Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Donor funding shortfall exacerbates Gaza crisis


BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A massive shortfall in the $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza reconstruction by the international community last October is exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis for Palestinians displaced by Israel's summer offensive.

On Tuesday, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the largest service provider in the Gaza Strip, announced that it was forced to stop a cash assistance program for tens of thousands of Palestinians to make repairs to damaged and destroyed homes.

The program also provided rental subsidies for Palestinians made homeless by Israel's military offensive.

"The generous pledges that were made in Cairo need to to be translated into money in the bank, and that money has not arrived," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told Ma'an.

UNRWA has so far only received $135 million since the conference -- leaving a shortfall of $585 million -- and that money has been distributed to 8,000 Palestinians for reintegration payments and 7,000 for cash assistance.

Around 59,000 families also received funding to repair their damaged homes. Those awaiting funding will likely continue to live under tarpaulin tents in the ruins of their properties while at least 12,000 Palestinians remain in 18 UNRWA shelters.

UNRWA's director in Gaza, Robert Turner, said in a statement that it is "unclear" as to why donors have not fulfilled their pledges.

"People are desperate and the international community cannot even provide the bare minimum -- for example a repaired home in winter -- let alone a lifting of the blockade, access to markets or freedom of movement." more

Israel admits 2 soldiers killed, 7 wounded in Hezbollah attack


Two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded when an anti-tank missile struck an Israel Defense Forces vehicle in the Har Dov area near the Lebanon border on Wednesday morning, as mortar shells were fired at nearby areas.

IDF forces responded with artilley fire, shelling several targets in southern Lebanon. A Spanish UNIFIL soldier was killed in the strikes.

Seven IDF troops were being treated at the Sieff Hospital in Safed and the Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Three suffered light to moderate wounds, and the rest were lightly wounded. The IDF said that no soldier had been kidnapped, despite earlier reports.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who was meeting with China's foreign minister in Beijing, said Israel should respond in a "forceful and disproportionate manner" to the events, in the way that the U.S. or China would respond to similar events. He told his Chinese counterpart that he expects Israel to receive support from her friends in the world for such a response.

One of the mortar shells fired from Lebanon struck a home in Ghajar, a village which straddles the border, setting the structure alight. The mortar fire continued into the afternoon, aimed at the Hermon region. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for all of the attacks.

The IDF responded by shelling targets in southern Lebanon. Lebanese media quoted security officials as saying that Israel has fired at least 25 artillery shells into Lebanese territory. The officials said the shelling targeted the border villages of Majidiyeh, Abbasiyeh and Kfar Chouba near the Shebaa Farms area, according to Lebanese media.

A spokesman for UNIFIL, the UN peacekeeping force deployed in south Lebanon since 1978, said the UN is looking into the circumstances of the incident in which one of the force's soliders was killed. He did not disclose the nationality of the soldier, but local media reports said he was a Spanish national. more

Hezbollah hits Israeli convoy, kills 4 soldiers


From The Daily Star (Lebanon) - MARJAYOUN, Lebanon: Hezbollah fighters attacked an Israeli military convoy in the occupied Shebaa Farms, in south Lebanon Wednesday, killing four soldiers in a clear response to a recent Israeli airstrike.

Hezbollah issued a statement, it dubbed, "statement number 1," adopting the attack on the Israeli military convoy.

"At 11:25 [Wednesday morning] the Quneitra Martyrs unit targeted with appropriate missile weapons an Israeli military convoy comprising several vehicles and [transporting] Zionist officers and soldiers causing the destruction of several vehicles and inflicting many casualties on the enemy," the brief Hezbollah statement read.

"The ball now is in the Israeli court if the Israelis launch a wide scale response, Hezbollah will respond in kind," a senior political source told The Daily Star. "At this stage we cannot completely rule out this spiraling out of this incident into a full fledged war," he added.

The source said Hezbollah is expected to release a second statement that includes pictures and footage of the ambush.

A security source told The Daily Star that 30 shells were fired from the Israeli side across the Lebanese border following the midday attack that struck a convoy, damaging two vehicles. Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV said the attack destroyed 9 vehicles. Al-Manar also reported the killing of a Spanish peacekeeper serving as part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the attack.

Eye witnesses said Hezbollah responded to shelling of Lebanese territories from an Israeli position in the Ruweisat al-Alam area in the Shebaa Farms with projectiles.

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Israeli rights group questions legality of targeting Gaza homes in war


From The Guardian - Serious questions have been raised by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem about the legality of Israel’s policy of targeting dozens of Palestinian homes during last summer’s war in Gaza – a strategy that led to hundreds of civilian deaths.

The report is the latest alleging serious breaches of international humanitarian law by Israel during the 50-day conflict. According to B’Tselem, the policy of striking residences led to the deaths of 606 people in 70 attacks on homes that it examined. Among the dead were 93 children under the age of five.

The claims come at a sensitive time for Israel following the announcement this month of an initial investigation by the international criminal court into whether war crimes were committed in Gaza.

Although a number of individual incidents are being investigated by the Israeli military attorney general, the specific policy of targeting residences is not under investigation, despite the high death toll. The issue could potentially be taken up by an ICC investigation.

The prosecution of the war is also being investigated by the UN Human Rights Council, by a commission of inquiry set up by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and by the Israeli state comptroller, Joseph Shapira, who has been tasked with investigating decisions made by Israeli political and military leaders.

The B’Tselem research follows hard on the heels of a report by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel this month that strongly criticised the Israeli military’s system for warning Gaza’s citizens of impending strikes during the conflict, also citing the lack of safe evacuation routes and strikes against rescue teams.

In December, Amnesty International said the destruction of four high-rise buildings during the conflict was a war crime “carried out deliberately and with no military justification”. more

New death sentence issued by Gaza court condemned by PCHR


PCHR Calls for Immediate Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty as a Form of Punishment in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) renews its demand for the abolishment of the death penalty in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) as Gaza courts issued a second death sentence in 2015.

On Monday, 19 January 2015, the Court of First Instance in Gaza City, acting as a court of appeal, sentenced E. M. A. (24), from al-Maghazi refugee camp in the Central Gaza Strip, to death by hanging after convicting him of shooting and killing M. B. A. (68), from al-Maghazi refugee camp in a family dispute on 15 February 2009.

A first degree court had sentenced the aforementioned to life imprisonment on 9 March 2014, but the Prosecutor appealed the ruling, and the sentence was raised by the Court of Appeal to death.

It should be noted that the defendant was 18 when the first sentence was issued. more

Lebanon TV: 15 Israel soldiers killed in attack


BEIRUT (Ma'an) -- A Hezbollah attack on Israeli soldiers along the northern border with Lebanon killed 15 officers on Wednesday, a Beirut-based television network reported.

Sources close to Hezbollah told the Beirut-based al-Mayadeen that at least 15 Israeli officers have been killed after Hezbollah fighters attacked a convoy of military vehicles.

News sites in Israel, meanwhile, said only four soldiers were injured.

Israel's Channel 10 network reported that a military hummer came under attack by an anti-tank missile. more