Monday, 18 August 2014

Gaza truce extended for 24 hours


CAIRO (AFP) -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed on Monday to extend a temporary ceasefire in Gaza by 24 hours to conduct more talks on a long-term truce, a senior Palestinian official said.

The current five-day ceasefire was set to expire at midnight local time.

"Both sides have agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire," the official with the Palestinian delegation in Cairo said.

Palestinian sources in Cairo told Ma'an earlier Monday that a ceasefire agreement was being finalized after 15 days of Egypt-sponsored negotiations.

The Israeli delegation left Cairo to inform cabinet officials.

The sources said Egyptian legal consultants were preparing the documents. more

PA minister says Gaza 'reconstruction to cost billions'


Palestinian Minister of Economy Muhammad Mustafa said Monday that reconstruction of Gaza following Israel's month-long assault will cost billions of dollars.

The Palestinian ministry in Ramallah is currently estimating damages through the formation of a committee, which is due to release its report by the end of this week, Mustafa said.

Over 30,000 homes were damaged by Israeli airstrikes and shelling, with around 450,000 Palestinians displaced during the conflict.

The water distribution network in Gaza has suffered $34.4 million worth of damage as a result of the Israeli offensive, with over seven kilometers (4.3 miles) of sewage networks completely destroyed.

The Food and Agriculture Organization on Thursday warned that the Israeli assault on Gaza had caused extensive damage to the coastal enclave's agricultural sector and would have long-term consequences. more

Gruesome tales surface of Israeli massacres against families in Shujaiya


As the five-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took hold on August 15, residents of Shujaiya returned to the shattered remains of their homes. They pitched tents and erected signs asserting their claim to their property, sorting determinedly through the ruins of their lives.

Those who managed to survive the Israeli bombardment have come home to bedrooms obliterated by tank shells, kitchens pierced by Hellfire missiles, and boudoirs looted by soldiers who used their homes as bases of operations before embarking on a series of massacres. Once a solidly middle-class suburb of Gaza City comprised of multi-family apartments and stately homes, the neighborhood of Shujaiya was transformed into a gigantic crime scene.

The attack on Shujaiya began at 11pm on July 19, with a combined Israeli bombardment from F-16s, tanks and mortar launchers. It was a night of hell which more than 100 did not survive and that none have recovered from. Inside the ruins of what used to be homes, returning locals related stories of survival and selflessness, detailing a harrowing night of death and destruction.

Outside a barely intact four-level, multi-family home that was hardly distinguishable from the other mangled structures lining the dusty roads of Shujaiya, I met members of the Atash family reclining on mats beside a makeshift stove. Khalil Atash, the 63-year-old patriarch of the family, motioned to his son heating a teapot above a few logs and muttered, “They’ve set us back a hundred years. Look at us, we’re now burning wood to survive.”

Khalil Atash led me inside the home to see the damage. The walls of the second floor that was to have been home to two of his newly married children had been blown off by tank shells. All that was left of the bathroom were the hot and cold knobs on the shower. On the next floor, four small children scampered barefoot across shattered glass and jagged shards of concrete. A bunk bed and crib were badly singed in the attack. But the damage could have been far worse.

As the attack on Shujaiya began, the Israeli army attempted to evacuate the Atash family, according to Khalil Atash, phoning them and ordering them out in Arabic. But the family was sure the call was a prank. When the army called again, a soldier exclaimed, “You think this is a joke? You have five minutes.” Three minutes later, an F-16 sent a missile through the roof. In an incredible stroke of luck, the missile did not explode. It remained lodged in the ceiling until a day prior to my visit, when a bomb detonation crew dismantled it.

I asked why the family remained in ruins when the army could attack again at any time.

“We have nowhere else to go now,” Khalil Atash explained. “You only die once and we’re not afraid after what we’ve been through. So we just decided to live in our house.”

The Atash family was among only a small handful willing to brave the nights in an area that was comprehensively flattened. Shujaiya stood within the long swath of Gaza Strip towns and cities that had been rendered uninhabitable by Israeli bombardment. All of these areas had one thing in common: They abutted the vast buffer zone the Israeli military had established between its border and the Gaza Strip. By pounding neighborhoods like Shujiaya and cities like Beit Hanoun until nearly all of their residents were forced to flee west for shelter, Israel was tightening the cage on the entire population. more

Malaysian delegation arrives in Gaza for 3-day tour


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A delegation from the Malaysian government arrived in Gaza on Monday for a three-day tour to examine humanitarian conditions in the besieged enclave.

