Wednesday, 30 July 2014

20 bodies found in Gaza rubble as Wednesday death toll hits 130

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The bodies of 20 Palestinians were recovered from the rubble of destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening, as Gazans took stock of a 23-day Israeli assault that has killed 1,360 people so far with no end in sight.

The announcement by Gaza medical teams of the recovery of the bodies in Jabaliya came only hours after Israeli shelling killed 17 in a crowded market in Shujaiyya, as thousands took advantage of a temporary Israeli ceasefire to shop on the third day of the Muslim Eid holiday.

Ambulances raced racing towards the site of the blast as medics and residents frantically tried to gather up the dead bodies.

An AFP correspondent saw at least five bodies being shoved onto stretchers and driven off to hospitals or mortuaries as quickly as the ambulances could take them. Even civilian cars were used to evacuate the dead and the wounded.

"The first shell hit, and people immediately started evacuating the wounded," said a man called Abu Maysarah. "They (the Israelis) saw them evacuating the wounded, and they struck them again," he said as a nearby building burned, belting out smoke as debris littered the street.

A bloodied, limp lifeless body lay in a pool of petrol and mud, his head crushed.

"There were journalists over here, and they hit them as well as they stood next to the ambulances," he shouted.

TV images showed at least one journalist lying motionless in the street, his flak jacket with "Press" on the front soaked in blood.

"We want a battle," Abu Maysarah cried, furious.

"We want Qassam to strike back, in the heart of Tel Aviv!" he said of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas. more

Clashes continue across West Bank and East Jerusalem

Clashes continue to erupt across East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as thousands of Palestinians renew solidarity demonstrations with besieged Gaza, and Israeli forces continue to violently suppress protests across the region.

A Palestinian youth has died of wounds sustained last week, during confrontations with Israeli forces at the entrance Idhna town, west of Hebron, according to medical sources.

21-year-old Ala’a Izghayyar died of critical wounds as he was being treated at a Hebron hosptial. Izghayyar had been shot by Israeli soldiers with "some kind of an explosive bullet" in the abdomen, according to WAFA.

One Palestinian youth was abducted by Israeli forces, Tuesday, during confrontations which occurred in al-Khader, to the south of Bethlehem, while several other Palestinian protesters suffered from tear gas suffocation, according to coordinator of the Anti-wall and Settlement Committee, Ahmad Salah.

Salah told WAFA that forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and acoustic canisters towards residents, while one Palestinian, whose identity is still unknown, was also taken. more

Despite 4-hour 'ceasefire', Israel shells house, killing 1

Despite a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire that began at 3:00 p.m., Israeli forces on Wednesday afternoon shelled a home in Beit Lahiya and killed one Palestinian.

Medics said that Wissam Dardona was killed and four others were injured in shelling that hit a home in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip.

The violation of the ceasefire came after Israeli forces killed more than 70 Palestinians earlier in the day.

Yoav Mordechai, Israel's coordinator of government activities in the Palestinian Territories, said Israeli forced would stop attacks for four hours starting at 3 p.m.

Mordechai said Israeli forces would only target areas where rockets were being fired at Israel.

An Israeli army statement added that the "humanitarian window will not apply to the areas in which IDF (army) soldiers are currently operating."

"Residents must not return to areas that have previously been asked to evacuate," the statement said, adding the the army would respond to all fire from Palestinian militants throughout the limited ceasefire.

It was not immediately clear whether Palestinian factions would respect the limited, brief truce.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Israel imposed the ceasefire only for "media consumption." more

Israel creates ‘No Man’s Land’ in Gaza, shrinking strip by 40 per cent

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza — This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on Earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the 3-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.

What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”

It’s not like Israel didn’t plan this. It told tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee so its air force, artillery and tanks could create this uninhabitable no-man’s land of half-standing, burned-out buildings, broken concrete and twisted metal. During a brief humanitarian ceasefire some Gazans were able to come back to get their first glimpse of the destruction this war has brought to their communities, and to sift through their demolished homes to gather clothes or other scattered bits of their past lives. But many were not even able to do that.

