Friday, February 29, 2008

Israeli minister threatens "holocaust" as public demand ceasefire talks

From Electronic Intifada:
The question remains as to why when the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, some senior Israeli officials, and Hamas leaders are all talking about a ceasefire, the Israeli government refuses to accept one and the US refuses to call for one. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has blamed the escalating bloodshed entirely on Hamas, and has failed to call for a ceasefire. This echoes her support for Israel's merciless 2006 bombardment of Lebanon which she notoriously celebrated as being "the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

The Palestinian and Israeli populations are exhausted by the relentless bloodshed, however unequal its toll. They are paying the price of a failed policy, pushed by Washington and its local clients, which attempts to demonize, isolate and destroy any movement that resists the order that the United States seeks to impose on the region.
Read the entire article here >

Also see:
Israel threatens to unleash 'holocaust' in Gaza

U.S. positioning itself to support Israeli invasion?

From Laura Rozen's blog War and Piece:

Ha'aretz: Israel ground operation in Gaza becomes inevitable.

One would guess that could be part of what the US warship off the coast of Lebanon is about - to deter Hezbollah, including if Israel moves against Hamas in Gaza. Heard earlier today such operations would be in March-April, with desire for stability to be restored by time of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations in May when Bush plans to visit. Then again, March is next week. So is a planned Rice visit to Israel. Jordan's King Abdullah II is here this week and next, after a meeting with the Saudi king en route to New York today. Olmert back to Israel Friday from Japan, where he seemed to overlap with Rice.

Update: It appears that Rice did meet with Olmert in Japan about Gaza situation, at
her request.

Also see: Hezbollah says not intimidated by U.S. warship deployment

Petition: Israelis and Palestinians calling for ceasefire

From the petition (sent by Gush Shalom):
The cycle of violence and bloodshed goes on and on, and the threat of an overall invasion and re-conquest of the Gaza Strip is openly and repeatedly made by the Israeli military and political leaders - with the cost estimated at hundreds or thousands of casualties.

We, the undersigned - Israelis and Palestinians - do not accept this grim reality as inevitable. There is a clear and obvious alternative to bloody escalation and strangulating siege, an alternative providing hope: an end to the siege of Gaza, and a ceasefire and cessation of all hostilities.

The siege of Gaza and the collective punishment of its population are totally unacceptable. It is a medieval form of war which is in utter contradiction to the present norms of human rights and international law - which Israel, as an occupying power, is bound to respect. There should be an immediate end to the siege, unconnected with any other issue, and the Gaza Strip must have free access to the outside world, for the free passage of persons and goods.

It has already been clearly seen that the suffering inflicted on Palestinian civilians in Gaza did not and cannot solve the problem of Sderot. The only solution is a complete and mutual ceasefire.
Read and sign the petition here >

Israel threatens to unleash 'holocaust' in Gaza

From the Times of London online:

An Israeli minister gave warning today that the army may unleash a “holocaust” on the Gaza Strip if Islamists there do not end their daily barrages of home-made Qassam rockets and their increasing use of Iranian-built Grad missiles.

"The more Qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," Matan Vilnai, the Deputy Defence Minister said.

The use of the term "holocaust” is usually restricted to descriptions of the Nazi genocide of the Jews in Europe in the Second World War, and many Israelis resent its use in any other context. Mr Vilnai’s deployment of the word appeared to show Israel’s growing frustration that Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza refuse to curb their attacks, despite heavy tolls inflicted in Israeli air strikes and tank raids.

Israel has killed 32 Palestinians, including four children and a baby, in the past two days amid a dramatic escalation of the cross-border war. Palestinian rocket fire killed one man on an Israeli campus, but scores more of the unguided missiles have landed in recent days, including some that hit the southern city of Ashkelon today, wounding several people.

Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gaza issues toxic water warning

From the BBC:
The water authority in the Gaza Strip has urged people to boil their drinking water to avoid the spread of disease. The authority said Israel's blockade had delayed essential supplies, including chlorine, and there was now a risk of water being contaminated. The authority said the situation could lead to a health disaster to Gaza's 1.5m inhabitants.

The Coastal Municipality Water Utility issued the warning in radio and newspaper advertisements, blaming Israel for the absence of equipment and chemicals for treating water. It said there had been no deliveries of chlorine through the Israel-controlled goods crossing since 21 January.

Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Poll: 64% of Israelis support talks with Hamas

From Ha'aretz: "Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks." Read the entire article here >

Also See -
Al-Quds: Ceasefire document between Hamas and Israel

Monday, February 25, 2008

Gazans form 'human chain' to protest Israeli blockade

From AFP:

Palestinians were forming a human chain the length of the Gaza Strip on Monday in protest at a crushing Israeli blockade, with Israeli forces on alert for any rush on the border.

Under a light rain, thousands of schoolchildren were joined by adults along Salaheddin Road, the main highway traversing the centre of the impoverished coastal strip, an AFP correspondent witnessed.

Slogans such as "The Siege of Gaza Will Only Strengthen Us", "The World Has Condemned Gaza to Death" and "Save Gaza" were among banners brandished by demonstrators, who were gathering peacefully.

Read the entire report here >

Also See: Israeli activists support Gaza rally

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Letter from the Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza to the Israeli peace movement

Dr. Eyad Sarraj writes on the arrival of the Gaza Relief Convoy in Gaza:
This important triumph is an indicator and a clear message to both our nations as well as the whole world, that we, Israelis and Palestinians, are still able not only to work together, but also to make achievements, and that all voices which claim that there are no more partners-in-peace among both sides are simply wrong. Both our nations still have genuine, sincere, and determined peace activists and advocates, and still have plenty of courageous men and women like you, who are ready to take the peace and justice struggle to end this ugly military occupation.

It was of our pride to be the body which delivered your peace and support message to our people in Gaza, and we are ready to continue working and cooperating with all of you to recover both our nations' faith in peace. The last couple of years were so difficult for peace camps on both sides, but we recognize January's march to Erez as a turning point and a new start which we all must embrace to rebuild trust in peace and in peace camps.
Read the entire letter here >

PCHR: Narratives Under Siege #5 - Hassan Sheikh Hijazi Flower Farm

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: "In order to highlight the impact of the siege and closure of the Gaza Strip on the civilian population, PCHR is publishing a series of "Narratives Under Siege" on our website. These short articles are based on personal testimonies and experiences of life in the Gaza Strip, and we hope they will highlight the restrictions, and violations, being imposed on the civilians of Gaza."

Read the latest Narrative Under Siege "Hassan Sheikh Hijazi Flower Farm" here >

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Further Deterioration to Health Conditions in Gaza

From the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: "In the past few days, 3 Palestinian patients from the Gaza Strip, including a woman and an infant, have died due to denial of their access to medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip, which suffers from the lack of appropriate medical equipment and a shortage in medicines. Additionally, many ambulances have stopped operation due to the lack of fuels as [Israel has] sharply decreased the amounts of fuels allowed into the Gaza Strip."

Read the entire report here >

Barak warns Syria the IDF planning Gaza, Hezbollah ops

As reported in Ha'aretz:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned Syria through Turkish mediation that the Israel Defense Forces is planning to escalate its military operations against Hezbollah and Hamas, the London-based daily Al-Hayyat reported on Thursday.

The defense minister reportedly informed Turkey of Israel's intentions to widen its operation in Gaza and asked the Turkish leader to consider sending troops on an international mission to Gaza geared toward ending Qassam rocket fire and protecting the border. This multi-national force will comprise representatives from Qatar, Malaysia and Jordan, according to the report.
Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What America wants from an operation in Gaza

The following article is by Shmuel Rosner writing in Ha'aretz. It describes the U.S. government's interests in, and encouragement of, an Israeli invasion of Gaza. Rosner is the U.S. correspondent for Ha'aretz and has a right-wing political perspective supportive of the Bush administration policy in Israel/Palestine. Rosner writes:
The mysterious Israeli attack in Syria last September and the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Damascus last week may improve Israel's operational image, but will not completely restore the American confidence in its ability to complete a more ambitious campaign: occupying the Gaza Strip, crushing the military power of Hamas and restoring the Strip to the trained Palestinian forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas.

The Americans have a major complaint about Lebanon, but Israel has an even bigger complaint about Gaza: Had Bush not allowed Abbas to hold elections in the Palestinian Authority with the participation of Hamas, the situation in Gaza would have been different. Both sides will be careful not to repeat the errors of the past. If the operation in the Gaza Strip will begin according to plan and not in a sudden response to a bloody incident, it will not happen soon.

The Bush administration is wary of yet another victory by the extremists; it has never had faith in the ability of the international community to prevent such victory. Only the most naive among the senior administration officials still toy with the idea of a multinational force that will take over in the Gaza Strip. The lessons from Lebanon have also been learned on this.

