Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Trying to 'teach Hamas a lesson' is fundamentally wrong

Tom Segev writing in Ha'aretz:
Channel 1 television broadcast an interesting mix on Saturday morning: Its correspondents reported from Sderot and Ashkelon, but the pictures on the screen were from the Gaza Strip. Thus the broadcast, albeit unintentionally, sent the right message: A child in Sderot is the same as a child in Gaza, and anyone who harms either is evil.

But the assault on Gaza does not first and foremost demand moral condemnation - it demands a few historical reminders. Both the justification given for it and the chosen targets are a replay of the same basic assumptions that have proven wrong time after time. Yet Israel still pulls them out of its hat again and again, in one war after another.

Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey.

The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime," in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a "moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations.

As a corollary, Israel has also always believed that causing suffering to Palestinian civilians would make them rebel against their national leaders. This assumption has proven wrong over and over.
Read the entire article here >

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Day Two of the Gaza attack: Gazans breach Egypt border

From Ha'aretz:
Gaza residents on Sunday breached the border fence with Egypt in several places and hundreds have crossed the frontier prompting Egyptian border guards to open fire, said officials and witnesses on both sides of the border.

The breach came one day after Israel launched the largest Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip since it captured the territory in 1967, leaving some 286 people dead and scores wounded.

An Egyptian security official said there were at least five breaches along the 9 mile (14 kilometer) border and hundreds of Palestinian residents were pouring in.

At least 300 Egyptian border guards rushed to the area to reseal the border, the official added on condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

A resident of the Gaza Strip side of the border, Fida Kishta, said that Egyptian border guards opened fire to drive back the Palestinians. Residents also commandeered a bulldozer to open new breaches.
Read the entire article here >

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Medics in Gaza confirmed that the majority of those killed in the day’s attacks were civilians

From the Ma'an news service:
Medics in Gaza confirmed that the majority of those killed in the day’s attacks were civilians, including men, women and children. Most were cut to pieces, making the job of doctors and medics difficult, and the task of giving bodies back to families painful and gruesome.

The medics working in the field continue to dig up bodies from the densely populated urban areas of Gaza City.

The scenes remind many Palestinians of the images that came out of the Sabra and Shatila massacres from Beirut in 1982, when thousands of Palestinians were killed by the Lebanese Phalangist militia.
Read the entire article here >

Emergency Alert: Take Action to End Israeli Attacks on Gaza

From the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:

As of this writing, Israeli Air Force attacks today on the occupied Gaza Strip killed an estimated 200 or more people and injured hundreds more. These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life.

While the scope of civilian casualties in today’s attacks is not yet clear, it is unmistakable that Israel carried out these attacks with F16 fighter jets and missiles provided by the taxpayers of this country. From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16’s. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and “bunker buster” missiles.

In short, Israel’s lethal attack today on the Gaza Strip could not have happened without the active military and political support of the United States. Therefore, we need to take action to protest this attack and demand an immediate cease-fire.

TAKE ACTION

1. Contact the White House to protest the attack and demand an immediate cease-fire. Call 202-456-1111 or send an email to comments@whitehouse.gov.

2. Contact the State Department at 202-647-6575 or send an email by clicking here.

3. Contact your Representative and Senators in Congress at 202-224-3121 or find contact info for your Members of Congress by clicking here.

4. Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. To find contact info for your local media, click here.

5. Organize a local protest or vigil and tell us about it by clicking here.

6. Sign our open letter to President-Elect Obama calling for a new U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine and find out other steps you can take to influence the incoming Administration by clicking here.

Eyewitness accounts from Gaza

The Free Gaza Movement sent out these eyewitness accounts today:

"At the time of the attacks I was on Omar Mukhtar street and witnessed a last rocket hit the street 150 meters away where crowds had already gathered to try to extract the dead bodies. Ambulances, trucks, cars - anything that can move is bringing injured to

the hospitals. Hospitals have had to evacuate sick patients to make room for the injured. I have been told that there is not enough room in the morgues for the bodies and that there is a great lack of blood in the blood banks. I have just learned that among the civilians killed today was the mother of my good friends in Jabalya camp."

- Eva Bartlett (Canada) International Solidarity Movement

"Israeli missles tore through a children's playground and busy market in Diere Balah, we saw the aftermath - many were injured and some reportedly killed. Every Hospital in the Gaza strip is already overwhelmed with injured people and does not have the medicine or the capacity to treat them. Israel is committing crimes against humanity, it is violating international and human rights law, ignoring the United Nations and planning even bigger attacks. The world must act now and intensify the calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel; governments need to move beyond words of condemnation into an active and immediate restraint of Israel and a lifting of the siege of Gaza"

- Ewa Jasiewicz (Polish and British) Free Gaza Movement

"The morgue at the Shifa hospital has no more room for dead bodies, so bodies and body parts are strewn all over the hospital."

- Dr. Haidar Eid, (Palestinian, South African) Professor of Social and Cultural Studies, Al Aqsa University Gaza

"This is incredibly sad. This massacre is not going to bring security for the State of Israel or allow it to be part of the Middle East. Now calls of revenge are everywhere."

- Dr. Eyad Sarraj - President of the Gaza Community Mental Health Centre

Read more on the Free Gaza website here >

At least 195 killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza



The BBC's Rushdi Aboualouf in the Gaza Strip described the chaos as Israeli warplanes fired missiles at Hamas targets, killing at least 155 Palestinians. Read his postings here >

Palestinians: At least 155 dead, over 200 hurt in IAF Gaza strikes

From Ha'aretz:
Israel launched Saturday morning the start of a massive offensive against Qassam rocket and mortar fire on its southern communities, targeting dozens of buildings belonging to the ruling Hamas militant group.

Palestinian medical sources said that at least 155 people had been killed in the strikes, which began with almost no warning at around 11:30 A.M.

Medical personnel in Gaza said that more than 200 people were also wounded in the series of Israel Air Force strikes. Egypt has opened its long-sealed border with Gaza to allow in the wounded for medical treatment. Hamas said that the attacks had caused widespread panic in the Strip.

The first wave of air strikes was launched by a 60 warplanes which hit a total of 50 targets in one fell swoop. The IAF deployed approximately 100 bombs, with an estimated 95 percent of the ordnance reaching its intended target. Most of the casualties were Hamas operatives.

Prior to the operation, Israel sought to catch Hamas off guard by luring it into a false sense of security through certain measures, including the opening of Gaza border crossings on Friday.

