Monday, 29 September 2014

Gaza sweet potatoes exported to Europe for first time since siege

Thirty tons of sweet potatoes were exported from Gaza to Europe for the first time since Israel imposed a siege on the Strip, the Ministry of Agriculture said Monday.

Ministry official Tahsin al-Saqqa said "this small quantity" of potatoes were exported after it was permitted by Israeli authorities.

Al-Saqqa said he hoped the Israeli decision would be the beginning of a policy to allow continuous exports of farmers' goods from Gaza.

The Israeli siege has severely limited imports and exports as well as movement of people, crippling Gaza's economy. more

Outrage in Azerbaijan over oil supplies to Israel

What started as a marriage of convenience has netted Israel its closest Muslim ally.

The majority Shiite nation of Azerbaijan is the biggest supplier of oil to Israel, which reciprocates by selling sophisticated arms including missile systems and drones. While the flow of oil in exchange for advanced weapons is the backbone of the alliance, a confluence of interests is propelling the former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea closer to Israel, often in defiance of discontent at home and dismay among neighbors Iran and Turkey.

Tested by Israel’s 50-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip, which sparked protests among Azeris, President Ilham Aliyev is throwing his lot in with Israel to maintain a military edge in a quarter-century-long conflict with Armenia. Azerbaijan, which together with Armenia also buys Russian weapons, benefits from access to advanced technology from Israel as part of $3.7 billion in annual spending on rearmament.

“Aliyev is not easily budged by foreign pressure on national strategies,” said Brenda Shaffer, who’s served as an adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Energy and Water Resources and is now a professor and visiting researcher at the Center for Eurasian, Russian and Eastern European Studies at Georgetown University in Washington. “Azerbaijan is very serious about the sanctity of contracts. It has never reopened its international contracts in the energy sector.” more

United Church of Christ committee calls for divestment from Israel

The Steering Committee of the United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network, on Sunday, called on the United Church of Christ Board, United Church of Christ Pension Boards, United Church Funds, Conferences, local churches, members and other related United Church of Christ entities to divest any holdings in companies profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by the state of Israel.

The Committee also called on the church and church members to study the Kairos Palestine document and take heed of its call for solidarity with the Palestinian people.

This is one of a number of resolutions passed by regional committees, including the Central Atlantic Conference, the New York Conference and, now, the Central Pacific Committee, in the leadup to the Thirtieth General Synod of the United Church of Christ, which will be held in 2015.

In their resolution, the Committee named the following companies, but said that the divestment should not necessarily be limited to these companies: Caterpillar Inc., Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard Development Company LP, G4S, and Veolia Environment and its subsidiaries;

The resolution also calls upon all entities of the church to boycott goods produced by Israeli companies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including, but not limited to, Ahava skin care products, SodaStream products and Hadiklaim dates, and calls upon church members to join boycotts in their local communities. more

Israeli forces demolish 5-story residential building in Abu Dis

Israeli forces demolished three floors of a residential Palestinian building in Abu Dis overnight Sunday on the pretext that the owners lacked building permission, locals said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that five Israeli bulldozers accompanied by Israeli forces surrounded a five-story building in Abu Dis after midnight and began demolishing three floors at around 1:40 a.m.

Israeli forces closed all roads leading to the building before the demolition.

Owner Muatasim Adilah, a lecturer at Al-Quds University, said that Israeli forces ordered him and his family to leave the building without being allowed to remove any belongings.

Neighbors and local residents were not allowed near the area during the demolition.

Three of the five floors were destroyed, with the other two floors left uninhabitable.

Adilah said that the first two floors were built in 1959 while an additional three floors were constructed several years ago after obtaining a license from the Palestinian Authority.

Israel's Jerusalem municipality issued a demolition warrant for the additional three floors on April 30, 2013 after claiming that the building is located within the municipality's boundaries.

Adilah then tried to obtain a construction license from the Jerusalem municipality but it was rejected.

The building is 1,000 square meters and built on privately owned land.

Clashes broke out following the demolition, and Israeli forces shot three youths with live fire, witnesses said. more

Israeli forces shoot, injure Palestinian farmer in northern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A Palestinian farmer was shot and injured by Israeli forces in the northern Gaza Strip late Sunday, medics and an army spokeswoman said.

Medical sources told Ma'an that Rajab Maarouf, 22, was shot in the foot in northern Beit Lahiya and taken to Kamal Adwan hospital with moderate injuries.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed the shooting, saying "there were two suspects that approached the security fence" in the area.

Soldiers fired "warning shots in the air and at the lower extremities and then the suspects moved away," the spokeswoman said.

She said she could not provide information about whether hits were confirmed, what the Palestinians were doing in the area, or whether they posed a threat to Israeli forces.

A ceasefire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza ended a 50-day war on the Strip on Aug. 26. more