Archive for July, 2009

As blockade bites deep, more Gaza children must work

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israeli occupation, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on 31/07/2009 by 3071km

Written by Rami Almeghari

Date published: 31st July 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

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As blockade bites deep, more Gaza children must work
Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 31 July 2009

Fourteen-year-old Jihad sells chewing gum to drivers in Gaza City. (Rami Almeghari)


Zaher and Jihad are two boys living in Gaza. Every day they get up early and rush to Gaza City’s streets so that they might find something to sell to those walking or driving by. Their fathers have been unemployed since the the intifada — the uprising against Israeli occupation — began in 2000 and they, along with thousands of others, were no longer allowed to work inside Israel. Conditions worsened after Israel imposed a siege on the territory in June 2007. The boys work in order to help their families.

Zaher, 17, from Gaza City’s al-Tuffah neighborhood explains that, “I get up at 6am every day, then I go to a local farmer, where I pick up mint leaves. I carry the leaves and start my working day as you see me now.” He buys small bunches of mint leaves for one shekel ($0.25). Working sunset to sunrise, Zaher earns about 90 shekels a day.

Zaher added, “I am forced to sell these leaves here. Otherwise my family cannot live. There are 10 members in my family, including me, my brothers and parents. No one helps us as my father has been without work for the past nine years. The only assistance we get is some food rations provided by UNRWA [the UN Agency for Palestine refugees] from time to time as well as some help from a generous relative.”

While running among the cars in the street, Zaher explains that not everyone is supportive or generous. Stating that, “Sometimes some people, especially young ones in luxurious cars, mock us. I recall that one day while I was trying to sell mint to some young men in a car, they took the leaves from me and then drove away fast as the light turned green. When they stopped they gave me the leaves and said sarcastically ‘who told you we want these leaves?'”

Standing on another corner at the al-Saraya crossing, Jihad al-Jael sells small packs of chewing gum. Jihad, 14, and his 15-year-old brother walk to the crossing every morning from the Gaza City neighborhood of al-Mujama al-Islami, which is about three kilometers away.

Jihad explains that, “I have five sisters and five brothers as my father has been without work for the past nine years. Under these harsh conditions me and my brother are forced to come here in the heart of Gaza City, in order to earn a living for hungry stomachs.”

Jihad’s father is not only unemployed but is also ailing. The family does not have another source of income other than the occasional food rations they receive from UNRWA.

Sadly, Jihad and Zaher are not alone. Children can be seen on Gaza City’s other street corners, selling in front of stores or to passing cars. Other children sell tea, coffee or tissues at the Jundi al-Majhoul public garden in the al-Rimal district. All of them work to help their families.

Although the Palestinian Child Law of 2004 forbids children under age 15 from working, the phenomenon has become more prevalent among that age group and younger due to the harsh economic conditions in Gaza. In June, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a report stating that the closure of Gaza has pushed the unemployment rate to 44 percent and caused a dramatic rise in poverty. Currently, more than 70 percent of Gaza’s population lives in poverty, with an income of less than $250 a month for a family of seven to nine.

A crippling Israeli blockade has hampered public life in Gaza, with 95 percent of local industries being forced to shut down, due to lack of essential raw materials and shortage of machineries. According to the ICRC, only 2,662 truckloads of goods entered Gaza from Israel in May. This represented a decrease of almost 80 percent from the 11,392 truckloads Israel allowed in during April 2007, before Hamas took over the territory amidst factional fighting with the US-supported Fatah party of West Bank Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Israel imposed a siege on Gaza after Hamas’ takeover.

Sajy al-Mughanni, communication officer for the UN children’s agency (UNICEF) in Gaza, blamed Israel’s 25-month siege for the growing poverty as well as the increasing number of working children in the region. He explained that, “We do have a high level of unemployment in Gaza. In terms of child labor, we don’t have specific numbers. But we do use our teams to go out in the field, to do an assessment and try to intervene with the families. I can confirm to you that the phenomenon of child labor is growing. The increase of this phenomenon can be mainly attributed to the Israeli blockade.”

Al-Mughanni added that, “We are coordinating with all UN agencies to provide food aid or health care to many families, in an attempt to provide relief and prevent further spread of the child labor phenomenon. However, this is not solving the problem drastically. So if we want to realize an end to such a phenomenon, the Israeli blockade should come to an end and Palestinians in Gaza should go back to their normal life, prior to the imposition of the siege.”

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

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Gaza launches ‘better virtues’ campaign

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Videos with tags , on 31/07/2009 by 3071km

A campaign has been launched in Gaza by the Religious Affairs Ministry to promote what it calls “better virtues”.

The initiative goes from street level all the way to the supreme court, declaring what men and women lawyers can and cannot wear. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin explain.


30th July – Gaza kids shatter kite-flying world record

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Videos with tags on 30/07/2009 by 3071km

Thousands of Palestinian children have gathered in the Gaza Strip in an attempt to break the world record on the number of kites flown at the same time, in the same place.