Immediately following the first wave, some 20 IAF aircraft struck 50 Palestinian rocket launchers in an effort to minimize Hamas' retaliatory strikes.

The IDF emphasized that civilians located in areas whence Palestinians launch rockets and who quarter Hamas operatives in their homes are liable to be hurt.

The targets that were hit included training camps and installations as well as police stations, some of whom were located in civilian buildings.

The IDF chief of staff is holding nonstop consultations with officers. Senior military officials characterize the strikes as part of a "rolling operation" and have thus begun a sporadic enlistment of the reserves, particularly in smaller units.

Top IDF brass anticipate difficult days ahead, warning that the operation will extend beyond the next couple of days.
Read the entire article here >

Monday, December 22, 2008

'In Gaza, all dreams and hope have gone'

Ameera Ahmad writing in the Guardian from Gaza:

During the months of the blockade, everything in my life has changed. Before, I would wake up and hope that tomorrow would be better than today. But it never happened. The reason is simple. It is because I live in Gaza, where all dreams and hope vanish because of the situation we live in.

Even the most basic things are really hard to find. My daughter, Layan, is six months old. Things are so tough here that even when I needed to buy baby formula for her, I can't find it. All the money that my husband Fady and I had saved up we have spent during the last three months. I never imagined that my children would grow up like this, in this awful predicament. Poor and always threatened.

Read the entire article here >

If Gaza falls . . .

Sara Roy in the London Review of Books:

The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us, but there is little international response beyond UN warnings which are ignored. The European Union announced recently that it wanted to strengthen its relationship with Israel while the Israeli leadership openly calls for a large-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and continues its economic stranglehold over the territory with, it appears, the not-so-tacit support of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah – which has been co-operating with Israel on a number of measures. On 19 December Hamas officially ended its truce with Israel, which Israel said it wanted to renew, because of Israel’s failure to ease the blockade.

How can keeping food and medicine from the people of Gaza protect the people of Israel? How can the impoverishment and suffering of Gaza’s children – more than 50 per cent of the population – benefit anyone? International law as well as human decency demands their protection. If Gaza falls, the West Bank will be next.

Read the entire article here >

Talk with Hamas

Gideon Levy writing in Ha'aretz:
Politicians, generals and the public all know that any substantial incursion into the Gaza Strip will be a catastrophe. Still, no one dares ask why, for heaven's sake, not try to talk directly with Hamas?

Gaza has an established authority that seized power democratically and then forcibly, and proved it has the power to control the territory. That, in itself, isn't bad news after a period of anarchy. But Israel and the world don't like Hamas. They want to overthrow it, but their diabolical scheme isn't working out. The two-year siege and boycott that included starvation, blackouts and bombardments have produced no sign that Hamas is weaker. On the contrary: The ceasefire was violated first by Israel with its unnecessary operation of blowing up a tunnel.

What everybody already knew to be false - that the political choice of a people could be changed through violence, that the Gazans could be made into Zionists by being abused - was tried anyway. Now we have to finally change direction, to do what nobody has tried before, if only because we have no other choice.

Any excuse against such an attempt does not hold water. Hamas doesn't recognize Israel; what does it matter? Hamas is a fundamentalist movement? That's irrelevant. Hamas will decline holding talks? Let's challenge it. Direct talks with Hamas will weaken Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? He's weak anyway.

What does Israel have to lose besides its much-anticipated wide-scale operation that it can carry out anytime? Why not try the diplomatic option before the military one, and not the other way around like we're used to?
Read the entire article here >

Gaza near to collapse as Israel tightens grip, says bank

From the Guardian:

Israel's blockade of Gaza is pushing the territory to the brink of collapse and fuelling the growth of a black money market controlled by Hamas, the World Bank warned yesterday.

As tit-for-tat attacks across the Gaza border began to intensify following the end of a six-month truce on Friday, the World Bank said that an acute cash shortage in Gaza was playing into Hamas's hands. The militant Islamists, who took control of Gaza in June 2007 following violent street clashes with their more secular rival, Fatah, have large stashes of shekels which they have been selling on the black market at a premium because of the cash shortage.

There is also a worry that Hamas, with its dominant militant and bureaucratic control of Gaza, will begin to replace the shekel with US dollars, which are more easily obtained, to smuggle through the tunnels from Egypt in the south.

The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Quartet - the US, the EU, Russia and the United Nations - warned Israel of the crisis in a letter to the prime minister, Ehud Olmert, more than a week ago, to no avail. Instead, Israel continued to tighten its 18-month blockade of the tiny coastal territory, forcing banks and businesses to shut their doors, water, sanitation and electricity services to cease, medical clinics to turn away patients, and bread queues to form in the streets. Since the end of the truce, daily clashes have resumed, with Israel launching air strikes on Palestinian rocket-launching teams and Palestinian fighters firing makeshift rockets and mortars at neighbouring Israeli towns.

Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gisha to Israeli Ministers: Stop Using Civilians in Gaza as a Weapon to Enforce the Ceasefire

From Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement -
As negotiations continue to renew the "ceasefire" agreement which is thought to expire at the end of the week, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement today called on the Israeli government to stop its equation of deliberately harming Palestinian civilians in response to rocket fire by militants on Israeli towns.

Gisha warned that closing Gaza's crossings as a response to Qassam rocket fire violates international law and commitments made by the State of Israel to the Israeli Supreme Court. In a detailed legal opinion published today and sent to Israeli Cabinet ministers and the Attorney General, Gisha warned that the restrictions on the passage of people and goods to and from the Gaza Strip cannot be considered a siege, a blockade or an economic sanction – but rather a closure imposed for the illegal purpose of collective punishment against innocent civilians. The Gaza Strip is occupied territory. Israel controls Gaza's borders and insists that humanitarian goods enter only through Israel's own crossings with Gaza – imposing a duty to permit that passage. Preventing humanitarian goods from entering Gaza also violates the duty that every nation in the world owes – to actively facilitate the passage of humanitarian goods to civilians affected by armed conflict.

According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: "Any equation created between rocket fire by militants and the closure of Gaza's crossings to civilian goods violates the fundamental principle of international humanitarian law – to protect civilians. Civilians must not be used as a weapon to enforce agreements between combatants."
Read the entire statement and Gisha's legal opinion here >

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Catastrophe for Gaza

Dr. Eyad Al-Sarraj writing in the Los Angeles Times:
Reporting from Gaza — From my home in the Gaza Strip, I followed the American election season with interest. Many times I heard the personal stories of Americans without access to healthcare and the toll illness has taken on their lives. I can relate. For months, I waited in Gaza, unable to leave (despite the fact that I carry a British passport) and increasingly desperate to secure a medical appointment about 45 minutes away in Israel.

