Monday, March 31, 2008

Openness; The Sewage Crisis; Farming

Here are some samplings from various news agencies, blogs, and non-profits:

From Catholic Relief Services:
What struck me were the words of two of the students – a young woman named Amani from Beit Hanoun (where the homemade rockets are launched and the Israeli missiles strike in response), and a young man named Sari. Amani said that the most pressing need in Gaza was openness: the opportunity to have a broad discussion about their society, to challenge ideas and question everything. Sari said that Gaza's youth need to draw from the strength and health of their community, without being corrupted by politics. Right now, they said, it is too hard for young people to engage each other and the society around them to build their lives and act in the world... Read the full post here >
Commentary on the sewage crisis from the editor of
In a place just a few miles from sandy beaches and soaring sky-scrapers, white stone villas and sky-blue swimming pools, it seems the epitome of irony and injustice that over 1.5 million people would be subjected to drinking sewage-contaminated water. When there is such a fine line bordering wealth and poverty, privilege and need, how unsettling to realize that just a stones throw away, mothers and fathers must nourish their families with poison. As if the occupier could not find one more creative way to torment his victim... Read the full post here >
News piece from The Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza's website. It first appeared on Islam Online:
GAZA CITY -- While much of the media focus is justifiably on the lack of electricity, food stuff and medical supplies, Gaza farmers and their dying business continue to be a silent victim of the never-ending Israeli siege... Read the full story here >

Friday, March 28, 2008

Counseling Children After Violence

UNICEF released this video following the recent military actions in Gaza:

The Siege and the Mental Health of Gaza's Youth

Al-Ahram Weekly On-line published this story "Gaza's Suffering Children" about the effects of attacks on Gaza's youth:

Every once in a while Ibrahim Hawash, 42, calls his wife Noha from his nightshift job to make sure that she has followed the treatment course prescribed by their family doctor for the involuntary urination of their four children, who are in primary school. The doctor says that the four children lost their ability to control urination due to the fear they underwent when Israeli army jets bombed a home near theirs in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip during the "Warm Winter" military campaign three weeks ago. The four children still remember the terrifying night when they woke frightened up to the sound of a thundering explosion in the area and found that the glass of their home's windows had fallen onto their bed. Hawash, who works in one of the Palestinian security agencies, says that his children refuse to sleep alone, insisting on sleeping in the same room as their parents because they are scared of the night. He adds that he exerted great efforts to convince two of his children to go back to school, for they were afraid that they would be killed in an Israeli bombing operation on their way there, or while at school. Thousands of Palestinian children have experienced what Hawash's four children are undergoing. Mohamed Kharsa, 10, lives in the Tufah neighbourhood northeast of Gaza City, which has been subject to severe Israeli attacks. He runs away to his family home whenever he hears the roar of Israeli planes in the sky.

"Whenever I hear the sound of a plane I feel it has come to bomb me," he told Al-Ahram Weekly. Aish Samour, director of the Psychiatric Hospital in Gaza, says that 30 per cent of Palestinian children under 10 years of age suffer from involuntary urination due to deep-seated fear, and mentions other nervous problems such as nail- biting, nightmares, bodily pains of unknown cause, crying and introversion.

"A child exposed to this much violence becomes violent in his interactions with his peers and siblings, and his condition lowers his educational level and weakens his ability to concentrate," Samour told the Weekly. He says that Palestinian children who undergo shocking experiences during invasions and Israeli bombings become less obedient to their parents and families.

Read the full story here >

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gazans Face Higher Prices, Fewer Jobs

At the end of 2007 the international community acknowledged that addressing economic despair in Palestinian territories would be critical for creating a lasting peace. After the Annapolis Conference--from which Gaza was excluded--Europe and the US pledged billions of dollars for economic assistance to the West Bank based Palestinian Authority. But instead of supporting economic development where clashes have increased, Israel has continued its blockade pushing up prices by increasing scarcity and compounding the area's economic distress.

The AP reported that Gaza's bakeries went on strike this week to protest terrible business conditions in the territory. Rising prices of flour and fuel exacerbated by the Israeli blockade paired with price ceilings imposed by the Hamas led government make it impossible for their businesses to operate.

Most Gazans, however, do not purchase their bread from bakeries. Instead they make it themselves. So while unemployment is increasing because of the poor economic conditions (OXFAM report), most Gazans are facing higher prices on everyday essentials--a kind of catch-22 for the region's 1.5 million residents.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Israel Blocks Medical Care for Gazans

Time Magazine published a story on the medical crisis unfolding in Gaza:

For the Palestinians, Erez is a chokepoint where only a lucky few can exit from Gaza, usually for medical emergencies. Bassam al-Wahedi, 26, a tall, soft-spoken journalist, was one of them. He had gone blind in one eye because of a retinal illness, and surgery at a Jerusalem hospital was his only hope of regaining sight in that eye. Since Gaza is denied all but basic humanitarian needs under an international boycott of Hamas, many complicated surgeries are no longer done there.

His eye bandaged, al-Wahedi set off through the innards of Erez's security maze. He fumbled along tunnels, steel doors that opened and slammed as he passed along, entered a strange cylinder that fired a whoosh of air at him before he finally reached a large hall with an Israeli soldier sitting inside a bulletproof glass booth. Al-Wahedi showed his permit, explaining that he was due in surgery at 3:30 pm that afternoon.

Next, says al Wahedi, three plainclothed Israelis with pistols and walkie-talkies led him past cages with growling dogs to a room where he was strip searched and interrogated by a man who identified himself as a captain in Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency. Al-Wahedi claims that his interrogator told him in fluent Arabic: "We want you to work for us." When al-Wahedi protested, saying he had nothing to do with the militants, the Shin Bet officer allegedly replied: "We issue the [medical] permits and we can cancel them. If you don't get operated on, you'll lose your sight. What good will you be?"

Read all of Time's article on Israel's barriers to Palestinian health care here >

Gaza Sewage System in Crisis

  • "30,000-50,000 cubic metres of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic metres of raw sewage end up in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea."
  • "10,000-30,000 cubic metres of partially treated sewage end up in the ground, in some cases reaching the aquifer."
  • "Gaza's power woes have exacerbated the situation. When power is limited, pumping sewage away from homes takes priority, leaving little left over for treatment."

