Archive for August, 2009

Israeli navy hits Gaza fishing boat

Posted in Palestine on 31/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 31st August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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The Israeli navy said the boat was outside the permitted area [AFP]

At least one person has been hurt in an Israeli navy attack on fishing boats off the coast of Gaza

The navy opened fire on the fishermen off the coast at Beit Lahiya, setting one boat on fire, witnesses said on Monday.

The Israeli navy enforces a blockade on the Palestinian territory and prevents fishermen from venturing more than five kilometres from shore.

An Israeli army spokesman said the fishing boats, “violated security boundaries off the coast of the Gaza Strip … out of the permitted fishing zone.”

Israeli gunboats enforce this limit by patrolling the internationally recognised Gazan waters.

The fishermen complain that they get fired on before they even get close to the limit.

‘Warning shots’

The navy spokesman said the boats had failed to respond to warning shots.

Palestinians said 20 people were onboard the boats at the time.

The burning boat was brought ashore where residents helped to put out the blaze.

At least one fisherman was wounded
in the incident [AFP]

About 3,500 fishermen struggle to trade off Gaza’s 40km Mediterranean coastline despite the blockade.

Israel imposed a crippling siege on the Gaza Strip in 2007 after the Hamas movement took full control of the territory after pushing out Fatah security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

International calls for the siege to be eased have mounted since Israel fought a 22-day offensive in the territory in December and January, increasing the hardships faced by residents.

Israel said that the war was aimed at ending rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters.

Israeli jets destroy Gaza building

Posted in Palestine on 31/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 30 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera

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Hamas said the Israeli attack had hit ‘open ground’, but witnesses said a building was destroyed [Reuters]

Israeli aircraft have bombed a building in the Gaza Strip, which it said concealed an entrance to a tunnel used by Palestinians to carry out cross-border attacks.

Witnesses said that the building was destroyed by the attack early on Sunday, but there were no casualties.

An Israeli military spokesman said the raid was in response to a rocket fired from Gaza into Israel on Saturday, which caused no damage.

“The building was located 1.5 km from the border and concealed a tunnel that was to have been used by terrorists to infiltrate Israel for an attack,” the spokesman said.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, described the target as “open ground” but witnesses said it was a building with two rooms and a courtyard.

An Israeli security source said intelligence indicated the tunnel had been dug by several Palestinian factions other than Hamas.

Gaza explosions

Earlier on Sunday, Hamas said that unidentified Palestinians had set off explosive devices at two of its security compounds in Gaza City.

Hamas said the attacks had targeted the Ansar-2 security compound and the Gaza residence of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who has stayed away from the territory since his Fatah faction was forced out by Hamas in 2007.

Hamas security sources said that they had defused a third bomb near what is known as the department for security and protection.

No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, while Israeli military sources denied involvement.

Ihab Ghussein, Hamas interior ministry spokesman, said they were investigating the explosions.

Israel’s former PM Olmert charged with corruption

Posted in Palestine on 31/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 30 August 2009

Source: The Guardian

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Prosecutors have brought three separate cases including fraud and breach of trust against the former leader, after months of high-level inquiries that forced him from office.

Israeli prosecutors charged the former prime minister Ehud Olmert with corruption today in three separate cases after months of high-profile investigations that eventually forced him out of office.

Olmert, 63, who announced last autumn that he would resign in the face of mounting corruption allegations, continues to maintain his innocence. Indicted for the first time, he now faces the humiliating prospect of a trial.

In recent weeks prosecutors had dropped their investigations into three other cases against Olmert for lack of evidence, but today indicted him with charges including fraud and breach of trust. The cases date back to time when he was a minister and Jerusalem mayor, before he became PM in 2006.

An American businessman and long-time Olmert supporter, Morris Talansky, alleged in court last year that he gave him thousands of dollars in envelopes which he believed were spent on hotels, holidays and cigars. Olmert, he claimed, asked for the money in cash and kept no record of how it was spent. Investigators suspect Olmert broke campaign finance laws.