The advanced medical treatment I need is not available here. But although it is readily available just up the coast in nearby Tel Aviv, I was not allowed to visit my doctor there without permission from the Israelis, who still control our borders and, as the occupying power, remain responsible for the welfare of our civilian population.

In the end, I waited three months for a medical permit to travel to treat my multiple myeloma. My requests were denied repeatedly until an Israeli friend who teaches at Tel Aviv University intervened and helped me secure a one-day permit. That there are still Israelis willing to promote the rights of Palestinians provides me with what little hope I have these days. The majority of Palestinians want only to live with peace and equality, accepting Israelis as our neighbors but not as our superiors or as our jailers.
Read the entire article here >

Gaza families eat grass as Israel locks border

From the Times of London:

AS a convoy of blue-and-white United Nations trucks loaded with food waited last night for Israeli permission to enter Gaza, Jindiya Abu Amra and her 12-year-old daughter went scrounging for the wild grass their family now lives on.

“We had one meal today - khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”

Read the entire article here >


Friday, December 12, 2008

Palestinian poll: 40 percent of Gaza residents wish to emigrate

From the AP:
A Palestinian poll released on Thursday showed that most residents of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip wish to emigrate, compared to 25 percent in the West Bank.

The coastal territory is currently under an Israeli blockade, imposed by Israel in response to cross-border attacks by Gaza militants. According to the poll, 74 percent of Gazans support continuing the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Strip that is set to end next week.

The poll was released Thursday by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. Pollsters surveyed 1270 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gaza: Silence is not an option

From the BBC:
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories has said Israel's policies there amount to a crime against humanity.

Richard Falk's statement came as UN human rights delegates urged Israel to take nearly 100 measures including ending its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

He said the UN must act to protect the Palestinian population suffering what he called "collective punishment".

Israel says the blockade is a necessary security measure to stem rocket salvos.

In his statement, Mr Falk called on the United Nations to make an "urgent effort" to "implement the agreed norm of a responsibility to protect a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity".

He said the International Criminal Court should also investigate whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.

The last time there had been "such a flurry of denunciations by normally cautious UN officials" it was during the heyday of the apartheid government in South Africa, Mr Falk said.

"And still Israel maintains its Gaza siege in its full fury, allowing only barely enough food and fuel to enter to stave off mass famine and disease," Mr Falk said.

Israel allowed dozens of trucks filled with humanitarian supplies into Gaza on Tuesday, the fifth such shipment permitted to enter the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory in the past month.

Read the entire article here >

Read Richard Falk's entire statement here >

Monday, December 8, 2008

In Gaza, Few Festivities, Mostly Sacrifice on the Festival of Sacrifice

From the Israeli NGO Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement -
More than half a million people in Gaza will remain without money during the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice which begins tonight. As part of an overall closure policy, Israel is preventing the transfer of cash to banks in Gaza, primarily harming 77,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority and the 460,000 family members they support, who have not received their November salary. Thousands of additional workers and recipients of international assistance are also left without money after Gaza's banks ran out of money and closed their doors last week.

B.M., 27, Gaza resident and employee of the Palestinian Authority: "I feel terrible. I have a salary, I have money in the bank, and I can't buy my daughter sweets or new clothing for the holiday. I went to the ATM, but there is nothing, it doesn't work. On the Festival of Sacrifice, Muslim men are supposed to give money gifts to their female relatives. I can't visit my family this year, because I have nothing to give them."

Depriving Gaza of cash reserves is part of the nearly hermetic Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, in place since June 2007, a policy that constitutes collective punishment of 1.5 million people. Israel is also preventing the passage of industrial diesel to Gaza's power plant, responsible for producing 33% of Gaza's electricity supply, causing power outages of up to 16 hours per day. Israel again closed Gaza's fuel pipelines today, and as a result, Gaza's power plant will shut down tonight for lack of industrial diesel.

According to Sari Bashi, Director of Gisha: "Blocking the flow of cash to Gaza's banks threatens to completely topple Gaza's already battered economy, depriving 1.5 million people of basic needs and their right to a dignified livelihood. It is not clear what the Government of Israel wishes to achieve by destroying the economic and humanitarian foundations of Palestinian society".

Recent articles on Gaza

Here are some useful recent articles:

IRIN: How Gaza gets power - analysis

Washington Post: In Gaza, No Cash for Holiday - Israeli Blockade Prompts Warning From World Bank

AP: Israel again bans international media from Gaza

Friday, December 5, 2008

Action, not words: The noble spirit of the universal declaration of human rights is betrayed by a lack of help for Gaza

Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in the Guardian:

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the steadily rising death toll in Gaza highlights the painful gap between its peaceful rhetoric and the desperate reality for Palestinian people.

The declaration was a pivotal statement in which the world community recognised the "inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". True to its nobility of spirit, it declares "the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom from fear and want as the highest aspiration of the common people".

Sixty years on, the fate of the Palestinian people should be a cause for universal soul-searching. The need to give substantive meaning to the protection of Palestinians has never been greater. The former high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson has said that in Gaza, nothing short of a "civilisation" is being destroyed. Desmond Tutu has called it "an abomination". The humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Maxwell Gaylard, said that in Gaza there was a "massive assault" on human rights. Most recently, the European commissioner, Louis Michel, described the blockade of Gaza as a "form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, which is a violation of international humanitarian law".

Read the entire article here >

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kucinich Seeks End of Gaza Blockade

From Rep. Dennis Kucinich's website:

Washington, Dec 2 -

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today sent a letter urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to ensure that Israel ends the blockade of Gaza. The letter was sent in support of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay’s call for the immediate end of the blockade.

“Israel has a right to defend itself and its citizens. This includes taking action against Hamas for its abominable mortar attacks into southern Israel. However that action should not and cannot amount to collective punishment against the Palestinian people, prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva convention, as it does today,” wrote Kucinich in the letter.


Read Rep. Kucinich's letter to Secretary Rice here >


Thank Rep. Kucinich by writing or calling his office >

Bank crisis in Gaza even though Israel eases blockade

From the BBC:

Israel has allowed some humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, easing its blockade of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory.

Forty truckloads of food and medicines entered the strip, and fuel supplies were pumped to Gaza's only power plant, according to Palestinian officials.