Thursday’s event was part of a UN initiative organised to restore hope and normality to the war-torn territory.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

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Written by Ayman Mohyeldin

Date Published: 30th July 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

Gaza children shatter world record
By Ayman Mohyeldin in Gaza
The event is part of a UN-sponsored programme set up for students during their academic break

It was an unlikely place to shatter a world record, but the beaches of the Gaza Strip were the venue for thousands of Palestinian children who flew the largest number of kites simultaneously from the same place.The record that once stood at 713 has been broken, thanks to the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and about 6,000 kite-flying children.

The event is part of the Summer Games programme run by UNRWA – an activities and curricular programme set up for students during their break from the academic school year.

More than half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people are under the age of 18 – so there is no shortage of potential record-breakers.

Popular programme

Although only 200,000 are actually enrolled in UN-operated schools, there are nearly 240,000 children who participate in the Summer Games, proving that the UNRWA programme has been a popular activity during the summer break.

Thousands of teachers give up their summer holidays to partake in the programme each year that is aimed at fostering a positive summer experience for Gaza’s children.But unlike elsewhere in the world, the children and the people of Gaza are now entering their third year under an Israeli-imposed siege and blockade, and are still reeling from the devastating war just seven months ago.

While the summer programme helps students who have fallen behind during the school year to catch up academically, the kite-flying event was a genuine world record attempt.

Clear guidelines

The Guinness Book of World Records was invited to verify the attempt, but due to a security advisory by the UK government warning against any travel to the Gaza Strip, they instead sent event organisers very clear guidelines in order for the record to be considered.

More than 119 schools were allotted open areas along the beach for their students.

Independent observers organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross supervised each school’s area. Every child’s name was registered.

The kites had to remain in the air for 30 seconds all simultaneously – and when it came time for the record – the media, fans, and above all the children were not disappointed.

UNRWA officials say they are confident the record has been broken with some estimates putting the number of kites flown to around 4,000.

Message to the world

International media, including Al Jazeera English, witnessed the record-breaking event.

The world record event, however, was not just about records, say organisers.

Gaza’s children have been suffering from three years of Israeli siege [GETTY]

They say it sends an important message to the world.

“There is a glorious symbolism about thousands of children in the world’s most locked down community heading to the beach with beautiful kites they have created themselves and showing the world that they are able to have fun like kids anywhere and indeed, be number one in the world,” Chris Gunness, the UNRWA spokesperson, said.

“Thousands of kites, soaring skyward with kids gazing upward allowing their thoughts to rise up from the grind they confront on the ground: it is a symbol of the quest for happiness, freedom and human fulfilment,” he added.

The event’s organisers say they have succeeded in inspiring the children of Gaza to gaze into the skies above, whether the Guinness record is shattered or not.

So as Gaza’s blue skies turned into an array of coloured paper kites, the sounds of children laughing and paper flapping served as reminder to the youth of Gaza that they, too, can be among the world’s best despite the odds.

30th July Video Free Gaza news Is Israel guilty of piracy

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israeli occupation, Siege, Videos with tags , , , , , on 30/07/2009 by 3071km

Source: Free Gaza Movement

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Watch the video and decide for yourself how many international and maritime laws Israel has broken. The Israeli navy hijacked the Spirit of Humanity in international waters. The Israeli government hijacks Palestinian fishing boats, in Palestinian territorial waters, kidnaps the fishermen, and sends its military out to shoot to wound and kill them as they struggle to make a living. After watching this video, you will be convinced that Israel has committed acts of piracy against Palestinians and against internationals. No other country would be allowed to do what Israel does on a daily basis.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) volunteers were accompanying fishermen to document attacks on them by the Israeli Navy, and to provide a deterrence to these attacks. (www.palsolidarity.org) For more information and current reports about Gaza fishermen: fishinunderfire.blogspot.com

Please distribute this video to all of your lists. Thank you.

Free Gaza Movement

Israel says investigating 100 Gaza war complaints

Posted in Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , on 30/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 30th July 2009

Source: Reuters

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JERUSALEM, July 30 (Reuters) – Israel said Thursday it was investigating 100 complaints of misconduct by its forces in a Gaza offensive this year and admitted its troops had fired white phosphorous munitions but not in violation of international law.
A 163-page government statement issued in anticipation of a United Nations war crimes investigation headed for completion next month defended the 22-day as a “necessary and proportionate” response to Hamas rocket fire at Israel.
Some 1,400 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 13 Israelis were killed in the Dec. 27-Jan. 18 operation and Israel has repeatedly rebuffed war crimes charges by several human rights groups.
In its report published by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Israel calls the war its response to shootings by Hamas Islamist militants in Gaza of 12,000 rockets over eight years alongside suicide bombings that killed 1,100 in Israel.
It restated Israel’s insistence it complied with international law in the 22-day campaign, adding it was “conducting comprehensive investigations” into 100 pending complaints after inquiries from U.N. and human rights groups.
Thirteen criminal files have also been opened, most involving allegations Israeli soldiers used civilians as human shields or perpetrated property damage, the report added.
Israel previously has said internal investigations by its armed forces had found no evidence of serious misconduct by troops in the Gaza fighting.
Israel also admitted outright for the first time in the report that its army had “used munitions containing white phosphorous” in Gaza, but denied violating international law, saying it had not fired such weapons inside populated areas.
Previously Israel had said it was investigating allegations that it fired weapons with phosphorous, which cause serious burns, without directly denying or confirming it had done so.
Israel has not cooperated with a United Nations probe headed by former chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accusing the organisation of bias against the Jewish state.
But the investigation due in August seemed a catalyst behind Israel’s report, in addition to charges published this month by 30 Israeli veterans saying they were encouraged to minimise their own casualties rather than avoid civilian deaths in Gaza.
“There are constant efforts to keep this issue on the agenda, and we reached the conclusion we should prepare a complete explanation so there would be a clear Israeli statement as to why we did what we did and how,” an Israeli ministry official said.