What they really want is the forceful takeover of the territory by a bolstered Palestinian Authority. Senior officers of the American army are going back and forth between Washington, Ramallah and Jerusalem, in an effort to draw a picture of the reality on the ground that is more accurate than the one presented by General Keith Dayton to Congress and the Bush administration, on the eve of the fall of the Strip to Hamas.
Read the entire article here >

Also see:
Laying groundwork for Gaza war

The State of Gaza Strip Border Crossings

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has issued a new report on the Israeli closure of Gaza for the period January 10-31, 2008. PCHR summarizes the report:
The publication of this update coincides with a continuing threat to the lives and well being of 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. This threat stems from the tightening of the siege and closure imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). These increasingly draconian closure measures are directly affecting the ability of the civilian population to secure food and other basic necessities, such as medical care and even fresh water. On January 17, 2008, the Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, announced the closure of all border crossings to the Gaza Strip regarding the movement of individuals and essential goods, including food, medicine, and fuel. As a direct result, the chronic humanitarian crisis further deteriorated. This humanitarian crisis continues in light of shameful international failure to agree a nonbinding UN Security Council statement condemning the policy of collective punishment being imposed on the civilians of the Gaza Strip, and calling for an immediate end to the siege and closure of Gaza.
Read the entire report here >

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

UN humanitarian chief: Gaza conditions "grim and miserable and are not in accordance with the standards of human dignity"

From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
John Holmes, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has said he is shocked by the "grim and miserable" situation in the Gaza Strip, and he called for the opening of crossing points into the enclave and for Palestinian militants to stop rocket fire into Israel.

Wrapping up a five-day trip on 18 February, he said he had come to visit Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to see the situation on the ground and do what he could to increase movement into and out of Gaza.

"The conditions in Gaza are grim and miserable and are not in accordance with the standards of human dignity," Holmes told reporters in Jerusalem. He expressed concern about the quality of nutrition, especially amongst children, noting that 73 percent of the population received food aid, and levels of dependency were rising.
Read the entire article here >

More on Israeli planning for Gaza invasion

From the Jerusalem Post: "Israel is considering a large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip during which it would present an ultimatum to the international community for the deployment of a multinational force as the only condition under which it would withdraw, defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post."

Also See: Laying Groundwork for Gaza war

Delayed supply convoy enters Gaza Strip

From Ma'an News Agency:
After two weeks of delay, aid gathered by a coalition of Israeli groups passed into the Gaza Strip at the Sufa Border Crossing near Kibbutz Kisufim on Monday.

On the Gaza side of the checkpoint it is planned that the convoy will be met by members of the Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege, along with a number of other participating organizations.

MK Uri Avneri accompanied the convoy, reaffirming that the aim of this delivery is to break the siege of the Gaza Strip. Israeli peace activists who participated in collecting that aid described the siege on the Gaza Strip as "immoral and contradictory to international law."

"We appreciate this act of solidarity which represents the beginning of joint struggle between Palestinians and Israelis to secure peace for both sides," said Eyad Sarraj, chief of the international campaign for lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip.
Read the entire article here >

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot

Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot is a new blog "written by 2 friends. One lives in Sajaia refugee camp in Gaza and the other lives in Sderot, a small town near Gaza on the Israeli side . . . The media coverage on both sides has been extremely biased. Our Blog is written by 2 real people living and communicating on both sides of the border."

From the first post (1/20/08): "We decided to start this Blog to bring to people's awareness the true nature of what 2 peace seeking people on both sides of this insane situation are feeling, thinking and going through. We will both try to write here on as often as possible. I hope Peace man [the writer from Gaza] will have electricity to write."

From the 2/13/08 post: "And we the civilians are caught in the middle of this mindless and useless insanity causing us more and more pain, fear and frustration. I call to the people Israeli's and Palestinians alike: Don't be fooled by your leaders to think that only violence will change your life for the better. All it will do is cause pain and lead to disaster. Stop the violence before it is too late!"

Also See:

Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism

Darryl Li in Middle East Report Online:

As Israel has experimented with various models for controlling Gaza over the decades, the fundamental refusal of political equality that undergirds them all has taken on different names, both to justify itself and to provide a logic for moderating its own excesses. During the bantustan period, inequality was called coexistence; during the Oslo period, separation; and during disengagement, it is reframed as avoiding “humanitarian crises,” or survival. These slogans were not outright lies, but they disregarded the unwelcome truth that coexistence is not freedom, separation is not independence and survival is not living.

