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Palestine: Warnings about storming AlAqsa & fishing boats seized

Mufti of Jerusalem warns of the seriousness of Jewish calls for storming Al-Aqsa

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine Sheikh Mohammad Hussein warned of the growing Israeli calls for storming Al-Aqsa Mosque and tightening the Jewish control over it.

The last of these calls was by the occupation Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino in which he falsely claimed the right of Jews to pray inside Al-Aqsa considering it one of the yards the alleged temple.

Sheikh Hussein said in a statement on Tuesday: “The remarks and practices by the occupation authorities against the holy sites, particularly the Al-Aqsa Mosque, represent serious violations.”

He warned of the consequences of the attitude of silence regarding these calls that carry serious intentions against the holy sites, as he said.

Hussein pointed out that the calls for storming Al-Aqsa Mosque comes after similar calls by the Jewish rabbis to demolish the Aqsa and build the alleged temple on its ruins, which refers to the “imminent danger faced by the Islamic Mosque that must be protected by all Muslims.”

The preacher of Al-Aqsa mosque appealed to Palestinian citizens in the city of Jerusalem and the 1948 territories to flock to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and defend it against the Jewish attacks.


Israeli navy seizes two Palestinian fishing boats

GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli navy forces seized two Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Rafah south of Gaza Strip at dawn Tuesday.

Security sources told the PIC reporter that the Israeli navy towed the two boats with their fishing nets after shooting at them.

Palestinian fishermen are constant targets for the Israeli navy in line with the daily harassment of Palestinians in the Strip and means of earning their living.


Treaty obligations, war crimes, and accountability: A study in American hypocrisy

by Martin Rowson

by Nima Shirazi, source

“I have no interest in any open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable,” President Barack Obama said in a PBS interview earlier this week.

With allegations of a horrific chemical weapons attack outside Damascus and new reports of a “napalm” bomb being dropped on a school playground in northern Syria, this statement, made by an American Commander-in-Chief, would certainly come as a surprise to many of Obama’s predecessors, considering the use of chemical weapons has been standard U.S. military procedure for decades.

Napalm, which is classified as an incendiary, rather than chemical, weapon, is composed of a gel that sticks to the skin and can burn down to the bone. Used extensively by the U.S. military during the last years of World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters, the napalm bombing of Japan killed at least 330,000 people. Twice the amount of napalm as was dropped on Japan in 1945 was used by American forces over three years during the Korean War: 32,357 tons as compared to 16,500 tons.

Between 1963 and 1973, the U.S. military dropped nearly 400,000 tons of napalm on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In 1980, the United Nations declared the use of napalm gel in densely-populated civilian areas to be a war crime.

Agent Orange, a chemical weapon derived from herbicides, was also used by Americans during the Vietnam War. Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of material containing chemical herbicides and defoliants mixed with jet fuel in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, as part of Operation Ranch Hand.

A 2008 Globe and Mail article reported that “Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed by the defoliants, 500,000 children have been born with defects from retardation to spina bifida and a further two million people have suffered cancers or other illnesses. Yet they have received no compensation from those who produced the chemicals and those who made them a weapon of war.”

According to the the United Nations, Agent Orange is “one of the most toxic compounds known to human,” and the Vietnamese Red Cross has estimatedthat “as many as one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or other health problems associated with Agent Orange.”

A recently published report in Foreign Policy revealed that, during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, “America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen.” Among the findings, the report stated that, in 1988, “U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent,” and that “Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence.”


In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

Even more recently, the U.S. military used white phosphorus, a chemical compound whose use in civilian areas constitutes a war crime, during its 2004 attacks on Fallujah in Iraq, just as America’s best friend in the region, Israel, dropped white phosphorus on civilian areas in its 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza.

It should be noted that, while the United States is a party to the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), which bans the use of napalm against civilians, it has never signed Protocol III on the convention, the statute that specifically bans the use of all incendiary weaponry. Nevertheless, even without signing it, this protocol came into force for the U.S. on July 21, 2009.

Furthermore, Israel is one of only seven nations on the planet – along with Syria, Angola, South Sudan, Egypt, North Vietnam, and Myanmar – to refuse to abide by the international Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

However, despite this, a deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said this week that state non-compliance with treaty obligations recognized by the vast majority of the international community — even by non-signatories to such treaties – should not absolve those states from accountability.

During a press briefing on August 27, spokesperson Marie Harf described the CWC as a “multilateral disarmament agreement” that “provides for the elimination of an entire category of weapons of mass destruction under universally applied international control and prohibits the use of chemical weapons. Currently, 189 nations, which represent about 98 percent of the global population, have joined the Chemical Weapons Convention.” As such, she continued, even though there are a few nations that have not yet acceded to the convention, “clearly that should not enable them to escape responsibility for their actions.”

Harf added, “There is a reason that the overwhelming majority of the international community – again, that agrees on little else – has stood against the use of these weapons, and Syria should not be able to flout the clearly expressed view of the international community here.”

The following day, Harf reiterated this position:

[T]he indiscriminate use of chemical weapons against civilians is a violation of international law. I also talked a little bit about international norms and the Chemical Weapons Convention, which they are obviously not a party to, but which clearly laid out that a majority – a vast majority of the world spoke up and said that we are taking a stand against chemical weapons and the world has spoken on chemical weapons. And we’re not going back, and they have to be held accountable.

To suggest that the United States does not go back on its word when it comes to commonly-accepted mandates of international law is laughable. In 1998, the vast majority of the world’s nations voted to adopted the Rome Statute, establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) and granting it authority to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst crimes known to humankind – war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.” The United Statesvoted against it.

When the statute was officially adopted by the international community in 2002, the United States, Israel and Sudan all signed it, but formally refused to present it for ratification. In a letter to the UN Secretary-General on May 6, 2002, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, stated, “in connection with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court adopted on July 17, 1998, that the United States does not intend to become a party to the treaty. Accordingly, the United States has no legal obligations arising from its signature on December 31, 2000.”  While the Obama administration has walked back this Bush era rejection, it has still refused to ratify the treaty and accept the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Of course, the language of international law and accountability is also never leveled at Israel when it commits war crimes or develops an undeclared and unmonitored arsenal of nuclear weapons in defiance of the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Israel – along with only three other countries on Earth – is not a signatory.

In fact, in May 2010, after the 189 signatories of the NPT — including Iran and Syria called for an international conference in 2012 with the goal of establishing “a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” Israel denounced the accord, describing it as “deeply flawed and hypocritical,” and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “As a non-signatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this Conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation.”

At the time, President Obama also decried the resolution for what he claimed was an unfair focus on Israel – the only nuclear-armed state in the region – and promised to “oppose actions that jeopardize Israel’s national security.”

When the time of the proposed conference rolled around in December 2012, the United States prevented it from taking place.

It is clear that the United States is not considering military strikes on Syria out of any deference to the obligations of international law or concern for innocent civilians. As Omar Dahi notes in Jadaliyya, “The fact that the United States is threatening to strike now has nothing to do with the welfare of Syrians, and everything to do with the United States maintaining its own ‘credibility,’ its position as a hegemonic power.”

Even taking the U.S. government at its word – a dubious thing to do in light of past experiences – presents problems of its own, namely that anypurportedly punitive military action against Syria would itself be a violation of the very laws the United States is claiming to defend.

Recall, for instance, what then-Senator Barack said back on December 20, 2007:  “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation…As President, I will not assert a constitutional authority to deploy troops in a manner contrary to an express limit imposed by Congress and adopted into law.”

International relations professor Charli Carpenter has just addressed these factors in Foreign Affairs:

The Obama administration has already confirmed that itsprimary concern is with protecting the norm and punishing its violators. Given that goal, the appropriate course of action would be to, first, independently verify who violated it. The United States claims that it has “no doubt” that Syria was behind last week’s chemical attack, but that remains an open question until the UN inspectors have completed their investigation. Second, the United States would have to consider a range of policy options for affirming, condemning, and lawfully punishing the perpetrator before resorting to force, particularly unlawful force. As, a nongovernmental organization notes, thesemight include condemnation, an arms embargo, sanctions, or any of the other bilateral and multilateral measures that are typically used to respond to violations of weapons norms (and which might be at least as effective than air strikes, if not more so). Third, should the United States decide on military action, with or without a UN Security Council resolution, it would need to adhere to international norms regulating the use of specific weapons in combat.

It is thus worrying that the proposed military strikes against Syria rely on Tomahawk missiles, which are capable of carrying cluster munitions and which have been decried on humanitarian grounds by numerous governments and civil society groups. Equally alarming is that the planned strikes would likely involve the use of explosives in populated areas, which is in violation of emerging international concernsabout such behavior. Although there is historical precedent for the legitimacy of violating the UN Charter in order to enforce global humanitarian norms, it would be seen as hypocritical to violate those very norms in the service of their affirmation.

As always, with a potentially imminent military strike on the horizon, the American government has once again affirmed its belief that – unlike the rest of the world – when the United States or its friends abrogate international law and commit war crimes, they should not be held to account.


MSNBC‘s resident loudmouth Chris Matthews – who fancies himself somewhat of an historian – is apparently wholly unaware of the U.S. military’s past use of chemical weapons. Speaking on Morning Joe earlier this week, Matthews bellowed:

If you basically put down a red line and say don’t use chemical weapons, and it’s been enforced in the Western community, around the world — international community for decades. Don’t use chemical weapons. We didn’t use them in World War II, Hitler didn’t use them, we don’t use chemical weapons, that’s no deal. Although we do know that Assad’s father did. Then he goes ahead and does it.

Let alone Matthews’ ignorance of our own actions, even more surreal is the statement that “Hitler didn’t use them.” Matthews seems to be forgetting about that whole Holocaust thing, when the Nazis committed genocide by gassing millions of Jews in death camps.

Since no allusion to either Syria or Nazi Germany is allowed to pass in themainstream media without making erroneous comparisons with Iran, Matthews added that, based on Assad’s alleged use of weapons of mass destruction, “It makes you wonder what the mullahs will do if they have a couple of nuclear weapons, just a couple.”