Al Mezan Calls for Intervention to End Tunnels’ Catastrophe Eight Persons Died in Rafah Tunnels in Last Two Days Bringing Death Toll to 100 since 2006

Posted in Palestine on 28/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 28th July 2009

Source: Al Mezan Center for Human

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According to information obtained by Al Mezan Centre’s field researchers, eight Palestinians died in the last two days in two different incidents in tunnels in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. In one incident, fuel leaked in a tunnel and in the second the tunnel collapsed while workers were inside it. This raises the number of victims of the tunnel industry to 100 deaths; 39 of whom died in 2009 alone. Another 121 people have been wounded.

At approximately 5:00am on Thursday 28 July 2009, the dead body of Ayman Jamal Abu Samak, 23, from Tel As-Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, was admitted at An-Najar Hospital in Rafah. Medical sources reported that the deceased died due to suffocation after a tunnel collapsed while he was inside it near Yebna neighborhood at the border line south of Rafah refugee camp.

In the morning hours on Monday 27 July 2009, civil defense teams found the bodies of Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Moghyyar, 36, Yousif Hamdan Mo’amar, 24, Tareq Ibrahem Keshta, 19, and Tareq Sameer Keshta, 19. The civil defense also rescued six others who sustained light to serious wounds in the fuel leakage incident. At approximately 2:30pm on the same day, the civil defense found the bodies of Tamer Ramdan As-Sayid Faraj, 24 and Issa Mohammed Al-Kissi, 24, in the same tunnel. At approximately 1:00pm on Sunday 26 July 2009, the civil defense found the dead body of Sami Saeed Keshta, 23, who had suffocated to death due to fuel leakage inside a tunnel near the Salah ad-Din Gate, west of Al-Brazil neighborhood at the border line between Rafah and Egypt. In addition, two other persons were rescued from the same tunnel. According to Al Mezan’s investigations, the leakage occurred at approximately 3am of the same day in a tunnel near the one in which these people died. Two persons died due to the fuel leakage in this tunnel.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights expresses its deep sorrow for the high number of victims in these incidents. Most of the people who work in tunnels come from very poor backgrounds and their circumstances have forced them to undertake this kind of work to provide for their families under the difficult socio-economic conditions that are caused by the Israeli siege on Gaza. Nevertheless, Al Mezan re-asserts that the smuggling tunnels are illegal.

It should be noted that the tight siege imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the Gaza Strip, which prevents the free movement of the commodities and humanitarian supplies, has driven the tunnel industry in Gaza, which has prospered in response to the sharp lack of essential goods in Gaza. The siege represents a form of unlawful collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza and has seriously harmed their human rights while the international community has remained silence.

As tunnels represent an inevitable alternative for society to attempt to deal with the impact of the Israeli siege, Al Mezan has expected that the Government in Gaza would monitor and regulate this industry; including by taking measures to protect the life, safety and wellbeing of those who work in it. Until this industry is abolished, the Government must ensure that all the necessary safety measures and equipment needed for quick rescue operations are in place. The Government is also responsible for monitoring the quality and prices of the goods that enter the Gaza Strip. Al Mezan finds it incomprehensible that the authorities have not made any significant efforts to regulate this industry despite the very high death rates it causes and the very high prices of the goods that enter Gaza even when goods are available in the market. The authorities in Gaza are also responsible for monitoring and preventing the widespread cases of fraud in this industry

Therefore, Al Mezan Centre calls on the Gaza Government to take immediate steps to act upon the obligations it owes to Palestinian citizens in Gaza. The tunnels’ catastrophe must end. If shutting it off entirely does not seem objectively attainable now, the authorities, at minimum, are responsible for taking all the necessary measures to protect its workers and the entire population from the consequences of the lack of its regulation.

Settlement tourism takes root in West Bank

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Videos, West Bank with tags , , on 16/07/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 16th July 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Thousands of tourists visiting the Middle East each year have plenty of reasons to travel to the region.

But for a small minority the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a draw, prompting enterprising tour operators to organise trips to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.