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released this story on the state of Gaza's sewage system:

Design errors, a fast growing population, the halting in recent years of development projects, and restrictions on imports have rendered the Gaza Strip's sewage system incapable of handling the enclave's waste, experts said.

The result is the pumping of partially treated or untreated sewage directly into the sea, and the seepage of dirty water into the ground and groundwater.

"The environmental situation in Gaza is bad and getting worse," an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expert on water and sanitation said in an interview with IRIN.

Read the full story here >

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PCHR: Narratives Under Siege #7 - Abu Alkass Mini-Market, Gaza city

From the Palestinian Center for Human Rights:
The Abu-Alkass mini-market has been a popular feature of central Gaza city for more than thirty years. Anwar Abu-Alkass has worked here since he was a teenager, and now manages the mini-market with his brother. "We used to have a lot of fresh goods on sale, but now the majority of our goods are dry products" he explains, as we wander round the mini-market aisles. "Every business has been affected by the closure – we used to sell lots of fresh milk and different kinds of cheese – but now we are forced to depend on two Israeli companies for our dairy imports. Their products are expensive for us, but we have no choice."

During the six months since the siege and closure were tightened, food prices have spiralled across the Gaza Strip, and increasing numbers of families are now facing chronic food insecurity. 73% of the population of the Gaza Strip is now at least partially dependent on humanitarian food aid, making Gaza once of the most aid dependent communities in the world. The World Food Programme (WFP) recently expanded the number of people it is assisting across Gaza by an additional fifty thousand people. It is now providing food assistance to 300,000 civilians in the Gaza Strip. All food donors are facing logistical problems in securing the volume of humanitarian aid rations they need to distribute, also due to the closure.

Anwar Abu-Alkass says local food prices have also been forced up because retailers now have to pay heavier costs to try and secure goods that used to be easily available. "I send a truck to Rafah every day to buy whatever is coming through the border" he says. Though the southern Rafah border with Egypt is now officially closed for business, goods are still being brought across into Gaza, and with the other seven crossings into Gaza effectively sealed, many retailers depend on the trade from Rafah to keep their shops stocked.
Read the entire report here >

Friday, March 21, 2008

Israel practices Gaza takeover

From the JTA:

Israel's armed forces held a war game to simulate a takeover of the Gaza Strip.

Combined units from various Israeli military corps held a four-day drill in the southern desert this week aimed at anticipating the challenges of a large-scale Gaza invasion.

In addition to crushing Hamas, Israeli forces would be called upon in such a situation to stop cross-border rocket fire by Palestinian terrorists while ensuring that humanitarian supplies continue to reach the civilian population.

According to military officials, Israel could assume control over Gaza within a relatively short time, though the operation would mean dozens of soldiers killed and approximately a 10-fold death toll on the Palestinian side.

The military described the war game as a routine drill, and Defense Ministry sources said no sweep of Gaza is believed to be imminent.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Latest from the U.N.: Statistics from the invasion of Gaza, 27 February – 4 March 2008

From the UN OCHA report Protection of Civilians Weekly Report, 27 February – 4 March 2008:

Gaza Strip: IDF Operation “Warm Winter” (27 February – 4 March 2008):
  • 120 Palestinians, including six women and 34 children, were killed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and 269 Palestinians, including 12 women and 63 children, were injured. The operation came following an increase in hostilities between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
  • The Israeli Air Force carried out 82 air strikes.
  • 224 rockets and 49 mortars were fired towards Israel by Palestinian armed groups. As a result, one Israeli man was killed and 14 others (including 1 child) were injured. 78 additional mortars were fired at IDF soldiers inside the Gaza Strip.
  • Twenty-four demonstrations and two sit-ins were organised in various part of the Gaza Strip to protest against the Israeli military operation.
  • 11 structures were demolished and over 55 damaged.
  • Hamas and the Egyptian authorities agreed to allow up to 250 Palestinian patients to cross to Egypt through Rafah crossing to receive medical treatment. 25 patients reportedly crossed on 3 March and 40 on 4 March.
Read the entire report here >

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Middle East Peace Process: the case for jaw-jaw not war-war

Michael Ancram posted on the Conflicts Forum website:

When I opened talks with Sinn Féin/Irish Republican Army (IRA), such was the anger of the Ulster Unionists that they declared me ‘contaminated’ and withdrew from talks with me. Yet as a direct result of those initial communications in the early 1990s we now have the makings of a peaceful and prosperous future for that historically troubled province. In Churchill’s terms, after thirty years jaw-jaw has proved better than war-war.

Let me be clear: I do not like terrorists and I despise their activities. However, while you do not have to like your enemy, it helps to respect him and dialogue is part of that respect. The Northern Ireland experience holds some lessons for the Middle East, particularly as the process we developed in pursuit of peace had largely to be constructed as I went along. No conflict is the same as another, but there are similarities from which it is instructive to learn.

The lessons from Northern Ireland are relatively simple. Dialogue can be entered into even during conflict. Exploratory dialogue can overcome the need for preconditions and can grindingly begin to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable, to seek out the eventual compromises upon which any long-term settlement must inevitably be built. Furthermore:

    * Conflict and insurgency can be contained by military action, but it cannot be defeated by it;
    * Negotiation towards a settlement of conflict nearly always needs to be preceded by informal dialogue;
    * Exploratory, non-committal dialogue can often make more progress than seeking commitments;
    * Undeliverable preconditions or deadlines are an end rather than beginning to dialogue;
    * Exploratory dialogue should be as multilateral as possible to seek out potential areas of common ground;
    * Low profile dialogue is more likely to succeed than that carried on in the spotlight of international publicity;
    * It is a better use of your time to talk to your enemies than your friends.
Read the entire article here >

Mideast Players Differ On Approach to Hamas

From the Washington Post:

During a trip to the Middle East this month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice served as an informal go-between for Hamas and its sworn enemy, the government of Israel, helping to arrange a tentative truce, according to U.S., Israeli and Arab officials. served as an informal go-between for

The United States has long considered Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that seized the Gaza Strip last year, to be a terrorist group, and the Bush administration remains firmly opposed to direct talks until Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel. President Bush has decried Hamas's "devotion to terrorism and murder" and said there cannot be peace until the group is dismantled.