Foreign journalists are also being allowed through, Israel said.

Israel recently tightened its economic blockade of Gaza amid regular border clashes with Palestinian militants.

The office of the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, said the decision to allow some aid into Gaza was a goodwill gesture ahead of the forthcoming Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Meanwhile banks across the Gaza Strip have been shutting down because of what they say is a cash shortage caused by the Israeli blockade.

The Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has urged Israel to allow a cash shipment to Gaza.

He said thousands of civil servants would not be paid this month unless it does so. Israel said the request was being considered.

Read the entire article >

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gaza Border Crossings are closed for 27th consecutive day

On December 2nd, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that the Gaza Border Crossings had been closed for a 27th consecutive day. Among the effects of this closure have been:

  • The Gaza power plant has been forced to shut down due to lack of fuel, and Gazans are now totally dependent on electricity generated from Israel, and to a lesser extent, from Egypt.
  • There are also chronic severe shortages of domestic cooking gas.
  • Israel has not permitted any consignments of flour to enter the Gaza Strip for one week (not including UNWRA supplies), and current stocks are sufficient for just less than three days. Five of the six flourmills in the Gaza Strip have been forced to close.
  • Patients who require urgent medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip are facing immense travel restrictions, with an average of just seventeen patients a day currently permitted to leave Gaza in order to access emergency medical treatment in Israel.
  • Civilians are enduring power cuts for up to ten hours a day across the Gaza Strip, which is severely affecting every aspect of life in Gaza. Local emergency health services are teetering on the brink of collapse as they try to respond to critical cases amidst constant and severe shortages of electricity, medication and other vital, life-saving equipment. In addition, many Gazan families are being denied access to drinking water, as there is insufficient fuel for the electric water pumps that supply domestic drinking water.
Read the entire report here >

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Can Gaza and Sderot make common cause?

From Nadia Hijab reprinted by the Institute for Middle East Understanding:
The Palestinians of Gaza and the Israelis of Sderot are on two sides of a very wide divide. Yet an end to conflict would benefit both. Is there a way they can make common cause?

Much is known about conditions in Sderot, a pilgrimage for visiting Western dignitaries concerned about Israel's security. But little is known about the conditions in Gaza, perhaps least of all in Israel.

The people of Sderot might not be able -- or want -- to visit Gaza. But they could still find out what is going on in the besieged territory. For example,
  • Heavy rains at the end of October left many Gazans waist-high in water, sewage and garbage and swept away several houses in another sign of the Strip's ruined infrastructure. Last year a flood of sewage killed five people.
  • The Israelis never gradually lifted the blockade even though this was reportedly part of the Israel-Hamas agreement. The UN, responsible for feeding one million Palestinians in Gaza, has no reserves to call on. So even when Israel allows in a few trucks of food, the cupboard stays bare. And fishermen in Gaza waters have been arrested and their boats impounded, cutting off that source of sustenance.
  • The Red Cross just issued a damning report chronicling the rise in chronic malnutrition due to Israel's blockade. This can damage children for life. People are reportedly milling animal feed because there is nothing to eat
Israel has banned journalists from the Strip, making it harder to report conditions first-hand. Top leaders from the Associated Press, Reuters, the New York Times, ABC, BBC, and CNN, among others, filed an unprecedented protest with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Collective punishment is against the law and can constitute a war crime. Do the inhabitants of Sderot -- or any Israeli Jewish citizens -- really want such crimes committed in their name? Do the Palestinian, Arab, European, or American authorities? Does the world? Especially when it has been demonstrated that a ceasefire works?
Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

US Puts Pressure on Israel to Refrain from Attacks

From Time magazine:

U.S. officials have asked Israel to refrain from launching any major military action in the region during the waning days of the Bush presidency, Israeli sources have told TIME. Previously, some Israeli military officials had hinted to the media that if Israel were to carry out its threats to strike at Iranian nuclear installations, it might do so before Barack Obama enters the White House in January. But now a Defense Ministry official says, "We have been warned off."

Washington's concerns are not limited to the possibility of Israel attacking Iran, the sources say; U.S. officials have also cautioned Israelis against launching a ground assault inside the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza in a bid to stop militants there from firing rockets into southern Israel. Bush Administration officials warn that such an attack could cost many lives and jeopardize the painstaking, thus far futile efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Read the entire article here >

Friday, November 21, 2008

UN: Gaza on brink of humanitarian disaster

From Reuters:
Gaza faces a humanitarian "catastrophe" if Israel continues to prevent aid reaching the territory by blocking crossing points, the head of the main U.N. aid agency for the Palestinians said on Friday.

Karen AbuZayd, commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said the human toll of this month's sealing of Gaza's goods crossings was the gravest since the early days of a Palestinian uprising eight years ago.

"It's been closed for so much longer than ever before... and we have nothing in our warehouses... It will be a catastrophe if this persists, a disaster," said AbuZayd, whose agency is the largest aid body providing services to Palestinian refugees.

"They often bring us to the brink but they never have let us really be frightened about whether we are going to have food tomorrow or not," AbuZayd said.

Israel had restricted goods into Gaza despite the truce, which calls on militants to halt rocket attacks in return for Israel easing its embargo on the territory.

"This time throughout this whole truce since June none of us have been able to bring in anything extra that would create a reserve so we had nothing to call upon," she said.

She said people were sweeping warehouses because there is now nothing in them.

UNRWA's food basket, which comprised nearly 60 percent of daily needs, including milk powder and sugar, had run out, AbuZayd said. Most of the flour in mills would be consumed by end of the month.

Ailments associated with insufficient food were surfacing among the impoverished coastal strip's 1.5 million population, including growing malnutrition.

"There is a chronic anaemia problem. There are signs that's increasing. What we are beginning to notice is what we call stunting of children ... which means they are not eating well enough to be bigger than their parents," AbuZayd added.

The humanitarian plight of Gazans was by far the worst among the more than 4.6 million Palestinian refugees across the region.

"They are not just under occupation, they are under siege," AbuZayd said.
Read the entire article here >

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gazans despair over blockade

From the BBC:

There is much discussion among Palestinians as to why this sudden increase in pressure on Gaza is happening now.

Some say Israel is preparing for a big invasion; others feel there is an element of political posturing ahead of an Israeli general election in February.

Many will tell you that they feel a time of deep division in Palestinian society is being taken advantage of.

Few take Israel's explanation, that it is only protecting its citizens from the horror of rocket attacks, at face value.