The delegation will visit areas that suffered heavy shelling and high civilian casualties during Israel's assault, such as the Shujaiyya and Khuzaa neighborhoods of Gaza City and Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, and Rafah. more

Israel bars Amnesty, Human Rights Watch workers from Gaza


From Haaretz - Israel has been refusing to allow employees of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to enter the Gaza Strip in order to conduct their own independent investigations into the fighting, using various bureaucratic excuses.

Both human rights organizations have been trying to obtain permission from the Civil Administration to enter Gaza since July 7. Two different reasons have been cited for the refusals: The first is that the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip is closed and no entry permits are being granted until further notice; the second is neither group is registered with the Social Affairs Ministry as a humanitarian aid organization.

In fact, Erez was open throughout most of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which began on July 8. Among others, journalists, United Nations employees and Palestinians needing medical care or returning from abroad (with special permits), were allowed to pass through.

The spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories told Haaretz yesterday that it was suggested to both groups that they submit a special request with the COGAT ombudsman, but that no such request had as yet been received. Human Rights Watch said it had only received the suggestion late last week. Amnesty said it had not heard of the suggestion at all.

Both organizations had hoped to have researchers in the Strip during the fighting, accompanied by weapons and munitions experts with military backgrounds: Figures in the NGOs said there are no Palestinians in Gaza with the requisite professional military knowledge to independently evaluate claims being made by both the Palestinians and Israelis. While testimonies can be taken and cross-checked after the fact, physical evidence such as shell impact craters or traces from munitions is usually removed quickly. more

Feiglin leads settlers in al-Aqsa raid, continued clashes in West Bank


Local media has reported that dozens of Israeli settlers, this time headed by Likud party member and deputy Knesset speaker Moshe Feiglin, broke into al-Aqsa courtyards on Sunday morning.

According to Al Ray, eyewitnesses said that tension prevailed among Palestinian worshipers, while settlers toured al-Aqsa courtyards and took photos.

Palestinians chanted “Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest)” in their outrage against the invasion.

Israeli forces again prevented worshippers under the age of 50 from entering the mosque, in a violation of Palestinian freedom which has now become routine, in recent months.

Israeli settlers assaulted two Palestinians in two separate incidents in West Jerusalem, on Sunday, while they were at their place of work, according to media sources.

On Sunday morning, WAFA has reported that a group of settlers assaulted one Palestinian individual while he was at his workplace, all the while chanting anti-Arab slogans, such as ‘death to Arabs’.

Earlier in the night, settlers targeted a Palestinian taxi driver after stopping his car, upon which they verbally assaulted him, beat him and sprayed him with pepper gas.

Over 550,000 colonial settlers now live in continually expanding developments across the region, in contravention of international laws to which Israel is signatory. more

Israeli forces demolish Hebron homes of kidnap 'suspects'


HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces overnight Sunday demolished the Hebron homes of two Palestinians named as suspects in the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in June, locals said.

Israeli forces demolished the homes of Amir Abu Eisha and Husam al-Qawasmi and sealed off the home of Marwan Qawasmi by pumping concrete into the property.

Locals said large numbers of Israeli forces arrived first at the home of Abu Eisha in the Wadi al-Sir neighborhood and ordered the family to evacuate the home.

Army engineers then set explosives in the house and blew up the property, turning it into rubble.

Israeli soldiers then moved to the Abu Kteila neighborhood and destroyed the home of Husam al-Qawasmi.

Clashes broke out between locals and soldiers, with several Palestinians injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, including a journalist Radi Karamah.

The home of Marwan Qawasmi was sealed off by pumping large amounts of concrete into the house. Several mixer trucks were at the scene of the incident. more

Hamas says Israel stalling on agreement as Gaza death toll hits 2016


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Hamas spokesman on Sunday accused Israel of "stalling" in ongoing negotiations in Cairo to achieve a long-term truce in Gaza, stressing that "the ball is in the Israeli occupation's court."

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said during a march in solidarity with Palestinian resistance in Rafah that the group's "priority is to reach an agreement, but the occupiers must stop stalling."

"We are discussing an agreement from a position of strength, not weakness," he said, adding: "Either we have an agreement that meets our demands, or no agreement."

"Israelis will not enjoy safety until our people do and the siege is completely lifted. (Israelis in the south) will only return home when Hamas allows them to, not when Netanyahu does," he said.

Israel "must be ready for the consequences of the failure to agree," he added.

The remarks come on the fourth day of a five-day temporary ceasefire in the hostilities that began more than five weeks ago with a massive Israeli aerial assault on Gaza that was followed by a major ground invasion.

On Sunday, medical authorities in Gaza said that the total death toll of the assault in Gaza had hit 2,016 and more than 10,193 injured, as dozens more Palestinians succumbed to wounds sustained during the bombardment. more