In a second case, Olmert is alleged to have double-billed for flights he booked through a travel agency called Rishon Tours. He was accused of falsifying receipts and using the tens of thousands of dollars surplus to pay for private family holidays. Among charities he is accused of double-billing were the Simon Weisenthal Centre, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the World Jewish Congress, according to the Ha’aretz newspaper.

The third inquiry involves claims that Olmert gave personal favours to a former legal partner who was acting on behalf of a company known as the Israel Investments Centre. Investigators believe Olmert committed fraud and breach of trust.

In Israel there had been strong criticism of the attorney general, Menachem Mazuz, who led the investigations into Olmert. They began not long after he took office as prime minister and dogged his shortened term. After announcing his resignation last autumn, Olmert formally stepped down in March, after Binyamin Netanyahu formed a government after the general election.

Olmert seemed to have clung to the possibility of a return to political life, but any corruption conviction would swiftly put pay to that.

His premiership was much criticised from the start. He was elected on the idea that he would withdraw from parts of the occupied West Bank, but that never happened. Instead, he led Israel into a costly war in southern Lebanon in mid-2006, hoping to secure the return of two Israeli soldiers who were killed and dragged back into Lebanon by Hezbollah militants in a cross-border raid.

The war claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Lebanese and nearly 200 Israelis and provoked international condemnation, but did not bring the return of the soldiers or weaken Hezbollah. Olmert’s wartime conduct was heavily criticised in a government-appointed investigation. The soldiers’ bodies were handed back a year later in return for the release of five Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners.

Once allegations from the corruption investigations began to emerge, Olmert’s credibility seemed to weaken even further. It became so bad that in May last year, Ehud Barak, his defence minister, called on him to quit. Olmert, however, staggered on, despite some of the lowest popularity polls for any Israeli prime minister.

In the end the weight of the mounting corruption allegations, straddling at one point six separate inquiries and near-weekly rounds of questioning in his office by prosecutors, proved too much and Olmert announced his resignation. Before he stepped down he led Israel once more into a major military invasion, this time in Gaza, claiming the lives of nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and again earning international condemnation.

Gaza: tomorrow never die

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, History, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, War crimes on 28/08/2009 by 3071km

Written by Ashraf Tantish

Date published: 27 August 2009

Source: The Palestinian Telegraph

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Gazan children celebrating the first day of Ramadan

Gazan children celebrating the first day of Ramadan

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Gaza: tomorrow never die

The holy month of Ramadan is not so joyous for Gazans trying to cope with unemployment, an ongoing, critical siege, and the death of family members in the war.

Gaza

It’s a big prison, holding 1.5 million Palestinians, and it takes you to the closed iron gates, and an Israeli soldier sipping his coffee and working on the order of trucks, which have arrived, loaded with the Israeli products, which are sometimes corrupted because of the length of time waiting for permission to cross into the Strip. Such goods serve a useful purpose, but do not mean much to the Palestinians, in the light of the deadly Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip.

The pain unleashed in Ramadan acts daily to affect the future of the Palestinians.

The Israeli occupation, the compelling circumstance, and the aftermath of the last Israeli war on Gaza imposes upon the Palestinians a severe pain and control on the daily basis of their life, especially in the Gaza Strip.

The ultimate goal of the Israelis is to drive the Palestinians out of the game, to break any chance of dreaming about an independent state, to live in peace and have the basic human life; moreover, the Israelis want to reduce a subjugated people to a fragment, who then become fair game for abuse.

Not for a moment did the Israelis hesitate to terrorize the Palestinian residents who tried to express their need for a good life, their need to stop the unfair siege, and who tried to express their frustration and anger in response to the aggressive Israeli war. At the same time, they are still trying their best to break any chance for the international activists and calls to end the siege on Gaza. The Israelis want to break the Palestinian souls, and to break their dream of a better life.

The Palestinians are left with no way to rebel and demonstrate, because they are fed up with the oppression – the oppression that the Palestinians have lived under for six decades now. They left no way to say no, to demonstrate and shout against the Israeli oppression and repression of their lives, and the takeover of their land and properties.