Throughout her trip, Rice never publicly uttered the term "cease-fire." But at the request of Egypt, Rice privately asked Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to issue a public statement that Israel would halt attacks if Hamas stopped firing crude rockets at Israeli towns and cities. One day later, Egyptian officials could point to the statement in talks with Hamas, and the daily barrage suddenly stopped.

Rice's actions underscore the nuanced series of signals that are typical of Middle East diplomacy, but they also highlight the central role today of Hamas, formally called the Islamic Resistance Movement, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now some experts -- and even Israelis -- are questioning whether the isolation of Hamas continues to make sense.

Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Abdul Karim Al Haw, a 14 year old participant in AFSC's Gaza program, killed in 2/29 Israeli invasion

From the AFSC website:

AFSC expresses its profound sadness that Abdul Karim Al Haw, a 14 year old participant in our Gaza Quaker Palestine Youth Program (QPYP), was killed on Friday, February 29 during an Israeli military invasion of the area. Six other children were killed in the same incident.

Abdul Karim lived in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip. Amal Sabawi, director of the Gaza QPYP program, said "People I have talked to remember Abdul Karim as very friendly and a very good student. He would always motivate his peers to get more information about their lives and to understand how they could get involved to improve their conditions. He wanted to be a teacher and wanted to teach children about their society and their similarities and differences with other people. Finally, he was a loving brother who always took care of his younger siblings.

“We in Gaza are overwhelmed with the painful suffering of young people and children without any protection, and who have been deprived of their right to life. We wish to end this injustice, and for our young people and our children to live in dignity, freedom, and justice. We trust in the young people involved in the QPYP program to carry a message of love of life and determination to continue dreaming of peace and justice."

AFSC mourns with Abdul Karim's family. We continue to work for a future free of violence, where all peoples right to life, safety and dignity are honored.

Read more about the Gaza Quaker Palestine Youth Program here >

Shifting Attitudes towards Hamas

Ali Abunimah writing for the Palestine Center:
Since Hamas won the legislative elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in January 2006, the United States has attempted to isolate the Islamist resistance movement in Gaza while propping up the leadership of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his defeated Fatah faction in Ramallah in the hope of reversing the election result and restoring Fatah to power. This fit the U.S. strategy of fostering so-called “moderate” regimes in the region, allied with the United States and dependent on it to a greater or less extent, and confronting indigenous forces such as Hamas in Palestine and Hizballah in Lebanon, which the United States portrays as being mere extensions of regional rival Iran.

This strategy has backfired. In Palestine, Hamas withstood an extraordinary military, economic and political campaign waged against it by Israel with the encouragement of the United States. After its breach of the border wall with Egypt, allowing hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians to break the blockade on Gaza, Hamas is arguably more popular than ever. U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations between Israel and Abbas’ U.S.-recognized Palestinian Authority have gone nowhere. There is a growing realization that the approach to Hamas must change. This brief assesses movement towards engagement with the group among various key actors.

Read the entire brief here >

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Israel reportedly 'agrees to 30 days of quiet' with Hamas

From the Jerusalem Post:

Israel is demanding that a formal calm with Hamas be preceded by a 30-day "feeling the pulse" period, the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi reported Tuesday.

According to the newspaper, the demand was presented to Egyptian officials by Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau.

The report quoted a "senior Palestinian source" as saying that if the 30-day period proves successful, Israel will assent to the Egyptian calm initiative, including the cessation of ground and air attacks in the Gaza Strip and refraining from retaliating for the terror attack at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva last week.

Another London-based pan-Arab daily, Al Hayat, quoted an Egyptian source as saying that the specific Israeli conditions for the 30-days test period included a complete halt of rocket attacks against Israel and on construction of smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border.

According to the source, Gilad emphasized that Israel agreed to the calm on the condition that it would not be used by Palestinians for rearmament.

Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Aiman Taha, told Al-Hayyat that the organizations still maintains that the calm should be mutual, simultaneous and all-inclusive. He said that Hamas's conditions included extending the calm to the West Bank, opening the border passes and ceasing assassination of Palestinian targets.

Also See: IPS - An Uneasy Calm Descends

Monday, March 10, 2008

Gaza toll from lack of medical care reaches 107

From the International Middle East Media Center:
Medical sources in Gaza on Sunday night reported that another Palestinian patient joined those who have died waiting for medical treatment, barred from leaving the Strip to receive treatment by the Israeli authorities.

The death of Fatima al-Maqadima, an elderly woman from al Buriej refugee camp, raised the death toll to 107. She had been suffering from cancer and had been prevented from leaving the Strip to receive necessary medical treatment.

A long list of critically sick Gazans are threatened with death, as they are can receive no medical treatments, there is no available medicine and a tight Israeli closure. The border crossings of the Gaza Strip were closed several months ago, and they are remain closed.

According to medical sources, among the 107 deceased Palestinians were children, who are also barred from leaving the Strip to receive medical treatment.
Read the article here >

Israel suspends Gaza air strikes

From the Guardian:

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has called a halt to air strikes and raids into the Gaza Strip in response to a drop in rocket fire from the territory, his officials said today.

Israeli defence officials and Hamas, which controls Gaza, said there was no formal agreement in place, but an informal truce appeared to be in effect.

Officials in the Israeli prime minister's office said Olmert had ordered the army to scale back its operations to allow Egypt to proceed with mediation talks.

With US backing, Egypt has been trying to mediate a truce between Israel and Hamas. Officials from the warring sides have travelled to Egypt in recent days to discuss the matter.

Read the entire article here >

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Life inside the siege of Gaza

Louise Waugh writing in the Scotland Sunday Herald:

Despite everything, the atmosphere in Gaza is stoic. The people I've spoken to feel the outside world doesn't care what happens to them. They ask me why the EU hates Palestinians so much it allows this siege to continue. Many told me they fear for their children's future: some fear for their own sanity.

When I started writing this I was sitting in my living room, listening to music as I typed. Half an hour ago there was a power cut, and the generator hasn't kicked in yet, so I'm peering at the keyboard by candlelight. The lights outside resemble those of a village, not a big city. Gaza is being dragged to its knees in the face of shameful silence from the international community, including the EU. I have no doubt that before I leave Gaza in a few weeks, there will be more power cuts, more pointless civilian deaths, and more deafening international silence.

