Archive for the Pictures Category

Easing the siege or passing the buck?

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , on 29/05/2011 by 3071km

Written by: Sherine Tadros

Date published: 29th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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The image of Palestinians crossing Rafah on Saturday was heart warming. Not only did it signal the release of Gazans from their mental and physical prison, but also Egyptians from a moral responsibility they have evaded for four years.

Israel’s response has been much like a disappointed parent – shaking its head at Egyptian officials and warning of what’s to come from their foolishness.

Israel is worried. Not so much about the opening of Rafah but because in so doing Egypt did what they promised they wouldn’t and Israel feared they would – they went back on a previous agreement. For years, Israel handled former president Hosni Mubarak, now it has to handle 80 million Egyptians.

The Gaza end game

Since the start of the siege, analysts have written about Israel’s strategy in Gaza – pushing it towards Egypt in hope of washing its hands of the territory. The West Bank is useful, symbolic, resourceful, key for the settlers and Israel’s security. Gaza is a pain Israel can do without.

So for the past four years, Israel has been increasing its buffer zone area on the border (for “security reasons”) effectively squeezing Gaza. That has meant that the most fertile land in the Strip has been taken away; instead Gazans were pushed southwards. Israel systematically deprived Gaza of electricity, which made the Strip’s residents have to increasingly rely on Egypt as a power source.

As the siege tightened, Egypt was forced into the position of either helping Gaza or being complicit in the siege. At first it did a little of both, turning a blind eye to the hundreds of tunnels being built underground connecting the Strip to Egypt while keeping the Rafah crossing closed.

The result of tunnel trade is the creation of an Egyptian economy in the Strip. Egyptian cigarettes, coke, detergent, fridges – all smuggled in…even the Egyptian pound is used in some places in southern Gaza.

Gaza has been turning lock stock and barrel into an extension of Egypt.

The Israelis didn’t mind. Egypt did. There is no economic or strategic benefit to annexing Gaza right now.

Opening Rafah may end up completing a process that has been taking place for years. Egypt is right to open its gates to Gazans, but this does not absolve Israel of its legal responsibility towards the people they are occupying.

A window has been opened to the outside world, but the door is still locked and only Israel holds the key.

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Egypt ‘to open Rafah border permanently’

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Palestine, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 25/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 25th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera Online

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Egyptian state news agency quotes military sources as saying the border with Gaza will be opened starting from Saturday.

There have been several attempts, some successful, to break the blockade on the Gaza Strip [GALLO/GETTY]

Egypt will permanently open its Rafah border crossing starting from Saturday, the country’s official news agency reported, easing a four-year blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The news agency MENA said on Wednesday that Egypt’s new military rulers set the date for the opening of the crossing as part of efforts “to end the status of the Palestinian division and achieve national reconciliation”.

It said the Rafah border crossing would be opened permanently starting on Saturday from 9am to 9pm every day except Fridays and holidays.

“Sources in national security told Al Jazeera that the military intended to open up the border,” our correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from the capital, Cairo, said.

“A senior member of Hamas visiting Egypt has also confirmed that they have been notified that military will open the border,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said, “It comes with no surprise, people of Gaza and Egypt have been waiting for the news for the last few weeks.”

However, it will not be a full opening as there will be some conditions on exit.

“It will allow basically all women to leave Gaza, also children under the age of 18 years will be allowed to leave as well as men over the age of 40 years. However, those between the age of 18 and 40 years will require Egyptian visa,” she said.

“Visa would have to come from Ramallah. Sources in Hamas say, they have been told by the Egyptian authorities over the last few weeks that they [Egyptians] do intend to open some sort of representative office inside Gaza so that people can get the visa from there.”

Sharp departure from past

The decision is a sharp departure from the policies of former president Hosni Mubarak, who had restricted the movement of people and goods through the Egyptian-Gaza border.

Our Cairo correspondent said that “mechanisms in place at the border are going to be very important to watch”.

“In fact, one of the military’s first and important announcements was to abide by all international agreements that the previous government had committed to,” he said.

“One of those agreements that have been previously made had to deal with the opening of the border in Gaza, particularly that the Rafah border had to be under the supervision of European monitors. Our sources indeed tell us that European monitors have not been notified that the border will be opening on Saturday.”

Concerns for Israelis

Certainly this is going to cause some concerns for Israel particularly Europeans as to what mechanism is going to be put in place,” our correspondent said.