Disengagement, however, is not merely the latest stage in a historical process; it is also the lowest rung in a territorially segregated hierarchy of subjugation that encompasses Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and within the Green Line. Half of the people between the Mediterranean and the Jordan live under a state that excludes them from the community of political subjects, denies them true equality and thus discriminates against them in varying domains of rights. Israel has impressively managed to keep this half of the population divided against itself -- as well as against foreign workers and non-Ashkenazi Jews -- through careful distribution of differential privileges and punishments and may continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Of course there is always the possibility of occasional, dramatic acts of resistance like the breaching of the border -- which temporarily transformed a desolate stretch of demolished houses into a giant open-air market -- and incremental technocratic changes such as a possible arrangement to reopen the Rafah crossing. But between these two paths, the inexorable governing logic of controlled abandonment seems likely to remain intact.

Read the entire article here >

Update on the Gaza Relief Convoy

From Gush Shalom:
On the morning of Monday, Feb. 18 - after long delays - the relief convoy of two weeks ago will at last be transferred into the Gaza Strip; seven tons of basic food and water filters will arrive at the Sufa Border Crossing; peace activists will accompany the supplies until the checkpoint, holding up placards: "Lift the Gaza blockade!"

Since the supply convoy and protest action held at the Erez Checkpoint on Saturday, Jan. 26, with the participation of about 1,500 activists, the military authorities held up the actual tranfer to Gaza of the goods collected.

These include five tons of basic foodstuffs purchased by the organisers by donations collected from Israel and all over the world as well as water purification filters, needed for public institutions in the Strip where the water is highly polluted. To these were added two tons of personal aid packages, prepared by many Israeli families as a a goodwill gesture to the inhabitants of Gaza.

Read more about the relief convoy here >

Friday, February 15, 2008

Laying groundwork for Gaza war

From Ynet news:
Olmert, Livni and Barak know that Israel’s public relations apparatus is currently facing a problem. The Western world, which maintained its support for Israel’s right to act against the rocket terror from Gaza employed by Hamas and its associates, is inclined to criticize the Jewish State over the Gaza siege and economic sanctions.

In closed-door sessions, Olmert’s people make it clear that should Israel decide on a wide-scale operation, it would need international room for maneuver. It needs support that would be similar to what Israel enjoyed in the last war in Lebanon. This will enable Israel to complete an effective military operation and also, if necessary, would facilitate the involvement of a UN-mandated multinational force in order to prevent the emergence of a new Gaza vacuum.

Berlin, which is undecided on the prospects of a major Israeli operation, was a good place to start. Now, officials at the Prime Minister’s Office are expecting the grand campaign to start.

Berlin came first, as a harbinger of what the political leadership in Jerusalem wishes to achieve internationally, ahead of the hot summer in Gaza.
Read the entire article here >

Also See:

UN official says situation in Gaza Strip 'grim and miserable'

Associated Press: "The UN's top official for welfare and humanitarian affairs said Friday that life in Gaza was 'grim and miserable' as a result of prolonged closure of the strip's borders and called for the lifting of blockades imposed after the militant Hamas movement seized control of the territory last summer."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Al-Quds: Ceasefire document between Hamas and Israel


On February 14, the pro-presidency daily Al-Quds carried the following report by Jihad al-Qawasmi: “Al-Quds has learned that Israel is studying a document that is the first of its kind and includes a ceasefire initiative in Gaza between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This initiative calls for lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip in return for ceasing fire and rockets against Israel. The designer of the initiative, journalist and lecturer in Al-Khalil University, who is known for his good relations with Fatah and Hamas, Khalid Al-Amayra said: “The initiative is still under consideration by concerned sides and the ball is in the court of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert since Hamas’ leaders in the Gaza Strip and abroad approved it.”

“Al-Amayra added that he launched the initiative in his capacity as an Islamic independent figure who is not a member of any party and after he received support from Rabin Menachem Froman, who affirmed to him that... some previous independent Israeli politicians, among them former Minister of the Israeli Army Amir Perez and other journalists and writers, support the initiative. Al-Amayra affirmed that many senior leaders in the Islamic Movement Hamas abroad and the ousted governments in Gaza approved this document without reservations.

“Al-Amayra said: “One of the most prominent Israeli commitments in the initiative is instantly canceling all sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip and ceasing all aggressive activities, especially the assassinations and ambushes. The Palestinian commitments are that the Palestinian authorities in the Gaza Strip should put an end for all attacks against Israel, impose a ceasefire and take responsibility for any violations of this agreement in the Gaza Strip.”