Read the entire article here >

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Jewish Voice for Peace Condemns Escalation of Violence in Middle East - Calls for US to Support Joint Ceasefire, End its Support of Occupation

From Jewish Voice for Peace:
Jewish Voice for Peace believes the loss of just one person is one life too many. There is no difference in the immeasurable heartache felt by the parents of dozens of children killed in Gaza last week, or the parents of the 8 students killed yesterday in Jerusalem. All killings must stop.

As long as there is occupation and the brutality and violence it entails, we will mourn Israeli and Palestinian lives. In this context, media coverage that portrays violence as part of a short-term cycle of attack and retaliation obscures the facts, including the role the US has played, through covert action, in fomenting civil war in Gaza, as recently revealed by a groundbreaking report in Vanity Fair. As long as the United States continues to support Israel's decades-long practice of illegally appropriating land, destroying homes, and using disproportionate force--a policy which has proven to be both morally bankrupt and self-destructive for Israel--neither Palestinians nor Israelis will ever know peace.
Read the entire statement here >

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Proof Is in the Paper Trail

From Vanity Fair:

While reporting “The Gaza Bombshell,” David Rose acquired an extraordinary trove of documents showing how the U.S. pressured its Palestinian allies to take on Hamas—a strategy that proved disastrous when Hamas staged what appears to have been a pre-emptive coup in Gaza last June. Here are some of the key records he discovered.
  1. These “talking points” were left behind in Ramallah by a State Department envoy. Palestinian and American officials say they formed the basis for State Department official Jake Walles’s discussions with Palestinian president and Fatah party leader Mahmoud Abbas in late October or early November 2006. According to the memo, Walles urged Abbas to dissolve the Hamas-led government if Hamas refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist, promising that the U.S. and its Arab allies would strengthen Fatah’s military forces to deal with the likely backlash from Hamas.
  2. “Plan B” refers to a State Department strategy that was devised after Abbas made a deal in January 2007 to form a unity government with Fatah and Hamas—much to America’s dismay. This early, two-page draft, which has been authenticated by senior State Department officials who knew of its content at the time and by Palestinians who saw it in Abbas’s office, outlines possible scenarios for Abbas to expel Hamas from power and to boost his security forces to deal with the inevitable violent fallout.
  3. Plan B evolved into this “action plan for the Palestinian Presidency”—a blueprint for a full-blown coup against Abbas’s own unity government. This was one of several drafts presented by a joint American-Jordanian team. Officials who were knowledgeable at the time say it originated with the State Department. Its security appendix reveals details of the secret talks between Palestinian strongman Muhammad Dahlan and Lieutenant General Keith Dayton.
  4. The final draft of the action plan adopted large sections of the previous documents wholesale, but presented the plan as if it had been conceived from the beginning by Abbas and his staff. This draft has also been authenticated by officials knowledgeable at the time. Note especially the third section, on security.
More about The Gaza Bombshell here >

A defeated policy, not a defeated people

Ali Abunimah from Electronic Intifada:
Compared with the international silence that surrounded Israel's recent massacres of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Gaza Strip, condemnation and condolences for the victims of the shooting attack that killed eight students at the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem has been swift.

The day before the Jerusalem attack, Amira Abu 'Aser was buried in Gaza. She had lived just 20 days on this earth before being shot in the head by Israeli occupation forces who attacked the house of friends she and her family were visiting. Needless to say, she had not been firing rockets at Sderot when she was killed. One of the house's inhabitants was found the next day, shot dead and his head crushed by an army jeep, an apparent victim of an extrajudicial murder by Israeli forces.

But confirming their status in the eyes of the "international community" as less than complete human beings, neither Amira's killing, nor any of the dozens of Palestinian civilian victims of Israel's onslaught in Gaza have merited condemnation or condolences.

The fallacy that lies behind the differential concern for the lives of innocent Israelis and Palestinians is that the massacre in Jerusalem and the massacres in Gaza can be separated. Israeli deaths are "terrorism," while Palestinian deaths are merely an unfortunate consequence of the fight against "terrorism." But the two are intricately linked, and what happened in Jerusalem is a direct consequence of what Israel has been doing to the Palestinians for decades.
Read the entire article here >

Israel on high alert after yeshiva attack

From Al Jazeera:
A security lockdown has been placed across Jerusalem as crowds of mourners gathered for the funerals of eight students killed by an armed Palestinian man.

The gunman, identified as an East Jerusalem resident, was shot dead after opening fire with an automatic weapon at students in the library of the Merkaz Harav Jewish religious school.

There has been no credible claim of responsibility and the motive for Thursday's attack remains unclear.

In Gaza, where recent Isaeli military operations have left more than 120 Palestinians dead, Hamas praised the "heroic operation" while thousands of people poured onto the streets to celebrate.

While not claiming responsibility for the attack, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said "this heroic attack in Jerusalem is a normal response to the crimes of the occupier and its murder of civilians".

Taher al-Nunu, another spokesman, blamed the attack on Olmert and Ehud Barak, the defence minister.

"We have warned before about the responsibility of the escalation in Gaza and warned of Palestinian anger," he said.

The attacked seminary, located in the Kyriat Moshe neighbourhood, is a well-known centre for Jewish studies linked to those leading the Jewish settler movement in the occupied West Bank.

Read the entire article here >

Why is Israel so adamantly opposed to talking to Hamas?

