Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Palestinian & Israeli human rights groups: Siege of Gaza violates international law

From Ynet:
Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations issued a joint statement Tuesday, demanding that Israel lift all the restrictions imposed on the transfer of fuel into the Gaza Strip.

According to the statement, these restrictions "severely and unprecedentedly harm the health and welfare of the Strip's residents," while "seriously violating international law."

In the statement, the groups expressed their "deep concern and harsh protest in light of the systematic harm caused to vital civil systems in the Gaza Strip, which are facing a complete collapse due to the limitation of the amounts of fuel Israel has been allowing the residents and institutions in the Gaza Strip to purchase for six months now.

"The fuel shortage in the Gaza Strip, which is under Israeli occupation and which Israel is responsible for by proxy of occupation laws, harms the electricity production in the Strip, as well as the activity of hospitals, private and public transportation, the water pumps and sewerages. "The shortage damages the social and economic basic needs of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza," the statement said.

The rights organizations also mentioned the harm caused to Israeli civilians, calling on "militant groups in Gaza to refrain from attacking civilians, including in the crossings through which fuel, food and other goods are transferred into the Gaza Strip."

The statement was issued by Al-Haq, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, Al Dameer Association for Human Rights – Gaza, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights.

Read the entire statement here >

Thursday, April 24, 2008

UN suspends Gaza food deliveries

From al Jazeera English:

The UN has suspended food aid deliveries in the besieged Gaza Strip due to fuel shortages.

The United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA), which distributes food and essential commodities to nearly two-thirds of Gaza's population, had earlier warned it expected to run out of fuel for its lorries by Thursday afternoon.

The last shipment of fuel to Gaza by Israel - the sole distributor of it to the territory - came before Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli fuel depot on April 9.

An emergency shipment of fuel for UNRWA lorries from within Gaza was reportedly intercepted on Thursday by angry strawberry farmers who needed the supplies for irrigation and refrigeration.

"It's something that we've been warning about since early April, and that is what is so tragic," John Ging, head of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera.

"Now we're at a standstill - we just don't have the fuel to operate the trucks.

"We have the food, and we certainly have hundreds of thousands of desperate people who need it. But this is the situation tonight."

Collapse of Gaza aid distribution just hours away: UN

From AFP in Gaza City:

The United Nations warned that aid distribution would end in the Gaza Strip on Thursday unless Israel allows new fuel supplies, but Israel blamed Hamas for the shortages.

"We are hours away from shutting down our operation, said John Ging, who heads the UN Relief and Works Agency office in Gaza. "We didn't receive fuel," he told AFP.

UN officials said UNRWA and the World Food Programme, who together feed more than one million Gazans, would have to suspend aid distribution until they receive diesel for the trucks that deliver the food.

Read the entire article>

Monday, April 21, 2008

Meshal offers 10-year truce for Palestinian state on '67 borders

Following President Carter's trip to meet with leadership from Hamas there have been several reports of Hamas' willingness to an extended truce with Israel and implicit acceptance of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as long as the Palestinian people ratified the agreement through a vote. Ha'aretz reports:
Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal on Monday said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along Israel's pre-1967 borders, and would grant Israel a 10-year hudna, or truce, as an implicit proof of recognition if Israel withdraws from those areas.

Meshal's comments were one of the clearest outlines Hamas has given for what it would do if Israel withdrew from the territories it captured in the 1967 Six Day War. He suggested Hamas would accept Israel's existence alongside a Palestinian state on the rest of the lands Israel has held since 1948.

However, Meshal told reporters in Damascus that Hamas would not formally recognize Israel.

"We agree to a [Palestinian] state on pre-67 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital with genuine sovereignty without settlements but without recognizing Israel," Meshaal said.

"We have offered a truce if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, a truce of 10 years as a proof of recognition," he said. He said he made the offer to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during talks Friday and Saturday in the Syrian capital.

Meshal used the Arabic word hudna, meaning truce, which is more concrete than tahdiya - a period of calm - which Hamas often uses to describe a simple cease-fire. Hudna implies a recognition of the other party's existence.
Read the entire article here >

Friday, April 18, 2008

More on Carter's visit and news from the region

From Link TV:

Carter calls Gaza blockade a crime and atrocity

From Reuters in the International Herald Tribune:
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter called the blockade of Gaza a crime and an atrocity on Thursday and said U.S. attempts to undermine the Islamist movement Hamas had been counterproductive.

Speaking at the American University in Cairo after talks with Hamas leaders from Gaza, Carter said Palestinians in Gaza were being "starved to death", receiving fewer calories a day than people in the poorest parts of Africa.

"It's an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. it's a crime... I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on," Carter said.

Read the entire article here >

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

20 Palestinians killed in IDF operations in Gaza

From Ha'aretz:
Twenty Palestinians were killed Wednesday, including a Reuters cameraman, in Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip, making Wednesday one of the bloodiest days in recent times in Gaza. Most of the clashes came in the afternoon in the center of the Strip, not far from the place where three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas ambush earlier in the day.

The fierce day of fighting started at around midnight on Tuesday, when a patrol from the Givati infantry brigade, accompanied by armored and artillery forces, entered the Sajawiya neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City. The soldiers exchanged fire with armed Palestinians, mostly from Hamas. One Givati soldier was moderately wounded in the thigh by a sniper. The soldiers killed four Hamas gunmen. According to military sources, the Palestinians even fired from the minaret of a mosque, and the IDF returned fire at the mosque and later blew up explosive devices found inside the mosque. The mosque suffered heavy damage, and the resulting pictures caused furious responses in the Muslim world.