"Al-Amayra pointed out that this initiative represents a challenge for the Israeli government, which uses the launch of Al-Qassam rockets as a pretext for attacking the Strip."

Also See - Reuters: Hamas tells Egypt its ready to discuss truce with Israel

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amira Hass: Gazans wonder what's new about Israel wiping out neighborhoods

Amira Hass in Ha'aretz:
Abu Aouni likes to sit outside his door, in the Shabura refugee camp in Rafah, in the neighborhood called Bureir, named after his village that was destroyed and on whose lands Kibbutz Bror Hayil now stands. Tall, with a voice that is hoarse from cigarettes (despite his bad heart) and the hands of a farmer, his memories crumbling the lost clods of earth. He, too, has stopped counting the number of houses that the Israeli army has obliterated in Rafah since 1967, even though his son, a field investigator for a human rights organization, carefully counts each such house and neighborhood since 2000.

Obliterating neighborhoods, what's new about that, people in Rafah ask.
Read the entire article here >

Also See -
Israeli Interior Minister: Eradicate all towns in Gaza from where rockets are fired

Israel seeks international backing for Gaza campaign

Reuters: "Israel took nearly 70 foreign ambassadors to its border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday as part of a diplomatic campaign to enlist international support for tougher action against [Gaza]."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

PCHR: Narratives Under Siege #4 - Ard El Insan Child Nutrition Center

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: "In order to highlight the impact of the siege and closure of the Gaza Strip on the civilian population, PCHR is publishing a series of "Narratives Under Siege" on our website. These short articles are based on personal testimonies and experiences of life in the Gaza Strip, and we hope they will highlight the restrictions, and violations, being imposed on the civilians of Gaza."

Narratives Under Siege #4 - Ard El Insan Child Nutrition Center:
"One of the major problems in the Gaza Strip" he says, "is that we do not have sufficient natural food resources. We cannot grow the variety of fruit and vegetables that we need in order to provide ourselves, and our children, a well balanced diet. We are dependent on food imports, but the food table in the Gaza Strip is now severely deficient because of the siege and closure." Dr Al-Wahaidi acknowledges that Gaza has become donor dependent. "We have tens of thousands of families who now have no options or alternatives to humanitarian assistance" he says. "But if this siege is maintained, then current child malnutrition interventions and preventions will not be sufficient. We will not be able to cope."
Read PCHR: Narratives Under Siege #4 - Ard El Insan Child Nutrition Center here >

Monday, February 11, 2008

Ha'aretz: The Gaza Strip blockade could seriously harm Israel's economy

Meron Rapoport in Ha'aretz: "If the blockade becomes permanent policy, Israel will lose a large part of its "captive market" - a stock phrase which in this case literally describes Gaza."

Read the entire article here >

English Translation: Israeli High Court Decision Authorizing Fuel and Electricity Cuts to Gaza

Gisha has posted an English translation of the Israeli Supreme Court's decision upholding the Israeli policy of cutting off fuel and electricity to Gaza. The decision was made on January 30, 2008.

In introducing the document, Sari Basha, Gisha's Executive Director says:
The content of the decision leaves me no choice but to use harsh words: this court decision sets a dangerous precedent authorizing collective punishment and deliberate deprivation of basic humanitarian services for Palestinian residents of Gaza – who need fuel and electricity to run hospitals, pump water and sewage, heat and light their homes, and lead normal lives. The court decision offers little in the way of legal reasoning to support its conclusions, and we find its factual inquiry to be flawed.
Read the translated decision here >

Also See:
Israel's Supreme Court authorizes punitive measures against the population of Gaza

Photostory: Solidarity with Gaza

From Electronic Intifada: "As Israel tightened its siege on the Gaza Strip, Palestinians and solidarity activists demonstrated their support for the people of Gaza. The above images were sent to The Electronic Intifada from around the world and document various actions, demonstrations and vigils in solidarity with Gazans under siege."

Watch the slideshow here >

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Israeli Interior Minister: Eradicate all towns in Gaza from where rockets are fired

The above quote is credited to Meir Sheetrit on Israeli Army Radio and is running on the Ha'aretz news ticker. The New York Times uses a different version of the quote: “the army ought to 'make an example, to take a neighborhood in Gaza and erase it.'”

Another article about this quote from
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit suggested obliterating a Gaza neighborhood in response to Saturday's Qassam fire on Sderot, saying "any other country would have already gone in and level the area, which is exactly what I thing the IDF should do – decide on a neighborhood in Gaza and level it."