From Patrick Seale in his article Atrocity in Gaza:

The answers are numerous.
  • First of all, talking to Hamas would confer recognition on the Islamic resistance movement, whereas Israel has moved heaven and earth to get the United States and even the divided and timorous EU to declare Hamas a "terrorist organization."
  • Secondly, if Israel were to accept a ceasefire, this would amount to creating a situation of mutual deterrence with Hamas, which Israel adamantly refuses. It wants its enemies to surrender, while it retains the freedom to kill at will. "We will be the ones who create the equations, and not Hamas," Olmert declares.
  • Thirdly, Israel knows that, looking beyond the ceasefire, Hamas would insist on far stiffer peace terms than those of the very weak Palestinian Authority and its hapless president, Mahmud Abbas. Abbas has renounced all forms of resistance. He has embraced George W. Bush's hollow Annapolis 'peace process' and has put himself entirely in Israel's hands. But he has failed to persuade Olmert to dismantle a single illegal outpost, or a single West Bank checkpoint, let alone halt the steadily expanding settlements in Arab East Jerusalem and in the large Israeli blocks, intended to sever the city from its Arab hinterland.
  • Fourthly, the Sephardic movement Shas has already put Olmert on notice that it will quit the coalition and bring down his government if he so much as discusses with the Palestinians core issues such as Jerusalem, borders and refugees. In Israel's present climate of hysteria, Olmert would probably not survive any sort of deal with Hamas.
  • Finally, even though bashing Gaza alarms the world and risks triggering suicide bombings and other revenge attacks -- and even the possibility of a third intifada -- aborting the peace process suits Israel well enough.
Far from considering any withdrawal to the 1967 borders -- which is the main Arab condition for peace -- Israel seems determined on the contrary to consolidate its control over the whole of historic Palestine, by means of increased settlement activity, military closed zones and the sheer coercion of a captive population.

The question is whether such a cruel policy is sustainable in the long term. How much better would it be for Israel to have a peaceful and prosperous Palestine on its borders, serving as its key to peace with the entire Arab world?

Read the entire article here >

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Secretary Rice responds to the Vanity Fair article

From Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice's March 4, 2008 press conference in Cairo, Egypt:

QUESTION: And for Madame Secretary, Vanity Fair just published a really long article based on U.S. documents, saying that the U.S. Government pressed Mahmoud Abbas to confront Hamas in an arms struggle which the article says led actually to the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Was this indeed the policy of the Bush Administration at the time? And if so, do you think it backfired?

SECRETARY RICE: Now, as to a Vanity Fair article that I have not read, I’m not going to comment on the article. I will say the following: The United States has been very clear about its desire to help in an international effort to improve the security capabilities of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority is headed by Mahmoud Abbas; and when Mahmoud Abbas has had security chiefs with whom he -- in whom he’s vested authority, the United States has dealt with those security chiefs. Now, the Hamas -- the idea that somehow Hamas has used as an excuse American and international assistance -- because it is not only American assistance -- to the Palestinian Authority to do what Hamas has always done, which is to sow chaos, I think is, on the face of it, fairly ludicrous.

But let me just go back to the point about what the United States is doing. It is very clear that Hamas is being armed and it’s very clear that they’re being armed, in part, by the Iranians. So if the answer is that Hamas gets armed by the Iranians and nobody helps to improve the security capabilities of the legitimate Palestinian Authority security forces, that’s not a very good situation. And I expect therefore that you’re going to continue to see support for the international community, the United States among them, working with the regional states and working with the Palestinians to establish a professional and capable Palestinian security force that can be part of the solution, that can defend a new Palestinian state, that can defend against terrorism, but most importantly that can defend its own people. Because the kind of lawlessness that Palestinians have had to endure in their own homes, in their own streets, in their own neighborhoods, is a concern to the United States, which is why we have been supporting the efforts of Salam Fayyad, for instance, to improve the security situation in Nablus by the deployment of Palestinian security forces there. So that’s what we’re doing, and I can’t comment on an article that I have not read.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

Also See - Vanity Fair: The Gaza Bombshell

Israeli TV: After meeting Condi, Israeli officials start planning for a forced mass evacuation of Palestinians from northern Gaza

From the blog Missing Links:

Some reports in English have noted that the Israeli Security Cabinet yesterday decided against any more attempted "partial stoppages" of the rocket attacks, in favor of a "complete stoppage", but they don't explain what that means. Al-Quds Al-Arabi this morning has this:

A journalist monitoring Israeli television from Nazareth in the West Bank reports:
Channel Two of Israeli Television disclosed yesterday, Wednesday, that the Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has gotten the green light from the Security and Political Council of Ministers, which met yesterday to decide how to end the problem of the Qassam rockets, to initiate implementation of the new plan aimed an ending the problem of the Palestinian Qassam rockets aimed at southern Israel.

The televised report cited high-level security sources as saying Barak intends to plan for the removal of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the northern Gaza Strip, namely from the region that the resistance uses for the launch of these rockets, and to move them toward Gaza City and to confine them there. The Israeli reporter added that Barak is turning to legal advisers in the Defence Ministry, in order to obtain legal authorization for the removal of the Palestinian civilians. Barak is also asking Professor David Friedmann, minister of Israeli Affairs [Justice Minister], who supports toughening of penalties on Gaza to end the launching of rockets, in order to obtain his authorization to begin execution of the plan.

The reporter said that once [or if] the plan becomes operational, it would start immediately: In the first stage there would be a drop of leaflets advising residents to leave their homes, in addition to special radio announcements in Arabic directed to the residents, and in the event residents didn't obey the warnings, the occupation army would begin bombing the inhabited areas, in order to compel them to leave their homes and go to Gaza City.

The Council [of Ministers], which met yesterday after the departure of the American Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, stressed that they did not agree with previous army planning for [only] a partial end to the Qassam rockets. And the Council decided to target the leaders of Hamas, political and military alike, and to destroy every symbol of Hamas authority in the Gaza Strip.
Also See:

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Key Gaza statistics from the report "The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion"

Published on the Oxfam GB website:


  • 80% of families in Gaza currently rely on food aid compared to 63% in 2006. This amounts to approximately 1.1 million people (OCHA, 2007).
  • In 2007, households were spending approximately 62% of their total income on food compared with 37% in 2004 (WFP, 2007).
  • During the period of May-June 2007 alone, commodity prices for wheat flour, baby milk, and rice rose 34%, 30% and 20.5% respectively (WFP, 2007).
  • During the period June-September 2007, the number of households in Gaza earning less than $1.2 per person per day soared from 55% to 70% (WFP, 2007).

Economic collapse

  • In September 2000, some 24 000 Palestinians crossed out of Gaza everyday to work in Israel (World Bank, 2006). Today that figure is zero.
  • Unemployment in Gaza is close to 40 percent in Gaza and is set to rise to 50 percent (OCHA, 2007).
  • In the months before the blockade began around 250 trucks a day entered Gaza through Sufa with supplies, now it is only able to accommodate a maximum of 45 trucks a day. In most cases, this number is barely reached.
  • 95% of Gaza's industrial operations are suspended due to the ban on imported raw materials and the block on exports (World Bank, 2007).