"Isn't it enough that their army kills the people who fire rockets?" asks Mr Bassam Nasser, who works for an American development agency.

"We are not responsible, so why are we all being punished? It makes no sense."

He talks of the long-term impact on children in Gaza, including his own, aged six, five and two.

"It's getting harder for us to answer our childrens' questions about the situation, without instilling hatred in their minds about the people responsible for our suffering," he says.

He does not just mean the Israeli government.

"People here see everyone as responsible for their miserable lives. They see Israel closing Gaza, but they also see people around the world doing nothing.

"They see Hamas making things worse by using the blockade as an excuse not to be accountable, and they do whatever they like.

"People see the silence of the PA, [the Fatah-dominated Palestinian government in the West Bank] and blame them too," he says.

"It's so hard to see where the hope is, and so hard to stop these conditions breeding more hatred."

Read the entire article here >

The Gaza Strip: Drifting into Deeper Darkness under the Silent Gaze of the International Community

From the Al-Haq statement The Gaza Strip: Drifting into Deeper Darkness under the Silent Gaze of the International Community:

The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions, the member states of the UN and the European Union are all legally and morally culpable on account of their collective ennui. In the absence of any concerted or effective response, Al-Haq is left to question the basic commitment to fundamental human rights of these actors, and while once again repeating the calls detailed above for the members of the international community to live up to their legal obligations, we do so with increasingly strained hope, and an increasingly hoarse voice.

The human rights community in the OPT and all those fighting for the rights of the Palestinian people will continue to do so, regardless of this wall of silence and inactivity. In the interest of peace and justice, the international community must realise, however, that it is this silence and inactivity that has now become the biggest obstacle to the realisation of human rights in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the international community must be conscious that its own self-interest necessitates action to alleviate the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip before it further deteriorates and regional instability proliferates.
Read the entire statement here >

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Foreign Reporters’ Group Fights Israeli Prohibition on Entering Gaza

From the New York Times:

Although Israel has often closed border crossings and halted deliveries of goods and fuel to Gaza in response to rocket fire, foreign journalists have usually been allowed to cross to report.

This time, all movement in and out of Gaza is being halted, except for essential humanitarian cases, said Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Ministry.

“The decision is not directed against journalists,” Mr. Dror said. “The situation in Gaza is clear: There is daily firing, we have information about possible attacks on the crossings and we are limiting our activity there as much as possible.”

Mr. Dror added that he was not “shedding tears” over the journalists’ frustration. He said that Israel, in any case, considered much of their previous coverage from Gaza unfair.
Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The real goal of Israel's Gaza blockade

From Jonathan Cook:
Israel has turned a relative blind eye to the growing smuggling trade through Gaza's tunnels to Egypt. Gazans' material welfare is falling more heavily on Egyptian shoulders by the day.

The question remains: what does Israel expect the response of Gazans to be to their immiseration and ever greater insecurity in the face of Israeli military reprisals?

Eyad Sarraj, the head of Gaza's Community Mental Health Programme, said this year that Israel's long-term goal was to force Egypt to end the controls along its short border with the Strip. Once the border was open, he warned, "Wait for the exodus."
Read the entire article here >

UN human rights chief calls for end to Israeli blockade of Gaza Strip

From the U.N.: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called today for an immediate end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. "By function of this blockade, 1.5 million Palestinian men, women and children have been forcibly deprived of their most basic human rights for months. This is in direct contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law. It must end now," she said.

The High Commissioner further called for the Israeli authorities to facilitate the urgent passage of essential humanitarian goods, including food, medical supplies, and fuel, to immediately allow the restoration of electricity, water and other essential services, and to lift movement restrictions preventing the passage of civilians for medical, educational and religious purposes. "Decisive steps must be taken to preserve the dignity and basic welfare of the civilian population, more than half of which are children," she added.

Read the entire statement here >

Monday, September 15, 2008

Israel's dark arts of ensnaring collaborators

Jonathan Cook published this story on ZNet:
(Nazareth) Israel's enduring use of Palestinian collaborators to entrench the occupation and destroy Palestinian resistance was once the great unmentionable of the Middle East conflict.
When the subject was dealt with by the international and local media, it was solely in the context of the failings of the Palestinian legal system, which allowed the summary execution of collaborators by lynch mobs and kangaroo courts.
That is beginning to change with a trickle of reports indicating the extent of Israel's use of collaborators and the unwholesome techniques it uses to recruit them. "Co-operation", it has become clearer, is the very backbone of Israel's success in maintaining its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Collaboration comes in various guises, including land dealers, who buy Palestinian-owned land to sell it to settlers or the Israeli government; armed agents who assist Israeli soldiers in raids; and infiltrators into the national organisations and their armed wings who foil resistance operations.
Read the story here >

Monday, August 25, 2008

Video: Boats break Gaza siege

Boats reach Gaza strip


The Free Gaza Movement released the following statement:

GAZA (23 August 2008) - Two small boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty, successfully landed in Gaza early this evening, breaking the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The boats were crewed by a determined group of international human rights workers from the Free Gaza Movement. They had spent two years organizing the effort, raising money by giving small presentations at churches, mosques, synagogues, and in the homes of family, friends, and supporters.

Read the statement here >

This story appeared in the LA Times:
JERUSALEM -- The two boats, named Free Gaza and Liberty, chugged into Gaza City on Saturday with quite an escort: a flotilla of fishing boats, sailboats, skiffs and even a swimmer carrying a Palestinian flag.

Arriving to a boisterous reception, the international activists aboard the boats said they hoped their symbolic breaking of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip was just the beginning.
Read the story here >

Stripped of a Fulbright by "Secret Evidence": Blocking a Gazan's Path to San Diego

Fidaa Abed wrote the following story on her experience trying to study in San Diego:
As a young Palestinian from Gaza, I had been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to study at the University of California San Diego on a Fulbright scholarship. The chance to escape Gaza's confines and immerse myself in an American education was deeply thrilling. With Israel controlling Gaza's border exits, air space and sea access – notwithstanding its "pullout" of 2005 – I imagined the long, open roads of the United States and its people's unchallenged freedom of movement.

I love my people and my homeland, but a young person needs opportunities. These are far more abundant in the United States than in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Last week, I landed in Washington, D.C., brimming with optimism. Upon arrival, I was whisked into a separate room. An American official informed me that he had just received information about me that he could not reveal. However, it required him to put me on the next plane home. I was shocked. And I was taken aback at the cruelty of snatching away my educational dreams at the last possible moment.
Read Fridaa's whole story here >

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BBC Guide on the Blockade

The BBC has published a very useful guide on Israel's siege of Gaza. The guide includes an overview of the siege, data on how it has impacted Gaza's residents, and links to stories it has published on humanitarian conditions in the Strip.

