Een stem uit de Gazastrook

By Engelbert Luitsz        ©              (http://www.alexandrina.nl/?p=2785)

 

gaza_sewage

Een vader brengt zijn kind naar school terwijl het rioolwater door de straten stroomt.

Sally Idwedar woont in Gaza Stad. Voor de krant The Independent beschreef ze hoe het op dit moment is om in de Gazastrook te leven. Gaza Stad is nog de “beste” plek daar, ze woont niet in een vluchtelingenkamp. Ze onderschrijft het rapport van de Verenigde Naties dat onlangs gepubliceerd werd en waarin wordt gesteld dat de Gazastrook onbewoonbaar wordt en dat de humanitaire omstandigheden verslechteren.

Ze wordt wakker van de Israëlische sonic booms, een van de middelen die Israël inzet om de bevolking het leven zuur te maken. Al in 2005 schreef The Guardian

Israël gebruikt een afschuwelijke nieuwe tactiek tegen Palestijnse burgers in de Gazastrook door het gebruik van “geluidsbommen” die overal angst veroorzaken, leiden tot miskramen en kinderen traumatiseren.

Daarnaast zijn er vaak beschietingen vanuit zee, waar de oorlogsschepen de strook onder vuur nemen. Zowel de sonic booms als deze beschietingen zijn op geen enkele manier gerelateerd aan een militair doel, ze spelen enkel een rol in het brede spectrum aan mensonterende praktijken die de verdrijving van de Palestijnen tot doel hebben.

Stromend water en elektriciteit zijn een luxe geworden. Al vier weken is de enige elektriciteitscentrale van de Gazastrook buiten werking. Voor die tijd was er zo’n acht uur elektriciteit per dag, nu is dat vier tot zes uur, met vaak blackouts van twaalf tot veertien uur. Sally woont in een flat, dus zelfs als er water is komt het niet boven, omdat de pompen niet werken.

Minstens een derde van de Gazastrook zit altijd zonder stroom. En nu de dagen korter worden is dat uiteraard een veel groter probleem dan in de zomer. Accu’s zijn erg duur en gas is ook moeilijk te krijgen, soms staan mensen wel 24 te uur wachten op een paar liter. Het brandstoftekort heeft invloed op de taxi’s die door gebrek aan benzine helemaal volgepropt worden om toch zoveel mogelijk mensen mee te kunnen nemen. En mensen hebben zich georganiseerd om in één keer voor heel veel mensen te koken om brandstof uit te sparen. Mensen die niets meer kunnen betalen koken buiten op open vuur met gevonden papier en karton.

gaza students study by candle light

Palestijnse kinderen krijgen les bij kaarslicht.

Afval wordt niet meer opgehaald in de overbevolkte stad. Grote wolken vliegen, wilde katten en honden zwermen om de bergen afval heen. Er worden karren met ezels ingezet om de situatie iets te verbeteren, maar tot nu toe zonder veel succes.

De pompen van de waterzuivering werken niet meer, het rioolwater stroomt de straten in. Ouders dragen hun kinderen naar school en het rioolwater trekt enorme hoeveelheden muggen aan. Er is de angst dat het water de drinkwatervoorziening zal verontreinigen. In het vluchtelingenkamp Al-Shati zijn al veel meldingen van maagklachten. Bij Sally loopt het rioolwater weliswaar nog niet door de straat, maar zij heeft al vier dagen helemaal geen water.

Men is nog steeds bezig om de Israëlische aanval van vorig jaar oktober te verwerken, maar constructiemateriaal wordt niet toegelaten, zodat er nauwelijks iets verbetert aan de situatie. De grens met Egypte is afgesloten, net als de tunnels die voor de noodzakelijke medicijnen, voedsel, brandstof en bouwmaterialen zorgden. En zelfs als de Israëlische grens opengaat wordt daar slechts de helft van de vrachtwagens met hulpgoederen doorgelaten.

De werkloosheid is opgelopen tot 40%, terwijl door de blokkade de prijzen enorm zijn gestegen. En hier bestaat de helft van de bevolking uit kinderen. Anderhalf miljoen mensen worden gestraft omdat ze ongewenst zijn in de joodse staat. De blokkade zou al een onmenselijke situatie zijn, maar Israël doet er nog een schepje bovenop door ze te bestoken met sonic booms, schijnaanvallen met F16′s en granaten vanuit zee. Naast de regelmatige invallen en de periodieke bloedbaden uiteraard.

De Nederlandse regering blijft het allemaal negeren. De media plaatsen af en toe een opiniestukje en vinden het dan ook wel genoeg. En dit is dan alleen nog maar de Gazastrook, niet de cynische zuivering van de West Bank, of het verdrijven van de Bedoeïenen in de Negev-woestijn, of het groeiende racisme in Israël zelf. Laat staan dat ooit het zionisme zelf, de kern van het probleem, ter sprake komt.

