in Palestinian territory near the border fence. more

Egypt opens Rafah crossing after 12 days of closure

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was opened on Tuesday after 12 consecutive days of closure, according to Palestinian officials.

Officials of the Palestinian crossings department confirmed in a statement that the crossing was open on Tuesday morning and a first bus had already crossed into the Egyptian side of the terminal.

Egyptian authorities had decided to open the terminal for three days beginning on Tuesday.

The statement highlighted that the Egyptians would give priority to patients, holders of foreign citizenship and Egyptian citizens.

The Rafah crossing has been the principal connection between Gaza's 1.7 million residents and the outside world since the imposition of an economic blockade by the State of Israel beginning in 2007. more

Monday, 20 January 2014

Israeli border police shoot, injure Palestinian near Hebron

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- An Israeli border police officer shot and wounded a Palestinian man near the illegal settlement of Telem in Hebron on Monday.

Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma'an that a Palestinian man approached a female border police officer at a base outside Hebron. After being told to stop in Hebrew and Arabic, the female officer fired a warning shot in the air.

The man then approached another a second officer in the area, who called on the suspect to stop before firing a warning shot in the air and shooting the man. more

Gaza families visit relatives jailed in Israel

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Fifteen family members from the Gaza Strip visited relatives jailed in Israel on Monday, an official from the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Nasser al-Najjar told Ma'an that 15 people, including three children, left the coastal enclave via the Erez Crossing to visit 11 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails. more

Pressure on Israeli banks from investors intensifies

From the Financial Times (subscription may apply)
ABP, the world’s third-largest pension fund, and two major European investors are reviewing their holdings in Israeli banks over concerns that the banks finance illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian-occupied territories.

As well as ABP, the Dutch pension fund with €300bn of assets under management, the investors include Nordea Investment Management, a €130bn Scandinavian fund house, and DNB Asset Management, a €60bn Norwegian fund group.

All three want more information from the Israeli banks about their involvement in financing the settlements, which contravene international human rights laws established under the Fourth Geneva Convention in 2004.

A spokesperson for KLP, one of the biggest Norwegian pension funds, with €45bn of assets, also confirmed that “dilemmas linked to financing [of Israeli settlements] will be discussed at KLP”.

Palestinians see the settlements as an obstacle to achieving a viable state, and most countries consider the settlements illegal. The reviews come after PGGM, the second-largest Dutch pension fund, two weeks ago became the first big investor to dump its holdings in five large Israeli banks : Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot.

PGGM said in a statement: “Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. “Therefore it was concluded that engagement as a tool to bring about change will not be effective in this case.” ABP has held talks with three of the banks over the settlement issue for a year. The pension fund might exclude the stocks “as a last resort” if the banks fail to act on ABP’s complaints, a spokesperson said.

Nordea Investment Management has sent letters to Leumi and Mizrahi “regarding concerns about the violation of international norms”, Sasja Beslik, Nordea’s head of responsible investment, told FTfm.

The Scandinavian fund house plans to meet these banks in March before taking a decision on whether to withdraw their investment at a committee meeting in May.

DNB Asset Management’s external consultancy GES is engaging with several Israeli banks on this issue. Israel Discount Bank declined to comment. Banks Hapoalim and Leumi did not respond to requests for comment. more

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Islamic Jihad: Strikes on Gaza may lead to end of ceasefire

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The military wing of a Palestinian faction said Sunday that Israeli violations of a ceasefire with Gaza might lead to the ceasefire's end, the same day Israeli airstrikes injured two in the Strip.

Israel's "continuous violations against our people may lead to the collapse of this agreement unless they stop immediately," the military wing of the Islamic Jihad movement said in a statement.

The al-Quds Brigades said the Israeli strikes were the latest in a "long series of crimes" to which the militant group would respond at the appropriate time.

The group said Israel would pay a heavy price for further attacks on Gaza. more

Three Israeli airstrikes on Gaza injure motorcyclist, child

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A young Palestinian man and a child were injured on Sunday morning after Israeli air forces launched three strikes across the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip hit a motorcyclist on Saftawi Street near Jabalia, injuring the driver and a number of passerby.

Two other air strikes in central and southern Gaza Strip left no reported injuries.