Well, first off, Iran isn’t building nuclear weapons and, even according to U.S. intelligence assessments, hasn’t even made a decision to do so. It has alsoroutinely denounced the acquisition, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons for the past three decades.

Moreover, that Matthews would think Iranian leaders would instigate atomic Armageddon for absolutely no reason is bizarre. But then, again, with a history of promoting misinformation and demonstrating utter ignoranceabout the Iranian nuclear program, it is no surprise Matthews is pushing such shameless propaganda.

Second, Matthews fails to point out here that, in fact, only one single solitary nation in world history has ever actually used nuclear weapons: the United States of America, which dropped them on a civilians, slaughtering hundreds of thousands.

As Robert McNamara recounted to filmmaker Errol Morris in The Fog of War, “[U.S. Air Force General Curtis] LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?”

McNamara wondered, “Was there a rule then that said you shouldn’t bomb, shouldn’t kill, shouldn’t burn to death 100,000 civilians in one night?”

Palestine: Israelis list 9 more “settlements” as ’National Priority Area’ despite talks & Gaza hospitals face fuel shortage

(Modified file photo)

Israelis List 9 More Settlements as ’National Priority Area’ despite Talks

Al Manar

The Zionist cabinet on Sunday approved a list of more than 600 communities to receive preferential treatment and economic benefits, including nine settlements in the West Bank territories, a statement from prime minister’s office said.

The list of “National Priority Area,” declared by the government, is a list of communities that are to be granted economic incentives and benefits.

The criteria to recognize a community as a “national priority area” are how close it is to the border, what security risks the settlement entails, and distance to big concentration of population.

Financially, residents living in such priority areas get tax benefits, a preference in allocation of resources and in housing and incentives to work in those areas.

The decision to put nine more settlements in this list may come in the way of the recently-renewed peace talks between the Zionist entity and the Palestinians. There are overall 30 settlements on the list.

The peace talks between both sides have previously come to a halt in 2010 over the Zionist settlement construction.

Zionist and Palestinian negotiators Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erkeat have met on Tuesday in Washington to resume peace talks, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made efforts in the past several months to get the two sides back on the negotiations table.

Livni said on Saturday that the next round of talks will be held in the second week of August in the occupied territories.


IOA to build 60 settlement units in Al-Khalil

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) is planning to build 60 new settlement units in Yatta, south of Al-Khalil province.

Ratib Al-Jabour, an anti-settlement activist in Yatta, told the PIC that Israeli occupation forces quelled Palestinians who tried to enter their land in Um Al-Khair hamlet.

He said that the soldiers showed those citizens photos of a new settlement plan that envisages the construction of more than 60 settlement units that would be built on their land.

The IOA had endorsed a scheme a few years ago that stipulated the demolition of eight villages and hamlets near Yatta town to pave the way for the expansion of Jewish settlements.


Gaza hospitals face fuel shortage: Health Ministry

Press TV

he Health Ministry of the Gaza Strip has warned against fuel shortage in the besieged Palestinian territory, which has affected the work of hospitals.

The health ministry said many hospitals in Gaza are in dire need of fuel necessary for their power generators to function.

Nearly 500 Palestinian patients have died and hundreds more are at risk of death as a result of difficulties hospitals face due to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

In addition, the closure of the Rafah crossing – Gaza’s only gateway to the outside world – by the Egyptian army since July 3 has prevented thousands of people from crossing in and out, leaving many stranded, including patients, students, and people who hold visas and citizenships to other countries.

Egypt opens the crossing on specified days following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi by the army.

Over the past months, Egypt has also blocked supply tunnels leading into Gaza, which are used to bring basic necessities. In February, the Egyptian army flooded several of the tunnels.

The Israeli regime imposed land, aerial, and naval blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after the democratically elected Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas took over the administration of the territory.

The blockade has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the impoverished enclave, having turned the territory into the world’s largest open-air prison.


IOA continues to isolate captive Abu Obeid for the 39th day despite his illness

JENIN, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) has continued to hold the captive Bassam Obeid from village of Arabba near Jenin in solitary confinement in Raymond prison for the 39th day without taking into account his deteriorating health.

Walid Obeid, the captive’s brother, appealed to the International Red Cross to exert pressure on the Israeli prison administration in order to transfer his brother to other sections with the rest of prisoners so that they can provide him the necessary medical care.

He told the PIC that his brother has been isolated because of his rejection of the policy of transfers adopted by the prison administration against the Palestinian prisoners.

Bassam Obeid was arrested nine years ago. He suffers from hearing loss and acute pain in his right leg

Walid said that despite his brother’s difficult health condition, the prison administration still refuses to end his solitary confinement.

“Peace” talks are meaningless, says survivor of Gaza massacre

(Gaza, Palestine-file photo)

by Joe Catron, The Electronic Intifada

“All our lives, we’ve heard about negotiations and peace processes,” Jamal al-Dalou said Monday afternoon in his Gaza City apartment, hours before the latest round of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority began in Washington. “We’ve never seen them achieve anything.”

“What’s the meaning of negotiations if we are still killed by missiles from Israeli F-16s and Apaches?” he added. “What’s the meaning of negotiations if the Israelis keep stealing our land, our heritage and everything meaningful in our lives? What’s the meaning of negotiations if they besiege our land, sea and sky?

“The negotiations are lies. There are no such things.”

Around 2:30pm on 18 November 2012, an Israeli airstrike destroyed al-Dalou’s three-story house in the nearby al-Nasser neighborhood, killing ten members of his family and two neighbors. The victims included his 73-year-old sister, wife, two daughters, son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren between the ages of one and seven, as well as a young man and an 83-year-old woman in the house next door.

Jamal and his son Abdullah had left the house shortly before the attack. “I went out to buy some food and drinks,” Jamal said. “We had been under siege for five days. Everyone was afraid to go outside, since anything that moved in the streets was a target for the Israeli warplanes. I also wanted to check on the store I run.

“After I had been gone for an hour, my neighbors began calling me. They told me to hurry back, because the Israelis had bombed my house and killed everyone inside it. I experienced the worst moments of my life then. Everything I had worked for was destroyed.”

Before Israel’s eight-day offensive against the Gaza Strip, Jamal’s son Ahmed lived in Turkey, where he was studying for a master’s degree in civil engineering.

“Our dreams, all gone”

“My friend called from Dubai,” Ahmed said on Monday. “He told me they had shelled an al-Dalou family near al-Nasser street and two or three homes had been damaged. At first I thought it was our relatives.

“I called my sister’s husband. He canceled the call. I called my father and my brother. They didn’t answer. Finally, I called my sister’s husband again. He answered screaming.”

After receiving the news of his family’s massacre, Ahmed returned to Gaza as quickly as he could. “I saw our home, our children, our dreams, all gone,” he said. “When I came, they were still searching for the bodies.”

“All the neighbors came to try to help civil defense remove the rubble and find any survivors,” Jamal said. He had lost consciousness when he heard that members of his family had been killed.

After he made his way home, “no one told me what had actually happened,” he said. “Everyone told me that my family was in the hospital. The next day, they started to tell me what had happened, but slowly — so they wouldn’t kill me from the shock.”

In the days that followed, Israel scrambled to explain why it had bombed a civilian home, killing a dozen persons and wounding at least nine more.

In the span of less than a month, it offered four conflicting justifications: that it had targeted Yehiya Rabiah, a member of Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedeen al-Qassam Brigades, unknown to the al-Dalou family; that it had meant to hit Rabiah, but struck the wrong house; that it had targeted Jamal’s son Mohammed, an officer with the Gaza security forces killed in the attack; and that it had never publicly named its objective, despite previous claims to the contrary (“Israeli military changes story about al-Dalou airstrike — for the fourth time,”Mondoweiss, 12 December 2012).

“Clear violation”

On 7 December, Human Rights Watch called the attack “a clear violation of the laws of war.”

“The Israeli claim that the attack on the al-Dalou home was justified is unsupported by the facts,” said Fred Abrahams, a Human Rights Watch special advisor who researched the case in Gaza. “The onus is on Israel to explain why it bombed a home full of civilians killing 12 people” (“Israeli airstrike on home unlawful,” 7 December 2012).

In April this year, Israel’s Military Advocate General ruled against an investigation of the attack, saying that “the incident does not raise suspicion of the commission of a criminal offense, and that the unfortunate result occurred despite the efforts made to minimize the collateral damage to uninvolved civilians” (“An examination of alleged misconduct during Operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ – an update,” 11 April 2013 [PDF]).

Amnesty International criticized the verdict, saying “the attack on the al-Dalou family home should be investigated as a possible war crime.”

Ann Harrison, Amnesty’s deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa said, “Once again, the Israeli military is claiming to investigate itself and there is no way for the victims of the Israeli attacks and their relatives in Gaza or for human rights organizations to know that the [Israeli army’s] internal review is not simply giving soldiers time to coordinate their accounts of events, making justice even more unlikely” (“Israel’s military investigations into Gaza conflict violations strengthen impunity,” 17 April 2013).

“Empty promises”

Jamal, who had answered questions and provided documents for Human Rights Watch and the Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, described the outcome as “expected.”

“Where are the international courts?” he said. “We want them to take real actions, not offer empty promises. We want all of our rights. We will never negotiate over them.”

Gaza’s security forces arrested the a man accused of helping Israel target their house in March, Ahmed said. A military court is hearing his case.

The al-Dalou family were hit hardest by the November attacks. An investigation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that Israeli forces killed at least 168 Palestinians during the attacks. The commissioner stated that 101 of the victims were believed to be civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. Injuries in the “hundreds” went uncounted.

Two Palestinian demonstrators, as well as a twenty-month-old baby, were also killed in the West Bank at that time (“West Bank protests: Waiting for the tipping point,” Al-Akhbar English, 21 November 2012).

A third demonstrator, Arafat Jaradat, died under interrogation in Israel’s Megiddo prison on 23 February this year, apparently from torture.

“Something like what happened to us has happened to every Palestinian family,” Jamal said. “This life is not new for us.”

After a brief visit to Turkey, Ahmed and his wife returned to Gaza.