Sources at Rafah say that it is unlikely all the mechanisms needed to be put in place can actually arrive and assume the kind of flow that is suspected to come out, he said.

“One of the biggest problems for Gazans besides a shortage of food and supplies has been the psychological impact of not allowing 1.5m people to move freely. There’s no doubt if the border is opened freely for all, there’s going to be a massive influx of Palestinians who would want to get out for the first time since the seize was put in place.”

A year ago Israel significantly eased its restrictions on cargo entering Gaza, but it still severely limits entry and exit of Gazans through its northern crossing into Israel.

Gazans have circumvented the blockade by operating hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the 15km Gaza-Egypt border.

The tunnels have been used to bring in all manner of products, as well as people.

Israel charges Hamas has used the tunnels to import weapons, including rockets that can reach main population centres in Israel’s centre.

The crossing has been mostly closed, in line with an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, since 2007 when Hamas took control of the coastal territory.

No Gaza optimism over easing blockade

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 20/06/2010 by 3071km

Written by Jon Donnison

Date published: Sunday 20th June 2010

Source: BBC News

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Fishing boats in Gaza City's harbour

“I don’t need ketchup or mayonnaise from Israel. I need my business back,” says Nasser al-Helo standing on a busy street in Gaza City.

Mr Helo used to run a business making steel doors in the Gaza Strip. Before the blockade he was able to import metal from Israel and would produce more than 300 doors a month.

“Now, it’s a big zero,” he says. “I’ve lost $300,000 in the past three years.”

Private industry has been devastated by Israel’s blockade, which was tightened in 2007 after the Islamist group Hamas seized control of the coastal territory.

Factories making anything from furniture to textiles, floor tiles to biscuits have gone under.

The Israeli blockade has starved them of the raw materials they need to produce their goods.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. The United Nations estimates unemployment is at 40% in Gaza. Mr Helo used to employ 32 people at his factory. Now there are only four.

‘Not enough’

The overwhelming feeling among Gazans is that Israel’s announcement on Thursday that it is “easing the blockade” is simply not enough.

Omar Shabban

The details of how the blockade will be “liberalised” are still not clear, but reportedly the Israeli authorities will allow more civilian goods to enter, including all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels. Construction materials for civilian projects will be allowed in under international supervision.

“Of course it’s not enough,” says Omar Shabban, an economist at the Gaza-based think tank PalThink.

“What about the blockade on people for starters?” he asks.

“One-and-a-half million people are trapped in a prison unable to leave.”

Israel maintains tight control of the border with Gaza, only allowing out a limited number of people to seek medical treatment. Israel says this is needed to protect itself from “terrorist” attacks.

The Rafah crossing into Egypt has also been closed since 2007, although special medical cases are also sporadically allowed to pass through it.

Desperate vendors

Mr Shabban argues that what is really needed in Gaza is not a few more food items – many of which are already available through smuggling tunnels running under the Egyptian border – but a total lifting of the blockade to allow people to work in Israel, as over 100,000 people used to do.

GOODS ALLOWED INTO GAZA

Coriander

  • Canned meat and tuna, but not canned fruit
  • Mineral water, but not fruit juice
  • Sesame paste (tahini) but not jam
  • Tea and coffee but not chocolate
  • Cinnamon but not coriander

Details of Gaza blockade revealed

Gaza also used to export many goods to Israel and beyond. Strawberries and flowers are still two of Gaza’s most famous products, but most of them never get beyond the barrier into Israel.

Instead, in strawberry season in January they are sold dirt-cheap off huge wheelbarrows on street corners, the vendors desperate to sell them at any price before they rot.

Israel has argued that the blockade is necessary to put pressure on Hamas.

The group came out top in the Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, but the EU, the US and Israel refused to recognise Hamas in government unless it renounced violence and its commitment to destroy Israel.

Then in June 2007, Hamas ousted its secular rival, Fatah, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority security forces from Gaza.

Rockets

Over the past decade, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel, killing more than 20 Israelis.

Man selling strawberries in Gaza

But since Israel’s major offensive on Gaza in 2009, which devastated the territory and left more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, the number has dropped dramatically. One person – a Thai farm worker – has been killed in southern Israel by a rocket fired from Gaza in the past 12 months.