Spokesman for the Gaza Strip ministry of health Ahraf al-Qidra told reporters that the motorcyclist was a 22-year-old man who was evacuated to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City after he sustained serious injuries from the Israeli attack.

Al-Qidra added that a 12-year-old boy was taken to Kamal Udwan Hospital in Jabalia, and that doctors said he suffered moderate wounds. more

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Israel troops open fire on Gaza protesters, 2 injured

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- The Israeli army fired live rounds and tear gas at protesters near the border fence in the Gaza Strip on Friday, wounding two Palestinians, medics and an AFP correspondent said.

Troops fired at some 300 demonstrators who were protesting against Israel's destruction of farmland for its 300-meter buffer zone, the correspondent said.

Two protesters were moderately wounded and taken to hospital, Gaza's health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told AFP.

Israel's army was "unaware of the incident," a spokeswoman said.

The demonstrators were marching near the border fence in support of Palestinian farmers, whose citrus trees they said had been uprooted to make way for the Israeli-controlled buffer zone that runs along the border. more

Friday, 17 January 2014

Israel calls in European ambassadors over EU settlement protest

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel called in European ambassadors in a tit-for-tat move Friday after four EU states lodged formal protests against the right-wing government's drive to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the European Union of a "hypocritical" attitude toward the Middle East process, saying it should be more concerned by Palestinian militancy than Israeli housing construction.

The new spat with Europe follows a furious public row with key ally the United States after Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon launched a bitter personal tirade against Secretary of State John Kerry for his "obsession" with brokering a framework peace deal with the Palestinians by April.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in an illegal settlement, ordered the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy and Spain be called in to "stress to them that their perpetual one-sided stance against Israel and in favor of the Palestinians is unacceptable and creates the impression they are only seeking ways to blame Israel," his spokesman said. more

Weekly report on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (09-15 January 2014)

Israeli forces have continued to open fire at border areas in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian civilian was wounded in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces launched 5 airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. 2 members of an armed group were wounded. 2 children were wounded by pieces of smashed glass. 2 schools and about 20 houses sustained partial damage.

Israeli forces have continued to use excessive force against peaceful protesters in the West Bank. 10 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a woman, and an international activist, were wounded. A protestor was wounded at the northern entrance of Ayda refugee camp, north of Bethlehem.

Israeli forces conducted 72 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank and 3 limited ones in the Gaza Strip. At least 66 Palestinians, including 7 children, were arrested.

Israel has continued to impose a total closure on the oPt and has isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world. Israeli forces established dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank. At least 2 Palestinian civilians were arrested at checkpoints in the West Bank.

Israeli navy forces have continued targeting Palestinian fishermen in the sea. Israeli naval forces opened fire 6 times at Palestinian fishing boats in the northern Gaza Strip, but no casualties were reported.

Israeli forces have continued to support settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property. 20 old olive trees were damaged in Yatta town, south of Hebron. Israeli settlers attempted to set fire to a mosque in Deir Estya village in Salfit. more

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Training fighters of future across Gaza

New York Times - RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Dozens of high school students scrambled among the sand dunes here in recent days, learning how to shoot AK-47 rifles, crawl under barbed wire and jump over burning tires. Their bearded commanders barked at those who were too slow in hoisting iron bars overhead or those who hesitated around the thick flames.

Having seen two major Israeli military operations in Gaza in their short lives, many of the teenagers came to this boot camp, which is run by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that has led Gaza since 2007, to prepare for what they see as the inevitable next round.

“By then, I should be ready and know how to deal with the Israeli soldier’s gun when I pick it up from the ground,” said Mohammed Ghanem, 15. If the Israelis do not make another incursion into Gaza, he said, “we will go to fight them on the border.”

The six-day program, Futuwwa, enrolled about 13,000 boys at nearly a dozen sites across the Gaza Strip over the past week, with trainers from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. It was the first time the program had taken place during a school break, and it grew out of an elective that has been offered in Gaza’s high schools since 2012 that consists mainly of lectures about weapons, street-fighting techniques, fitness and Israel’s recruitment of spies.

“We target the students to create future soldiers and leaders who can defend their cause and appreciate the value of resistance,” said a Qassam member who spoke on the condition that he be identified only as Abu Mahmoud. more

Palestinian entry Omar gets Oscar nomination

Oscar buzz stretched across the globe today as the Academy Awards nominations were announced from Beverly Hills, California.