Basic services

  • 40-50 million litres of sewage continues to pour into the sea daily (Oxfam, 2008).
  • As a result of fuel and electricity restrictions, hospitals are currently experiencing power cuts lasting for 8-12 hours a day. There is currently a 60-70 percent shortage reported in the diesel required for hospital power generators.


  • 18.5% of patients seeking emergency treatment in hospitals outside Gaza in 2007 were refused permits to leave (WHO, 2007).
  • The proportion of patients given permits to exit Gaza for medical care decreased from 89.3% in January 2007 to 64.3% in December 2007, an unprecedented low (WHO, 2007).
  • During the period October-December 2007, WHO has confirmed the deaths of 20 patients, including 5 children (among people awaiting visas) (WHO, 2007).
Download the full report here >

New Report - Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion

From the BBC:
Gaza's humanitarian situation is the worst since 1967 when Israel occupied it, says a coalition of UK-based human rights and development groups.

They include Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International and Christian Aid.

They criticise Israel's blockade on Gaza as illegal collective punishment which fails to deliver security.

The groups' report, Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, says the blockade has dramatically worsened levels of poverty and unemployment, and has led to deterioration in education and health services.

"Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed," said Geoffrey Dennis, of Care International UK.

The UK-based groups agree that Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, urging both sides to cease unlawful attacks on civilians.

But they call upon Israel to comply with its obligations, as the occupying power in Gaza, to ensure its inhabitants have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care, which have been in short supply in the strip.

"Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible," said Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen. "The current situation is man-made and must be reversed."

Other recommendations from the groups include international engagement with the Hamas movement, which rejects Israel's legitimacy and has been shunned by Israel's allies, and the Fatah party of Palestinian West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas.

"Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet [the US and UN, Europe and Russia] engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future," said Daleep Mukarji of Christian Aid.

Read the full article here >

Download the full report "Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion" here>

Also See: Guardian - Sanctions causing Gaza to implode, say rights groups

Condi's Salvage Mission

Tim McGirk in Time Magazine's Middle East Blog:
It seemed like the most craven of climb-downs. If you listen to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s remarks today in Jerusalem, it sounded like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had reversed a statement made less than 24 hours before in which he vowed not to re-start peace talks until the Israelis agreed on a truce with militants in Gaza. According to Rice, Abbas “intended to resume negotiations”.

The view from Ramallah wasn’t so black and white, as usual. Insiders say Rice, in heated talks yesterday with Abbas, threatened to cut off all international aid and support to the Palestinian Authority. Privately, Palestinian advisers say that Abbas was aghast at how Rice had failed to understand the level of outrage in the Arab world, and particularly among Palestinians, over the heavy civilian casualties that resulted in Israel’s fierce air and ground assault last week in Gaza.

As a sop to Rice, and no doubt to avoid any withholding of money to the Palestinian Authority in a fit of pique, Abbas agreed to a “face-saver” for Rice. This way, she wouldn’t have to return to the White House empty-handed. And that face-saver was that the Palestinians would agree to sit in on three-way talks with an American general who is supposed to be assessing –-think of a mid-term Report Card—how well the Israelis and the Palestinians are complying with the conditions laid down in the Bush’s dusty and long-neglected Road Map. It’s hard to imagine that the meeting will yield anything but ugly, mutual recriminations. Beyond that, Abbas will agree to nothing. He has his own ‘face’ to save among Palestinians, not to mention his skin.

WCC: Statement condemning the attacks on civilians in the Gaza strip and in Israel

From the World Council of Churches: "Indiscriminate attacks are causing deep sorrow and outrage among churches and citizens in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in Israel, and around the world. Meanwhile, the path to peace stands open but empty. It is especially incumbent on governments using or allowing the use of overwhelming military power to turn away from violence and oppression and take responsibility for negotiating a justice and lasting peace."

Read the entire statement here >

Bring in Hamas

Henry Siegman in the International Herald Tribune:

To Bush and Rice, not to speak of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his defense minister, Ehud Barak - who tirelessly lecture the Palestinians and the Arab and Muslim worlds on the subject of democracy - the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government was thus the preferred course of action.

Bush and Rice now face a dilemma of their own making. Surely after the latest violence in Gaza they can no longer deny what some critics have said from the outset, that there is no prospect of Abbas engaging Israel in successful negotiations so long as Hamas is denied participation in Palestinian governance. You cannot make peace with half of a country's population and remain at war with the other half.

Furthermore, Olmert's confirmation that Israel's assaults on Gaza had Abbas's blessings have finished Abbas for all practical purposes as an interlocutor in peace talks with Israel, even for West Bank residents, unless he gets the backing of Hamas.

It is therefore time for them to heed the sober advice of the eminent persons group that urged a more nuanced policy toward Hamas. It's time to take advantage of Hamas's offer of a mutual cease-fire that would not only end the killing in Gaza and the West Bank and the rocket fire on Sderot and Ashkelon, but also prevent a potentially calamitous escalation threatened by Barak.

Read the entire article here>

Also see: Vanity Fair - The Gaza Bombshell

"To blame the victims for this killing spree defies both morality and sense"

Seumas Milne in The Guardian:
The attempt by western politicians and media to present this week's carnage in the Gaza Strip as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence - or at best the latest phase of a wearisome conflict between two somehow equivalent sides - has reached Alice-in-Wonderland proportions. Since Israel's deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, issued his chilling warning last week that Palestinians faced a "holocaust" if they continued to fire home-made rockets into Israel, the balance sheet of suffering has become ever clearer. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces in the past week, of whom one in five were children and more than half were civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. During the same period, three Israelis were killed, two of whom were soldiers taking part in the attacks.