“I’m not thinking of going back to Turkey now,” he said. “It’s difficult to leave him [Jamal] alone, at least for the next two or three years.”

“We have a hard, empty life, especially during Ramadan,” Jamal said. “We were a big family. Ramadan used to have a unique taste. I remember taking my sons, my daughters, my wife and my grandchildren to the mosque to pray. The atmosphere at home was very special.

“Twenty days earlier, I had been at Mecca, doing the hajj [pilgrimage] with my wife. I was very happy to come home and brought a lot of gifts. I had also planned to buy more here.”

“We have to stop these people”

One of his sisters, who lived near the barrier separating Gaza from Israel, had come to the home in search of safety, Ahmed said. Two of his other daughters had planned to come that day, but were delayed dressing their children, Jamal added.

“We have to stop these people, to keep them from continuing like this,” Ahmed said. “In Turkey, we never bought Israeli products. My wife was shocked to find them for sale in Gaza, because people here have no choice but to buy them. I’m very happy to work on boycott campaigns.

“I’m not even following these negotiations. After twenty years, they’ve done nothing.”

“When people boycott Israel and stop importing their goods, that will change their policy,” Jamal added. “I’m grateful to people and governments who boycott Israel. It’s important to boycott Israeli products when we can get substitutes. If we can’t, what we can do?”

The al-Dalou family have received some aid from the authorities in Gaza and a great deal of support from the local community.

“We’re trying to forget, to start a new life,” Ahmed said. “We’re trying to continue. Life cannot stop. There is always something to do, to push you to keep going. I’ve found a job here, and am thinking of rebuilding our home.”

Jamal explained, “Psychologically, men. Injuries in the “hundreds” wentmething bad happens to anyone, all their friends and relatives will try to help them forget.”

And the determination of the refugee family remains undimmed.

“My family was expelled to Gaza in 1948. I want to live in peace. But I’m from Yaffa [Jaffa],” said Ahmed, referring to the Palestinian city that was ethnically cleansed by Zionist forces and is located in present-day Israel.

“This is our land,” Jamal said. “This is our grandparents’ land. That’s why we’re fighting for it. That’s why we’re still here.”

Palestine, Gaza: Freedom stitchers – need your support

“Give a woman a fish, and you feed her family for a day.

Teach a woman to run her own business, and she feeds her family for a lifetime.”

Announcing the launch of the “Freedom Stitchers” project to create self-sufficiency for marginalized and jobless women in Gaza.

The “Freedom Stitchers” project begins in Gaza, in autumn 2013

to share:


“Freedom Stitchers” will be a sustainable project run by women in Gaza. This micro-business is based on the idea that Palestinian women possess their own unique artistic and design skills, but they need a process to sell their finished products to the world, (with a little help from their friends at “Freedom Stitchers.”) They have the right to set up businesses, but are prevented in selling their artistry by the illegal blockade on their borders.

We therefore intend to help set up this business for women in Gaza to market not only their exquisite embroidery, but to also enhance their artistic skills by teaching them how to knit, crochet, do silk ribbon embroidery, beadwork, felting, and other types of hand stitching for textile art which can then be sold.

The three of us organizers, Sinead MacLochlainn, Mary Hughes Thompson and Greta Berlin are long-time activists for justice in Palestine. You can read more about us on our bio page and on the website at


“Freedom Stitchers” will work to set up a trade route to import supplies and then export the finished products made by these women. This idea has worked in other countries, but because Gaza is occupied and blockaded, no one has ever tried to import yarn, needles and material and export the finished goods. “Freedom Stitchers” aims to change this by creating a Trade-not-Aid project. Donating to this project provides the raw materials for the art work, something that is very difficult for the women of Gaza to receive. Your donation will help us set up a micro-business and will enable the project to be video-taped and perhaps even live streamed.

Your donations will help to enable these women to ‘Stitch for Freedom.” Payments can be accepted by clicking on the CONTRIBUTE button that Indiegogo has set up for us. For more info or if you want to send us a check instead, contact us at or

or visit us at


The “Freedom Stitchers” group intends to videotape parts of our initial three-week project, as we set up and run workshops with various women’s groups. You will have the opportunity to meet via video, some of the women and women’s groups in Gaza who hope to benefit from the “Freedom Stitchers” empowerment project, hear their personal stories and get to know them. You can share in our workshops as the women progress towards self-sufficiency via their work, as we see them progress from raw materials to finished projects ready for export.


Seven years ago, we were told we would never be able to sail boats into Gaza. Of the five co-founders of the Free Gaza movement, four were women, Mary Hughes Thompson and Greta Berlin being the major organizers from the beginning. We proved the naysayers wrong, and we did set sail for Gaza. We believe in the power of women, we believe we can help to empower our sisters in Gaza to be more self-sufficient and generate a small income if we share our knowledge, abilities and skills, if we reach out and join our hands, and stitch for Freedom!

We know women can make a difference. We have done it already. We have sailed boats into Gaza. We have taken delegations into Gaza. We have organized and nagged and prodded and pulled dignitaries, members of civil society and journalists to come to Gaza and see what is happening. It’s not enough. The next step is to begin to empower, and who better than women to take up that task?

We want to raise $25,000 USD (£16,400) as start-up money for this project. The money will be spent as follows:

  1. Implementing the project for up to 5 women’s groups in Gaza
  2. Purchasing all supplies for project implementation for up to 5 women’s groups. e.g. yarn, embroidery ribbon,  embroidery threads, all sewing supplies, knitting needles and crochet hooks.
  3. Funding to cover the project, including shipping items to and from Gaza, duty fees and transfer fees and miscellaneous government fees.
  4. Shipping in five containers of yarn and needles, plus embroidery thread and other supplies, since many women cannot continue to embroider the beautiful Palestinian patterns for lack of raw materials. Embroidery thread is often not allowed into Gaza.
  5. Paying a Palestinian videographer from inside Gaza (hopefully a woman) and an editing suite to produce a documentary of the project from beginning to end.
  6. Website implementation, internet hosting for the sales site, design of logo and other creative work by Palestinians as needed.

Teach one …Make one…Market to the World

Together we CAN make a difference in the lives of our Palestinian sisters, but we need your support and your donations to make it happen. Join with us. You will be part of a small business. You will be able to contribute in creating work for women in Gaza who might never have had the chance for any income.  So we ask all women and men around the world to support us, to follow us, to encourage us. To contribute to our project of breaking the siege, one woman at a time, through empowerment as we reach out our hands to our sisters in Gaza.

‘Collective Punishment’: Frequent border closures add to Gaza gas woes


GAZA CITY (IRIN) – Frequent closures of the only crossing for commercial goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip have left the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) short of gas for cooking and heating, businessmen say, affecting businesses, agricultural production and health services.

Kerem Shalom crossing reopened on 26 June after two days of closure, described by the Israeli military as a response to rocket fire from Gaza. Israel has closed the crossing five times since the end of February after similar rocket fire, for a total of 15 working days, in addition to six days of closure due to holidays.

Before this most recent closure, Gazans said they were still recovering from the series of closures in the spring, which they say created a cumulative deficit in gas.

At one of Gaza’s major gas distributors, some 40,000 empty cylinders fill the station.

“Some people have been waiting for months to get their cylinders filled,” owner Yusri Daban told IRIN. He manages to fill about 1,500 per day, but is flooded with an equal amount of empty arrivals.

Daban’s company used to receive 25 tons of gas per day for distribution. His share decreased to 18 tons due to the shortages, and has not been increased since. He says he needs 35-45 tons a day to deal with the backlog.

Maher Tabba’, spokesperson of the Gaza chamber of commerce, says the shortages have affected production on farms, factories, bakeries and restaurants; and have added to the chronic power cuts by putting an even higher demand on electricity.

Along the wall of Ahmed al-Ajrami’s bakery, about a dozen gas cylinders sit empty. His current stock covers him for just two weeks, he says.

“I am [stuck] between gas shortages and power cuts which impact my business deeply,” he told IRIN. “Either way is very difficult, but we are trying to adapt to keep working and to serve customers.” He estimates that his revenue dropped by about 10 percent as a result of the recent shortages.

‘Collective Punishment’

Gisha, an NGO that campaigns for freedom of movement, describes the closures of Kerem Shalom crossing as a form of collective punishment against a civilian population, which is a violation of international law.

“International law provides Israel with a wide range of lawful actions, military and diplomatic, that can be used to counter the threat of rockets,” the organization wrote in a May 2013 position paper. “Restrictions on movement of people and civilian goods as a means of punishment fall outside this range.”

The closure-related shortages come on top of long-standing restrictions on imports and exports, related to a blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel since 2007.

“The additional closures of Kerem Shalom over the past months have aggravated existing shortages,” Gisha said.

The Gaza-based Association of Gas Station Owners, which is responsible for the import of cooking gas, estimates that the demand in Gaza is about 1,250 tons per week, but that on average, only 850 tons are brought in from Israel. Another five tons are brought in daily through tunnels from Egypt, but the process is complicated and the price is high.

As a result of chronic shortages over the years, many businessmen have switched from gas stoves, to electrically-powered devices, incurring the increased costs of running a generator. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), access restrictions, including repeated closures, have widened the gaps in key areas such as health, education, electricity, water and sanitation.

“These measures are resulting in the depletion of stocks of essential supplies, including basic foodstuffs and cooking gas, and undermine the livelihoods and rights of many vulnerable Gazan families,” humanitarian coordinator James Rawley said in April during a closure of Kerem Shalom. “If these restrictions continue, the effect upon the Gaza population will be serious.”

Bassam Barhoum, a Palestinian health ministry official, said public hospitals and health centres need 4-4.5 tons of gas per month to feed patients and staff and disinfect bed sheets and clothing.

“What we have now is [stocks] roughly enough for about four days,” he said, down from the usual stocks of one to two weeks. “We are in dire situation.”

How Gaza Gets Gas

Gas reaches Gaza through trucks that transmit gas from the Israeli side through a pipe at the crossing to trucks waiting on the Palestinian side. The trucks need special permission to enter the border crossing area.

