Thursday, 25 September 2014

Russell Tribunal finds evidence of incitement to genocide, crimes against humanity in Gaza

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s Emergency Session on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge held yesterday in Brussels has found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.

The Jury reported: ‘The cumulative effect of the long-standing regime of collective punishment in Gaza appears to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.’

‘The Tribunal emphasises the potential for a regime of persecution to become genocidal in effect, In light of the clear escalation in the physical and rhetorical violence deployed in respect of Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Tribunal emphasises the obligation of all state parties to the 1948 Genocide Convention ‘to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.’

The Jury heard evidence from eyewitnesses to Israeli attacks during the Gaza war 2014 including journalists Mohammed Omer, Max Blumenthal, David Sheen, Martin Lejeune, Eran Efrati and Paul Mason, as well as surgeons Mads Gilbert, Mohammed Abou Arab, Genocide Expert Paul Behrens, Col Desmond Travers and Ivan Karakashian, Head of Advocacy and Defence for Children International.

In terms of the crime of incitement to genocide, the tribunal received evidence ‘demonstrating a vitriolic upswing in racist rhetoric and incitement’ during the summer of 2014. ‘The evidence shows that such incitement manifested across many levels of Israeli society, on both social and traditional media, from football fans, police officers, media commentators, religious leaders, legislators, and government ministers.’

The Tribunal also found evidence of the following war crimes:

- Willful killing
- Extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity
- Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and civilian objects
- Disproportionate use of force
- Attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and education
- The use of Palestinians as human shields
- Employing weapons, projectiles, and material and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering which are inherently indiscriminate
- The use of violence to spread terror among the civilian population

Israel forces Gaza fishermen to undress in attack violating ceasefire deal

Nearly a month after Israel’s military offensive against the Gaza Strip ended in an indefinite ceasefire on 26 August, Israeli forces continue to shoot at and detain Palestinian fishermen.

The Israeli military has captured ten fishermen and confiscated four fishing boats, while firing live ammunition in dozens of attacks on both the sea and shore of the besieged coastal enclave.

A day before its security cabinet ordered the military operation on 7 July, and two days before its forces started intensely bombarding the Gaza Strip, Israel unilaterally reduced the permitted zone it had imposed on Palestinian fishermen to three nautical miles from the shore.

Its navy had previously allowed them to sail as far as six nautical miles after a ceasefire ended eight days of Israeli attacks on Gaza and retaliatory Palestinian rocket fire in November 2012.

“War against livelihoods”

In a statement released to media, the Palestinian agriculture and fisheries ministry called the reduction “a war against thousands of the Palestinian fishermen and their livelihoods.”

During this summer’s offensive, Gaza fishermen endured severe losses. Only during occasional lulls in the violence did a few dare sail, sometimes keeping their boats in the relative safety of the Gaza seaport.

By 10 August, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that Gaza’s fishing sector had already lost 234.6 tons of fish, or 9.3 percent of its annual catch.

On 28 August, two days after the ceasefire agreement, Israel once again extended its limit to six nautical miles.

Nizar Ayyash, chairperson of Gaza’s General Union of Fishermen, hoped the change would indicate further improvements. At the time, he told reporters the area “will be nine miles by next week and will increase to twelve miles within the next month according to the agreement reached in Egypt on Tuesday.”

Instead, Israel began to reverse the shift as soon as attention from international media and foreign governments dissipated, reducing the zone back to five nautical miles on 8 September.

By then, its navy’s attacks had already resumed in earnest. Regular bursts of machine-gun fire and the occasional thuds of naval artillery punctuated the silence of early mornings along the Gaza coast.

The first capture of fishermen came on 3 September. At 6:00am that morning, Muhammad Ishaq Zayid told The Electronic Intifada last week, he and his cousin Mousa Talal al-Soltan had paddled their fishing boat off the coast of Sudaniya in the northern Gaza Strip. more

Fatah, Hamas reach comprehensive agreement on Gaza affairs

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached a "comprehensive" agreement Thursday for the return of their unity government in Gaza after two days of talks in Cairo, negotiators from both sides said.

Egyptian sources told Ma'an that the two movements had been able to reach an agreement on a number of major points of contention, including the Palestinian Authority take over of the crossing into Egypt at Rafah and the adjacent Philadelphi corridor.

In addition, the sources said that agreement had been reached on the issues of activating the Palestinian Authority's rule and authority in Gaza, the payment of former Hamas employees' salaries, and making decisions related to war and peace.

The Egyptian side led by minister of Egyptian intelligence services Muhammad Tuhami, told all parties that the ongoing Palestinian disputes will "carry away the fate of the indirect talks with Israel" and that quick solutions must be reached to unite Palestinians. more

Video: Israeli forces arrest two children and fire 29 rounds of tear gas at schoolchildren

Today (Tuesday) at Salaymeh checkpoint in Hebron, Israeli forces fired 29 rounds of tear gas and 5 stun grenades at children going to school.

The morning started off peaceful as children passed through the checkpoint but as word spread that two Palestinians had been murdered by the Israeli army the night before, tensions began to rise quickly. Israeli forces had a clear presence at the checkpoint from the start. A few small stones were thrown by a small number of young boys, but landed nowhere near the checkpoint.
Three Israeli Border police proceeded to fire the first round of tear gas at the children. In total, 29 tear gas canisters and 5 stun grenades were fired. This was extremely excessive and unnecessary as the Israeli border police were clearly in no danger. Two ambulances were called to the scene due to the immense amounts of tear gas fired and a Palestinian teacher stated that 30 school children and 15 teachers suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation.

International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists then left Salaymeh checkpoint and headed over to Qeitun checkpoint around 5 minutes away as they heard the firing of tear gas. At Qeitun checkpoint clashes had erupted and were underway between unarmed Palestinian youth and Israeli forces. An excessive amount of tear gas was used in addition to rubber coated steel bullets and stun grenades. more

Protesters throw firebomb at Israeli military watchtower

Palestinian youths on Thursday threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli military watchtower in Ofer prison near Ramallah, setting it alight.

Witnesses told Ma'an that protesters attacked the military watchtower with fireworks and firebombs during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the area.

Israeli forces stationed in the watchtower fired live shots, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters at demonstrators before being forced to flee after the fire broke out. more

Despite truce, Gaza fishermen under fire at sea

GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Every time Gaza fisherman Rami goes to sea, the same thing happens: five nautical miles offshore, shots ring out and a voice over an Israeli loudspeaker demands he turn back.

Officially, Gaza's fishing fleet has the right to trawl the waters up to six nautical miles off the shore under the terms of Israel's eight-year blockade.

Although that outer limit has frequently been reduced, or even cancelled outright over the years, it was formally reinstated by virtue of an August 26 truce agreement which ended a deadly 50-day war between Israel and Hamas fighters.

But nearly a month after the ceasefire took effect, even those six nautical miles -- which the fishermen say is not nearly enough -- are unattainable.

One afternoon, Rami Bakr and his 10-man crew put to sea for a 10-hour fishing expedition. With them was an AFP team.

Very quickly, warning shots skimmed the boat as an Israeli navy vessel approached. On board were around a dozen soldiers armed with machine guns, shouting through a loudspeaker for them to stop.

"These are the worst conditions we've ever known," said the 41-year-old fisherman, who has spent more than three decades of his life fishing the waters off Gaza.

"During the war, the Israelis bombed fishing huts on the beach and now they are preventing fishermen from earning their crust at sea," he said.

The Gaza Strip has long been known for its plentiful seafood and fish although the stocks have been depleted by pollution, frequent wars and the blockade. more