What else can Israel do to stop the rockets, its supporters ask. The answer could not be more obvious: end the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and negotiate a just settlement for the Palestinian refugees, ethnically cleansed 60 years ago - who, with their families, make up the majority of Gaza's 1.5 million people. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, accept that as the basis for a permanent settlement or indefinite end of armed conflict. In the meantime, agree a truce, exchange prisoners and lift the blockade. Israelis increasingly seem to get it - but the grim reality appears to be that a lot more blood is going to have to flow before it's accepted in Washington.
Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Latest from the U.N.: Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report - Escalation in Violence

Key observations from Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report - Escalation in Violence (February 27 - March 3):
  • Israeli air strikes on Gaza and rocket attacks on Israeli towns from Palestinian militants in Gaza continued during the reporting period.
  • Between 27 February and 2 March, 107 Palestinians were killed by the IDF and 250 were injured. During the same period two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian were killed and 25 injured, mainly by Qassam rockets and Grad missiles fired by Palestinian militants towards Israel.
  • The IDF operation exacerbated an already deteriorating humanitarian situation emanating from the near total blockade on Gaza since June 2007. Essential services, including water and sanitation, are close to breakdown. Because of the combined lack of electricity, fuel, spare parts and inability to upgrade networks, the Gaza Coastal Municipality Water Utility is forced to continue dumping daily 20 million litres of raw sewage and 40 million litres of partially treated water into the sea.
  • The IDF operation has worsened conditions for an already stretched medical system.
Read the entire report here >

UNRWA food supplies in Gaza running out

From Ynet:
The food supplies distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to the residents of Gaza are due to run out in a few weeks' time, a spokesman for the agency told Ynet on Tuesday.

According to Chris Gunness, the IDF's recent operation has left the Strip's public health system on the brink of collapse. He said that the agency would not be able to complete its construction projects unless Israel allows the transfer of cement into the coastal enclave, adding that UNRWA had already invested more than $93 million in these projects.

The spokesman said the food provided by the agency to Gazans constitutes only two-thirds of the recommended average daily consumption per person.
Read the article here >

Vanity Fair: The Gaza Bombshell

From Vanity Fair: "Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by [Mohammad] Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)"

Read the entire article here >

Read the confidential documents used in writing the article here >

See the following articles from Electronic Intifada for more background:

PCHR: Narratives Under Siege #6 - Abed Rabbo St, East Jabaliya

From the Palestinian Center for Human Rights:

“I heard shooting, then screaming. I rushed upstairs to see what had happened, and they were both on the floor. Jaqueline was already dead, but Iyad was still alive. The neighbours called an ambulance and we ran to the hospital with him, but he died as soon as we arrived.”

East Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip bore the brunt of Israel’s latest military incursion into Gaza. The incursion, which was launched in the early hours of Thursday February 28, lasted four days and nights. In that time Israeli troops killed 108 Palestinians, including 54 unarmed civilians, 26 of whom were children. The Palestinians who live in and around Abed Rabbo Street in east Jabaliya suffered intense air strikes by F16 planes and helicopters, tank shelling, snipers, and having their houses invaded and vandalised by Israeli soldiers, who tied adults up with ropes, or else locked whole families into single rooms in order to use their homes as sniper towers to target local Palestinian fighters. Sixteen year old Jaqueline Abu Shebak and her fourteen year old brother, Iyad both lived on Abed Rabbo Street with their mother and three other young brothers and sisters. The children's uncle, Hatem Hosni Abu shebak, who lives next door, found the bodies of Jaqueline and Iyad in the early hours of Saturday March 1st, when he rushed upstairs after hearing intense shooting and then screaming.

Read the entire report here >

Barak seeks legal okay to move Gazan civilians from homes

From Ha'aretz: "Legal experts in the government say it is difficult to decide whether Israel can move Palestinian civilians from areas in the northern Gaza Strip where rockets are fired against Israel. They say international law is based on precedents, and in Israel's case the matter is in many ways unprecedented. Defense Minister Ehud Barak had requested legal advice from Attorney General Menachem Mazuz and the military advocate general on the possibility of moving Palestinian civilians from the rocket-launching areas."

Read the entire article here >

Monday, March 3, 2008

B'Tselem: "Contrary to Israel's Chief of Staff, at least half of those killed in Gaza did not take part in the fighting"

From the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem:

According to B'Tselem figures, from 27 February to the afternoon of 3 March, 106 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. Contrary to the Chief of Staff’s contention that ninety percent were armed, at least fifty-four of the dead (twenty-five of them minors) did not take part in the hostilities. In addition, at least forty-six minors were wounded.

Given the heavy fighting that only ended this morning, B'Tselem has not been able to conduct a thorough examination of the events. However, initial examination of a few of the many incidents in which civilians were killed raise the grave concern that the Israeli army used excessive and disproportionate force, and failed to distinguish between uninvolved civilians and Palestinians who took part in the fighting. Such attacks may constitute a breach of the laws of war.

Read the entire statement here >

An Urgent call for a One Month cease fire

Last month we told you about the blog Life must go on in Gaza and Sderot which is written by two people - a Palestinian in Gaza and an Israeli in Sderot. On Sunday the authors began a petition drive calling for a one-month cease fire.

The petition reads:

An Urgent call for a One Month cease fire!

- Give us a break -

We, citizens of Gaza, Sderot and people all over the world desperately call you, our leaders and decision makers, to completely cease fire immediately.

Both sides are in a dead lock and One Month will give all parties an opportunity to rethink their policy and to find new paths out of this senseless and hopeless reality.

All we ask for is One Month.

Read and sign the petition here >

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mairead Maguire: Lift the Siege of Gaza

From Mairead Maguire's statement:
I believe it is important now for the real friends of Israel (I consider myself to be a friend of Israel and a friend of Palestine) to break the silence and demand Israel end the Siege of Gaza, end the Palestinian occupation, end house demolitions and settlement building, and enter into genuine dialogue with Hamas in Gaza and elsewhere. The IDF cannot be allowed to continue to collectively punish the people of Gaza and prevent the people receiving humanitarian supplies. Nor can the IDF continue with extrajudicial assassinations and revenge attacks. The International community cannot remain silent whilst the Israeli Government carries out such illegal actions. The British Government has a responsibility to put pressure on the Israeli Government to starts its lst phase of the Road map obligations and move towards a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza and elsewhere.

