Saturday, 2 August 2014

Israel “wipes out” Gaza ice cream factory that stored vital medicines

Israel fired more than ten tank shells at an iconic ice cream and cookie factory in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip late on Thursday night, starting a fire that continued to blaze into the next day.

The attack puts hundreds of people out of work and destroyed vital medicine stocks that had been stored in the building.

Surrounded by a few workers and an administrator attempting to assess the damage to the 1.5-acre facility, Iyad al-Tilbani, whose father owns the 38-year-old Al-Awda Factory, said on Friday that much of the building was “reduced to rubble overnight.” As he spoke, a bulldozer cleaned up debris in the background.

The Electronic Intifada met with al-Tilbani while reporting about the damage during a supposed 72-hour humanitarian truce brokered by the US and UN that was to take effect on Friday morning.

Israel ended the truce after less than two hours, launching a massive artillery barrage in Rafah, southern Gaza, that killed dozens of people, using the pretext of a clash between resistance fighters and Israeli forces occupying Gaza, which left two Israeli soldiers dead and one missing. more

Hamas: Unilateral Israeli withdrawal does not commit us to anything

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Saturday that a unilateral Israeli withdrawal would not "commit" the group to anything, stressing that Hamas was ready to continue fighting if necessary.

The comments come after top Israeli officials said that they were no longer willing to take part in negotiations, stressing that any decision on the assault on Gaza would be taken unilaterally.

Abu Zuhri, however, said in a statement that an Israeli unilateral retreat would not "commit" the group to anything, highlighting that the situation in the "field" would determine how Hamas responds to such a move.

"The resistance could fight on despite the fact that they have been fighting for 27 days," Abu Zuhri added. more

Report: Israel withdrawing from Gaza cities, redeploying near border

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli media said on Saturday that the Israeli military was unilaterally withdrawing from Gazan urban centers and re-deploying near the border in a move that suggested a limited ground re-occupation of the Gaza Strip for the foreseeable future.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that Israeli forces were redeploying several hundred meters from the border, which was confirmed by Israeli Channel 2.

It was the first time troops had been seen pulling back since the start of Israel's devastating 26-day operation, which has so far claimed more than 1,660 Palestinian lives and forced up to a quarter of the territory's population to flee their homes.

The move came after an army spokesman told AFP that Israel was "quite close to completing" the destruction of tunnels used for infiltrating southern Israel -- which Israel has in recent days said is the main objective of the ground operation.

Haaretz said that in the next 24 hours, the military would "announce that all known tunnels reaching from Gaza into Israel have been demolished," including 31 allegedly known previously as well as a number of other newly discovered ones.

The Haaretz report also that Israeli forces intended to withdraw from "built-up areas" and redeploy near the border.

"The re-deployment is meant to secure Israel's Gaza vicinity communities in case of breaches, and in readiness of possible future missions," the report continued.

A military spokeswoman, however, refused to comment to Ma'an on the reports. more

Who broke the ceasefire? Obama blames Hamas against the evidence

In a bid to legitimize Israel’s violence in Gaza, Washington continues a disturbing pattern of baselessly blaming Hamas A beleaguered-looking President Barack Obama appeared before the Washington press corps on August 1 to lash into Hamas for supposedly violating the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that his Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations had labored so tirelessly to secure. “I have unequivocally condemned Hamas and the Palestinian factions that were responsible for killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third minutes after a ceasefire was announced,” Obama said.

But evidence supporting Obama’s claim of Hamas responsibility has been difficult to come by. Indeed, even the Israeli Army news desk was unable to provide Mondoweiss with a clear narrative or substantial evidence regarding the incident in question. Moreover, accounts published in Arabic by Hamas’s military wing along with details provided by the PLO indicate that the killing of two Israeli soldiers and disappearance of another actually occurred before the ceasefire went into effect — when Israel was assaulting Rafah.

“Today at 9:30, terrorists executed an attack from which two soldiers were killed and an additional is now missing and therefore he is suspected to have been abducted,” an Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss. The army spokesperson went on to state that Hamas and the army “exchanged shelling,” yet they were unable to provide details on the source of the Palestinian fire. “They used several forms of fire simultaneously,” was all the spokesperson could divulge.

“I cannot confirm at the moment as we are still looking into it, but it may have been live bullets and a suicide belt,” which killed the soldiers, the army spokesperson said.

When asked why the army did not have a solid account of the events that broke the promised 72-hour ceasefire, the army spokesperson maintained, “There were terrorists and they attacked the soldiers, two soldiers didn’t just drop dead.”

Tweets from Gaza contradict official US-Israeli claims

The PLO and Palestinian Authority both insisted to Mondoweiss that Hamas fighters engaged Israeli soldiers inside Gaza well before the ceasefire took effect – and during an Israeli assault on Rafah leading up to the 8 AM ceasefire.