Het is eigenlijk te walgelijk voor woorden, maar als je het niet schrijft weet niemand het.

——-

Als extraatje een deel van een documentaire die een goed beeld geeft van wat er nu eigenlijk gebeurt in de Gazastrook. Een Palestijnse boer die zich afvraagt waarom het Israëlische leger alle dieren doodschiet. En waarom zijn ouders, die eerst gedwongen werden hun huis te verlaten, even later alsnog door een Israëlische tank werden gedood. Het zijn geen vragen die gesteld zullen worden tijdens de zakendiners. In een soliede traditie doet Nederland liever zaken met de moordenaars dan met de slachtoffers.

Bij het bekijken van onderstaande documentaire uit 2011 is het moeilijk te geloven dat het nog erger kan. Maar dat kan wel. Sindsdien heeft Israël opnieuw een bloedbad en enorme verwoestingen aangericht in oktober 2012. Sindsdien is er met instemming van Israël een staatsgreep gepleegd in Egypte, waarna de tunnels vernietigd of gesloten werden, de enige levenslijn voor de economie van de Gazastrook. Egypte en Israël verzorgen nu samen de blokkade van het strookje land waarop 1,5 miljoen mensen gevangen zitten sinds 2006.

Binnenkort gaan Rutte, Ploumen en Timmermans op bezoek in het beloofde land om zaken te doen, waarbij ze ongetwijfeld trots herinneringen zullen ophalen uit ons eigen koloniale verleden. Soort zoekt soort.

Gaza, A Virtual Tour of the Gaza Strip
Maurice Jacobsen, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oq-enFV5gXw

 

Syrian Coalition: The suffering of the Syrians lies in the survival of Assad

The Syrian Coalition called on the international community to shoulder its responsibilities towards the Syrian people inside and outside the country and increase “aid to the refugees and the host countries,” adding that the first cause of human suffering the Syrians are experiencing is the”survival of the tyrant Bashar in power.” The Syrian Coalition pointed out in a statement that “the sinking of five Syrians while trying to escape to a safe haven,” was caused by the oppression practiced by the Assad regime against them. The Syrian Coalition stated that “the number of refugees registered with the United Nations exceeded three million in the Middle East alone, let alone the refugees who are waiting registration.” The Syrian Coalition set up an Emergency Committee to follow up and address the situation of Syrian refugees fleeing Kalamoon near the Lebanese border. The Committee’s task will be receiving, packaging and delivery of humanitarian aid and distributing it to the Syrian refugees as well as securing the urgent needs of housing, education, health and food according to a plan established by the Committee based on factual data and the current need.
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 02.12.2013)
Russian Officers Fighting alongside Assad Regime against the Syrian People
Revolutionaries of Aleppo published a picture of a Russian officer who was killed while fighting with the Assad regime, which proves the involvement of Russian military in the fighting in Syria. Aleppo’s Media Center published a photo of the identity card of a Russian officer who was killed while fighting on the side of regime forces in the town of Sokhna in the southern rural Aleppo. Badr Aldin Jamous, the Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition, did not show surprise by comments made yesterday by the Prime Minister of the Assad regime, who considered the agreement with Western countries on the Iranian nuclear file “a victory for the Syrian people.” Jamous pointed out that this statement “fits the reality of the actual relationship between the two regimes, where the Assad regime is an integral part of the militias of Iran, the mullahs and Abu al Fadl al Abbas.” The Secretary General added that “when we consider the exchange of prisoners from the Assad regime, we note that it always swapped Syrian prisoners with Iranians or prisoners belonging to the terrorist militias of Hezbollah.” Jamous added that the Assad regime has repeatedly refused to “swap prisoners from officers of the regular army and even Alawites prisoners with Syrian rebels, which not only indicates its lack of national sense but also works in favor of Iran whose forces are occupying Syria.” Furthermore, Jamous derided Iran’s description of backing off on its nuclear program as a victory, saying that “Iran’s giving up of enriching of uranium, for which it starved its people, in order to hold power, does not differ from Assad’s waiver of Syria’s chemical weapons.”
(Source: Syrian Coalition / 02.12.2013)

Hamas Cancels Anniversary Rally in Gaza

yassin_arafat_wall

The Gaza Strip’s ruling Hamas movement has cancelled its upcoming anniversary celebrations, for the first time since it came to power six years ago, as the territory grapples with economic woes.

Hamas said it would be inappropriate to hold the annual celebrations, used to display the group’s control on the region, as deep economic challenges rip the crowded coastal strip.