A Palestinian farmer, Hani Al-Zuarub, was killed at 3:00 P.M near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, when a missile hit the car he was in. Another man was wounded. Three others were injured by shots fired at a school in the town.

Twelve Palestinians were killed, including five children under the age of 16, Wednesday afternoon when IDF helicopters fired missiles at houses in the Juhad Al-Dik area.

Three more Palestinians were killed near the Wadi Gaza Bridge, including Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, 23. He died when the car he was riding in was hit by a missile. Two other journalists were wounded. Pictures showed the car had the letters "TV" on it, as is usual for vehicles used by journalists in the region.
Read the entire article here >

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gaza fuel cuts paralyze education, health and transport sectors

Published in Electronic Intifada: "The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is extremely worried about the continued Israeli ban on fuel supplies required for civilian life in the Gaza Strip. The stoppage in fuel supplies has paralyzed 50 percent of the educational sector as half the students in all educational levels are unable to reach their schools and universities. In addition, educational sector employees have been unable to reach their work. Furthermore, the transportation sector has nearly stopped functioning throughout the Gaza Strip. As a result, all basic functions of civilian life have come to a near standstill, including drinking water delivery, sewage water disposal, and garbage collection. In addition, healthcare facilities registered a 25 percent drop in clients due to the transportation crisis. Furthermore, hundreds of healthcare professionals are unable to reach their work places."

Read the entire article here >

Friday, April 11, 2008

Israel cuts fuel, sends in tanks, bulldozers, helicopters

Fuel cut off before raid (AP):
JERUSALEM - Israel cut off the only source of fuel to Gaza's 1.4 million people Thursday after a deadly Palestinian raid on the Israeli depot, deepening the seaside territory's hardship.
Helicopters, tanks and bulldozers enter Gaza according to this story from AFP:

BUREIJ, GAZA STRIP (AFP) — Israeli tanks and bulldozers, backed by helicopters, crossed into Gaza on Friday after the Jewish state vowed to retaliate against Hamas for an explosion of violence earlier this week.

A 10-year-old child was fatally wounded by tank fire in Bureij and another seven Palestinians, two of them teenagers, were wounded in clashes, Gaza medics said.

Ten tanks and two armoured bulldozers entered one kilometre (0.6 mile) into Gaza, west of the Bureij refugee camp, drawing heavy fire from militants, Palestinian security sources said. Two assault helicopters flew overhead.

Dozens of teenagers stood on the outskirts of the refugee camps facing the Israeli force some 200 meters (yards) away.

Read the full story here >

Finally, a story from Russia Today on the fuel shortage:

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Gaza Diary: We Can't Endure Forever

The Palestine Chronicle published this story from Najwa Sheikh, a Palestinian refugee living under the occupation:
It is March, the month of flowers, and good weather, however since yesterday it was burning, with hot dry winds. I thought summer is coming so fast this year, and with this idea I have to think of other things, like summer cloths for the kids, enjoying the daily showers of cold clean water, and sitting on the beach sharing with my kids the fun of playing with the sand because we can not enjoy swimming on a sea full of sewage. However, this lovely image is not the true one for the Palestinians who live in Gaza, as since Gaza was sealed, and the borders are closed, Gaza and its people are suffering not only from the brutal Israeli invasions and continuous strikes but also from the lack of both basic and luxurious goods, medications, papers for books, vaccines and many other basics that any person in the world would enjoy these privileges as a guaranteed thing in their life.
Read the full story >

Red Cross Organizations Call for End of Siege

The Palestine Red Crescent published the following statement:
Six European national Red Cross societies, plus ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), have appealed for lifting the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and for providing humanitarian support to its residents in view of restoring living conditions and rehabilitating the infrastructure damaged by Israeli attacks.

This appeal followed a meeting of the PRCS Friends Group, held in Geneva on 19 February 2008, with the participation of ICRC, IFRC and the Red Cross Societies of Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, UK, Sweden as well as PRCS.

The meeting, convened at the request of PRCS President, Younis Al Khatib, discussed the humanitarian conditions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territory and the difficulties they face as a result of actions perpetrated by Occupation authorities. Participants mainly focused on the consequences of the blockade imposed on Gaza Strip civilians and the extent of their extreme suffering, especially children.
Read the full statement here >

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

World Health Organization: Gazans Die Avoidable Deaths

The World Health Organization held a press conference on the denial of travel permits to Palestinians with critical health conditions. AFP covered the press conference:

The World Health Organization lashed out at Israel on Tuesday for denying or delaying travel permits for critically ill Gaza Strip residents, saying the right to health appeared to be optional for Palestinians.

Ambrogio Manenti, who heads the WHO's West Bank and Gaza office, said case studies of patients who died while waiting for permits to travel to Israel for treatment "show nonsense, inhumanity and, at the end, tragedy".

"The right to health appears to be optional for Palestinians," he added.

The UN agency cited the case of Amir al-Yazji, nine, who died of meningeal encephalitis at a hospital in Gaza in November after his family faced one hurdle after another to get a travel permit only to have authorities deny the documents to the ambulance team at the last minute.

Read the full story here >