“They aborted the ceasefire from the beginning,” said Nabil Shaath from the PLO’s Central Committee. A veteran negotiator, Shaath has become the de facto liaison between the PLO and Hamas. He confirmed to Mondoweiss that PA President Mahmoud Abbas received a briefing from Hamas this morning on the incident near Rafah. Shaath’s account reflects details provided directly by Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip. more

Thousands march in Gaza solidarity protests in East Jerusalem

Demonstrations against the ongoing Israeli assault the Gaza Strip continued in East Jerusalem Friday night as thousands of Palestinians marched in solidarity protests that have become a nightly occurrence across the region.

The rallies and protests came after Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians in solidarity marches Friday afternoon, bringing the total number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank since the Israeli assault on Gaza began to 15.

Witnesses said clashes with Israeli forces broke out in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shufat refugee camp, al-Issawiya, Silwan, al-Tur, Al-Suwwana, Abu Dis, al-Eizariya, al-Ram, Qalandia, and Anata.

A young man was struck in the abdomen by a bullet in Abu Dis while many others across East Jerusalem were hit by rubber-coated bullets, including a baby girl sitting in her home. more

Airstrikes level Gaza homes as Israel rejects new ceasefire talks

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Fifteen Palestinians, including six members of one family, were killed Saturday afternoon in a series of Israeli airstrikes on homes in Gaza as Israeli officials said a new ceasefire agreement was off the table.

"We're not talking about ceasefires anymore," a senior official told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

"Israel will act in its own interest. We will take action against attacks from Gaza, and will finish dealing with the tunnels."

The official said Israel would not negotiate with Hamas, even through a mediator.

"The issue of the Rafah Crossing is Egyptian-Palestinian Authority matter, and the issue of the rest of the crossings is between us and the PA and the international community."

He said the goal was now to end the offensive unilaterally.

"If we feel deterrence has not yet been achieved, we will continue the operation inside the Gaza Strip or exit and continue with the aerial bombardment."

Despite the Israeli delegation's refusal to participate, a Palestinian delegation left the West Bank en route to the Cairo talks around noon. more

Israel fears UN investigation on its crimes in Gaza

Israel expects the commission of inquiry on Gaza, which the Human Rights Council of the United Nations set up, to reveal damning evidence against its actions in the wake of the serious crimes being committed in the Strip during the current offensive.

Today, Israel Today reported the massive destruction caused by the offensive, in addition to the large number of deaths on the Palestinian side. It predicted that these crimes will not go unnoticed and Israel will be punished for them. In turn, there is a prevailing fear in Israel that the Human Rights Council will publish an incriminatory report that could lead to indictments against Israeli officials to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on the accusation of committing war crimes.

The newspaper said that the political and military leadership in Israel has been preoccupied with how to face the commission of inquiry. A series of deliberations have been discussed, including the deliberations that took place in the Political-Security Cabinet.

The newspaper reiterated that Israel's concern was focused at the end of the aggression, when crews from the international media enter Gaza and see the enormity of destruction caused by the Israeli aggression. This would increase international criticism about the size of military force used by the Israeli army, which will lead to a serious backlash in international public opinion, which would impact political leaders, especially those in Western Europe. more

Israeli forces pound Rafah overnight, killing dozens - IDF also advancing on Khan Younis

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces continued its assault on Gaza for a 26th day on Saturday, killing over 50 Palestinians as airstrikes and artillery shelling targeted houses and mosques across the Strip.

At least 35 of the Palestinians killed overnight were slain in Rafah, a day after an incident in the southern city led to the collapse of an agreed-upon 72-hour ceasefire.

Medical sources said Israeli raids on UN-funded public housing buildings in the Saudi neighborhood west of Rafah killed at least 23 people after midnight. About 15 dead bodies from the attack on the neighborhood were taken to the Emirati Hospital in the city and eight others were evacuated to the Kuwaiti Hospital.

Additionally, five people including three children were killed by a Israeli airstrike on the home of al-Nayrub family in the Sabra neighborhood of Rafah.

The death toll since the beginning of the Israeli offensive has surpassed 1,650, according to the ministry of health. Over 8,700 Palestinians ave been injured.

Israeli forces had also targeted Rafah on Friday after Palestinian militants carried out an operation in the city which left two soldiers dead and one missing.

Hamas' militant wing says the operation took place at 7:00 a.m., an hour before the ceasefire was to start. more

Al-Qassam brigades says missing IDF soldier may have died in shelling

From Haaretz - 2:30 A.M. Hamas Military Wing issues a statement saying that they believe that the missing Israeli officer was killed in an Israeli bombardment. "We lost contact with the group of combatants that took part in the ambush, and we believe they were all killed in the bombardment. Assuming that they managed to abduct the soldier during combat, we assess that he was also killed in the incident." (Jack Khoury) more