To access the guide, visit this link >

BBC: Truce barely eases Gaza embargo

From a BBC news article published today:

In the dank basement of one of Gaza's sewage pumping stations, raw sewage sprays out of leaks in the rusting metal work.

The Strip's sewage system is one of many things affecting Gazans' quality of life that urgently needs updating.

"It took months and months of negotiations to get Israel to allow some spare parts through the borders," says Maher al-Najjar, an engineer at the Gaza Emergency Water Project...

Read the story >

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gaza's shocking devastation: A Canadian Jew's visit to the territory left him ashamed by what he saw

Harry Shannon, a professor of clinical epidemiology and bio- statistics at McMaster Universityand a member of Independent Jewish Voices, writing in the Hamilton Spectator:

I had expected conditions in Gaza to be bad, but I was still shocked at the devastation when I went there in July.

Last month my companion and I entered Gaza at the Erez crossing through a modern building reminiscent of an airport terminal. After questioning by the Israeli border police, we left the building and had a kilometre walk to pick up transportation.

It was as if we had travelled to another planet. The sandy track is surrounded by the blown-up remnants of Gaza's former industrial district. Rubble stretching for hundreds of metres lines the route. . .

We went first to a children's hospital on the edge of Gaza City. The hospital director and doctors described the conditions. Of 100 beds, 40 were occupied by children with bacterial meningitis, an extremely serious disease.

There's a shortage of basic medicines and supplies, even simple things such as alcohol swabs.

The hospital has three ventilators; only one is working. Israel won't let in spare parts for the others.

The working machine is for a "hopeless case" who can't be taken off. Meanwhile, patients who could benefit have no working machine.

There are many cases of malnutrition -- for example, children nearly a year old weighing 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds). Their families can't afford the special formula they need to improve.

Because of lack of equipment and qualified personnel, there is no radiotherapy and limited chemotherapy in Gaza. . .

My sister and her husband are Orthodox Jews living near Tel Aviv. They are outraged at Israel's behaviour, especially the restrictions on sick patients needing to leave Gaza. My brother-in-law, a former chair of family medicine at Tel Aviv University and a specialist in medical ethics, has complained publicly about this.

As a Jew, I, too, am ashamed and disgusted at what is happening. Yes, Israel needs security. But what is happening goes far beyond security needs.

Israel's actions amount to collective punishment, forbidden under international law.

I am ashamed that the Harper government has tilted toward unconditional support for Israel against the Palestinians.

The current policy is unconscionable, as anyone who visits Gaza can see only too well.

Read the entire article here >

Friday, August 15, 2008

Observers Write About Delegation to Sderot

The delegates traveled to Sderot and Kibbutz Zikim, both just a few miles from the Gaza Border. This is a picture of Gaza from the Kibbutz. (IFPB/US Campaign)

U.S. Campaign and Interfaith Peacebuilders have sponsored a two week delegation to Israel-Palestine. Two delegates wrote about their experiences in the Israeli town of Sderot:

Denise Yarbrough wrote:
Today we travelled south to Sderot, an Israeli town right on the border of the Gaza Strip. Sderot is well known as a town which regularly is bombarded with Kassam rockets shot from the Gaza. We met with representatives from two different kibbutzim, and one representative of a community organization that tries to work with marginalized groups in Sderot...

We ended our travels today by visiting the Erez Checkpoint, the only border crossing that is “open” between Israel and the Gaza strip. Almost no one gets through at this point – usually only people who can prove some humanitarian reason for needing to go across. The checkpoint is a fortress, heavily guarded and the guards shouted at us to stop photographing the checkpoint when we got out of the bus. A few Palestinians were going through the checkpoint, but they had been driven there by a United Nations vehicle, so we assumed that they had somehow enlisted UN assistance in getting across into Gaza for some family reason. The checkpoint was yet another vivid symbol of all that is wrong in this terrible conflict – as if cement and barbed wire and armed guards could possibly bring peace or security to either side.

Read the report >

David Lamarre-Vincent wrote:

“Swords to ploughshares” is a concept in which military weapons or technologies are converted for peaceful civilian applications. The plowshare is often used to symbolize creative tools that benefit mankind, as opposed to destructive tools of war, symbolized by the sword, a similar sharp metal tool with an arguably opposite use. The common expression "beat swords into plowshares" has been used by disparate social and political groups.

The most famous sculpture of this phrase can be found at the United Nations, A less famous, folk art version was seen upon our visit to a kibbutz at Sderot on the border with Gaza. Here they have made a menorah from kassam rockets fired from Gaza that landed upon the kibbutz. This kibbutz is the target of numerous rocket attacks. The juxtaposition of the images of the kassam and the menorah captures the two realities of Israel and Palestine. Is security based upon military might, walls and fences, checkpoints and prisons, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, terrorist attacks and suicide bombers? Or is stability and security achieved through dialogue, conflict resolution, economic development?
Read the report >

Challenging the siege from Rafah to Cyprus

Video from Dubai TV and LinkTV/Mosaic:



This post from EI:
On Sunday, hundreds of Hamas supporters, many stranded Gaza patients, students and travelers, took part in a rally at the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza, against the continued closure of the terminal for the past 14 months and calling on Egypt to reopen it. Organized by the ruling Hamas party, the attendees blamed the Egyptian leadership for the terminal closure, saying that this crossing, Gaza's sole outlet to the outside world, should be opened under joint Palestinian-Egyptian control.
Read the entire report here >

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nobel Laureates Endorse and Blair Relative Joins Attempt to Break Blockade

From the Guardian:
A group of activists including Tony Blair's sister-in-law Lauren Booth plans to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip by sailing into the Palestinian territory.

Some 46 campaigners, among them several Britons, a Holocaust survivor and an 81-year-old retired Catholic nun from the US, will make the 241-mile crossing from Cyprus in two wooden vessels at the end of the week, carrying medical supplies. The journey takes about 20 hours.

The California-based Free Gaza movement wants to open unrestricted international access to Gaza while delivering a "symbolic" shipment of 200 hearing aids and batteries for a society for deaf children and other supplies such as painkillers. Organisers say they will not pass through Israeli waters and have therefore not notified Israeli authorities of their plans.
Read the article here >

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

UN report: At 45%, Gaza unemployment is highest in the world

From Ha'aretz:
The unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip now stands at 45 percent, higher than anywhere else in the world, according to a report released recently by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.

