Wednesday, 6 August 2014

"We will not rest until we liberate our occupied land," Gaza fighter says

Abu Muhammad

The sound of explosions and gunfire have fallen silent after one month of all-out Israeli military assault on Gaza, bringing an end to the bloodshed that killed at least 1,885 Palestinians — the vast majority civilians — and 67 Israelis (64 of whom were soldiers) since 7 July.

The smoke and dust might have cleared from the horizon as a 72-hour ceasefire appears to hold, but the souls of victims still soar over Gaza — which has been subjected to three large-scale offensives in the last six years.

In the midst of calls to investigate alleged war crimes committed in the besieged Gaza Strip, including the destruction of residential homes, hospitals, schools and mosques; the wiping out of entire families sheltering in their homes; the killing of patients in their hospital beds and the slaying of doctors, paramedics, United Nations humanitarian aid workers and members of the press; Palestinian resistance fighters emerged from their underground locations for some rest after a month of fierce fighting.

Fighting like ghosts

Scenes of utter devastation show the lethal force Israel used during its attacks. However, Palestinian fighters remained in their bunkers and hideouts for weeks confronting invading Israeli troops, taking up sniper positions, launching rockets and fighting invisibly like ghosts in evacuated neighborhoods.

After repeated attempts, The Electronic Intifada managed to get hold of Abu Muhammad, one of the fighters of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

A sense of security and caution is essential during military escalations, so being hidden from camera-equipped drones is a tough mission.

Abu Muhammad — not his real name — is forty years old and a father of five children, the eldest of whom is ten years old. He has been engaged in the fighting since the start of Israel’s large-scale offensive last month. more

10 more bodies found in rubble as life slowly returns to Gaza streets

10 bodies were removed from the rubble across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, as locals took advantage of the second day of calm in the 72-hour ceasefire to assess the damage caused by more than a month of relentless Israeli assault.

Medical sources said that 10 bodies were found as medical teams were able to gain access to ruins previously off-limits by Israel, which imposed a "buffer zone" over 44 percent of the Gaza Strip during the assault. Previously the zone encompassed 17 percent of the Strip.

Sources at the Gaza Strip's largest hospital al-Shifa said that five of the bodies were pulled out from under the rubble of homes in the Abu Halawa area of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, and had yet to be identified.

The bodies bring the total in Israel's four-week assault to at least 1,885, of whom at least 430 were children and 79 were elderly. more

Gaza industrial sector hit hard as 134 factories destroyed

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- At least 134 factories were destroyed during Israel's four-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian industrial union said Wednesday, causing severe damage to an already fragile industrial sector.

The union of Palestinian industries said that most factories stopped operations for over 30 days, with reported losses of at least $70 million.

Over 30,000 workers were made redundant due to the closures.

"The Israeli war machine deliberately destroyed the infrastructure of the Palestinian national economy by targeting factories which posed no security threat to the occupation," the union said.

The industrial sector had already suffered major damage during previous Israeli military offenses in Gaza in 2012 and 2008. more

UK’s National Union of Students condemns Israel, calls for boycott

Solidarity activists in the UK declared victory Monday, as the National Executive Council of the Nation Union of Students voted to pass a motion in solidarity with Palestine, and for an arms embargo against Israel.

The NEC motion condemned Israel’s lethal assault on and blockade of the Gaza Strip.

It also called on the NUS membership, comprising seven million students, to boycott “corporations complicit in financing and aiding Israel’s military, including G4S and Hewlett Packard.”

This is an expansion of already existing NUS policy supporting the BDS movement, as it resolved to “provide information and resources to support student unions and student organizations campaigning for boycott and divestment of companies identified as supporting Israel materially, economically, militarily, and/or as helping maintain the illegal Israeli settlements.”

One of the main NUS activists pushing for the BDS motion was Malaka Mohammed, a student from Gaza currently studying law in Sheffield. Malaka is a BDS activist back in Gaza, and occasional contributor to The Electronic Intifada. more

Israel 'withholding information' about Gaza detainees

The Ministry of Prisoner Affairs said Wednesday that it has not received information about Palestinians detained in Gaza during Israel's offensive.

"The occupation army, during its current aggression on the Gaza Strip, has detained dozens of Palestinians and taken them to unknown locations," Minister of Prisoner's Affairs Shawqi al-Ayasa said in a statement.

Al-Ayasa said the ministry was yet to receive crucial information about the prisoners, including their ID numbers, locations, and conditions.

The fact that Israel has withheld the information is worrying, al-Ayasa said, adding that there were "growing fears that some of the prisoners have been executed." more

Hamas official: No response to demands has been received

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas' delegation to Cairo has not received an official response to the demands the delegation submitted to Israel via Egyptian mediators, an official said Tuesday.

Israeli media reported earlier Tuesday that Egypt had told Hamas that demands such as building a seaport and airport, in addition to the opening of the Rafah crossing, were not up for discussion.

But Hamas official Izzat al-Rishiq told Ma'an TV that "what is being said about some of the demands being rejected" is not true.

Al-Rishiq said Hamas would continue insisting on an end to Israel's siege on Gaza, the release of Shalit-deal prisoners whom Israel has re-arrested, the building a seaport and an airport in Gaza, and the creation of a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. more

Gaza ceasefire gives Rafah residents chance to return to ruined homes

From the Guardian - When Hanan al-Qaq reached her home at around 11am on Tuesday, she walked through the shrapnel-strewn, dust-caked rooms, over the shattered remains of doors and windows. "At least it is still there," the 42-year-old teacher sighed. "And at least we are, just."

Across Gaza, with the 72-hour ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas the night before appearing more solid as the day wore on, tens of thousands of people were saying, in a multitude of different ways, the same thing.

Others, including Qaq's neighbours, were simply trying to salvage any belongings from the smashed ruins of their houses.

Despite the first prolonged period of calm since the conflict began four weeks ago there was little celebration in Gaza. After a series of broken ceasefires, people have learned not to hope too hard. Most are stunned by the scale of the damage done in this most recent war. With more than 1,800 dead, according to the United Nations and the local health ministry, many are also grieving.

More than 9,000 Palestinians have been injured. Two of Qaq's seven children are among them. Her son Mohammed, 20, is in a critical condition after being hit in the chest and stomach by shell fragments when the family first tried to return to their home in the southern city of Rafah on Friday. They had spent more than three weeks of the conflict in the home of a neighbour who lived in a safer area; the promised ceasefire lasted a mere three hours and renewed fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas caught the Qaq family exposed. more

Gaza truce pushes into 2nd day ahead of Cairo talks

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- A fragile ceasefire in Gaza pushed into a second day Wednesday as Israeli and Palestinian delegations prepared for crunch talks in Cairo to try to extend the 72-hour truce.

The ceasefire, which came into effect Tuesday and carried past midnight into Wednesday, has brought relief to millions on both sides after one month of fighting killed 1,875 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel.

Israeli and Palestinian delegations are now set for what are expected to be tough talks aimed at securing a permanent ceasefire after the three-day window closes.

Officials on both sides confirmed sending small teams to the Egyptian capital, but they bring conflicting demands and face an uphill diplomatic battle ahead.

The Palestinians insist Israel end its eight-year blockade of Gaza and open border crossings, while Israel wants Gaza fully demilitarized. more