Archive for Siege

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.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is cracking

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/05/2011 by 3071km

Written by: Noura Erakat

Date published: 9th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Sealing coastal territory undermines past diplomacy – and siege is likely to be broken by post-revolution Egypt.

Egypt has announced that it will open its border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, thereby reversing Egypt’s collusion with Israel’s blockade regime. The interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has described support for the blockade by the previous Egyptian regime as “disgraceful“. While Israeli officials have responded to this announcement with alarm, they have limited capacity to undermine the new Egyptian government’s prerogative.

Since the capture of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006, the Rafah crossing has been closed to Palestinians in Gaza, except for “extraordinary humanitarian cases”. In June 2007, after Hamas’ ousting of Fatah, Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza and sealed its five border crossings with the territory. Egypt’s closure of Rafah made the siege comprehensive, and effectively cut off the 360sq mile Strip from the rest of the world.

The devastating impact of the blockade on Gaza’s 1.5million population, where food aid dependency has risen to 80 per cent,  has been defined as a humanitarian crisis by a broad range of international human rights and humanitarian aid organisations – including Human Rights Watch, UNRWA, Amnesty International, and the World Health Organisation.

Under the presidency of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt only opened the Rafah border in response to exceptional crises, including during Israel’s Winter 2008/2009 offensive against Gaza and in the aftermath of Israel’s fatal raid on the humanitarian flotilla in June 2010. Rafah’s closure demonstrated Mubarak’s shared interest with Israel in undermining Hamas’ leadership.

Egypt’s post-revolution government is eager to reverse this policy – as evidenced by its successful brokering of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas and, shortly thereafter, its announcement that it will end its closure of Rafah. Egypt’s decision comports with enduring border-crossing agreements that have been suspended since 2007.

Egypt’s decision is a resumption of the status quo ante

According to the Agreement on Movement and Access(AMA), brokered by the US and the European Union to facilitate the transfer of authority for crossings from the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority following Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Egypt is authorised to control the Rafah crossing on its side of the border, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Following internecine fighting in 2007, in which Hamas forces were routed from the West Bank but took control of the Gaza Strip, the border crossing agreement, along with Egyptian and EU participation was suspended -but not terminated.

The European Union’s Border Assistance Mission to Rafah (EUBAM), deployed to support a smooth transfer of authority at the border, has conditioned its presence on cooperation with Mahmoud Abbas’ Force 17, or the Presidential Guard.  Since Fatah’s ousting from the Strip the EUBAM has “maintained its operational capability and has remained on standby, awaiting a political solution and ready to re-engage“.

The EUBAM has extended its mission four times since suspending it in 2007, indicating the EU’s willingness to cooperate with the PA, should a political solution be reached between the rival Palestinian political parties. As recently as late March, the EUBAM Chief of Mission reaffirmed to Egypt’s ambassador to Israel the mission’s readiness to resume its tasks at Rafah.

Arguably, the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation removes impediments to EU and Egyptian cooperation at the Rafah crossing.

Vague though it may be, the agreement between Fatah and Hamas stipulates the rehabilitation of Palestinian security forces and a mandate to end the siege and blockade of Gaza. Although hostilities between the rival parties are ongoing, in theory, technical hurdles undermining the opening of the Rafah crossing have been overcome.

Accordingly, Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah crossing is commensurate with existing agreements and signals a resumption of the status quo ante. Israel can do little to challenge this policy on legal grounds and it lacks the political credibility to maintain the comprehensive siege by force.

Israel lacks political credibility to maintain Gaza blockade 

While 29 Democratic Senators have urged President Barack Obama to suspend US aid to the Palestinian Authority should Hamas join the PA government, European and international support for the unity government is robust.

On May 6, the EU announced that it will provide an additional US$85million in aid to support the PA in light of Israel’s withholding of $105million of tax revenue belonging to the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon – along with a coalition of donor nations – have urged Israel to release the Palestinian funds. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, has described the unity government as “overdue“, demonstrating general international support for the unity government that includes Hamas.