According to Gisha and the Association of Gas Station Owners, the pipeline operates from 8am to 3 or 4pm, at a capacity of 22 tons per hour, bringing in between 160-180 tons per day. But the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defense responsible for coordination in OPT, says the crossing has a capacity of 240 tons a day – a stance Gisha and others question.

OCHA says access restrictions are just one of many factors at play in the gas shortages. Others include delays in the placement of orders by local gas dealers; the costs related to taxes and fees; a two-day weekend during which the crossing is closed; higher transportation costs due to the location of the crossing on the southern border of the Strip (a more accessible crossing point at Nahal Oz was closed in 2010); and the security coordination procedures between Israeli and Palestinian trucks on either side of the pipeline, which can sometimes take hours.

Gas dealers say the underutilized capacity at the crossing is due primarily to the last factor: delays in actually reaching the pipeline.

“What we need now because of the cumulative shortage is 250-300 tons a day to close the current gap,” said Mahmoud al-Shawwa, head of the Association of Gas Station Owners.

Gas dealers have requested that Israel extend working hours of the crossing, open the crossing on Fridays, build more pipelines to boost the capacity, increase the number of trucks allowed into the crossing area, and set up a reserve tank on the Palestinian side.

Last week, Israel began allowing an extra truck of gas on some days, bringing an additional 20 or so tons of gas. But gas dealers say no longer-term solutions have been implemented. “So far all we’ve seen is promises,” al-Shawwa said.

‘Israel’ imposes new fuel restrictions on Gaza


GAZA CITY (IRIN) — Frequent closures of the only crossing for commercial goods between Israel and the Gaza strip have left Palestinians short of gas for cooking and heating, affecting businesses, agricultural production and health services.

Kerem Shalom crossing reopened on 26 June after two days of closure. Israel has closed the crossing five times since the end of February, for a total of 15 working days, in addition to six days of closure due to holidays.

Before this most recent closure, Palestinians in Gaza said they were still recovering from the series of closures in the spring, which they say created a cumulative deficit in gas.

At one of Gaza’s major gas distributors, some 40,000 empty cylinders fill the station.

“Some people have been waiting for months to get their cylinders filled,” owner Yusri Daban said. He manages to fill about 1,500 per day, but is flooded with an equal amount of empty arrivals.

Daban’s company used to receive 25 tons of gas per day for distribution. His share decreased to 18 tons due to the shortages, and has not been increased since. He says he needs 35 to 45 tons a day to deal with the backlog.

Maher Tabba’, spokesperson of the Gaza chamber of commerce, said the shortages have affected production on farms, factories, bakeries and restaurants, and have added to the chronic power cuts by putting an even higher demand on electricity.

Empty cylinders

Along the wall of Ahmed al-Ajrami’s bakery, about a dozen gas cylinders sit empty. His current stock covers him for just two weeks, he said.

“I am [stuck] between gas shortages and power cuts which impact my business deeply,” he said. “Either way is very difficult, but we are trying to adapt to keep working and to serve customers.” He estimated that his revenue dropped by about 10 percent as a result of the recent shortages.

Gisha, an Israeli organization that campaigns for freedom of movement, describes the closures of Kerem Shalom crossing as a form of collective punishment against a civilian population, which is a violation of international law.

The closure-related shortages come on top of long-standing restrictions on imports and exports, related to a blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel since 2007.

“The additional closures of Kerem Shalom over the past months have aggravated existing shortages,” Gisha said in a recent paper (“Creeping punishment,” May 2013 [PDF]).

Increased costs

The Gaza-based Association of Gas Station Owners, which is responsible for the import of cooking gas, estimates that the demand in Gaza is about 1,250 tons per week, but that on average, only 850 tons are brought in from Israel. Another five tons are brought in daily through tunnels from Egypt, but the process is complicated and the price is high.

As a result of chronic shortages over the years, many businessmen have switched from gas stoves to electrically-powered devices, incurring the increased costs of running a generator. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), access restrictions, including repeated closures, have widened the gaps in key areas such as health, education, electricity, water and sanitation.

“These measures are resulting in the depletion of stocks of essential supplies, including basic foodstuffs and cooking gas, and undermine the livelihoods and rights of many vulnerable Gazan families,” humanitarian coordinator James Rawley said in April during a closure of Kerem Shalom. “If these restrictions continue, the effect upon the Gaza population will be serious” (“United Nations humanitarian coordinator expresses concern regarding the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip,” 10 April 2013).

“Dire situation”

Bassam Barhoum, a Palestinian health ministry official, said public hospitals and health centers need more than four tons of gas per month to feed patients and staff and disinfect bed sheets and clothing.

“What we have now is [stocks] roughly enough for about four days,” he said, down from the usual stocks of one to two weeks. “We are in a dire situation.”

Gas is brought to Gaza in trucks that transmit gas from the Israeli side through a pipe at the crossing to trucks waiting on the Palestinian side. The trucks need special permission to enter the crossing area.

According to Gisha and the Association of Gas Station Owners, the pipeline operates from 8am to 3pm or 4pm, at a capacity of 22 tons per hour, bringing in between 160 and 180 tons per day. But the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the unit of the Israeli defense ministry responsible for coordination in the West Bank and Gaza, says the crossing has a capacity of 240 tons a day — a stance Gisha and others question.

OCHA said access restrictions are just one of many factors at play in the gas shortages. Others include delays in the placement of orders by local gas dealers; the costs related to taxes and fees; a two-day weekend during which the crossing is closed; higher transportation costs due to the location of the crossing on the southern border of the Strip (a more accessible crossing point at Nahal Oz was closed in 2010); and the security coordination procedures between Israeli and Palestinian trucks on either side of the pipeline, which can sometimes take hours.

Gas dealers say the underutilized capacity at the crossing is due primarily to the last factor: delays in actually reaching the pipeline.

“What we need now because of the cumulative shortage is 250-300 tons a day to close the current gap,” said Mahmoud al-Shawwa, head of the Association of Gas Station Owners.

Gas dealers have requested that Israel extend working hours of the crossing, open the crossing on Fridays, build more pipelines to boost the capacity, increase the number of trucks allowed into the crossing area, and set up a reserve tank on the Palestinian side.

In June, Israel began allowing an extra truck of gas on some days, bringing an additional 20 or so tons of gas. But gas dealers complain that no longer-term solutions have been implemented. “So far all we’ve seen is promises,” al-Shawwa said.

Palestine: Air raids on Gaza, demolition notice, 22 cars damaged, children kidnapped & land confiscated

Israeli air raids target several areas in Gaza, no casualties reported

GAZA, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation regime launched at dawn Monday seven air strikes at least on different targets in the Gaza Strip without any reported causalities.

Local sources told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that Israeli warplanes waged aerial attacks on two sites belonging to Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, in Khan Younis and Rafah areas.

The warplanes also bombed cultivated land in Deir Al-Balah area in central Gaza, according to the sources.

Another air raid also targeted a site belonging to division 14 of the Palestinian national security forces.

The Palestinian security forces in Gaza had evacuated their positions following information that the Israeli occupation forces would launch aerial attacks in response to what they claimed about the fall of seven projectiles on the southern Israeli occupied lands.


Israeli navy gunboats open fire at Palestinian fishermen

GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli navy gunboats opened heavy machinegun fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of Khan Younis to the south of Gaza Strip on Monday morning.

Eyewitnesses told the PIC reporter that the gunboats targeted Palestinian fishing boats at sea but no casualties or damage were reported.

Fishermen in Gaza are frequently targeted by the Israeli navy forces that fire at them and at their fishing boats. Many of them were injured, their boats damaged or their tools and boats confiscated.


IOA delivers demolition notice in Bethlehem village

BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) delivered a demolition notice to a citizen in Al-Khader village near Bethlehem.

Ahmed Salah, the coordinator of the popular committee against the wall and settlement in the village, said in a press release on Sunday that the IOA ordered the demolition of water well and fence owned by Mohammed Zawahra.

He said that the notice was delivered by an Israeli army force, adding that the wall is 140 meters long.

Salah said that the notice granted Zawahra one month to protest at an Israeli court in Beit El near Ramallah.

Salah expected the court to turn down the protest and support the IOA decision, describing such procedures as “summary trials”.


Jewish settlers damage 22 Palestinian cars in OJ

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Jewish settlers of the price tag gang damaged 22 cars owned by Palestinian Jerusalemites before dawn Monday.

Eyewitnesses said that the settlers punctured the tires of ten cars in Tal Al-Fool area, near Beit Hanina village in occupied Jerusalem, and another 12 in occupied Jerusalem city and drew the Star of David on one of them.

The settlers sprayed racist graffiti on the walls of houses and wrote the phrase “We will not remain silent vis-à-vis stoning incidents”.


IOF soldiers kidnap four children in Qalqilia village

QALQILIA, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) kidnapped four Palestinian children in Azzun village to the east of Qalqilia city at dawn Sunday.

Local sources said that the four children included 14-year-old Mundher Salim, Mahdi Majd, 15, Abdulkarim Hussein, 16, and Maher Abu Tenene, 16.

They said that the children were taken blindfolded and handcuffed to an unknown detention center.


“Israel” confiscates 80 dunums of lands in Nablus for military purposes

NABLUS, OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Israeli authorities announced on Sunday the confiscation of 80 dunums of Palestinian land in the towns of Awarta and Rujeib southeast of Nablus, in order to use it for military purposes.

This land is located in the area of Azab between the two towns of Rujeib and Awarta. It is also close to the settlement of Itamar, established on the lands of villages in southeast of Nablus.

Ghassan Daghlas, official specialized in settlements file in the north of the West Bank, pointed out that the Israeli government has recently started to issue dozens of resolutions to confiscate hundreds of acres of land, especially in areas surrounding the settlements.

For his part, lawyer Bassam Bahr head of the Committee for Defending the Land and Resisting the Settlement in Abu Dis, said that the Israeli Civil Administration approved a plan to construct housing units for Bedouin refugees, with the aim to deport thousands of Bedouin refugees who have been forcibly displaced from their lands in 1948.

Bahr said in a press statement on Sunday that the occupation authorities want to deport all Bedouins around the city of Jerusalem, in order to continue the policy of settlement expansion and land grabbing.