Hamas has tried to rein in rocket fire, but it does not control all the militant groups in Gaza and sporadic, usually ineffective rocket fire continues.

Israel says it is the responsibility of the Hamas authorities to stop all rocket attacks, and that the blockade is necessary to stop weapons being brought into Gaza.

But at least until now the list of items banned from entering Gaza has gone far beyond weapons. Coriander, chocolate and children’s toys have famously been excluded.

Low expectations

In actual fact, such things are readily available in the supermarkets in Gaza.

Millions of dollars worth of goods are smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt.

Butcher in Gaza City

There is food on the shelves and in the markets but the blockade means it is too expensive for most people to afford. A kilo of beef smuggled from Egypt costs around $15, more than most Gazans earn in a day.

“We are living on a black-market economy,” says Mr Shabban.

Gazans have little faith in Israel’s announcement. At best, they will wait and see if anything changes in the coming weeks and months.

Indeed, like most places in the world, people here are more preoccupied with the World Cup. The cafes of Gaza City on Friday were full of people cheering on Algeria as they thrashed out a dire draw with England.

The beaches in Gaza are packed this weekend with thousand of children enjoying summer camps and frolicking in the Mediterranean Sea.

But as they play in the water, a reminder that the blockade of Gaza is still very much in place – the sound of machine-gun fire just a few kilometres off the coast.

Israeli navy ships, which continue to occupy and control Gaza’s territorial water, regularly open fire on Palestinian fishing boats that stray beyond the limits of where Israel allows them to fish.

Yet most of the children did not even bat an eyelid at the gunfire.

The blockade here has been come a way of life. Few people are optimistic that will change.

KEY ENTRY POINTS INTO GAZA

map of Gaza showing key entry points• Rafah – under Egyptian control. Since flotilla deaths, opened indefinitely for people only. Has been closed for the vast majority of the time over the last three years. Makeshift tunnels in this area used to smuggle in goods, including weapons

• Erez – under Israeli control. Crossing for pedestrians and cargo. Access restricted to Palestinians under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and to Egyptians or international aid officials

• Karni – main crossing point for commercial goods

• Sufa – official crossing point for construction materials

• Kerem Shalom – for commercial and humanitarian goods. These last three crossings have been frequently closed by Israeli army since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007

• Opening of seaport and bus routes to West Bank had been agreed in 2005 but plans since shelved

• Airport – bombed by Israel in early years of the 2000 Intifada

• ‘Buffer zone’ inside Gaza where it borders Israel. Gazan farmers forbidden to enter the zone

Azam has a real story to tell

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, History, IDF, International community, International conferences, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege, War crimes, West Bank on 11/04/2010 by 3071km

Azam is looking for unknown ways to get back to his family in Gaza

Azam  has a long and sad story! He left Gaza during the last war as his wife got an American nationality, but unfortunately, after the end of the war he was not allowed by the Israeli to get back to Gaza again with his family! of course, the Stories of the Palestinians suffering will not end here.

here you are his story as he sent it to us two days ago!