Similar international support exists for ending the siege on Gaza. Especially since Israel’s raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, support for the debilitating siege has steadily dwindled. In the aftermath of the fatal attack in international waters, even the US described Israel’s blockade as “untenable” and called on Israel to change its policy toward Gaza.

The White House not only supports an easing of the siege, but it also supports Egypt’s post-revolution government. Shortly after Mubarak’s departure, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Egypt to congratulate the new government – and promised it diplomatic support as well as economic aid. Although not impossible, it is unlikely that the US will challenge Egypt’s decision, which reflects the US’ blockade policy as well as the US-brokered AMA, and risk undermining the government’s nascent development.

Finally, within Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lacks the political support necessary to take any significant risks. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused Netanyahu of isolating Israel and stated that her Kadima party would not join a Netanyahu-led coalition even in the face of September’s “political tsunami”. Livni also opposes the Palestinian unity government, but explains “there is a difference between defending Israel and aiding the survival of a prime minister that only damages the country”.

In light of broad support for the Palestinian unity government, frustration with the ongoing blockade, enthusiasm for Egypt’s new government, and Netanyahu’s tenuous domestic standing, it is neither likely that Israel can mobilise significant political opposition to Egypt’s new policy, nor use force to respond to opening of the Rafah crossing.

Buoyed by impunity, the cover afforded by turmoil in the region, and the desire to establish its qualitative military edge in the region, Israel may nevertheless employ a military option to respond to the reopened crossing. Even if it does not use force at Rafah, it may brandish its military prowess by targeting the forthcoming Gaza flotilla, which will set sail for Gaza’s shores in late June. In light of the political balance, Israel’s choice to use force without a tangible military threat will exacerbate its already waning legitimacy.

Escaping this political trapping leaves Israel with little other choice than to urge the US to act on its behalf. Whether the Obama administration is willing to do so (the US Congress has already demonstrated its willingness) remains unclear in light of a fast-transforming Middle East, where US interests continue to hang in the balance.

Noura Erakat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Georgetown University. She is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Egypt FM: Gaza border crossing to be permanently opened

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Hamas, Palestine, Siege with tags , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date Published: 28/04/2011

Source: Haaretz

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Egyptian FM tells Al-Jazeera that preparations are already underway to permanently open Rafah border crossing, which would allow goods and people in and out of Gaza with no Israeli supervision.

Egypt’s foreign minister said in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Thursday that preparations were underway to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi told Al-Jazeera that within seven to 10 days, steps will be taken in order to alleviate the “blockade and suffering of the Palestinian nation.”

The announcement indicates a significant change in the policy on Gaza, which before Egypt’s uprising, was operated in conjunction with Israel. The opening of Rafah will allow the flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza without Israeli permission or supervision, which has not been the case up until now.

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has been a policy used in conjunction with Egyptian police to weaken Hamas, which has ruled over the strip since 2007. The policy also aims to reduce Hamas’ popularity among Gazans by creating economic hardship in the Strip.

Rafah’s opening would be a violation of an agreement reached in 2005 between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and the European Union, which gives EU monitors access to the crossing. The monitors were to reassure Israel that weapons and militants wouldn’t get into Gaza after its pullout from the territory in the fall of 2005.

Before Egypt’s uprising and ousting of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, the border between Egypt and Gaza had been sealed. It has occasionally opened the passage for limited periods.

FREE GAZA IRELAND TO SEND “IRISH BOAT” TO GAZA

Posted in Activism, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Non-violent resistance, Operation Cast Lead, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , on 13/10/2009 by 3071km

E-mail received: Monday 12th October 2009

Source: Free Gaza Movement

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The crisis in Gaza is unacceptable. For nearly four years, Israel has subjected the Gaza Strip to an increasingly cruel blockade, leading to severe increases in unemployment, poverty, and childhood malnutrition. Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza last December & January killed over 1400 civilians and destroyed thousands of homes, schools, mosques and hospitals. It’s been almost a year since these attacks and thousands of Gaza’s Palestinians are still living in rubble. Maintaining the Gaza siege and denying Palestinians the right to rebuild their lives is unconscionable.

