Friday, 20 February 2015

Gaza: A step forward as ICRC helps to restore hope for legless Osama

Osama lost a leg during the 2014 Gaza conflict. He was sure that he would never again live a normal life, or be able to support his wife and four children.

But the treatment he received at the ICRC-supported Artificial Limbs and Polio Center restored his hope in the future and enabled him to return to work. Last year, the Centre provided physical rehabilitation services to over 2,500 people in the Gaza Strip. In this video, we follow Osama as he takes a big step forward -- learning to walk again. more

Amid Israeli restrictions on materials, makeshift homes sprout in Gaza

(Reuters) - Aid agencies struggling to shelter thousands of Gazans made homeless by war have resorted to building makeshift temporary homes out of metal and wood to evade Israeli restrictions on imports into the territory.

Around 150,000 families are still homeless after last year's war between Israel and Hamas, in which Israeli bombardment destroyed thousands of apartment buildings and homes.

Israel tightly limits the flow of concrete, cement, iron bars and other materials into Gaza, as "dual use" items that could have a military purpose if they were seized by Hamas to rebuild tunnels used to launch attacks.

That means few homes have been rebuilt despite international pledges of billions for reconstruction. Rather than wait to rebuild permanent homes, some relief agencies have decided to build temporary structures with materials they can get.

"We designed the transitional shelters without any dual use items so that within the existing restrictions, we could get as many vulnerable families as possible out of the elements,” said Matt McGarry, Catholic Relief Services local representative.

His agency has built 70 single storey wooden temporary homes amid the rubble and smashed concrete of Khan Younis, a town in southern Gaza heavily damaged in the July-August war, and has funding for 100 more.

Forty families have moved in so far. While the homes provide a roof over the head amid heavy rain and freezing temperatures, large numbers of people are cramped into a small space that residents say feels like no replacement for the permanent houses that still lie in rubble nearby.

"It is only temporary," said Maryam Baraka, 58, sitting on a plastic chair outside the shelter which now houses 13 members of her family. The rubble of their two-story home nearby has not been cleared away since it was destroyed by Israeli bombardment. For now, rebuilding it is still a dream.

"There is no alternative to a brick house," she said. more

Gaza an 'increasingly toxic environment' UN warns, calls for release of PA tax revenues

Briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman discussed what he described as ‘another tumultuous and deadly month in the Middle East’, taking the opportunity to warn about “steadily increasing tensions and swelling violence.”

“We see the circumstances in Gaza as becoming increasingly worrisome as we approach the six-month mark since the end of last summer’s conflict. The combination of the failure to rectify the persistent governance and security issues and the slow pace of reconstruction has created an increasingly toxic environment.”

Expressing his concerns about the adverse impacts on the two-state solution, Feltman said, according to WAFA: “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians continues to threaten further escalation. As we warned this Council last month, if this occurs it may have highly damaging, and potentially irreversible, consequences for both parties and for the two-state solution.”

Pointing to a total of $200 million in Palestinian tax revenues withheld by the Israeli Government, Feltman said that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is facing “acute fiscal challenges that must be urgently addressed,” and described PA’s approach to lend from private banks to pay portion of its civil servants’ salaries as “neither sufficient nor sustainable.” more

Hamas fighter, civilian killed in Gaza tunnels near Rafah

Two Palestinians died in separate incidents in underground tunnels beneath the besieged Gaza Strip and Egypt on Thursday.

The al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, said that a fighter in the group was killed during a military mission in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The brigades said in a statement that "Muhammad Talal Abu Matar, 25, from western Rafah was killed in a jihadi mission," without providing further details.

However, a spokesperson for the Gaza Ministry of Health said that Abu Matar was killed in an accident in one of the tunnels.

Also Thursday, a young Palestinian man died after being accidentally electrocuted inside a smuggling tunnel connecting Rafah to Egypt.

A spokesman for the Gaza Strip's civil defense forces, Muhammad al-Midana, identified the victim as 19-year-old Abd al-Majid Othman.

The ministry said he was from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. more