Monday, June 23, 2008

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

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

Thursday, June 19, 2008

UN report: Politics mostly responsible for Palestinian food insecurity

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Truce to bring gradual relief to Gaza - Israeli officials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire article here >

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

Read the entire article here >

Monday, June 16, 2008

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 6, 2008

Olmert hints major Gaza operation is imminent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With economic siege comes malnutrition

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

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

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

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