Free Gaza Ireland is working closely with the international Free Gaza Movement to acquire an “Irish boat” to sail to Gaza as part of an international flotilla challenging Israel’s brutal siege.  Since August 2008, international volunteers in the Free Gaza Movement have been sailing to Gaza, suceeding 5 times to break the siege. Ours remain the only ships to reach Gaza since 1967.  More than simple charity, the Palestinian people need our solidarity and political action. They need us to challenge the policies that leave them in need of humanitarian aid.

Caoimhe Butterly, renowned Irish human rights campaigner and Gaza Project Co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement stated that:  “Our delegations  have been deeply shocked by the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Israel’s ongoing occupation and the severity of the siege on Gaza is designed to isolate people as well as devastate the infrastructure of Gaza. Free Gaza’s mission is a reminder of not only the efficacy of using non-violent direct action to confront injustice, but also of the deafening silence of the international community.”


With Ireland’s help, the Free Gaza Movement hopes to sail to Gaza before winter sets in with ships carrying badly needed humanitarian and reconstruction supplies. On board will be Irish TD’s, journalists, human rights activists & Irish musicans who will perform in Gaza with local artists as part of a series of cultural events linking up with Ireland.  We urge everyone to join us in concretely asserting the right of the Palestinian people to have access to the outside world. We will not stay silent as the Palestinian people are deliberately starved and humiliated. Like all peoples in the world – Palestinians have a right to life with dignity.

www.freegaza.org


Niamh Moloughney
Irish Free Gaza Coordinator

niamh@freegaza.org
091 472279/085 7747257

No windows, pens in Gaza’s classrooms

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Hamas, International community, Israeli occupation, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 10/09/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 10th September 2009

Source: The Electronic Intifada

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No windows, pens in Gaza’s classrooms
Report, The Electronic Intifada, 10 September 2009

Elementary school students in the Gaza Strip. (Erica Silverman/IRIN)

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IRIN) – Some 1,200 students at al-Karmel High School for boys in Gaza City returned to class on 25 August without history and English textbooks, or notebooks and pens — all unavailable on the local market.

Severe damage to the school, caused during the 23-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip which ended on 18 January, has yet to be repaired. Al-Karmel’s principal, Majed Yasin, has had to cover scores of broken windows with plastic sheeting.

“The entire west side of the school was damaged adjacent to Abbas police station which was targeted on 27 December,” said Yasin. “We have yet to repair the $65,000-worth of damage, since glass and other building materials are still unavailable.”

Educational institutions across Gaza are still reeling from the effects of the Israeli offensive, compounded by the more than two-year-long Israeli blockade (tightened after Hamas seized power in June 2007), according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

At least 280 schools out of 641 in Gaza were damaged and 18 destroyed during the military operation. None have been rebuilt or repaired to date due to continued restrictions on the entry of construction materials, OCHA reported.

At the start of the new school year, all 387 government-run primary and secondary schools serving 240,000 students — and 33 private sector schools serving 17,000 students — lack essential education materials, according to the education ministry in Gaza.

“The war had, and continues to have, a severely negative impact on the entire education system,” Yousef Ibrahim, deputy education minister in Gaza, said. “About 15,000 students from government schools have been transferred to other schools for second shifts, significantly shortening class time.”

He said the damaged schools lacked toilets and water and electricity networks; their classrooms were overcrowded, and they also suffered from shortages of basic items such as desks, doors, chairs and ink for printing.

UNRWA schools affected

More than 80 percent of government-run schools and those run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) now have a second shift, according to Ibrahim.

The 221 primary and secondary schools run by UNRWA (in addition to government- and privately-run schools) are also struggling to accommodate 200,000 students this school year.