He pointed out that under this project, the Bedouins will live in small cantons, near the landfill set up on the lands of Abu Dis.


Palestinians in Jaffa protest against Israeli schemes to displace them

JAFFA, (PIC)– Hundreds of Palestinians in Jaffa in occupied Palestine participated in the vigil organized by local institutions on Saturday evening to protest the Israeli schemes to sell lands located in the Palestinian historical Ajami neighborhood.

Israel Lands Administration (ILA) put out to tender for the marketing of land located in the Ajami neighborhood in the city of Jaffa, of an area exceeding six thousand square meters. According to the tender, more than 40 housing units can be built on this land.

The protestors chanted slogans condemning the occupation schemes to displace them and confirming their adherence to their land.

The head of the Association for the welfare of Arabs in Jaffa Abdelkader Satel delivered a speech on the steps to be taken to prevent the Israeli government institution from implementing its plans to displace the indigenous city residents.

He pointed out that Israel demolished three thousand Palestinian buildings in the city of Jaffa after 1948, in an attempt to erase Arab existence, history and civilization in the region.

Satel called on Jaffa’s Arabs to join their efforts to confront the Israeli displacement schemes.

For his part, Mahmoud Khimil, a Jaffa talked about the housing crisis in the city.

Palestine: 13-year-old threatened with rape by Israeli interrogators, 30 violations against fishermen in 3 months, excavations & more housing units

(File photo)

13-year-old child released on bail after interrogator threatened to rape him

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Magistrate Court in Jerusalem ordered the release of 13-year-old Jerusalemite child Ismail Muhaisen on bail.

The father, Tawfik Muhaisen, said on Friday that the court ordered the release of his son on Thursday after paying a one thousand shekels bail in addition to another 5000 shekels bail to paid by a third party.

He said that the court also put the conditions that Ismail should not approach the mountain area near his hometown of Issawiye and should not talk with his friends, who are accused of starting fire in that area, for three months.

The father said that one of the Israeli interrogators threatened his son that he would bring a Sudanese man to rape him in order to force him to confess. He added that the judge ordered an investigation into the incident.

Israeli police forces arrested six children in Issawiye last week on the charge of starting fire in the town’s nearby hills. They were released a few days later with the same conditions imposed on Ismail.


Settlers burn two cars, deface wall of building with racist slurs in J’lem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Extremist Jewish settlers at dawn Friday set fire to two Palestinian-owned cars and spray-painted racist slurs and threats on the wall of a residential building in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem.

Mousa Al-Alami, one of the residents in the building, told the Palestinian information center (PIC) that at about two o’clock in the morning of Friday he came back from his workplace and saw two cars of his neighbors ablaze and a gang of five settlers fleeing the scene as they sensed his presence.

Alami expressed his belief that the settlers used a flammable substance to burn the cars, noting that one of the settlers wearing a yarmulke (Jewish cap) was spray-painting anti-Arab slurs and threats with a signature referring to the price tag gang on the walls of the Palestinian apartment building.

Another resident, Adnan Abdul-Latif, said he spotted two days ago one of the Jewish settlers watching the apartment building, which is located close to street number one in Sheikh Jarrah area.

As it usually happens when settlers from the price tag gang launch terrorist attacks on Palestinian natives in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli policemen showed up pretending to really conducting an investigation into the matter.

The residents of the building are absolutely positive that such police investigation will not lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, Abdul-Latif added.

In a separate incident, a group of Jewish settlers on the same day destroyed Christian tombstones in the Orthodox cemetery in Jaffa city and defaced some of the graves with anti-Palestinian graffiti.

According to police investigations, Jewish settlers knocked down many tombstones, wrote blasphemous remarks, price tag gang’s signatures, and drew David Stars on some graves.

The settlers also defaced a fence wall surrounding a Palestinian building in Jaffa with hate slurs, punctured the tires of five cars and ruined their paints with anti-Arab graffiti.


OCHA: Communities in the Jerusalem periphery at risk of forcible transfer

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned of the serious conditions of around 2,300 Palestinians, two thirds of them children, who reside in about 20 small herding communities in the hills east of Jerusalem, in Area C.

Over 80% of the residents are refugees, a status they acquired following their eviction from their place of residence in southern Israel in the early 1950’s where these communities have gradually lost access to much of their grazing land due to settlement expansion, according to OCHA report.

The report pointed out that most of the families have pending demolition orders against their homes, none of the communities have been connected to the electricity network and only half are connected to the water network.

Between 2008 and 2012, over 4,000 Palestinians, mostly from herding communities, were forcibly displaced due to the demolition of their homes on the grounds that they have no building permits, OCHA stated.

The report confirmed that herding communities in Area C are some of the most vulnerable in the West Bank –about 34% are food insecure.


PCHR: 30 Israeli violations against Palestinian fishermen in 3 months

GAZA, (PIC)– Nearly 30 Israeli violations were carried out by the Israeli naval forces against Palestinian fishermen along the Gaza sea within 3 months, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported.

The PCHR report has documented the Israeli human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory carried out between March 1st, 2013 and May 31st, 2013

The report documented 29 shooting incidents, which resulted in one injury, two incidents of chasing fishermen leading to two arrests, and the confiscation of one boat and fishing tools.

The report pointed out that the Israeli Navy has imposed restrictions on fishermen at sea, including narrowing the permitted fishing zone for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from six to three nautical miles during the period between March 21st, 2013 and May 20, 2013, in violation to the cease-fire signed between Hamas and Israeli authorities under Egyptian mediation in Nov. 2012.

On May 21st, 2013 Israel has re-allowed fishermen an increased access to the fishing zone from three to six nautical miles, PCHR stated.

85 percent of the Israeli attacks were reported in areas that fishermen have been allowed to access, the report said, adding that Israel has progressively imposed restrictions on Palestinian fishermen’s access to the sea.

“Israel’s acts constitute a flagrant violation of the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) since it systematically prevents the fishermen’s community from their most basic rights, particularly that they are mere civilians who do not pose the least threat to Israeli naval forces,” Khalil Shahin, Director of PCHR’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) Unit, said.

It is worth mentioning that there are more than 70,000 people in Gaza who are dependent on fishing as the main source of income.


Palestinian citizen wounded in IOF shooting in central Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)– A Palestinian man was wounded on Friday night in Wadi Salaqa to the east of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip at the hands of Israeli occupation forces (IOF).

Palestinian security sources told the PIC reporter that Omar Abu Mihareb, 48, was hit with a bullet in his right thigh and was taken to hospital.

Medical sources said that Abu Mihareb was in stable condition, adding that the victim was inside his home opposite the IOF Kissufim outpost when he was hit with the bullet.


Elad funds excavations in Silwan

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Elad, right-wing Israeli settlement organization, is “indirectly paying the salary of a Tel Aviv University researcher heading an archeological dig in East Jerusalem,” Haaretz Hebrew newspaper revealed on Thursday.

“The Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University began the dig about six months ago in the City of David National Park in the predominately Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan”, the newspaper said.

The excavations caused widespread protest against the university, due to its working with Elad, while “Tel Aviv University claims the dig and associated research are being carried out in cooperation with the Israel Antiquities Authority, without any connection to Elad.”

Haaretz confirmed that Elad has not only been involved with the dig from the start with the university’s knowledge but it is also paying the salary of an archeologist from the university who was appointed to head the dig.

The Hebrew newspaper referred to a meeting “held prior to the dig in November 2012 show that Gadot, David Be’eri, the director of Elad, and officials from the Antiquities Authority were in attendance”. At the meeting, logistics, mechanical tools and laborers were mandated to Elad.

“Additionally, an agreement between the Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University commits the authority to pay Gadot’s salary of NIS 23,000 per month for the dig”.

But the entire excavation budget comes directly from Elad. Elad paid NIS 385,000 for a 40-day exploratory dig. Since then, Elad has continued to fund the dig on a regular basis, Haaretz explained.


1000 new housing units in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– Minister of Housing and Construction, Uri Ariel, declared on Thursday plans to build on thousand new housing units in Gush Etzion settlement bloc built on Palestinian lands in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

The construction plan was approved after a meeting between the Israeli Housing and War Ministers and head of the Regional Council of Gush Etzion. Of the 1000 housing units, 650 are existing apartments that have now been approved by War Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Hebrew sources said.

Meanwhile, Yediot Ahronot Hebrew newspaper revealed on Wednesday Israeli plans to build 675 new housing units in the settlement of Itamar built on Beit Furik and Awarta villages in Nablus.

According to the plan, the settlement will be doubled 100%, the newspaper pointed.

“Netanyahu has decided to change the rules and ruin any chance of reviving talks. The government has become addicted to the construction of settlements that will not remain in Israel under any agreement. It will fall to Israel’s citizens to pay the diplomatic and financial cost,” the newspaper quoted the Israeli Peace Now organization as saying commenting on the Israeli new settlement plan.

Mubarak-era cruelty continues at Rafah Crossing

by Ayah Bashir – Gaza Strip, source

Since 2006 — when Hamas unexpectedly won Palestinian parliamentary elections — the situation at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been a source of extraordinary confusion.

For 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza, the Rafah crossing has been the main gateway to the outside world. There are no other routes for entering or leaving our besieged territory — though there were until the late 1990s when Palestinians could travel here via Erez crossing, which separates Gaza and Israel.

Lately, the Egyptian government of President Mohammed Morsi has been following the trends set by the regime ousted following mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square two years ago. Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, carried out Israeli orders at Rafah, which meant the crossing was frequently closed.

Heavy Toll

This month Egyptian police — enraged by the kidnapping of seven colleagues — kept the crossing blocked, stranding hundreds of Palestinian travelers on both sides, for five days. The closure took a heavy toll on Palestinians travelers, especially those who are unwell. It has caused the death of Ghazza al-Khawaldi from Khan Younis who needed medical treatment abroad that she couldn’t get in Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza have been questioning why the crossing was closed in response to the hostage situation. The kidnappers were proved to be part of Tawhid wa al-Jihad, a group which espouses a more radical form of Islamism than Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, and which enjoys no support from the vast majority of people in Gaza.