On the Borders

by Azzam Almosallami

I still remember that scream of the child on the borders. The sun was fiery, and the mother was wiping the perspiration drops off her forehead. The cadaverous features had drawn at the family faces as a result of the big fatigue of travel .
Despite the severe hard situation that the family was facing, the love
among the family members was mitigating the pain of suffering. The child was playing cherubically between his father and mother, as if the kindness of his parents was protecting him from the stress of travel. The child was transforming between his parents like a small charming bird learning flight among the branches of trees.
The land was barren on the borders- there! you would not see more than some terrestrial and arid plants, and some of the standing army working next to, or inside a caravan. The parents were sitting on hard chairs made by iron. The seats were uncomfortable, so they were always wriggling on them.
I was listening to some catchwords that the family was talking about.
I heard the child telling his mother, “mom… ! when we reach our home, I’ll ride my bicycle that I am keeping in my room, Also I’ll drop my dolls and toys that I’m keeping in a box on the top of my cupboard.”
They were really appearing like they were longing to reach their small paradise… their home!
After 4-hour-hard waiting, two policemen of the borders came to the family with their passports. They told the father abrasively, ” hey man!… you can’t cross the borders to your home, you have no permission, but your family have a permission. So, you must go back where you have come. ” The family shocked! and the panic catches on their hearts because of these horrible news. How they will not be joined with each other to their lovely home! The mother hardly gasped, and asked the police ” how the child and I can cross these lonely borders without our man!… how you could have a pluckiness to separate between a father and his family.” The police replied harshly, ” if you don’t like to be far away from your husband, you can join him and go back to where you have come.” The father thought for a while, and then he decided to face this mysterious situation alone. He convinced his wife to go back with their cherubic child to their warmer home, and he will try to join them after a while.
The policemen took the family out the caravan, and there, two police cars were waiting them. they pulled the father to one car, and the mother and the child to the other car. The child turned his face, peeking through his father, and when he found himself faraway for the father, he could flee from the hard catch of the policeman, and ran away into his father’s warm cuddle. The child’s arms tightened ardently around the father’s thigh, hardly catching his trousers. The policeman followed the child, trying to pull him far away from the father. The child screamed with reddish eyes and warm tears, ” I want my dad…! ”
The policeman brutish catch was much stronger than the childish catch, and then he could flee the child, hustling him toward the car. The mother of the cleaved heart, was wiping the hot tears through her bloody eyes, and swabbing drops of mucus on her lips by a handkerchief wetted by a severe wail.
The child could flee again from the policeman brutish catch, and suddenly he transformed into a stronger fighter. He catches a stone and threw it toward the policeman to trickling blood into his cheek. The wrathful policeman catch the child brutally, to hustling him and the mother into the car.
I still remember those bloody eyes, and hot tears of the child and the mother through the car’s windows. I still remember those small hands of the child which were climbing on the window’s glass. They were saying a lot about the prejudice that some people are facing on the borders.
When the child reached home, he took his toys, dolls and bicycle and sold them. And by money, he bought a gun. The child decided not to be a child!

Israel threatens new Gaza offensive

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 02/04/2010 by 3071km
Date published: 2nd April 2010

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Israel has warned that it could launch a fresh military assault on the Gaza Strip if Hamas does not stop rocket and mortar attacks from its territory.

The threat on Friday came just hours after a series of air raids across Gaza, which Israel said were in response to rocket fire the previous day, injured at least three Palestinian children.

The Israeli military has said that almost 20 rockets have been fired into Israel in the past month, including one that killed a Thai farm worker.

“If this rocket fire against Israel does not stop, it seems we will have to raise the level of our activity and step up our actions against Hamas,” Silvan Shalom, Israel’s deputy prime minister, told public radio on Friday.

“We won’t allow frightened children to again be raised in bomb shelters and so, in the end, it will force us to launch another military operation.

“I hope we can avoid it, but it is one of the options we have, and if we don’t have a choice, we will use it in the near future.”

in depth

About 1,400 Palestinians were killed when Israel launched its last offensive on the Gaza Strip in December 2008.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians also died over the 22-day period of the assault.

“Twenty rockets in the space of one month might not sound a huge amount compared to the intensive rocket fire preceeding and during the Gaza war of just over a year ago,” Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said.

“Nevertheless, in comparison to recent months it did mark an escalation.”

There was no claim of responsibility for Thursday’s lone rocket, which caused no casualties.

Gaza targets

The Israeli military said Friday’s air raids had targeted weapons manufacturing and storage facilities in the central Gaza Strip, in Gaza City in the north and the southern part of the Palestinian enclave, all in response to rockets fired from the territory.

“The IDF [Israeli military] will not tolerate any attempt to harm the citizens of the State of Israel and will continue to operate firmly against anyone who uses terror against it,” the Israeli army said in a statement.

“The IDF holds Hamas as solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in the Gaza Strip.”

But witnesses and Hamas officials said that Israeli missiles hit two caravans near the town of Khan Younis and a cheese factory, while helicopters attacked a metal foundry in the Nusseirat refugee camp.

The children injured in the air raids were hit by flying glass, Palestinian medics said.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, told Al Jazeera that Hamas held the Israeli government led by Binyamin Netanyahu responsible for the “escalation”, but said air raids had been expected because of threats by Ehud Barak, the defence minister, and other ministers.

He also blamed “the international community and the Arabs” for failing “to do anything about the situation in Gaza”.

“The absence of the international community and the Arabs has allowed the Israelis to escalate the situation,” he said.

There have been increasing tensions between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian teenager was killed and several others wounded as Israeli troops fired on protesters near the border between Gaza and Israel and last weekend two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinian fighters died during clashes.

