Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Minister: Reconstruction material to enter Gaza next week

Palestinians will be able to begin importing reconstruction material into the Gaza Strip through Israeli-controlled crossings starting next week, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh said on Wednesday.

Al-Sheikh told Ma'an that Palestinian Authority crews will begin taking positions at Kerem Shalom and Beit Hanoun crossings as of next week in order to facilitate the transfer of goods.

The announcement comes amid rising uncertainty regarding the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, which was devastated by an Israeli offensive over summer that left more than 2,000 dead and more than 110,000 homeless.

Israel has for the last eight years severely restricted all imports and exports, including basic supplies such as concrete, and many have voiced fears that despite Israel's promises to "ease" the siege in the summer ceasefire, little had changed.

Al-Sheikh's statement, however, suggests progress in ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, including a demand that Hamas officials be removed from crossings into Israel and be replaced by crews under the command of the Palestinian unity government, who will be expected to ensure no weapons enter Gaza.

Al-Sheikh also told Ma'an that the social affairs ministry received Israeli approval to allow families of Gazan prisoners to visit them in Israeli jails, and that it is pressuring Israel into creating work permits into Israel for Palestinians from Gaza.

Gazans have been almost completely restricted from entering Israel since the beginning of the siege in 2006, but before that could apply for permits for work or tourism similar to West Bank Palestinians. more

Egypt reopens Rafah to Gaza students following Eid

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Egyptian authorities opened the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza early Wednesday after closing it for five days over Eid al-Adha.

Mahir Abu Sabha, the head of Gaza's border crossing department, said students who study abroad will be able to leave Gaza on Thursday and Friday.

The Rafah crossing is the principal connection between Gaza's 1.7 million people and the outside world, but Egypt largely keeps it shut as part of the jointly-enforced Israeli blockade. more

Dozens hurt in Aqsa clashes as Israeli police 'force Muslims out'

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Clashes broke out early Wednesday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Palestinian worshipers and Israeli police officers, leaving dozens hurt, sources said.

Security guards at the mosque told Ma'an that Israeli forces stormed the compound at 7:30 a.m. ahead of expected visits by right-wing Israelis on the occasion of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Israeli forces forcibly removed worshipers, attacking some of them with clubs, the guards said.

Some Muslim worshipers clashed with Israeli officers in the compound before managing to take refuge inside the mosque.

As worshipers threw stones, soldiers fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets, injuring dozens of Palestinians, Al-Aqsa Mosque director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani said.

Some of the stun grenades were fired into the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself, causing a fire to break out, and fire fighters were not immediately allowed access to the area, al-Kiswani added.

"The compound is almost empty of Muslim worshipers, while Israeli forces allowed herds of extremists to storm it and move freely," he said. more