“We have only provided the minimum amount of stationery and textbooks to our students, since it is very difficult to bring in these materials and they are unavailable on the local market,” said UNRWA spokesperson Milina Shahin in Gaza.

UNRWA schools are also missing items such as lab equipment, calculators, desks, tables, chairs and even crayons, said Shahin.

UNRWA planned to build 100 new schools this year, but has had to give up the idea due to a lack of building materials. Thirty-five UNRWA schools are still without windows as a result of the offensive, due to a lack of glass, Shahin said.

Truckloads of stationery await clearance

Since the beginning of 2009, Israel has allowed 174 truckloads of educational materials to enter Gaza. Of these, only two were carrying stationery, in July and August, OCHA said.

According to the Palestine Trade Centre (PalTrade) and local suppliers, there are nearly 120 truckloads of stationery awaiting clearance to enter.

Ghazi Hamad, head of borders and crossings under the Hamas-led government in Gaza, said some educational materials, such as notebooks and clothing, had entered Gaza via underground tunnels from Egypt, but this was only a token amount.

Teaching has also been affected by the Fatah-Hamas rift: Of the 11,000 teachers in Gaza, 7,000 are employed by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah (occupied West Bank). Half of these did not return to teach this school year, according to deputy education minister Ibrahim.

“We had to replace them with less qualified teachers, while they chose to stay at home,” he said.

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israeli air raid kills 4 civilians in Gaza

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, IDF, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , on 25/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 25 August 2009

Source: Press TV

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israeli-f16-gaza-war-raid-deadIsraeli warplanes have attacked near the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip killing at least four and injuring six other people in a second round of attacks since Monday. Palestinian security officials say Israeli fighters struck near the southern city of Rafah.

The victims were inside tunnels – which Palestinians say are used to import food, medicine and other vital supplies into the blockaded Gaza– when the Israeli air force bombed the area.

The impoverished Palestinian sliver has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007.

An Israeli military official says the air-raid was in response to the firing of a mortar round from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Palestinian mortar attack took place after Israeli soldiers on Monday killed one Palestinian and injured another in the town of Beit Lahya in northern Gaza, medical sources told a Press TV correspondent.

Israeli troops say that Palestinians were trying to approach them.

Israeli forces opened fire on the three young men in the al-Atatra neighborhood on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip.

According to none of the Palestinians were known to be members of any Palestinian faction.

The Israeli army says shortly after that incident three mortar rounds were fired from Gaza into Israel, wounding one soldier. The soldier was only slightly injured after hitting his head while seeking shelter.

The killing and injuring Palestinians is the latest violation of a truce signed after Israel’s massive military aggression known as the 22-day war on Gaza. Operation Cast Lead launched December 27, 2008.

During the massacre, the city of Gaza suffered extensive structural damage. Ensuing air strikes and ground incursions left over 1,350 Palestinians, at least 1100 of whom were civilians, dead.

An estimated 5,450 people were reported injured; most were women and children.

In addition to the human cost, the onslaught cost the Palestinian economy at least $1.6 billion, destroying some 4,000 residential buildings and damaging 16,000 houses.

UN reports confirm that Tel Aviv began the bloodshed by breaking the truce it had with the authority in the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians.

NAT/SC/DT
Press TV

The story of Amina

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, International community, Operation Cast Lead, Pictures, Siege with tags , , , , , , , , , on 25/08/2009 by 3071km

E-mail received: 25 August 2009

Source: International Movement to Open Rafah Border

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Amira Al Qarem (15) from Gaza, whose brother, sister and father have been killed during Operation Cast Lead, is determined to get justice and will file a complaint against Israel at the ICJ at The Hague (Netherlands) on August 31st, 2009.

Her story is emblematic of the attack on civilians during Operation Cast Lead in December and January, where 1400 Palestinians, including 300 children, were killed (according to the report by Amnesty International from 2 July 2009).

On 31 August, Amira Al Qarem will go personally to the International Criminal Court, to file the first complaint from a victim of the Israeli operation Cast Lead. She will be assisted by her lawyers and supported by her doctors.