But Gaza is routinely subjected to collective punishment. Last month, militants fired two rockets from Sinai into Israel. In August of last year, 16 Egyptian border guards were killed by militants. Whenever such violence occurs, the entire Gaza Strip pays the price.

Prison Gate

More than two years after the uprising in Egypt, the Rafah crossing remains a prison gate. Cairo’s responses fall short of the demands articulated by protesters in Tahrir Square. Many of them carried Palestinian flags and denounced Egypt’s cooperation with Israel.

Last month a delegation of Palestinian youth living in Gaza, the West Bank, present-day Israel and the diaspora, participated in the World Social Forum in Tunisia. Sponsored by Quaker and health organizations, the six participants from Gaza, including myself, headed to the Rafah crossing believing that we had a special permission from security officers to pass easily and quickly.

We all planned to enjoy the little time we would have in Egypt before flying. I had arranged beforehand to meet some Egyptian friends and activists.

When we arrived at the Rafah crossing, we saw dozens of travelers from Gaza, who were filled with anxiety, wondering if they would be allowed to pass, or be sent back into Gaza. Their cigarette smoke filled up the closed waiting hall. While men were questioned by Egypt’s “national security” agency, our group — three women and three men — waited impatiently for our names to be called.

Meanwhile, we heard a woman in her forties weeping and sobbing hysterically as she was about to faint. The woman, her husband and a five-year-old child were standing near the desk where intelligence officers conducted checks with every man. Essentially, these are the same checks and procedures undertaken by Mubarak’s oppressive police apparatus.


The crying woman was suffering from cancer and had a permit to cross Egypt for treatment. Yet the police officer wanted to return her husband back to Gaza. She moved towards the officer to explain that she couldn’t cross without him. At once, the officer tore her papers and her permit — a document which is difficult to obtain.

At that moment, one couldn’t but ask if the same officer would ever dare to tear the papers of an American, European or Israeli — anyone other than a Palestinian. Yes, they eventually allowed them to pass, while returning most men back to Gaza. But only after subjecting the couple to humiliating and cruel treatment.

Our group was made to wait for five hours in Rafah. Eventually, the three men in our group were told on the Egyptian side of the crossing that they were not allowed go any further.

When we were informed of this decision, I requested an explanation.

I told a security officer that the three men were part of our group and that we, the same people, had been allowed to attend the World Social Forum in Brazil a few months earlier.

“Don’t Argue”

Though people in Gaza have heard about the measure of not allowing men under the age of 40 to travel, we have never been given an explanation for the policy.

Ironically, this is supposed to be one of the measures to “ease” the siege of Gaza taken after the 2011 uprising in Egypt. It is the same condition Israel imposes on Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, who wish to enter Jerusalem and pray in al-Aqsa mosque.

After asking me some questions about myself and my work, the officer replied with only one answer: “These are the orders; don’t argue.”

We, the three women in the group — feeling terribly bad — were taken to our hotel, though we had made a reservation for six people. The men, along with some other youth, were taken to what Palestinians call the “deportation room” in Cairo International Airport.

Even though it may appear to be a “privilege” to be a woman in this case, it was not. Putting us in a different “category” amounts to discrimination against us.

Indeed, we learned from our deported colleagues about how discrimination against Palestinians is becoming more serious. They told us how the Egyptian authorities now have a new category of people to deport: Palestinians residing in Syria. These are people who have fled the appalling violence in Syria, to whom the Syrian embassy in Cairo had initially promised assistance. But the men in our group were told that when the embassy’s staff learned that these refugees were Palestinian, the diplomats stated: “you are not our responsibility.”

The men in our group met a number of Palestinians who had been put in this category. Many of them had been staying in the same room for more than forty days. One of them had a sister in the deportation room for women. Another man had lost contact with his parents who were in a refugee camp in Turkey; he was trying to reach Sweden, where he had relatives.

We made enquires in Cairo about this group. The Egyptian authorities informed us that they had been transferred to al-Qanatir prison.

Freedom of Movement Denied

Almost two years ago, dozens of Arab and international organizations issued an urgent call for the permanent opening of the Rafah crossing. The call was supported by veteran anti-apartheid activists from South Africa such as Desmond Tutu and Ronnie Kasrils, as well as by Richard Falk, the UN special rapporteur for the West Bank and Gaza, and by the writers Ahdaf Soueif and Tariq Ali.

Freedom of movement is a human right enshrined the Geneva conventions. The Egyptian government is violating that right.

As we struggle to uphold our fundamental rights, we can take heart from the words of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish: “No detention room will remain. Nor will the chains strangle.”

Eli Yishai, who was Israel’s interior minister until recently, has vowed to “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” The siege imposed on us is both physical and psychological. The work to end this siege needs to stepped up as a matter of urgency.

Remarks at the UN international meeting on Palestine in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

by Cynthia McKinney, source

My name is Cynthia McKinney and I served as a Member of the U.S. Congress for 12 years. During my time in Congress, I strove to make respect for human rights a central feature in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. Amid minor successes, I have to say that my efforts while, broadly appreciated by many, failed miserably. That failure stems in part from the peculiarities of U.S. politics that allow policy formulation to deviate from and in many cases become diametrically opposed to the values of the people of the U.S. Sadly, what we in the U.S. call “special interests” are able to buy public policy by way of campaign contributions and misleading media campaigns. These “special interests” are aided and abetted in the U.S. by a concentrated media that has no obligation according to U.S. court decisions to tell the public the truth. In other words, U.S. media have won in U.S. court the right to knowingly lie to the people they ostensibly serve. I will briefly delve into this unusual and anti-”democratic” state of affairs now controlling in the U.S. once again before I conclude my remarks.

After my tenure in Congress, I became involved in international human rights activism. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (which was its war against Hamas and others), I joined with a group of human rights activists who tried to deliver medical supplies to the people of Gaza; the Israeli Military stopped us. While in international waters, an Israeli Defense Forces warship rammed the pleasure boat that I was on with the other volunteers, and totally destroyed our boat. Neither the medical supplies nor us volunteers reached Gaza.

Approximately six months later, we, the volunteers from the first thwarted effort, reassembled in order to make another attempt to reach Gaza by sea, traveling through international waters, with the hopes of entering into Palestine by way of Gaza’s territorial waters. By this time, Operation Cast Lead had ended, President Barack Obama had been sworn in, and he had appealed publicly for an easing of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Gazans had made an appeal for school supplies for the children still reeling from the trauma of three weeks of what the United Nations called “one of the most violent episodes in the recent history of the Palestinian territory.” So, some of us answered that call with school supplies for the children and building supplies for the adults so that Gaza could rebuild from the devastation after Operation Cast Lead. On this effort to answer a humanitarian call for help, I, along with 20 other volunteers, was kidnapped by the Israeli military while in international waters, our boat was seized, we were taken by an extremely circuitous route to Israel where we never intended to go, and I was incarcerated in an Israeli prison for 7 days. Sadly, what I witnessed while in Israeli prison pointed to Israel as an apartheid state and the gross mistreatment of, particularly, Ethiopian women who had been lured to the “Holy Land” for job opportunities that vaporized because they were not of the correct religion. In addition to that, my observation at the time was that Ethiopian Jews are used as an important pillar–even enforcer, ironically, of Israeli apartheid. I can expand on this aspect of my observations later if there are specific questions or requests for more information from this body or from individuals in attendance at this Conference.

Needless to say, for a second time, I was prevented from entering Gaza. Upon hearing of my ordeal, Member of Parliament George Galloway who was in Cairo leading “Viva Palestina USA,” contacted me and invited me to come to Cairo and enter Gaza by land, which I did. Upon entering Gaza, I was able to see the destruction inflicted on the people by Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. I scooped up a bit of the soil and put it in this container. Sadly, as noted in the Goldstone Report and admitted by the Israeli Defense Forces, this Gaza soil is probably contaminated with whatever remains of the chemicals that were used by the Israelis against the people of Gaza: chemicals ranging from white phosphorus to inert metals. And while I unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation in Congress to end the use of depleted uranium in U.S. munitions because of the health effects, the Goldstone Report mentions that allegations were made that Israel used depleted uranium during Operation Cast Lead, which also might be in this soil. The United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights is also aware that civilian targets were bombed and totally destroyed. I visited a few of those targets.

One stop on my private tour of the destruction in Gaza was the American International School and amid the rubble I spotted a bright yellow something that I couldn’t quite make out what it was. So, I climbed through the jutted shards of concrete and exposed rebar to retrieve the object. This is that object: an English language children’s art book stamped with the initials of the American International School in Gaza, “AISG.” I was standing in what was left of the School’s library.

Another stop on my tour of the effects of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead was a neighborhood school, not nearly as big and grand as the American School. There, I could see the path of one missile that blew a hole clear through several walls of the school. There were markings on the chalkboard, including the Star of David. I saw several cans of peanuts on the floor. This is one of them. It is written in Hebrew. The Israeli soldiers blew up the school and then sat down in its ruins and enjoyed peanuts and drew religious and political markings on the chalkboard.

Both boats that I was on were seized by the Israelis and destroyed by them. The humanitarian aid on the boats did not reach Gaza and only token aid was delivered by the land convoy to the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the bulk of it stranded in Egypt, not allowed into Gaza by the Egyptians or the Israelis.

What is amazing is not only that this happens over and over again, but that Israeli leaders who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, leave office, and are never held accountable for their policies., as was done by victims of Augusto Pinochet, and as is being done currently by the International Criminal Court. Another aspect of this impunity is that Israel continues to receive U.S. weapons and technology which it uses against civilians in contravention of U.S. law. As these weapons are used or become outdated, the U.S. replenishes Israel’s weapons stock every year.

One measure of this impunity is brought to bear by the pro-Israel Lobby that operates in the political sphere of the U.S. I am a former Member of Congress because pro-Israel sympathizers known as the “pro-Israel Lobby” ensured my ouster from Congress and that of many other Members of Congress who dared to try and draw attention to U.S. law, Israel’s human rights violations, Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons, or any other inconvenient facts that were better buried and left unknown.