When Rania Haels got within 60 feet of the debris that was once her family home in Al Shajaya on Saturday, a machine-gun on top of a nearby Israeli Merkava tank started firing. Probably these were warning shots pumped in her direction, but the 42-year-old mother of seven ran for her life. Now she stays with her family in an overcrowded parking garage in Gaza City and spends her days sitting in a public park full of refugees displaced by the Israeli push. Normally these would be festive times, the end of Ramadan is at hand and celebrations akin in spirit to Christmas festivities are beginning. But holidays have a way of intensifying tragedy. There is no place for Haels’ family to gather to give gifts and eat Palestinian sweets. There is, in fact, no place for them at all.

“We lost our homes and so now we live in the streets,” said Haels, holding a toddler in her arms who clings to her pastel-patterned hejab. “This war has destroyed me.” She says at least she knew where her home was. Some of her neighbors could not find their homes as they walked down streets made unrecognizable by the wreckage and horrifying by the presence of death. more

Celebrities stir passions with Gaza views

WASHINGTON (AFP) -- Pop idols and professional athletes are going public with strong views about Gaza, putting their relations with fans on the line while stirring up a social media frenzy.

More often than not, celebrity sympathies have been leaning in favor of Palestinians as the Israeli assault on Hamas rolls into its fourth week and the death toll keeps rising.

Zayn Malik of the British boy band One Direction was the latest boldface name to voice his concern when he posted "#FreePalestine" on his Twitter account Sunday.

As of Tuesday, his message had been retweeted 220,000 times, and favorited just as often, among his 13 million followers worldwide.

But it also angered Israeli fans -- with some going so far as to make death threats against the 21-year-old heartthrob, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani heritage.

"People who don't live in Israel don't have any right to say their opinion out loud," tweeted one young woman, Shaked Erez, who added the hashtag #freeisrael for good measure.

"Your Tweet really broke me& I'm sure all the Israeli directioners 2. U made us very sad," added Stav Ben Shushan, who urged Malik to delete his tweet. He did not.

The roster of celebrities -- many not known for political activism -- weighing in on Gaza has grown since pop diva Rihanna and basketball star Dwight Howard tweeted #FreePalestine.

Social media gives celebrities unprecedented power to engage directly with millions of fans worldwide, said George Washington University media professor William Youmans.

"But when they wade into political matters, they run the risk of alienating a certain number of their fans," Youmans, who's been monitoring celebrity Gaza tweets, told AFP on Tuesday.

Deleted within minutes

Rihanna -- who performed in Tel Aviv last year -- deleted her post within minutes, as did Howard who declared that he'd made a mistake and that he would never comment again on global affairs.

Dance-pop songstress Selena Gomez meanwhile caused a stir with an image on her Instagram account that began: "It's About Humanity. Pray for Gaza."

Her post generated 654,000 likes -- but got the racy gossip website asking if the 21-year-old former Disney child star was "pro-humanity or pro-Hamas."

"Maybe she doesn't realize Hamas has launched an untold number of missiles in an effort to destroy Israel, or maybe she supports it," it said. "We don't know."

"I am not picking any sides," she responded on Instagram. "I am praying for peace and humanity for all!” more

Chile, Peru recall envoys from Israel

Israel’s international isolation grows as Chile and Peru join other Latin American countries and recall their envoys from Tel Aviv.

"In the face of intensifying Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, the government of Chile — in coordination with other administrations in the region — has resolved to recall the Chilean ambassador in Tel Aviv, Jorge Montero, to Santiago for consultations," the Chilean Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

It also said that Israeli operations “breach fundamental norms in international humanitarian law,” referring to the civilian victims and strikes on hospitals and schools.

A similar statement was also published by the Peruvian Foreign Ministry, condemning Israel's operation in Gaza.

Santiago and Lima’s move came nearly two weeks after Brazil and Ecuador recalled their ambassadors in protest against Israel’s atrocities in the coastal sliver.

Venezuela and Bolivia that cut their ties with Tel Aviv over Israel’s 2009 war on Gaza have also strongly condemned Israel's actions. more

Israeli shelling hits UN school, 'kills 15 Palestinians'

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- An Israeli shelling on a UN school in Gaza killed 15 people early Wednesday, medics said, as Palestinian factions were to head to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its 23rd day, international efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed that has killed more than 1,260 people continued apace, and concern grew over the high civilian death toll, especially among children.

Since the war began on July 8, when Israel launched a campaign to stop rocket fire from Gaza and destroy attack tunnels, a series of concerted international efforts to bring a truce have fallen flat.

On Wednesday morning, an Israeli shell slammed into a UN school being used as a shelter for those displaced by fighting, killing 15 people, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said. more