There will be a press conference at The Hague on monday August 31st at 2 pm.

You can read her story here:

Date published: 25 February 2009

Source: Defence for Children International

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As of 7 February 2009, DCI-Palestine has confirmed the deaths of 304 children, and is investigating a further 96 reports of child fatalities. This means that as many as 400 children could have been killed in Operation Cast Lead.

On Wednesday, 14 January 2009, at around 5:00pm, 14-year-old Amira was on the first floor of her home in Tel al-Hawa in southern Gaza City. She was with her father, brother Ala (13) and sister Ismat (15) when Israeli tanks entered their neighbourhood: “We were very scared,” recalls Amira.

At approximately 6:30pm, Amira’s father, who is the muezzin (person who leads the call to prayer) for the mosque next door left the house to call the Isha (night) prayer. He quickly returned home, and shortly after put the children to bed amidst the sound of nearby shelling and gunfire.

Amira recounts that her father told her and her siblings that he was going to look out the front door of the house to see what is happening. “Sleep and do not be afraid,” he told them. The children fell asleep, but awoke screaming at the sound of a loud explosion just outside their house.

They jumped out of bed and ran to the front door of the house. Amira exited the house first and as she ran several metres beyond the front door, she recalls sensing that she had stepped on a person and froze where she stood. She looked behind her and saw her father lying on the ground and bleeding heavily by their front door. Amira and her siblings, Ala and Ismat, knelt down around their father as they screamed and cried in fear. “Please God, don’t let my father die” Amira repeated as she sat on the ground next to him.

Amira’s brother and sister told her to stay with their father while they went to get an ambulance. Her brother and sister had already run several metres when Amira heard the sound of another explosion. At that moment, she reports feeling her right leg divide into two parts. Amira screamed out in pain and her brother and sister ran back to help her. Amira’s brother tried to move her leg but could not. So Ala and Ismat set off again to find an ambulance, telling Amira not to be afraid. Amira watched them run down the street until they rounded a corner and moved out of sight. She could no longer see her siblings but she could hear their voices shouting, “Ambulance! Ambulance! Please help us.” Moments later, Amira heard the sound of yet another explosion and saw heavy smoke rising from the area where her siblings had gone. She could no longer hear their voices.

Amira sat by her father, pleading with him to wake up but he did not move. She grew afraid when she heard the sound of tanks approaching and crawled back inside her house through the front door. She convinced herself that her father would wake up and follow her inside so she deliberately left the front door open for him. Inside the house, she crawled to the balcony overlooking the street. Moments later, she heard yet another explosion and saw smoke rising from the area where her father was lying. When the smoke cleared, she saw that her father’s legs had been torn from his body. At this point she says, “I knew he was dead.” Exhausted, and numbed by the pain from her right leg, Amira fell asleep on the balcony, waking up to daylight the following morning (Thursday).

Cold and thirsty, Amira struggled into the kitchen to drink some water. As she pulled herself up to stand on her left leg, she fainted and fell to the ground. Amira regained consciousness some time later and was then able to pull herself up to the kitchen sink to drink water from the tap. Afterwards, she crawled outside to where her father’s body lay to retrieve his mobile phone from his pocket. She wanted to give the phone to her father’s cousin who lived about 500 metres away so he could inform her father’s contacts that he had been killed. She dragged herself to his house and knocked on the door, but no one answered.

Amira then covered herself with a nylon sack she found on the ground and with the leaves hanging from a nearby tree in order to stay warm. She remained in this location until the next morning, falling in and out of consciousness throughout the night. She recalls being afraid of the sound of barking dogs, tanks and shellfire. She reported saying to herself “My father will protect me,” each time she felt afraid.

By morning light (Friday), Amira saw that there was a hole in the wall surrounding the nearby house of a journalist she knew well because her older sister had befriended his daughter. Weak and dehydrated, Amira crawled through the hole into the garden and then inside the house in search of water. She found a room with many mattresses and blankets and also a bottle of water from which she drank.

