Friday, 2 January 2015

Najia Warshaga: injured Palestinian girl who became symbol of Gaza war

From The Guardian - The place where nine-year-old Najia Warshaga lives in Beit Lahia, Gaza, with her mother, Majdolen, and her five-year-old brother, Ali, was once the garage of a three-storey building. It is 50 metres square, there are a few mattresses on the ground for sitting and sleeping, and a few blankets for warmth piled in the corner.

Their own home was bombed. They stayed for a while with an uncle at his home. Now they live here.

The place has a little toilet which Majdolen, 31, cooks next to. The family’s laundry hangs on a rope warmed by the winter sun. It is a stark, cold and unhygienic place for which she has to pay 300 shekels a month (£50) despite having no income.

In August, her daughter, Najia, became a symbol of the Gaza conflict – a picture of an injured girl, her weeping face smeared with blood. The image was taken by the Associated Press photographer Khalil Hamra and was shared on social media around the world after it featured on the Guardian’s front page.

The family had fled their rented apartment in Beit Lahia to the shelter of a UN school in nearby Jabaliya, also in northern Gaza, then to a second school where the family had sought sanctuary.

Except it was not safe. Crowded with about 3,300 people, Najia and her family were sleeping in a classroom with seven other families when it was struck by a missile at 4.30am. Fifteen people were killed, and more than 100 were injured, including Najia, Majdolen and Ali.

These days Najia is a symbol of something else. In a coastal strip where – according to some estimates – 100,000 people still remain displaced, Najia and her family have become a metaphor for the limbo into which many Palestinians have been pushed by the Gaza war. Najia has become a representative of not only the war but an aftermath that has barely been ameliorated.

The nine-year-old seems a little less shy and withdrawn than last time the Guardian met her. Then she was almost catatonic, wrapping herself – her mother said then – in a blanket even in the August heat. Five months on she is more able to speak and smiles from time to time. But the trauma is still present.

“I am OK now, but I still dream of the days of the war,” Najia says, echoing what many other children caught up in the violent events of the summer also describe. Nine days after the attack she had recounted to the Guardian what happened. “I was in classroom number one, sleeping,” she said then. “There was a huge boom. My mother hugged us, then another missile landed. I was screaming and crying.” more

Revealed: Gaza orphans Israel trip was government-backed PR stunt

From The Electronic Intifada - An Israeli initiative to exploit a group of Palestinian orphans from Gaza to burnish Israel’s blood-soaked image backfired on Sunday when Hamas, the Palestinian political and military resistance movement, put a stop to it.

A group of children whose parents were killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer and several adult chaperones were about to pass through the Erez crossing into Israel on Sunday to be greeted by Israeli officials and a media throng.

But Hamas officials halted the visit. According to a statement posted on Facebook by the interior ministry in Gaza, security services stopped “37 children of martyrs from departing to the lands occupied in 1948 [Israel] for a suspicious visit to several settlements and occupied cities.” It said the step was taken “to protect the culture of our children and our people and protect them from the policy of normalization.”

But it appears the children – though they were the props – were not the target.

The visit was the brainchild of an Israeli operative deeply involved in settlements in the occupied West Bank, working closely with the Israeli government.

It involved Palestinian counterparts in Israel with ties to the ruling Likud party and the Zionist political establishment.

It is unlikely that the non-governmental organization in Gaza that helped coordinate the visit was aware of these facts when it agreed to take part.

Priceless propaganda

The children had been scheduled to visit the Palestinian town of Kafr Qasim and the Bedouin forced-resettlement town of Rahat. They were also to be received by Palestinian Authority de facto leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

But the week-long visit would also have provided Israel with priceless photo opportunities of happy, smiling Gaza children at the zoo in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, as well as several Israeli settlements.

Such propaganda would have provided a marked counterpoint to the indelible images from the summer of some of the more than five hundred children killed and thousands injured and terrorized by Israel’s attack.

Israeli media, public relations officials and international media sympathetic to them, including the BBC and AP, have presented Hamas’ action as preventing hapless orphans from making what Reuters termed “a rare goodwill visit to the Jewish state.” more

Israeli forces open fire at Palestinians near Gaza border

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces opened fire at Palestinians in the al-Farrahin area east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday.

Witnesses said that Israeli forces deployed east of al-Farrahin at the border opened fire on Palestinians as they were hunting birds in an open area near the border.

No injuries were reported in the attacks.

On Nov. 23, Fadil Muhammad Halawah, 32, was shot dead by Israeli forces while hunting birds east of Jabaliya.

Israeli forces frequently shoot at farmers and other civilians inside the Gaza Strip if they approach large swathes of land near the border that the Israeli military has deemed off-limits to Palestinians.

The "security buffer zone" extends between 500 meters and 1500 meters into the Strip, effectively turning local farms into no-go zones.

According to UNOCHA, 17 percent of Gaza's total land area and 35 percent of its agricultural land were within the buffer zone as of 2010, directly affecting the lives and livelihoods of more than 100,000 Gazans. more