Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Limited breakthrough in Cairo ceasefire negotiations

Ongoing ceasefire talks are slowly beginning to take shape, sources in Cairo told Ma'an, although several outstanding issues need to be finalized to produce a permanent agreement.

Palestinian sources close to the talks said Tuesday that six points have been agreed upon while a further five need to be resolved.

Israel has agreed to increase the daily number of truckloads of goods to Gaza from 250 to 600 via the Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz crossings, the sources said.

Israel has also agreed to allow money transfers from the Palestinian Authority to Gaza to cover the salaries of former Hamas civil servants.

The designated fishing zone will also be gradually expanded to 12 nautical miles and some 500 permits will be issued monthly to allow Gazans to use the Erez crossing.

Egypt has agreed to open the Rafah crossing in coordination with PA presidential guards, who would form a 1000-strong presence on the crossing and borders with Gaza. more

Fate of Gaza detainees in Israel uncertain as 26 named

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The number and whereabouts of Palestinians detained in Gaza during Israel's ground operation remain uncertain, as a rights group compiled an initial list of prisoners thought to be held by Israel.

The Al-Mezan Center For Human Rights and their lawyer Muhammad Jabarin said Monday that 26 Palestinians are being held in Ashkelon jail.

Jabarin told Ma'an that some of the detainees have been presented with charges such as belonging to an illegal organization -- referring to Palestinian political parties -- while the rest are undergoing interrogation and have been denied access to a lawyer.

At least 15 Palestinians have been held under the Unlawful Combatants Law and then released, the lawyer said.

The law allows the detention without trial of Gazans for an unlimited period of time and provides even less protection than administrative detention orders, which are issued in the occupied West Bank.

Mahmoud Abu Rahma, the director of communications for Al-Mezan, told Ma'an that three prisoners were released Sunday but re-arrested at the Erez crossing. He says the lack of access means it is difficult to establish why those named were arrested and how many more are in jail. more

Video: Young Israeli Jew at Western Wall calls for ‘another war and another war and another...’

From Mondoweiss - In the summer of 1998, I became a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in occupied east Jerusalem. Sixteen years later, during Israel’s latest assault on the Gaza Strip, I attended an event billed as a prayer vigil for the well-being of Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

The Western Wall is a favorite for tourists and setting for countless photo-ops for politicians seeking the political blessing of Israel’s right-wing leadership. Part of a highly secured plaza, the Wall sits where the old city’s Moroccan Quarter once existed before Israeli forces demolished it shortly after its capture in 1967.

At the prayer vigil, I expected a somber mood. However, I found a tense atmosphere in which every Israeli I spoke to spouted some amount of racist and hyper-violent rhetoric.

The content I gathered portrays something of the besieged mentality and anti-Arab racism that is foundational in Israeli society. Though there is no shortage of horrifying moments, perhaps most mind-boggling is the claim to desire peace while being openly racist and inciting violence against Arabs on camera. more

Israeli warships open fire at fishermen near Rafah

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli warships on Tuesday opened fire at fishermen off the coast of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, in an apparent violation of an agreed-upon three-day ceasefire, a union official said.

Nizar Ayyash, spokesman for Gaza's fishermen union, told Ma'an that a number of Palestinian fishermen were near the shore when Israeli forces shot at them with machine guns.

No injuries were reported.

Ayyash said Israeli naval forces had been preventing fishermen from fishing in the area, even within the "authorized fishing zone."

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

Teen killed by an explosive dropped by the army near Tubas

Palestinian medical sources reported, Monday, that a Palestinian teen has been killed, and his brother was wounded, by an explosive charge dropped by the army near the central West Bank city of Tubas.

The sources said Mohammad Mo’tasem Abu Eshtayya, 17 years of age, was killed, and his brother Yousef was injured. They were herding their sheep in Palestinian grazing lands in the Northern Plains of the occupied West Bank.

The slain Palestinian, and his wounded brother, were moved to the Tubas Governmental Hospital, while the Palestinian Police initiated an investigation into the issue.

Although the area where the explosion took place is used as a grazing area, and dozens of shepherds live there, it is frequently used by the Israeli army as a “training zone”, where the soldiers use live ammunition, explosives and shells.

Dozens of casualties have been reported in similar incidents in the area, as well in other areas in the occupied West Bank, including the outskirts of Hebron and the Palestinian Plains of the West Bank, as the Israeli military conducts training in those areas in direct violation of International Law. more

Gaza homes 'uninhabitable' as tens of thousands come back to rubble

Tens of thousands of people across Gaza returned to their homes on Monday as a tenuous ceasefire held and hopes rose of an end to the month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Local officials and humanitarian workers began to inspect the latest damage the war had caused in the overcrowded enclave, with assessments indicating earlier estimates may have been optimistic.

In Gaza City, which has a population of half a million, 20%-25% of the housing stock had been damaged, said Nihad al-Mughni of the engineering department.

Mohammed al-Kafarna, the mayor of Beit Hanoun, a northern town which saw fierce fighting and heavy bombardment, said 70% of homes were uninhabitable. "Basically the town is unliveable. There is no power, water or communications. There are not the basics for life," he said.

In Shawkat, a neighbourhood of Rafah city in the south which saw heavy fighting after an earlier ceasefire collapsed within hours, 300 out of 2,000 houses had been destroyed, along with the town hall.

"You can't imagine the destruction," said Adel Lubda, the chief council engineer.

Previous estimates of 65,000 rendered homeless in Gaza now look conservative. In Beit Hanoun alone, about 30,000 people will have to be rehoused. The town is just one of around a dozen communities lying in the two-mile "free fire zone" declared by Israeli troops to have been devastated during the most intense period of fighting.

Gaza has a population of 1.8 million and already had a chronic shortage of housing before this latest conflict, the third in six years between Hamas and Israel.

On Monday, the United Nations called the level of destruction "unprecedented".

Israeli air strikes in Gaza continued until the ceasefire agreed late on Sunday evening by Hamas under heavy Egyptian pressure came into effect. Israeli military officials said they had attacked terrorist targets. Around 20 people had been killed since the previous truce expired on Friday. More than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the war.

Militant factions allied to Hamas fired rockets and mortars into Israel over the weekend. More than 3,000 rockets have now been launched from Gaza in recent weeks, killing three in Israel. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed.

Nadia Dibsy, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said it had been impossible to properly assess the overall magnitude of the damage.

North of Beit Lahia on Monday, people picked through the ruins of a series of apartment blocks facing the border with Israel that have been almost totally destroyed. Ibrahim Jassa, 33, an unemployed labourer, said: "I have nothing, except seven children. No job, no home, just the clothes we were wearing when we left."

Sabr al-Gharboui, 53, said three apartments she had shared with her sons had all been reduced to rubble. "I have no idea what we will do. We just hope the ceasefire will hold. But what happens next? That's what worries us."

Though local electricity engineers were hopeful of restoring the supply of power to Gaza's prewar levels of six to 10 hours a day in some areas, it may take years to recommission the only power station, which was destroyed on 29 July. Pumping stations, power transmission networks and water pipes have all been badly damaged. more

UN rights council appoints panel to investigate Gaza assault

NEW YORK (Ma'an) -- The UN Human Rights Council has appointed a three-member panel to investigate allegations of humanitarian law violations during Israel's Gaza assault, reports said Monday.

The commission of inquiry will be headed by Canada’s William Schabas, an international law professor at Middlesex University in London, the UN council said in a statement quoted by Bloomberg news. more