Israel, he added should provide residents with due warning: "We should let them know 'you have to leave, this area will be taken down tomorrow' and just take it down – that will show them we mean business. Sporadic actions are good," added Sheetrit, "but they're not good enough."
More >

(Thanks to Mark Elf at Jews sans frontieres for pointing this quote out.)

Update on the Gaza Relief Convoy

From Gush Shalom: "The military bureaucracy continues to hold up the basic food and water filters carried in the Gaza Relief Convoy - though already a week ago they supposedly gave a permit for the goods to go through."

Also see:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Latest from the U.N.: Electricity Shortages in the Gaza Strip

Recent stats from the Electricity Shortages in the Gaza Strip: Situation Report
8 February 2008
  • The majority of Gazan households have power cuts of at least eight hours per day. Some have no electricity for long as 12 hours a day.
  • Gaza ‘s power supply comes from three sources. This week it receives 17 megawatts from Egypt, 108 megawatts from Israel and 55 megawatts generated by its own power plant. This amounts to 180 megawatts, or 75 per cent of its estimated demand of 240 megawatts.
  • On Thursday, 7 February, the the Israel Electricity Company reduced its supply to Gaza by around 0.5 megawatts under the instruction of the Ministry of Defense. The cut was less than the 1.5 megawatts proposed but still adds to the existing shortfall of 60 mgw.
  • Power cuts place immense pressure on Gaza’s crumbling electrical grid impacting water and sanitation infrastructure, disrupting healthcare delivery and adding misery to the lives of civilians, as Gazans will continue to bear the brunt of the reduction of power.
Read the entire report here >

Stories from a Siege: A Peace Delegation Reports from the West Bank

From Peacework Magazine: "The AFSC/Interfaith Peacebuilders Delegation members stood on a small hill overlooking the Gaza Strip. This was as close as we could get, as the border is sealed by Israel. In the hazy distance we could see the buildings of Gaza City. Behind us was the Israeli city of Sderot, with a population of about 20,000. It was quiet and beautiful. As our guide, the local director of security, spoke to us about the rockets that come from Gaza and pointed to where they landed, his beeper went off. "That usually means a launch" he said casually. We scanned the sky while he spoke on the phone."

Read the entire report from the 2008 AFSC Olive Harvest Delegation here >

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Black Commentator: Palestine Matters

Bill Fletcher Jr. in The Black Commentator:

When atrocities befall the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli occupiers, much of the Western world remains silent. Particularly in the USA, we await an Israeli explanation for the atrocity, often assuring ourselves that we will be offered a rational and acceptable justification for whatever has taken place. Civilians killed, for instance, when the Israelis choose to assassinate a Palestinian leader, and we are generally told that it is tragic ‘collateral damage.’ The use of cluster bombs in the attack on Lebanon in 2006, and we are treated to stories about the brutality of Hezbollah. The fact is that Israel is the only power in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, and we are entertained with silence. In each case, the response is accepted as understandable, given Israel’s “fight for existence.”

Today the people of Gaza are victims of what both Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists correctly call collective punishment. After the Hamas/Fatah mini-civil war in which Hamas took over Gaza, allegedly because they believed that Fatah was preparing to attack them, the Israelis began a blockade (as well as military incursions) with the full support of the Bush administration. This was followed by rocket attacks on Israeli settlements near Gaza by some Palestinian military units. The Israeli blockade never let up nor did Israeli attacks on Gaza or Palestinian rocket attacks against settlements. Despite Hamas' repeated offers for a truce, the Israeli government has turned a deaf ear, finally locking the people of Gaza into a collective hell.

More >

HRW: Israel’s Energy Cuts Violate Laws of War - Attacks by Palestinian Armed Groups No Excuse for Collective Punishment

From Human Rights Watch:
Israel’s cuts of fuel and electricity to Gaza, set to escalate today, amount to collective punishment of the civilian population, and violate Israel’s obligations under the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Israel views restricting fuel and electricity to Gaza as a way to pressure Palestinian armed groups to stop their rocket and suicide attacks,” said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “But the cuts are seriously affecting civilians who have nothing to do with these armed groups, and that violates a fundamental principle of the laws of war.”
Read the entire statement here >

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Israel begins reducing power supply to Gaza

From Ha'aretz:
Israel will begin reducing the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip in the coming days, possibly as soon as Thursday evening, in accordance with a plan authorized by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai.