What many of you might not know, because these things just aren’t discussed as widely as they should be, is that many of those Members of Congress who were put out of office by the pro-Israel Lobby were the stolen children of Africa, descendants of Africans trafficked in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I will call the names of a few and tell you where you can find information about them as they tell their own stories:

· Gus Savage, Member of Congress from Chicago, Illinois was targeted for defeat by the pro-Israel Lobby because he dared to engage in foreign relations within the purview of a Member of Congress on the African Continent, in Egypt among other places. He recounted his ordeal on the Floor of the House of Representatives and revealed the secrets of the pro-Israel Lobby on the Congressional Record where students and others interested in this topic can find his words today.

· Earl Hilliard, Member of Congress from Birmingham, Alabama was the first Black Member of Congress to serve the people of Alabama since the U.S. Civil War’s Reconstruction Era. He was ejected from the Congress by the pro-Israel Lobby because he, like Gus Savage, traveled to Africa, and in particular to Libya. He also traveled to Lebanon and learned of new weapons for that time, that had been used there by Israel. For this transgression, Earl Hilliard had to go. He is interviewed in a Dutch documentary that is available on youtube where he describes the vicious campaign that was run against him by the pro-Israel Lobby.

· And then, there’s me. Just this month, I published a book entitled Ain’t Nothing Like Freedom, in which I describe just a few of the tactics that were used against me by the pro-Israel Lobby to destroy my career in Congress.

· These three political “take-downs” were very publicly done in order to send a message to others who might also be inclined to speak up out of moral conviction, as Savage, Hilliard, and I did.

· This weeding out also occurs on the local level with state and local elected officials like my father and others targeted for defeat because of the potential threat to the interests of the pro-Israel Lobby that they pose.

· In addition, on a public and private level, targeted individuals have to endure soft repression that makes life difficult. All of this needs to be put on the record if one is to fully understand the power of the pro-Israel Lobby and the pall that it casts on the political process in the U.S. and from what I have been told, also in Europe.

· Finally, the political landscape for Blacks in the U.S. is negatively affected by this weeding out process, because their strongest and most outspoken authentic leaders are vulnerable to the challenges from candidates that are well funded by outside “special interests.”

In light of this, I would like to put this thought to you: can you even imagine what U.S. policy would be like at the United Nations if the will of the people were carried out without the interference of the pro-Israel Lobby? The Durban World Conference Against Racism was a watershed that could be revisited time and time again with U.S. support and participation, except that powerful Lobbies want otherwise. I know, it’s hard to imagine things differently. But it is not hard for me and that is one vision that keeps me going: U.S. policy made in the image of the values of the people of the U.S. At a Conference whose theme is African solidarity with the Palestinian people, I thought it was important to mention not only how the pro-Israel Lobby skews politics in the U.S. against the Palestinians, but also against African-descendants inside the U.S.

I focus on this important aspect of policy-making by focusing on who gets to make the policy because I believe that this is one key reason why Palestinians are forced to suffer while, at best platitudes and delay, serve as the effective policies of the US and European countries.

The short version of this tragic story is that pro-Israel forces inside the U.S. are willing to use their money to buy political influence and protection for Israel across the political spectrum while the same cannot be said of pro-peace, pro-justice forces. I liken the situation to game day when one team shows up in beautiful new uniforms with all of the latest and best equipment, primed and ready to execute its strategy in the game of play, while the other team doesn’t even show up on the pitch. I believe that one remaining untested justice frontier is the political battleground in U.S. and European capitals. It is inside these essential capitals that pro-Israel Lobbies have become comfortable operating with very little opposition from the other side.

I am tired of losing when, I believe, we really do not have to lose. I fundamentally believe that the people of this world are good and want peace. I have spoken to Afghanis and Pakistanis, to Yemenis and to Somalis, Palestinians and Americans, and I find them to be peace-loving peoples.

So, how do we move from where we are to where we need to be? That is the fundamental question. I focus on the political because the political creates the legal. And the political creates impunity.

Just in my personal experiences, I have outlined breaches of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, international law, and U.S. law by the occupying power: Israel.

I served as a juror on the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine that recently concluded its Sessions with a finding that both the U.S. and Europe are guilty of contributing to the atmosphere of impunity with which apartheid Israel carries out its policies against Palestinians and anyone who stands in its way.

I also recently served as an Official Observer as the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission received testimony from Palestinians on their treatment inside Israel as well as in the Occupied Territories.

Through my service with both of these organizations, I have met too many courageous Palestinians and Israelis who want to live peacefully with each other and who put their lives and their livelihoods on the line every day for peace and the rule of law. I do believe that much of the suffering could be alleviated if we would put sufficient energy and resources behind putting out in public view how the pro-Israel Lobby misdirects U.S. and European policies and prevents pro-peace and justice politicians from ever having the opportunity to put those values, along with our basic human dignity, permanently on the table for public debate.

Finally, I am not Palestinian. I am not Arab. I am not Muslim. But I am human. And that is enough for me to acknowledge the dignity of others who are oppressed and to epitomize what this Conference is all about: African Solidarity with the Palestinian People for the Achievement of its inalienable rights, including the sovereignty and independence of the State of Palestine.

Thank you.

Palestine: Crossing closed & airstrikes on Gaza

IOA closes Karm Abu Salem crossing

GAZA, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) refused to open Karm Abu Salem commercial crossing with Gaza Strip on Sunday.

Palestinians sources said that the IOA informed the committee responsible for coordinating entry of goods into the Strip via Karm Abu Salem that the crossing would be closed on Sunday for “security reasons”.

The IOA closes the crossing on Friday and Saturday every week but it refused to re-open it on Sunday for commercial traffic.

The IOA closed Karm Abu Salem crossing for 30 days since the start of 2013, which amounts to 30% of operating days in that period.


Israeli warplanes intensify flights over Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli warplanes and Apache helicopter gunships continued to fly over Gaza Strip since the early morning hours on Sunday.

A field observer said that F-16s have been flying at low altitudes all day long while the apaches were seen flying along the eastern borders of the coastal enclave.

He pointed out that Israeli occupation forces in armored vehicles were seen moving along the buffer zone.

Israeli warplanes launched two air raids on southern Gaza at dawn today targeting an abandoned area and a training site with no casualties reported.


“Israel” launches two air strikes last night on Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli F16 warplanes bombed on Sunday night a Palestinian resistance site in Khan Younis and an empty piece of land west of Rafah area in the Gaza Strip.

Concurrently, Israeli drones and warplanes were reported overflying intensively different areas of the Gaza Strip.

The air raids took place a few hours after the Israeli army claimed that Palestinian homemade rockets landed in Netivot settlement and the Negev region.

The Palestinian information center (PIC) reporter in Gaza said that one of the Israeli aerial attacks caused material damage to a resistance training site west of Khan Younis, belonging to Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement.

He also said that another airstrike happened shortly after the first raid in an empty area west of Rafah.

Meanwhile, the medical authorities in Gaza did not report about any casualties among civilians or resistance fighters as a result of the attacks.

‘Brotherhood turns back on Gaza’

by Ramzy Baroud, source

On September 17, 2012, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza, made another appeal to his Egyptian counterpart Hisham Kandil to consider setting up a free trade area between Gaza and Egypt.

The reasonable idea would allow Egypt to support Gaza’s ragged economy while sparing Cairo the political fallout from destroying hundreds of tunnels that provide 1.6 million Palestinians a lifeline under a continued Israeli siege. Palestinians in Gaza rely on goods smuggled through tunnels and to a lesser extent United Nations handouts to survive.

“We explained the concept in detail … the idea is to alleviate the economic hardship in Gaza,” Hamas official, Taher al-Nono was then quoted in Reuters. Kandil promised to look into the matter, indicating that it was too early for a response.

However this proposal was introduced before and repeatedly after the September meeting. It should have at least served as the basis for a serious platform of discussion regarding future cooperation between Gaza and Egypt on this urgent matter. But Cairo neither responded nor offered an alternative to end Gaza’s seemingly perpetual misery. Even worse, for several months now and notably since the deadly August 5 attack in Sinai by unknown assailants – which killed 16 Egyptian border guards – the Egyptian army has actively been destroying Gaza’s tunnels.

According to Gaza-based economist Maher al-Tabbaa, “30% of Gaza’s goods come from the tunnels.” But other estimates, cited by Reuters, place the food reliance on smuggling at 80%. Without tunnels, and no real, long-term alterative, Gaza will delve deeper into poverty and the crisis will likely reach unprecedented levels.

But why is post-revolution Egypt maintaining the very policy of isolating Gaza which was first espoused by former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak?

Despite grave humanitarian repercussions of the siege, the subject is essentially political. Following the demise of the Mubarak regime, a sense of euphoria was felt in Gaza and across the region that a revolutionary government – especially one headed by the Muslim Brotherhood – is likely to reverse an enriched legacy historically financed and guarded by American money and political leverage. The price of the Camp David treaty signed between Egypt and Israel in 1978-79 was meant to turn Egypt into a permanent political asset for Washington and Tel Aviv in exchange for a fixed amount of money which arrives mostly in the form of military aid. Mubarak had indeed delivered and the late Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was the personification of that American success.

When Israel imposed a siege on Gaza following Hamas’ election victory in 2006, it mattered little that Egypt and Gaza had a shared border. Israel seemed entirely comfortable that the Mubarak regime was on board, while Palestinians in the Strip subsisted between occasional war and economic hardship.

To suggest that Hamas orchestrated the murder of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai – which served as the army’s cue to further cut off Gaza – is to have no understanding whatsoever of the collective psychology of Palestinians in the Strip who continue to see Egypt as an oasis of political hope and economic salvation. Moreover, the cultural and religious rapports between Gaza and Egypt – which administrated the Strip for decades between 1948 and 1967 – is easily discounted.

Overwhelmed by the persisting attempts at its removal from power, the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi continue to approach matters concerning Palestinians with utmost caution. Their detractors have dedicated much energy and time to smear Palestinians, Hamas and Gaza in much of Egypt’s privately owned media. Bizarre propaganda of completely besieged Palestinians in Gaza smuggling weapons and drugs to the Sinai is creating a state of confusion among many Egyptians regarding Gaza and its role in Egyptian security chaos.