The most horrible thing is to live in a prison with 1.5 million Palestinians. A big prison in which the Israelis attempt to control you totally, from head to toe. For sure, many lifetimes will be wasted and go with the winds. It’s not human in itself and for a moment it’s not death – it’s worse: it’s killing the Palestinians in their daily life, agonizing them and leading them to nothing, just suffocated and hanged for every long day.

This ongoing collective punishment of the Gaza Strip, the massacres, the dropping of bombs on innocent civilians in the last war on Gaza, the blowing up of homes, and hideous terror tactics practiced against the Palestinians under occupation made the Palestinian life look like hell, with no possibility of the thought that things will be better in the coming years.

Many talk about a breakthrough in the crisis and a breakthrough in the political process, but everything is as it is. The continuation of the closure. Continuing to starve the Palestinians. And at the expense of what?

Ramadan

This year, Ramadan comes under the ongoing Israeli siege and the ongoing division between the two big political Palestinian parties, Hamas and Fatah.

Before the crisis, there was a way to a breakthrough, but it was defined over time. The war destroyed the hopes which been shrouded in tears on the Palestinian situation.

When the sun went down on the second day in Ramadan, Abu Ahmed sat with his seven children around him, waiting to break their fasting.

The image of their house didn’t free them from a severe pain, especially on the face of Abu Ahmad, for the parting of his son. But Um Ahmad started to talk about something that is missing in her house – her son was at home last year for Ramadan. She could not restrain herself, and began to cry.

Perhaps there are many other things that made Um Ahmad cry. But the only thing that her eyes saw is her son killed, her home demolished, and the bitterness of living in a torn tent. All these things coincided with a real crisis experienced by her family, and most other Palestinian families, for years.

Abu Ahmad’s house is not the only to lose loved ones; there are hundreds of Palestinian homes that are still ravaging from the pain.

Palestinian families still have members in the Israeli jails. The blockade and this oppression, hunger and injustice, causes many Palestinians to cry in this month.

Ramadan this year for Ranada, 48, has another meaning. The pain is on her face – not only because of the poverty, but because of the severe pain of the loss of her son. He was swept away by the crazy war 7 months ago, when he was killed by an Israeli bullet, while he was playing with his friends.

She said, “Ramadan has no meaning without my son, he is supposed to be here between us. I wanted him to be with us. We all miss him, especially when we come to break our fasting. His chair is always empty. It’s really unfair for me as a mother to live like this.”

Compelling circumstances

In the last seven years, the Palestinian economic damage has exceeded all expectations. The Palestinian markets experienced a great regression in terms of amount of sales, because of the siege. Of course, the damage reached many sectors, especially the industrial and the agricultural ones.

The siege left Gazans to complain about the high price hike, which caused a reduction in their daily consumption and a noticeable decrease in the customs of Ramadan.

Markets have suffered a trade recession because of the limited purchase movement and because of the high food prices – especially meat, fish and fruits – as well as the lack of a large number of food commodities Palestinians need in the month of Ramadan. For three years, the Israeli authorities have not allowed them to enter Gaza, and have also prevented the passage of sweets and a variety of cheese, juices, spices, and other items.

A report issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed that the prices of goods in the Palestinian territories recorded a rise of 17% during the month of August compared to July last year. The report showed that the prices of some primary commodities like flour, oil and milk products, and others in Gaza, recorded a rise of 18% over the original price due to the high cost of these materials worldwide, and the siege on the Strip.

Murad, a marketer, said, “the movement of the clients in the market is very bad and sharply decreased, compared with the last several years.” He added, “Where are my customers? A few years ago, exactly this month, I was not able to take a break for just one hour, working on finishing customers necessities. But, a long list of food has been barred from entering Gaza. And what is available, including low-quality goods entering through the tunnels that connect Egypt with Gaza, is sold at high prices”.

Murad attributed the slow trade movement to the blockade, and added that the month of Ramadan coincided with the beginning of the new school year, and the Palestinian concerns about the provision of school supplies.