Nearly 95 percent of all factories operating in Gaza have been closed down in recent years, says the report. Israel's year long economic blockade on the coastal territory and repeated closure of electricity and fuel sources have also contributed to the humanitarian crisis.

According to a separate report published by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the unemployment rate in the West Bank reached 25 percent between July and December 2007 - double the average rate in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Shades of Checkpoint Charlie at Rafah Crossing: Professor Writes About Trying to Leave Gaza

EI published the following story in their Diaries section:
On Monday 30 June, Gaza was abuzz with the sudden announcement that Egypt would open Rafah Crossing -- the only gateway for 1.5 million Palestinians who have been imprisoned here for almost two years -- for three short days. Although I had good reasons to use the crossing to leave Gaza, I was unsure about pressing my luck to escape, if only for a short while. Past experience has made me graphically and painfully aware that thousands of my fellow Gazans would also try to capitalize on this very rare opportunity suddenly available to us.

Read the full story here >

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bitterlemons: The Gaza ceasefire

Bitterlemons.org is "a website that presents Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints on prominent issues of concern. Its goal is to contribute to mutual understanding through the open exchange of ideas. Bitterlemons.org aspires to impact the way Palestinians, Israelis and others worldwide think about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

The latest issue is on the Gaza ceasefire and you can read it here >

Thursday, June 19, 2008

UN report: Politics mostly responsible for Palestinian food insecurity

From the Joint Rapid Food Security Survey in the Occupied Palestinian Territories conducted by the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency:
The main driver of Palestinian food insecurity is of a political nature, as key elements of vulnerability are rooted in the military and administrative measures imposed by the Israeli occupation - closure regime, permits, destruction of assets - as well as settlement expansion and derived infrastructure multiplication - access to land and water, bypass roads, etc.

Soaring food prices, falling incomes and growing unemployment are jeopardizing the livelihoods of Palestinians, leading to heavy debt and changes in family eating habits. Previously self-reliant families are progressively falling into the poverty trap and are unable to escape from their situation in the absence of job opportunities. Furthermore those with work are facing increasing difficulties to manage due to unadjusted salaries, a degrading economic environment and high dependency ratios.

There is evidence of the positive effects of aid in mitigating the increase of Palestinians’ food insecurity. However food security remains poor and there are real imminent threats to the livelihoods and nutrition of a growing proportion of the population. The rapidly increasing prices of food and the declining productivity of the agricultural sector in both the West Bank (WB) and the Gaza Strip (GS) as a result of natural calamities and Israeli measures, together with the tightening of restrictions on the free movement of people and goods in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (WBGS); the unprecedented and prolonged closure of the GS; and, the inability of humanitarian organizations to meet the increasing demand for and cost of humanitarian assistance have, combined, been leading to the erosion of the livelihoods of the Palestinian population.

There is little scope for action other than that of a humanitarian-emergency nature to solve food insecurity, until the political dimension is resolved.
Read the entire report here >
Read an IRIN article on the report here >

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Truce to bring gradual relief to Gaza - Israeli officials

From Reuters:
An Egyptian-mediated truce that appears likely between Israel and Hamas will begin with only a gradual and partial easing of an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, officials said on Tuesday.

"If Hamas keeps the ceasefire, we can gradually deliver more goods and supplies," an Israeli official said.

But he said any commitment to a particular level of supplies into the Gaza Strip would be kept "vague on purpose".

The Israeli official said Rafah could reopen only if there was "significant progress" towards the release of a captured Israeli soldier. Israel controls access to the border terminal by European monitors who oversee its operation

"No shooting won't be enough to reopen Rafah. Progress on Gilad Shalit is required," he said, referring to the soldier held by Gaza militants since 2006.

A Palestinian source familiar with the ceasefire negotiations cited what he said were six points in the burgeoning agreement:

  1. Egypt declares a starting time for the truce.
  2. Israel reopens the Karni and Sufa commercial crossings into the Gaza Strip three days later, with the flow of goods set at 30 percent of the levels before Hamas took over the territory.
  3. Hamas guarantees that all Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip abide by the ceasefire.
  4. Ten days after the truce begins, Israel removes limitations on the flow of goods through Karni and Sufa, although some restrictions on chemicals that could be used for explosives would remain in place.
  5. Hamas and Fatah reach an arrangement on administering the Rafah crossing.
  6. Talks on Rafah and negotiations to secure Shalit's release, in a prisoner swap with Hamas, will be held in parallel.

Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Israel and Hamas Agree to a Cease-Fire, Egypt Says

From the New York Times:
Israel and the Islamist group Hamas have agreed on a mutual cease-fire to take effect Thursday following negotiations brokered by Egypt, Egyptian state media announced on Tuesday.

The official Egyptian state-owned news agency MENA and state-run television quoted an unidentified senior Egyptian official as saying that the truce would start at 6 a.m. Thursday. Israeli officials would not immediately confirm or deny that any agreement had been reached.

Talks, brokered by Egypt, have been proceeding intensively between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza. Both sides have appeared keen on achieving a cease-fire, but until the truce comes into effect neither side is likely to stop exchanges, and on Tuesday three Israeli airstrikes hit targets in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Army said.

Palestinian medical officials in Gaza said that at least six militants were killed in the strikes and two others wounded.

Read the entire article here >

Monday, June 16, 2008

U.N.: "Buffer zone" reducing Palestinian agricultural land in Gaza

From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
An expanding "buffer zone" between Israel and the Gaza Strip is driving Palestinians away from the Strip's border with Israel, reducing their access to fertile land, rights groups and agricultural associations in the enclave are warning.

The Israeli enforced "buffer zone" along the border with Gaza was originally supposed to stretch about 150 metres into Gaza, but organisations like the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC), a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), say this has now increased to over 1,000 metres in places, and is affecting thousands of farmers along the roughly 50km-long border with Israel.

"This is deeply affecting the economy in Gaza," Ahmed Sourani, of PARC in Gaza City, told IRIN, adding that "farming is an important part of food security here."
Read the entire article here >

Friday, June 6, 2008

Olmert hints major Gaza operation is imminent

From Ha'aretz:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters on his plane bound for Israel on Thursday just prior to departure that "it would appear we are very close to a decisive crossroads in Gaza," intimating that a major military operation is in the offing.