“I crawled and grabbed the bottle of water and quickly began drinking. The water was delicious. I then slept on a mattress and covered myself with a blanket because I was very cold. I could see a helicopter from the shattered window of the room”.

“I slept and woke up several times. […] Once, I crawled into the bathroom and filled the bottle with water from the tap. While crawling back to the room, I saw a jar full of pickled olives thrown on the floor of the kitchen. For sure it was for stock purposes. We used to store pickled olives until they became edible for the year ahead. I grabbed the jar and tried to open it because I was starving, but I failed. I left it there and crawled back to the room. I lay down on the mattress and covered myself. I reckon it was Saturday. I slowly began drinking from the bottle. I did not want to waste water because I did not feel able to go back and fill it”.

More than 60 hours after her ordeal began, Amira was finally discovered when the journalist who owns the house returned and discovered her lying in the room. He had earlier evacuated his family to another location in fear of the imminent arrival of Israeli forces in the neighbourhood. When the journalist asked Amira how she arrived at his home, she responded, “I’m wounded uncle. I’m sorry I entered your house without your permission. I was hesitant to do so, but I did not know any place else to go. Please forgive me.”

Amira was rushed to Shifa Hospital where she underwent immediate surgery to fuse the shattered bones in her right leg. She suffered significant blood loss and required a blood transfusion as a life-saving measure. Four days later, Amira underwent further surgery to rehabilitate her leg.

Amira was placed under the care of a group of French doctors who wanted to send her to France for further treatment to ensure she does not suffer the loss of her lower limb. On 22 January and again on 23 January, Amira, accompanied by her aunt, was taken via ambulance to Rafah crossing to enter Egypt. Both times, they were denied entry by Egyptian officials who shouted abuse at them, accusing them of lying about the extent of Amira’s injury.

As of 5 February 2009, Amira is still in Gaza awaiting permission to enter Egypt via Rafah crossing in order to receive continuing medical treatment abroad. Efforts by delegations of international doctors are ongoing to coordinate and obtain the proper permits for her exit. Amira is exhibiting signs of psychological stress as a result of the trauma she experienced and further delays in her treatment will only set back her recovery.

The use of indiscriminate force in densely populated civilian areas is a violation of international law. All parties are bound by international legal obligations to distinguish between combatants and civilians and take all necessary precautions to minimise civilian casualties when conducting hostilities. All parties must respect the principle of proportionality and necessity when conducting and planning military operations. In the context of densely populated Gaza, military commanders must exercise even greater diligence to minimise harm to civilians. Israel’s use of heavy artillery and tanks in Gaza City’s neighbourhoods is a violation of international law as these weapons are by nature indiscriminate, striking at military and civilian objects without distinction as in the case of this family.

As the surviving victims of Operation Cast Lead struggle to cope in its aftermath, DCI-Palestine continues to call for:

– Unimpeded access for the provision of urgent humanitarian and medical assistance to the Gaza Strip;

– The immediate and permanent lifting of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip to allow the free flow of people, goods and services in and out of the territory;

– An independent investigation into incidents involving civilian fatalities during Operation Cast Lead, and prompt prosecution in accordance with international law of those found responsible for ordering, planning and carrying out war crimes;

– The annulment of the upgrade of EU-Israel bi-lateral relations approved by the EU-Israel Association Council on 16 June 2008.

        For further information please go to the Gaza Under Attack page.

        Update: As of 25 February, Amira is out of the hospital and residing with relatives in Gaza City. After unsuccessful attempts to enter Egypt via Rafah crossing despite the best efforts by intermediaries, Amira’s injured leg began to exhibit signs of improvement and the risk of amputation was significantly reduced. She continues to receive medical care in Gaza City as she is no longer deemed a priority case for medical evacuation by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Although she displays promising signs of physical recovery, the psychological stress from the trauma she endured are ever present.