"We want the Gazans to take care of themselves, and we are operating to minimize the assistance granted to them by Israel," Vilnai said Thursday during a ceremony marking the opening of new bomb shelters in the rocket-ridden southern city of Sderot.

"We must wean Gaza off its dependency on Israel in various areas. The High Court of Justice ruled that we are operating in a proper manner - we are gradually reducing in percentage increments the supply of electricity, and meanwhile, the Gazans are building alternative electricity production infrastructure," the deputy minister added.
More >

Also See - Human Rights Groups: "Israel is Violating the Rights of Civilians in Gaza and Depriving them of Basic Needs – in Violation of International Law."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

PSR: Mass Rafah Border Crossing Consolidates Hamas’s and Ismail Haniyeh’s Standing and Weakens Fateh’s and Mahmud Abbas

From the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research:

These are the results of the latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 23 January and 3 February 2008. This period witnessed the forced opening of the Rafah Crossings by Hamas and the march of hundreds of thousands of Gazans across the border with Egypt.

Findings indicate a clear increase in the popularity of Hamas compared to that of Fateh. This is the first time since March 2006 in which we witness an increase in Hamas’s popularity. The increase reflects public appreciation, particularly in the Gaza Strip, of Hamas’s role in forcing open the borders of the Gaza Strip with Egypt.
Read the entire survey results here >

Israel to begin work on separation fence along border with Egypt

"Israel will begin promoting a proposal to build a separation barrier that will separate it from Egypt, the cabinet decided Wednesday during a meeting attended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the heads of the defense establishment."

More >

Gideon Levy: The lights have been turned off

Levy in Ha'aretz:
A panel of justices headed by Court President Dorit Beinisch ruled that Israel is authorized to limit the supply of electricity, gasoline and diesel to the Gaza Strip, "since even these diminished quantities sufficiently meet humanitarian needs."

It is difficult to tell what "humanitarian needs" are according to Beinisch, but in the Gaza Strip a million and a half people are crying out for fuel, water and electricity. It is fair to ask the court president: Has she ever been exposed to the scenes of wretchedness in the Gaza Strip? Did she ever see the miserable people there carrying fuel jerry cans from Egypt? Has she considered the cold, which cannot be countered without electricity or fuel? Has she given any serious thought to what happens to children, the infirm and the elderly without these necessities? They are all innocents.

But the severity of the Supreme Court's decision is not only on the human level: The Supreme Court is authorizing collective punishment, which is specifically forbidden under international law (Article 33 of the Geneva Convention). Henceforth, Israel will no longer be able to complain about attacks against innocents in Israel: If all the residents of the Gaza Strip deserve to be punished because of the Qassam rockets, then maybe all Israelis deserve to be punished because of the occupation?
More >

Latest from the U.N.

Recent stats from the January 29, 2008 Gaza Closure - Situation Report:
  • Access to Egypt and its shops may have provided some psychological respite from the closure of the Gaza Strip but 1.5 million Gazans still rely on Israel for all their supplies
  • Since January 18, a total of 32 truckloads of goods have entered the Gaza Strip from Israel. Prior to June 2007, 250 truckloads a day entered Gaza
  • The World Food Programme is unable to give a full ration of food to 84,000 of their poorest beneficiaries because of the closure
  • Israel is allowing a restricted amount of fuel to enter Gaza but only enough to ensure 75 per cent of Gaza’s electricity needs are met which does not allow for the proper function of public services
  • Due to limited reserves of fuel, the Gaza power plant has reduced its power output to 45 megawatts, causing power cuts of up to eight hours per day everywhere in Gaza except Rafah
  • Gaza’s waste water system is only partially functioning, leading to the daily dumping of 40 million litres of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean sea
  • Around 50 per cent of Gazan households have access to running water for only four to six hours
  • Egyptian police in conjunction with Hamas police in Gaza have established a degree of control over the Gaza-Egypt border
Read the full report here >

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

PCHR: Narratives Under Siege #3 - Rafah Fishermen's Syndicate

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: "In order to highlight the impact of the siege and closure of the Gaza Strip on the civilian population, PCHR is publishing a series of "Narratives Under Siege." These short articles are based on personal testimonies and experiences of life in the Gaza Strip, and we hope they will serve to highlight the restrictions, and the violations, being imposed on the civilians of Gaza."