We can all sympathize with Sderot’s residents, exposed to traumatizing Qassam rockets for the past 7 years and these attacks by Hamas should be stopped, and the captured Israeli solders released to their families. However, siege and collective punishment of one and a half million Palestinian men, women and children denied basic necessities, driven to near starvation, is not the answer. Indeed such actions encourage extremism.
Read the entire statement here >

Also See:

"Organized destruction" in Gaza

The following was sent out this past weekend by a physician currently volunteering in a Gaza emergency room. They have asked that their name not be used out of fear of losing their Israeli visa. The physician reports:
The term here could be ‘chaos’ but the word I could also choose is ‘organized destruction’ from the Israeli side. Over the previous 48 hours 35 killed and around 75 injured. Last night to now in one hospital in Jabbalayeh a further 28 killed including 3 women and 10 under 16 the youngest being one week old. Less than 10% would be classed as ‘fighters’ the majority are civilians with varying injuries. Those with head and chest wounds from blast and shrapnel are, if they survive, among the seriously injured often transferred into Shifa Hospital from the peripheral smaller hospitals. (The total injured at this one hospital being 50 cases in last 24 hours). We are told 44 candles-cum-homemade rockets, incapable of being aimed specifically, into Israel with 10 injured in Israel in the same time.

Underlying all these tragedies is the fact that such sophisticated military destruction is being supported by US and Europe with silence from the rest of the world, there is little condemnation for the state terrorism or continuing collective punishment with the closure.
Read the full report here >

The Gaza Genocide

Laila El-Haddad writing from the U.S. on her blog Raising Yousuf:
We celebrated Yousuf's fourth birthday today. We ate cake. And we counted the bodies. We sang happy birthday. And my mother sobbed. We watched the fighter jets roar voraciously on our television screen, pounding street after street, then heard a train screech outside, and shuddered. Yousuf tore open his presents, and asked my mother to make a paper zanana, a drone, for him with origami; we were torn open from the inside, engulfed by a feeling of impotence and helplessness, fear and anger and grief, despondence and confusion.

"We are dying like chickens" said my husband Yassine last night as we contemplated the media's coverage of the events of the past few days.

Is it only when Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai used the word shoah to describe what will come to Gaza that some media outlets took note. Here was an Israeli government official himself invoking the Holocaust, of his people's most horrific massacre, in reference to the fate of Gaza. But it was not necessarily because Gazans may suffer the same fate that they were perturbed, but rather that this event, this phrase -- genocide or holocaust -- could be used with such seeming levity, that using such a loaded term may somehow lessen the true horror of the original act.

It is as though what has been happening in Gaza -- what continues to happen -- whether by way of the deliberate and sustained siege and blockade, or the mounting civilian death toll, is acceptable, and even encouraged. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has said that genocide "is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip" after much thought and deliberation.
Read the entire article here >

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

IDF pulls troops out of Gaza, Hamas declares 'victory'

From Ha'aretz:
Another Israeli official said Hamas should view the latest operation as a hint of future Israeli action against rocket fire.

"This very limited (Gaza) operation was intended to show Hamas what could happen, what you may call a 'prequel'," he said.

"If they decide they've seen enough and stop the rockets, if they get the message, then we may get into a period of quiet. If they continue to fire the rockets, then there will be more operations like this one or worse," the official said.

Medics and Hamas have said about half of those killed in recent days have been civilians, including women and children, but IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said that of the 100 fatalities, 90 were armed militants.
Read the entire article here >

Sunday, March 2, 2008

More than 100 killed in Gaza since Wednesday

March 2nd news coverage of Gaza from Al Jazeera:

Protests against Gaza violence erupt across the West Bank

From Ha'aretz: "Violent protests erupted in West Bank communities around Jerusalem, as Palestinians in Atarot, Har Adar and Qalandia began throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at IDF troops in the region. Schools and shops across the West Bank shut down on Sunday to protest the Gaza violence, and spontaneous demonstrations took place throughout the territory at traditional flashpoints between Israeli troops and Palestinian youths, like checkpoints, watchtowers and patrol routes."

More news updates from the weekend

Reuters: Abbas suspends talks with Israel over Gaza offensive
Ha'aretz: EU joins UN in slamming use of 'disproportionate' force in Gaza
YNET: Israel allows humanitarian aid into Gaza
Israel defiant on Gaza onslaught amid international outcry

March 1st news coverage from Gaza

From Al Jazeera:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

50 dead in Gaza brings death toll to 81 since Wednesday

From the Ma'an News Agency:
As the ongoing Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip reaches its fourth day, the number of people killed in the coastal sector rose to 50 with more than 150 injured on Saturday. Palestinian medical sources have warned of a fuel shortage both in hospitals and for the ambulances that are ferrying the dead and injured to the morgues and operating theatres.

Dr. Mu'awya Hassanain, director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry said that the number of people killed in the offensive on the northern Gaza Strip since Wednesday has reached 81, including 50 killed on Saturday.

Hassanain added that 19 children have been killed since Wednesday, including a 2-day-old baby. Seven children were killed on Saturday alone.

More than 30 civilians died in bombing raids on their homes on Saturday.

Medical sources also confirmed that more than 200 citizens have been injured since Wednesday, 150 of whom were wounded in the ongoing Israeli aggression on Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip that began early on Saturday morning.

Hassanain said that several ambulance crews have come under Israeli fire as they try to evacuate the dead and injured.

Journalists have also been targeted as they cover the ongoing events. An Al-Jazeera correspondent and her crew were shot at and journalists from the Palestinian news agency Ramatan were targeted by the Israeli army in the northern Gaza Strip.
Read the entire article here >

Also See: Hamas slams 'int'l silence' over Gaza; Abbas urges UN debate

'We didn't expect to come to a place where there is a war'

From Ha'aretz:
Resident Walter Greenberg was not at home at the time a rocket slammed into his home, where his parents were staying. Greenberg told Haaretz that he received a telephone call from his parents, who were hard-pressed to describe what had just transpired.

"My father suffers from post-traumatic epilepsy and I'm very anxious about his situation," Greenberg, a man in his 20s, said. "Both of my parents were taken to a hotel in the city by the welfare services. Five years ago, we made aliyah from Argentina. We didn't expect to come to a place where there is a war. The thought that our house would get hit never occurred to us."

Ashkelon residents said that beginning Saturday night, they plan to block highways and demonstrate in protest of the ongoing rocket fire.

"The people in this city will not agree to pay the price that the residents of Sderot have paid in recent years," Ashkelon resident Maxim Attias said.

"The protest and the opposition to the situation needs to start now. Otherwise, we will come down with a case of battle shock just like the residents of Sderot, who have already lost their stamina."
Read the entire article here >