There was sure to have been jubilation in Nazareth this evening at the news Palestinian director Hany Abu-Asad’s entry Omar had earned a nomination for Best Foreign Film. The story of a young Palestinian who plans to shoot an Israeli soldier with two friends, only to be caught and convinced by an Israeli spy to inform on them, was filmed in Nazareth with a Palestinian crew and funding.

Last year, Omar won a Cannes Special Jury Prize, and in December opened the Dubai International Film Festival, where it won two Muhr Awards.

While this is a milestone accomplishment in itself, the film is only Palestine’s second film to be nominated in the category. The first, Abu-Asad’s previous entry Paradise Now, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Film in 2006. more

5 injured by Israeli airstrikes in northern Gaza Strip

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Four children and a woman were injured in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early Thursday, medics said.

Several strikes hit areas in the west and east of Gaza City, with all of the injured suffering shrapnel wounds.

Palestinian security officials confirmed that one strike hit a military base used by Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades.

Israel's army said it targeted a "terror site, an underground rocket-launcher, a weapon storage facility and a weapon manufacturing site, all in the northern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed."

The airstrikes were in response to five rockets fired from Gaza, all of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome, the army said. more

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Lack of Gaza construction material impedes repair of homes

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A lack of construction material in the Gaza Strip is preventing the refurbishment of 20 homes in the al-Bureij refugee camp, an UNRWA official said Wednesday.

Abu Omar Rabaty, director of UNRWA's housing department, said the UN agency has already signed contracts to refurbish the homes but Israel has yet to allow the necessary construction material into Gaza.

UNRWA submitted an application to Israeli authorities to allow cement, iron bars, and gravel needed for the project.

The homes need to be demolished and rebuilt as they could collapse at any time, Rabaty said. more

Settlers torch mosque in Salfit, spray racist graffiti

SALFIT (Ma'an) -- A group of settlers on Wednesday set fire to the facade of a mosque in the Salfit village of Deir Istiya and sprayed racist slogans on its walls, local officials said.

The mayor of Deir Istiya, Ayyub Abu Hijlah, told Ma'an that settlers sneaked into the village before dawn prayers and set fire to the main door of the mosque, causing minor damages.

"Local residents, alerted by a worshiper who saw the fire while on his way to perform dawn prayer, scared the settlers away and put out the fire," he said.

PA official Ghassan Daghlas said that locals managed to extinguish the blaze before it spread to the interior of the mosque.

"Arabs out!" and "Best regards from Qusra," were sprayed on the mosque, according to Israeli news site Ynet.

Other graffiti reading: "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked" was also found. more

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Child injured during Israeli army bombardment of Gaza

Gaza - Palestinian medical sources said that a three-year-old child was injured after the Israeli army bombarded central Gaza. Soldiers also fired shells into several areas in the besieged coastal region.

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qodra, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, said that the child was injured in the head and face, and was moved to a local hospital suffering moderate injuries, the Palestine News Network (PNN) has reported.

The attack took place near the Gaza Power Company in central Gaza.

Furthermore, the army bombarded two training centers that belong to the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, and the Al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza.

Israeli sources said that Palestinian fighters fired a Grad missile into the Western Negev causing no damage or injuries.

The sources added that two mortars were also fired into Sderot in the Negev, and that the shells landed and detonated in an open area, causing no damage or injuries. more

Israeli military vehicles cross Gaza border, navy fires at fishermen

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli military vehicles crossed into the northern Gaza Strip for surveillance activities on Monday, witnesses told Ma'an.

The limited incursion took place in a border region near Beit Lahiya, the witnesses said.

Separately, Israeli warships opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off the coast near al-Sudaniyya west of Beit Lahiya.

No injuries were reported, but the fishermen fled and were unable to continue fishing.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe blockade imposed by Israel since 2006.

Palestinian fishermen are only allowed to go 3 nautical miles from Gaza's shore, even though Israeli-Palestinian agreement previously settled on 20 nautical miles.

Israeli naval forces frequently harass Palestinian fishermen who near the 3-mile limit, as well as those inside the zone. more

Monday, 13 January 2014

Three airstrikes hit Gaza, rockets fired into Israel mark war criminal Sharon's burial

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli media reported that two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel on Monday during the funeral of former Israeli leader Ariel Sharon near the border.