He expresses the hope that the blockade will be lifted, and the movement will recover in the market, and turn Ramadan, and all the months of the year, back into very cheerful times.

In this regard, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) warned of the deterioration of the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip (of which refugees constitute 70%), especially with the continued siege and the closure of the crossings.

The situation in the Gaza Strip is bad, and the lives of one million refugees, who represent 70% of the total population, are under the shadow of chronic unemployment, health hazards, lack of access to water and energy, and the lack of housing for thousands of Palestinians, under the rubble of their former homes, along with all their worldly belongings.”

It is noteworthy that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza remained closed for three years, and is opened on an exceptional basis to the stranded and sick.

No Light Tonight

This night there is no electricity. A small candle to illuminate the banquet of Abu Ali and his family. Abu Ali said, “the electricity crisis did not appear just tonight, it was here since the Israelis were in Gaza. There was power cut and there was considerable disruption. But after the Lebanon war, the problem increased when the Israelis attacked the Palestinian power plant, until it started fading away. But the coming of the war on Gaza and what happened, it became true that the crisis was beyond imagination, especially in Ramadan. We need air to live and at the same time we need electricity, because I believe as a Palestinian living under these circumstances, the need for electricity has become something essential. But, who said that electricity is the only problem? I’ve been having problems everywhere. No more human life for us in Gaza. We suffer wherever we go as Palestinians, inside and outside.”

In this regard, The Deputy Chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority in Gaza, Kanaan Obeid, said that “witnessing the month of Ramadan has doubled the power crisis that took place since the Israeli war on Gaza.”

He stressed that the crisis is mainly in the decline of the amount of fuel needed to run the feeder lines to the Gaza Strip, which coincided with the rejection of the occupation authorities to provide further industrial diesel for the operation of the power plant.

Ebeid had said in the press statement that the occupation forces codified the contained quantities of diesel fuel for the station about a year ago, and it does not allow only the insertion of more than two million and 200 thousand liters per week, enough to generate 55 megawatts, out of 140 MW, is the maximum production of energy at the plant.

In fact, the electricity distribution company in the provinces of Gaza was forced Friday to shut down one of the three production units operating in the electricity generation plant, due to a severe shortage in the amount of industrial diesel needed to run it.

In his press statement, Ebeid demanded the international community and Arab countries solve the electricity problems before the month of Ramadan, noting that the company has completed all the procedures for the distribution of the electricity to the citizens in accordance with the existing potential energy, noting that the electricity will be disconnected 4 to 5 times for a period of eight hours per week.

Ebeid also warned that the crisis of electricity would be “very severe” due to the high consumption of electricity during the summer season, which coincides this time with the holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of the school year in various schools and universities sector, putting the expectation that the Gazans cirisis will be escalated.

He noted that turning off the unit would affect different regions of the sector, particularly in Gaza City, which will be most affected by this crisis, stressing that the electricity distribution company doing what it can to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on the lives of citizens.

Bad income

Because of the siege, and since the launch of the Intifada, the Palestinian workers have been deprived of work in Israel. More than 50 thousand workers were going to work in Israel every day. The siege and the closure forced thousands of Palestinians to wait in long lines to receive assistance – circumstances long outdated in some of the poorest African villages.

Ahmad, 45, is almost a model of Gaza’s families. He has been unemployed for years, and before the beginning of Ramadan, he started looking for assistance in the assemblies or the charities, hoping to find a food basket to feed his ten sons.

He said, “The Palestinian people suffer from lots of concerns. Look at me: before the start of the holy month, I was trying to look for someone to help me under these difficult circumstances. There is no work for years in the area but we have these associations.”

He continued: “I try to bring joy to my family by any means, but to no avail, and the only thing we can do now, is to keep our fasting well and pray that our life will get better somehow.”

Yet this is not all what is happening. After experiencing the ongoing cruel siege, life in Gaza became like sentencing the Palestinians to one thousand terms of life imprisonment. For sure, after the Palestinians spend their best life in jail (under siege) under extremely harsh conditions, it is terrifying to envision that any of them might pass away in jail, while the whole world discusses “peace” and the human rights issues, without actually doing anything about the Palestinian rights.