When asked earlier by reporters accompanying him in Washington if the time had come for a large-scale Israeli ground offensive into Gaza, Olmert was noncommittal.

"We are not eager for a military operation," he said. "But we are not shying away from one."

"The way it looks now, we are closer to a military operation in Gaza than we are to any other type of [diplomatic] arrangement," the premier said. "We are close to a decisive crossroads in Gaza, both in terms of setting a timetable as well as pinpointing the exact problem. We have a real problem in Gaza, and I spoke about it throughout the course of all my talks in the U.S."

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that the Israel Defense Forces would open a broad operation in the Gaza Strip before an Egyptian-mediated truce takes effect.

The defense minister, who has repeatedly threatened an invasion, spoke while touring Kibbutz Nir Oz, where a 51-year-old Israeli man was killed earlier in the day by a mortar shell fired from the nearby Gaza Strip.

"The military operation is closer than ever, and it will precede the cease-fire," Barak said, adding: "We are nearing the day of reckoning in the Gaza Strip, in which we will decide whether to go in the direction of an agreement of calm or a wide military operation."

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said most members of the Security Cabinet oppose a Gaza cease-fire now.
Read the entire article here>

With economic siege comes malnutrition

From Electronic Intifada:
The crippling economic blockade of the Gaza Strip colors all aspects of life there. According to the Hamas-run Palestinian Health Ministry, 70 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents suffer from anemia, including 44 percent of pregnant women.

Malnutrition among Palestinian children has also increased over the past 11 months, affecting more than 10 percent of Gaza's children under the age of 18, according to the Gaza City-based Ard al-Insan health organization.

A recent survey conducted by Ard al-Insan revealed that around 10.4 percent of households in Gaza City and in the northern and southern Gaza Strip suffer from chronic malnutrition. Stunting and low birth weights are also affecting children there.

"The inability of the majority of Palestinian households to purchase basic food items has increased the magnitude of this health problem," explained Dr. Adnan Abdel Aziz al-Wahadi, the head of the health care unit of Ard Al-Insan.
Read the entire article here >

Friday, May 30, 2008

U.S. Withdraws Fulbright Grants to Gaza

From the New York Times:
The American State Department has withdrawn all Fulbright grants to Palestinian students in Gaza hoping to pursue advanced degrees at American institutions this fall because Israel has not granted them permission to leave.

Israel has isolated this coastal strip, which is run by the militant group Hamas. Given that policy, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem said the grant money had been “redirected” to students elsewhere out of concern that it would go to waste if the Palestinian students were forced to remain in Gaza.

A letter was sent by e-mail to the students on Thursday telling them of the cancellation. Abdulrahman Abdullah, 30, who had been hoping to study for an M.B.A. at one of several American universities on his Fulbright, was in shock when he read it.

Some Israeli lawmakers, who held a hearing on the issue of student movement out of Gaza on Wednesday, expressed anger that their government was failing to promote educational and civil development in a future Palestine given the hundreds of students who had been offered grants by the United States and other Western governments.

“This could be interpreted as collective punishment,” complained Rabbi Michael Melchior, chairman of the Parliament’s education committee, during the hearing. “This policy is not in keeping with international standards or with the moral standards of Jews, who have been subjected to the deprivation of higher education in the past. Even in war, there are rules.” Rabbi Melchior is from the Meimad Party, allied with Labor.

Sari Bashi, who directs Gisha, an Israeli organization devoted to monitoring and increasing the free movement of Palestinians, said, “The fact that the U.S. cannot even get taxpayer-funded Fulbright students out of Gaza demonstrates the injustice and short-sightedness of a closure policy that arbitrarily traps 1.5 million people, including hundreds of Palestinian students accepted to universities abroad.” She said that their education was good not just for Palestinian society, but for Israel as well.

Some Israelis disagree strongly.

“We are fighting the regime in Gaza that does its utmost to kill our citizens and destroy our schools and our colleges,” said Yuval Steinitz, a lawmaker from the opposition Likud Party. “So I don’t think we should allow students from Gaza to go anywhere. Gaza is under siege, and rightly so, and it is up to the Gazans to change the regime or its behavior.”

Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

UN team 'devastated' by Gaza stories: Tutu

From AFP:
UN human rights observers led by Desmond Tutu on Wednesday met survivors of a 2006 Israeli bombing that killed 19 Palestinian civilians in Gaza, leading the South African cleric to say the group was "devastated" by what they learned.

The UN team travelled to the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza where residents told of the Israeli shelling on the night of November 8, 2006, that killed the civilians, including five women and eight children, in their homes.

"I was here with my son. I was holding his hand when he died. Can you imagine a mother holding the intestines of her own son," said Tahini al-Assamna through her tears, describing the attack.

She took Tutu and his UN team on a tour of her three-storey house where a hole still remains in the roof from the artillery fire. She also lost three of her brothers-in-law in the attack.

Tutu commented that the purpose of the visit was to gather information to write a report for the UN Human Rights Council, "but we wanted to say that we are quite devastated".

"This is not something you want to wish on your worst enemy," added the retired Anglican archbishop of Cape Town.

Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Latest from the U.N.: Gaza Strip Inter-Agency Humanitarian Fact Sheet

From the UN OCHA report "Gaza Strip Inter-Agency Humanitarian Fact Sheet" issued on May 16, 2008:
Israeli restrictions on fuel supplies to Gaza peaked in April when Israel halted supplies of diesel, petrol and cooking gas (LPG) to Gaza. UNRWA was forced to suspend its food distribution to 650,000 beneficiaries for four days due to the lack of fuel. Limited supplies of cooking gas and industrial diesel resumed before the end of the month. Market prices increased significantly in the month of April. Gazan militants attacked the Nahal Oz fuel terminal on April 9 and the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on April 18.Israeli military incursions into Gaza occurred almost every day in April, killing 21 children.
Read the entire report here >

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Israel says army ready for Gaza assault after rocket attack

From the AFP:
Israel warned on Thursday that its forces were prepared to launch a major military operation in the Gaza Strip after a rocket attack that wounded at least 14 people while US President George W. Bush was in Israel.

"The Israeli army has never been this ready to launch a large-scale operation in Gaza," said Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a member of Israel's security cabinet.

Read the entire article here >

60 years since 1948: Sands of Sorrow

Today is the 60th anniversary of the end of the British Mandate and the creation of the state of Israel. Today is also recognized as Nakba Day, which refers to the ongoing displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people. Sands of Sorrow is a documentary film from 1950 that depicts life in Gaza's refugee camps at the time.