Too timid to challenge the many forces at play in Egypt, Morsi’s government is offering little by way of helping Gaza overcome its isolation. This hesitance has proven costly. Using the pretense of protecting Egypt’s national security, the army is actively destroying the tunnels under the leadership of defense minister Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. Reporting in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on April 6, Zvi Bar’el estimated that 250 tunnels were destroyed in March, while 76 were flooded with sewage, “after locating them by means of satellite information, probably in cooperation with the United States”.

“Probably” is an understatement, as the US government – and other Western powers – invested much funds and expertise in ensuring that Gaza is fully quarantined. Throughout most of 2011, it was simply unthinkable in Gaza that Egypt would continue actively cooperating with western intelligence to keep Hamas isolated. In 2012 and especially after the August attack in the Sinai, it became clear that whatever forces that were yielded by the January 2011 revolution, were simply too weak to impact reality on the ground. According to Ha’aretz, “Egypt’s political (and) military leadership (is) divided over support for Hamas.” The longer that division persists, the deeper Gaza sinks into despair. Naturally, some regional and international forces are actively investing in the Egyptian division, wishing to tame Hamas’ political independence.

And indeed there are signs that Hamas is now catering to outside powers in an attempt to preserve itself and withstand the pressures that preceded and followed its exit from Damascus as a result of the uprising-turned-civil war in Syria. Some media report that Khaled Meshaal’s reinstatement as the Hamas political chief would not have been possible without heavy pressure from the head of Egyptian intelligence General Raafat Shehata. With Meshaal at the helm, the normalization between Hamas and Jordan and Qatar (a major Hamas funder), among other regional powers, is likely to continue. Moreover, according to Adel Zaanoun, reporting for Agence France Presse on April 3, based on regional experts’ opinions, Meshaal’s re-elections “may better Hamas ties with (the) West”. The fact that the Hamas elections, took place in Cairo, one analyst suggested “is proof that Egypt will support the movement in opening it up to the West”.

It is possible that the price to be exacted from the Brotherhood to end regional and Western interference in Egyptian affairs will also include bringing Hamas inline. While Hamas’ Gaza leadership are being denied access to any possible economic independence, some Hamas leaders outside are being propped up as suitable “moderate” candidates in any possible Hamas-Western normalization in the future.

That dependency is being slowly but cleverly crafted, as it’s aimed at exacting political “compromises” from Hamas in the long run. And as if the Israeli siege and the destruction of tunnels are not enough, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recently announced a distribution cutoff of basic aid to 25,000 Gaza refugees, a decision that “could exacerbate hardship caused by Israeli and Egyptian controls on the isolated enclave’s borders,” reported Al Jazeera on April 5.

Without alternative economic venues in the face of Israel’s land and sea blockade, Egypt’s crackdown on the tunnels and UNRWA’s budget cuts, the Hamas Gaza leadership is likely to seek alternatives in the form of handouts which will come at a political price. In the long run, Hamas will face difficult options, including splitting up or following the same detrimental path on which Fatah and the PLO found themselves, leading up to the Oslo ‘peace’ fiasco starting in 1993. Only a constructive end to the Egyptian political deadlock could offer Hamas in Gaza a third, more dignified alternative and that is to be seen.

Palestine: Israeli plan to expand the Buraq Wall plaza, land seized & houses to be demolished

Israeli plan to expand the Buraq Wall plaza

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Hebrew newspaper Yediot Ahronot revealed on Wednesday a new scheme that aims to expand the area of the Buraq Wall, adjacent to Al-Aqsa mosque.

The Israeli plan aims to resolve the dispute between ultra-Orthodox Jews and American Jews regarding mixing between women and men in the place.

The newspaper said the scheme will divide the place into three sections: one for men, the second for women and the third for the mixed public.

The plan was suggested by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, who will present his recommendations to the Israeli Prime Minister within days. It received initial approval by the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem and the American Jews abroad.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalemites warned of the Israeli persistent excavations in the Buraq Square, carried out in preparations for the construction of the religious center of Beit Strauss.

For his part, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, the preacher of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, warned of the seriousness of the excavation work in the Buraq Square.

He added in a press statement that the Buraq Square is part of the Islamic Endowments, which the Israeli occupation authorities have been repeatedly trying to seize.


IOF kidnap Thaer Halahela once again

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at dawn Wednesday re-kidnapped ex-detainee Thaer Halahela from his home in Ramallah city after beating him severely.

The IOF had released Halahela along with his fellow hunger striker Bilal Diyab from administrative detention last June after a deal that ended their hunger strike.

According to eyewitnesses, the IOF violently broke into and ransacked the houses of Halahela and his neighbors.

The troops also brutally beat him in front of his wife and children, and confiscated his cellphone.

Halahela moved to live in Ramallah three months ago and was an active participant in all events held lately in support of the Palestinian prisoners, and he might be kidnapped this time because of his solidarity activities.

His wife was reportedly rushed to hospital after she lost her consciousness as the troops were beating and humiliating her husband.

Halahela, aged 33, has been detained administratively based on an Israeli secret file eight times before.


IOA prevents the entry of 1000 trucks carrying goods into Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli Occupation Authorities (IOA) continued to close Karm Abu Salem crossing for the third day in a row, preventing the entry of nearly one thousand trucks carrying goods into Gaza Strip, the Popular Committee Against the Siege said.

The Palestinian follow-up committee of crossings reported that Karm Abu Salem, located south east of the Gaza Strip, is closed for the third consecutive day, pointing out that the crossing was closed 43 days since the beginning of the year under various pretexts.

The committee clarified that the mentioned 1000 trucks were carrying agricultural and commercial products, aid supplies to UNRWA agency, and building materials for some international projects, in addition to cooking gas.

The Israeli policy of closing crossings leads to huge losses to the Palestinian traders and businessmen in Gaza, the committee added.

The committee stressed the need to fully open Gaza crossings, increase the number of trucks allowed into Gaza to meet the people’s needs, and to stop limiting the fishing area to three miles.


Settlers seize Palestinian land in al-Khalil

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– A group of Jewish settlers seized by force Palestinian agricultural land in Tel Armidah area in the city of al-Khalil south of the West Bank.

The settlers seized an agricultural land owned by Abu Haikel family and began to farm it after linking it to a water network in a neighboring settlement, the Rehabilitation Committee in al-Khalil said on Tuesday.

Abu Haikel family pointed out that their land, about five dunums, has been subjected to several previous settlers’ attacks during the past ten years.

The family called on local and international human rights organizations to back Tel Armidah’s residents who are constantly exposed to the Jewish settlers’ attacks that aim to deport them and confiscate their lands.

In the same context, Israeli bulldozers demolished on Tuesday water wells in Khirbet Alderat, east of the town of Yatta southern al-Khalil, under the pretext of being established without permit, the coordinator of Committee Against Settlement revealed.

The committee’s coordinator added that the Israeli occupation forces had served demolition notices to more than 60 facilities in the region.


IOF to demolish 8 houses in the Northern Jordan Valley

NABLUS, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces notified on Tuesday afternoon 8 citizens from Ain al-Hilweh in Wadi al-Maleh in the Northern Jordan Valley to evacuate the region, claiming it is a military zone where construction is prohibited.

Aref Daraghmeh, head of Wadi al-Maleh village council, said in a press statement that the occupation authorities ordered the families who live in tin huts in the village to leave before the next month.

He added that these notifications come in the context of the continuous Israeli attempts to evacuate the region from its inhabitants.

Ali Daraghmeh, a resident in Ain al-Hilweh, stressed that these military decisions had a negative impact on the residents of the area whose number began to decrease as a result of the practices of the IOF soldiers and settlers in the region.

The IOF turned 70% of Wadi al-Maleh’s lands to military training areas and areas planted with landmines.

Palestine: Marmara victims to pursue case despite apology & bulldozers ruin cultivated land lot in preparation for annexing it

Marmara Victims to Pursue Zionist Entity despite Apology

Al Manar

Turkish pro-Palestinian activists said on Monday they would not withdraw a lawsuit against the Zionist commanders for a fatal 2010 raid on their Gaza-bound flotilla, ahead of official compensation talks between Turkey and the Jewish entity this week.

“We will not discuss compensation or give up on the trials until the blockade over Gaza is removed,” said Musa Cogas, one of the activists who was on board the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the flotilla aimed at breaking Zionist Gaza blockade.

His comments came ahead of official compensation talks between Turkey and the entity of occupation on Thursday.

The talks follow a breakthrough apology from Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month for the deaths of nine Turks during the raid.

The US-brokered apology ended a three-year diplomatic crisis between the entity and Turkey, which asked for a formal apology and compensation for the families of the victim to fully normalize ties.

“The apology means Israel is confessing to its crime… and has a diplomatic significance but that means nothing to us,” said Ahmet Varol, a columnist for the Turkish Islamist daily Akit and another of the activists on board the flotilla.
“The flotilla set sail to get the embargo lifted over Gaza and the blockade removed and we are clearly not there yet,” Varol said.

Prosecutors at the high-profile Istanbul trial that opened in November are seeking life sentences for four top Zionist military chiefs over the deadly maritime assault. The next hearing is scheduled for May 20.

From a legal perspective, payment of compensation would not lead to the withdrawal of a “public lawsuit” seeking criminal action, a plaintiff lawyer told Agence France Presse.

All in all, the total compensation sought by the plaintiffs at courts across Turkey reaches 10 million Turkish lira.


Israeli bulldozers ruin cultivated land lot in preparation for annexing it

NABLUS, (PIC)– Israeli bulldozers ruined vast tracts of Palestinian land owned by inhabitants of Deir Al-Hattab village, east of Nablus city, on Sunday.

Abdulkarim Hussein, the head of the village’s municipal council, said that the Israeli bulldozers have been working on the destruction of olive and almond trees over dozens of dunums for the past couple of days.

He said that the Israeli occupation authorities want to expand the nearby Elon Moreh settlement, which was established on land owned by people of Deir Al-Hattab, Azmut, and Salem villages, or maybe establish a new settlement outpost.

Hussein appealed for international pressures on the IOA to stop such practices.