Clashes have also broken out in the West Bank and Jerusalem over Israeli settlement plans, the reconsecration of a synagogue in East Jerusalem and other issues.

Thirsty for justice

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 25/03/2010 by 3071km

Written by Mona El-Farra

Published on Electronic Intifada

Date published: 25/03/2010

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Mona El-Farra writing from occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 25 March 2010

Palestinian children wait to fill up water in the Gaza Strip. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

Toni Morrison once wrote “All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.” I feel it is the same for Palestinian refugees, who have struggled for decades for their right to return home. I thought of this connection between water and refugees during a recent meeting about the Middle East Children’s Alliance’s (MECA) Maia Project with Aidan O’Leary, Deputy Director of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) Operations in Gaza.

UNRWA provides assistance, protection and advocacy for 4.7 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. We are working with UNRWA to install locally-made water purification and desalination units in their schools. Mr. O’Leary expressed his total appreciation for the Maia Project and stressed that providing clean drinking water to children is among the highest priorities and needs for Gaza schools. Mr. John Ging, UNRWA’s Director of Operations in Gaza, also expressed his admiration for the Maia Project.

The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate under Israeli military occupation and siege. The refugees are often the hardest hit by rising unemployment and poverty. Access to clean water is one of the many basic needs that UNRWA is no longer able to meet. A recent UNRWA report states that the most common infectious diseases affecting Palestinian refugees in Gaza — who make up more than three-quarters of the population — are directly related to inadequate supplies of safe water and poor sanitation: diarrhea, acute bloody diarrhea and viral hepatitis.

Creating a positive impact on children’s health is the main goal of the Maia Project, and working on water access when you live in Gaza is self-explanatory. The reality is that tap water in Gaza is undrinkable due to its bad quality and contamination. At best, when you have access to a running tap, the water is not clean and is very salty. Our daily water consumption averages around 78 liters a day per person, while Israelis average over 300 liters each, more than four times as much. Israel is under increasing scrutiny by international organizations including Amnesty International for “denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.”

We move to help the children as quickly as we can. Children in Gaza will have the chance to drink clean and soft water, but only at the rate in which we can implement the Maia Project. And we race against time. The UN estimates that Gaza will have no drinking water in the next 15 years.

Water is life, but here in Gaza it can also bring death. Numerous military attacks on the Gaza Strip have devastated Gaza’s water infrastructure. Israel’s twenty-two day assault last winter destroyed or rendered unusable an estimated 800 of Gaza’s 2,000 wells, and caused $5.97 million in damage to our water and wastewater treatment facilities. Since January 2009, the Gaza Health Ministry and the World Health Organization have issued drinking, seafood and swimming advisories.

We yearn for our water and our freedoms to return to us. We roll up our sleeves and hope for rain, the kind of rain that floods the hearts and minds of those who hunger and thirst for justice.

Here in Gaza, we are still thirsty.

Mona El-Farra is a physician by training and a human rights and women’s rights activist in practice in the occupied Gaza Strip. Her blog is From Gaza, with Love.

HRW: Israel failed to properly investigate Gaza war crimes

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, History, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Operation Cast Lead, Palestine, Pictures, Siege, War crimes on 09/02/2010 by 3071km

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Date Published: February 9, 2010 

Source: The Palestine Telegraph

Human Rights Watch said Israel has failed to demonstrate that it will conduct an exhaustive and impartial investigation into violations of the laws of war by its troops during last year’s offensive on the Gaza Strip.

The organization added that there is a need for an independent investigation to hold accountable those who committed abuses, including senior military officials and politicians who set the policies.

Human Rights Watch interviewed lawyers from the Israeli army to discuss the situation. In the meantime, although Israel has investigated the allegations, officials did not provide any information showing that they can be fair and thorough, said HRW, or that it will change the decisions and policies of the leadership that led unlawfully to the death of civilians.

Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said: “Israel claims that it was investigating credibly and fairly, but so far it has failed to prove this. There is a need for an independent investigation to understand why many civilians were killed in this manner, and to provide justice for victims of unlawful attacks.”

In one case, it appears that the military investigation did not pay attention to important evidence: the remains of a bomb found in the Al-Bader mill near Jabalya. According to the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza conflict, Israel denied targeting the mill from the air, despite the available videofootage obtained by Human Rights Watch showing what appeared to be the remains of a 500-pound MK 82 bomb.

Translated from WAFA