A Ynet report said that there were no injuries or damage as a result of the rockets, which landed in an open area near the border fence.

The report added that Israeli forces were not "planning to respond."

The rockets came towards the end of Sharon's funeral, which took place at his ranch near Sderot in southern Israel. more

Closure of tunnels deprives Gaza of $230 million per month, says government

GAZA CITY (IPS) - The border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip used to buzz with activity until a few months back as traders brought in an array of Egyptian goods — from food supplies to raw material — through hundreds of tunnels. But these underground structures between Rafah in Gaza and Sinai in Egypt, have fallen silent.

Things came to a grinding halt after the Egyptian army came to power in July last year. Calling them a security threat, it launched a systematic military campaign against the tunnels, destroying them, along with the houses under which they were built on its side of the border.

For the 1.7 million people in Gaza, the closure of the tunnels has choked a lifeline. Thousands of tunnel operators, traders and workers have been hard hit.

“Never before have we faced this kind of pressure from the Egyptian army and, it seems, things are going to get worse,” said Abu Nabil, a Gaza resident who gave only his nickname for security reasons.

He had operated a tunnel on the Palestinian side since 2007. Nabil said more than 90 percent of the passages, most of which are privately operated, have been destroyed by the Egyptian military, completely paralyzing trade through the tunnels. more

Egypt destroys 10 Gaza smuggling tunnels

CAIRO (Ma'an) -- Egyptian security forces demolished 10 smuggling tunnels under the shared border with Gaza on Sunday, Egyptian security officials said.

The tunnels were located in the city of Rafah.

Egypt's army, which ousted the Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi in a July coup, has destroyed dozens of tunnels used by Hamas to bring crucial supplies into the blockaded Strip.

The tunnels have been a lifeline for the flow of food, clothing, building materials and fuel into the impoverished territory, which Israel has blockaded since 2006. more

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Palestinian man electrocuted in Gaza tunnel accident

RAMALLAH – Palestinian man died on early Sunday in underground tunnel along the Salah Eddin route on the border between Gaza Strip and Egypt, a Palestinian official said.

Ashref al-Qidreh, the spokesman of the Health Ministry in Hamas government, said that the 29-year-old Bassam Ismail al-Firmawi died in one of the tunnels on the border with Egypt.

Al-Qidreh said that al-Firmawi died of electric shock while working in the tunnel. He added that the man was transferred to al-Najjar hospital in the southern Rafah city where doctors announced his death.

The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said last year that 232 Palestinians died in Gaza’s tunnels since 2006. The group said that 20 Palestinians died during heavy Israeli bombardment on the smuggling tunnels leading to Egypt. The report said that 9 of the 232 tunnels’ victims were children.

It added that 597 Palestinians also have been wounded during work in the tunnels since that year. It added that the Palestinian workers “did not abide by safety and security procedures during their work in the tunnels.” more

Dutch pension giant boycotts Israeli banks, G4S faces OECD investigation

Dutch pension fund giant PGGM has withdrawn all its investments from Israel's five largest banks because of their complicity in West Bank settlements. The report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz was apparently confirmed by PGGM this morning.

The Israeli banks targeted are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, the First International Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank.

Citing a source, Haaretz said that PGGM - which has reported assets of €131 billion - spent months informing the Israeli banks that their ties with both settlements and other companies also involved in settlements, was problematic from the point of view of international law. The Israeli paper pointed out that PGGM's "decision is liable to damage the banks' image, and could lead other business concerns in Europe to follow suit".

There are two interesting points to note here. Firstly, PGGM's process has shown the limits of 'dialogue'. After engagement with the five banks, the Dutch company realised that simply expressing concern was insufficient. As the report put it, "since [PGGM] had not managed to alter [the banks'] conduct with regard to the settlements via dialogue, and since no change in the situation seemed likely in the foreseeable future", divestment followed.

Secondly, the rationale behind PGGM's decision highlights the weakness of those who push a 'settlement products only' boycott strategy. The Dutch realised that "it would be impossible to create a firewall between its investments in Israeli banks and the banks' activities in the territories", and thus opted for boycott even of banks that only had "indirect" ties to settlements. more

Palestinian shot by Israeli forces in northern Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces injured a 22-year-old Palestinian man on Saturday after opening fire in the northern Gaza Strip.