Negotiations exclude Hamas

Posted in Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, Videos with tags , , on 27/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 27 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Barack Obama, the US president, is attempting to seal an Arab-Israeli peace deal that has eluded the region for more than six decades.

In the fourth of the series, Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin looks at the consequences of a peace plan without the involvement of Hamas.

US and Israel seek settlements plan

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27/08/2009 by 3071km

Date Published: 27 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English
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Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said progress is being made towards restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

His comments came after talks in London with George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, which both described as “very productive”.

During four hours of talks the two discussed the issue of Israeli settlements as a major hurdle to the peace process.

A joint statement released after the meeting said an Israeli delegation would visit the US next week to follow up on the talks, although it did not elaborate on any measures Mitchell and Netanyahu may have agreed to.

According to the statement the two parties “agreed on the importance of restarting meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and working toward a comprehensive peace, and that all sides need to take concrete steps toward peace.”

However, Israel has resisted calls from Barack Obama, the US president, to freeze settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

A freeze is key to the resumption of peace talks, and Israel’s reluctance to budge on the issue has led to a rare rift in US-Israeli relations.

Iran ‘deal’

Mitchell has been pressing Israel to halt construction as a confidence-building gesture to the Palestinians.

According to some media reports he was expected to offer Netanyahu a tougher US line on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for Israel partially freezing settlement building.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported that the US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the UN to include Iran’s oil and gas industry in sanctions against the country, a move that could cripple its economy.

An Israeli delegation is due to meet Mitchell next week in the US to continue the talks.

Alastair Crooke, a Middle East analyst who has worked with Mitchell, told Al Jazeera: “I’m sure that Mitchell doesn’t want to get stuck in this single issue for the next month, because the Americans have a deadline.

“They are really keen to get progress on the Palestinian issue before they leave Iraq in the interests of Israeli security.”

After meeting Mitchell in London, Netanyahu, who is on a four-day European tour, flew to Berlin where he met Horst Koehler, the German president, ahead of talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

Abbas ‘meeting’

Following the talks in London, Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, said an agreement with Washington which would allow peace talks to resume could come within weeks.

“The goal is to find common ground with the American administration … on a framework that will allow the restarting of an energised peace process,” he said.

“For that process to be meaningful, the Arab world has to be part of it.”

Israeli media reports have suggested that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of next month’s meeting of the United Nations in New York.

In Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official, said: “No one, neither from the Israelis nor from the United States contacted us for such a meeting but it could happen as a meeting but not as holding negotiations.

“What counts is to hold negotiations.”

Peace talks

Settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians want for a future state, are home to 300,000 Israelis, and around 2.5million Palestinians.

Obama has said he opposes all settlement construction, while Abbas has staunchly refused to reopen peace talks until Netanyahu halts all settlement activity.

A survey released on Wednesday showed freezing settlements would be an unpopular move among Jewish Israelis, with almost two-thirds of those questioned by the Maagar Mohot polling company saying they opposed the move.

Netanyahu has said he sees the emphasis on settlements as unfair, and insisted conflict in the Middle East is rooted in Arab enmity towards Israel.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that a settlement agreement is indispensible to a peace deal because it prevents a “Palestinian independent contiguous state from emerging”.

However, he said that there had been little progress in Wednesday’s meeting.

“After nine months of telling Israel that they must stop the settlements, an entire government telling the American envoy in London today that they won’t stop the settlement building within the settlements. That is a failure of a meeting.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that his government was unwilling to negotiate on the status of Jerusalem as a joint Israel-Palestinian capital.

Speaking in London at his meeting with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, he had also said that any peace talks with the Palestinians would have to cover the issue of a “demilitarised Palestine”, as well as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli settlements: a new reality, brick by brick

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, Israel, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Palestine, West Bank with tags , , on 25/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 24 August 2009

Source: The Guardian

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Check this map if you want to see the Israeli expansion in the West Bank since 1967.