Read Narratives Under Siege #3 - Rafah Fishermen's Syndicate here >

The Strangulation of Gaza

Saree Makdisi in The Nation:

Israel's methodical actions make it clear that it is systematically grinding down and now actually starving people for whose welfare it is legally accountable simply because it regards Gaza's 1.5 million men, women and children as a surplus population it would, quite simply, like to get rid of one way or the other: a sentiment made quite clear when Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi proposed, shortly after the current crisis began, that the entire Palestinian population of Gaza should just be removed and transferred to the Egyptian desert. "They will have a nice country, and we shall have our country and we shall live in peace," he said, without eliciting even a murmur of protest in Israel.

The overwhelming majority of Gazans are refugees or the descendants of refugees who were expelled from their homes when Palestine was destroyed and Israel was created in 1948. Like all Palestinian refugees, those of Gaza have a moral and legal right to return to the homeland from which they were expelled. Israel blocks their return for the same reason it expelled them in the first place, because their presence would undermine its already tenuous claim to Jewishness (this is the nature of the so-called "demographic problem" about which Israeli politicians openly complain). As long as the refugees live, what Israel regards as the mortal threat of their right of return lives on. But if they would somehow just go away...

"Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and--some would say--encouragement of the international community," the commissioner-general of UNRWA warned recently.

The question now is whether the world will simply sit and watch, now that this unprecedented threshold is actually being crossed.

More >

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Oxfam Director: The state of Gaza should shame us all

Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam in the Telegraph:

I was in the Gaza Strip a few weeks ago - it is a place of many absurdities. A refugee camp now for three generations, it should feel like a dump for unwanted humanity: but everywhere you go you are impressed by the resilience of people, their deep desire to get on and lead better lives. The world's largest prison, Gaza is often called - but that understates it. At least in a prison, people know more or less how long they are going to be there. Gaza is the world capital of uncertainty, of lives unfulfilled. So much suffering for so many in such a confined space is literally unbearable.

The statistics are stark: 55 per cent unemployment with 70,000 jobs lost since June; 80 per cent of the population dependent on food aid; one in ten children's growth stunted by hunger. The fact of the blockade, illegal and inhumane as it is, makes me angry enough. But I am more incensed by the abject failure of the governments with influence over actors in the region to find a solution to this impasse.

We - and by this I mean all of us who have influence in the democracies of the rich world - must accept our share of the shame for that failure. While we have invested our hopes in the promise of a renewed peace process, which began at Annapolis, this has allowed us to turn from the realities of the suffering of Gaza, allowed us to take our eyes off the ball. A diplomat the other day assured us that her masters had decided that, "By working out the politics and the peace we'll find the way to tackle the humanitarian issue".

How heartless that is. And how unwise. The sufferings of the abused and displaced have always made solutions more difficult, not easier: the history of the Middle East will tell anyone that. The angry, the disenfranchised and the destitute cannot make good interlocutors at a peace conference - or good neighbours in the future. Bullying a people to the conference table makes for bad peace. What the diplomats at Annapolis have lost sight of is that striving for peace must go hand in hand with addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

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Henry Siegman: Gaza's Future

From the London Review of Books:

Does the situation in Gaza justify the relentless missile and mortar assaults that continue to target Israeli civilians in Sderot? To argue, as Hamas’s leaders do, that these primitive Qassam rockets have resulted in no more than two or three Israeli deaths over the years, while Israeli retaliations cause the daily killing not only of militants but of innocent men, women and children, is not a justification for Hamas’s targeting of Israeli civilians. That Qassam rockets have not fallen on a kindergarten full of children in Sderot is not the result of skilful humanitarian targeting on the part of Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants. It is simply extraordinary luck.

On the other hand, the immorality of Hamas’s assaults on Israeli civilians is not a licence to bring Gaza’s civilian population to a state of near starvation. The insensitivity that prevents Israelis from seeing that their behaviour towards Palestinian civilians – whether in Gaza or in the West Bank – is not very different from the Palestinians’ targeting of Israeli civilians could not have found more unfortunate expression than in Olmert’s assurance that while Israel ‘will provide the population [in Gaza] with everything needed to prevent a crisis, we will not supply luxuries that would make their life more comfortable.’ What UNRWA’s commissioner-general Karen Abu Zayd sees as a people ‘intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution’ is seen by Olmert as a people deprived of ‘luxuries’.

In the face of such criticism, Israelis angrily respond that instead of condemning Israel’s policy towards Gaza, their critics would be better advised to demand that Gaza’s citizens remove their Hamas-led government. The absurdity of such a suggestion aside, one has to wonder how Israelis would respond if they were told by Palestinians that instead of condemning Hamas’s terrorist assaults on Israeli citizens, they should remove their own government for failing to end the occupation.

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