Local sources said that the young man was shot by Israeli soldiers stationed in military towers on the border east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip.

They added that he was shot in the right thigh, and was near a cemetery in the area when the shooting occurred.

The youth was transferred to Kamal Adwan Hospital following the incident.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said that after four Palestinians "sabotaged" the border fence, Israeli soldiers asked them to "distance themselves" from the area.

After firing "warning shots," she added, soldiers opened fire at "their lower extremities."

Israeli forces frequently shoot at farmers and other civilians inside the Gaza Strip if they approach large swathes of land near the border that the Israeli military has deemed off-limits to Palestinians. more

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Israeli forces release 9 detained Palestinian children and 1 youth

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces freed nine Palestinian children and one youth from detention on Friday after the intervention of Palestinian military liaisons, according to a Palestinian security source.

The released teenagers were from across Hebron and Ramallah governorates and were all detained by Israeli forces on the pretext of throwing stones.

The official source in the military liaison identified the released detainees from Hebron city, Halhoul, and at-Tabaqa, all in Hebron region, as: Mohammed Nafez Hussein Abu Sneineh, 16, Solomon Imad Tuwaya, 14, Uday Imad Tuwaya, 16, Essam Emad Muhammad Tuwaya, 12, Ali Saeed Junaidi, 12, Qusay Kamel Atrash, 13, al-Montaser Ballah Munther Muhammad Abu Atwan, 14, and Safwan Talal Abu Sneineh, 19.

The other detainees were identified as Mahmoud Ibrahim Jaidy, 13, from Abud, and Abdullah Kheir al-Tamimi, 14, from Deir Netham, both towns in the Ramallah region abutting settlements and completely surrounded by areas under Israeli military control. more

Hamas in Gaza: “Amidst Israeli escalation, resistance has the right to retaliate”

The Hamas-led government in the besieged Gaza Strip warned that Israel is escalating its aggression on Gaza, and that armed resistance groups in the coastal region have the right to retaliate.

Abdul-Salam Siyam, secretary of the Ministerial Council in Gaza, said that the Israeli military is deliberately targeting the Palestinians, and continues to violate the ceasefire deal that was mediated by Egypt in November of 2012.

He also called on Egypt to contact the Israeli side and inform Tel Aviv that this escalation is leading the region into a new confrontation.

“Egypt must stop this calculated escalation against Gaza and its people”, Siyam added, “All factions are committed to the truce, but Israel is repeatedly violating it”.

Siyam further said that armed resistance is a legitimate option, and that Palestinian fighters in Gaza will counter this aggression, the constant attacks against the Palestinians and their lands.

The Israeli military recently repeatedly bombarded several areas in the Gaza Strip, assassinated a fighter of the Al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad, and wounded dozens of Palestinians. more

Friday, 10 January 2014

Israel to build 1,400 new homes on Palestinian land

Israel plans to build 1,400 new homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory the Palestinians claim for their state.

Israel's housing ministry announced on Friday that 800 new houses will be built in the West Bank and 600 in East Jerusalem – a contentious move that is likely to further hamper the progress of peace talks led by the US secretary of state, John Kerry.

The announcement had been expected as a concession to Israel's rightwing nationalist lobby after the Jewish state released 26 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in late December, part of a deal made last summer when Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed. more

Egypt not taking Gaza humanitarian crisis 'seriously'

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities are not taking the humanitarian crisis in Gaza seriously, a Gaza official said Thursday, as ongoing closures of the Rafah crossing prevent people from leaving the coastal territory.

"Egypt should stick to its nationalistic and humanitarian responsibility toward the population of the Gaza Strip. We hereby send a message to all the free people of the world and to the Egyptian authorities on behalf of the besieged children, women and elderly people of Gaza," Undersecretary of Gaza's Ministry of Interior Kamil Abu Madi said.

Egypt reopened the Rafah crossing on Wednesday for two days, which is insufficient time for Palestinians who need to travel urgently for medical treatment or for foreign passport holders, he added.

If the Rafah crossing faces ongoing closures the humanitarian situation in Gaza will get worse and residents will face more restrictions, Abu Madi said. more