“The decision to cancel the rally is a message of solidarity recognizing the difficult circumstances experienced by our people in Gaza,” Hamas official Ashraf Abu Zayed was quoted by AP news agency as saying.

The local population of about 1.7 million Palestinians has been facing mounting hardships since the military-led ouster of Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi.

Hamas, founded in 1987, is the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails. During the one-year rule of Morsi, improved living conditions within the region mirrored improved ties between the two neighbors.

Since the July coup toppling Morsi, however, the new regime has destructed smuggling tunnels which provided an estimated 30 percent of goods feeding the strip’s population.

Accompanied by Israeli restrictions on Gaza, Egypt’s intensified crackdown on its borders has led to power cuts, fuel shortages and the virtual collapse of the construction industry, a major employer in Gaza.

Last month, the lack of power caused a major spill at Gaza’s main sewage treatment plant, flooding downtown streets in rancid waste.

According to the United Nations, unemployment has risen since the tunnels were closed to now stand at about 30 percent. Nearly a half of the Gaza population receive food aid from canceled, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

Hamas came to the helm in 2007 after taking the territory from the forces of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

With Abbas now governing from the West Bank, the takeover has left the Palestinians divided between two governments. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

Why should Gazans have to hide their identity in Egypt?

A sunset seen in Gaza City.

It is difficult to be from the Gaza Strip, especially when you are in Egypt.

There’s a fair level of paranoia that the old Mubarak regime and the current military government have tapped into whenever they need to rally national support. Naturally, it happens at the great expense of Palestinians from Gaza who turn to Egypt as a safe and even friendly escape from the troubles of the occupation.

I hadn’t been aware of this problem until I arrived in Cairo this past summer. I was on my way to Gaza, alone this time because my mother and sister had managed to squeeze through Egypt’s border with Palestine two weeks before me.

With the Egyptian coup in full swing, my fate was up in the air. Would the Rafah border crossing be open? Would it be closed? Where will I go? What will I do?

The only reason panic didn’t set in was because I was given a clear set of instructions: Unless you are waiting at the border 230 miles away, stay in Cairo’s airport. Do not, under any circumstance, reveal that you are a Palestinian from Gaza.

Admittedly, I had no idea how hiding my identity could possibly protect me, especially since I’ve painted the internet with stories about my family background. But it had to be done. It’s what got me through customs in Cairo and it’s what let me wait without being harassed in the main lobby of the airport until it was safe for me to pass through theSinai.

Blaming Gaza

Late one night after I had made it into the Gaza Strip, my uncle told me why it was important to “be someone else” whenever Egypt faced internal turbulence. One strategy employed repeatedly by the military, which is now in control of the Egyptian government, is to cast doubt over a rival regime’s capacity to run Egypt by painting it as a proxy to advance Palestinian demands at the expense of Egyptian safety and well-being.

Gasoline shortages in Egypt were blamed on Gaza’s “greedy thirst” for the fuel. Egypt’s deteriorating power grid was blamed on Gaza’s need for electricity to compensate for its daily power outages. Banditry in the Sinai was blamed on Gazans for traveling along that route.

Incitement against Palestinians, specifically those from Gaza, feeds into the fervor that accompanies Egypt’s turmoil. Hiding one’s identity is nothing more than a reflexive and self-sustaining measure.

As I sat next to my uncle, sipping tea with mint on the roof of a building in central Gaza City, we were joined by three other men who shared very similar concerns. I asked them for stories, and although they laughed about their experiences in hindsight, I knew they would never wish to be put in those situations again.

One man’s story began in a café on Fouad Street in Cairo two years ago. He was enjoying coffee with an Egyptian friend of his one afternoon when two police officers, armed with batons, weaved through the tables.

The man’s friend quickly told him to lose the accent. To the average non-native speaker, the man’s impression of the Egyptian dialect was impressive. But fearing he’d be caught, he switched to a more natural madani accent from Ramallah.

The officers greeted the two men but could not sustain a conversation. It was clear they were fishing for foreigners, but what for? They asked the man and his friend where they were from.

“Here, Cairo,” said the friend. “Ramallah, for business,” said the man, pointing back to his friend.

The officers gave them a nod and silently left the scene in that stereotypical way an investigator does when his work is finished. The café manager ushered the man and his friend out — “We don’t want trouble!” — and together they quickly took a taxi to a hotel where they waited all evening until the man from Gaza could arrange a trip back home.

My uncle frequently travels to Egypt for medical care. He carries a Palestinian passport that is too often rejected by whichever border enforcement officer is on duty at the time.

Unnaturally curious soldiers

When he’s lucky enough to get in, he feels he has to look over his shoulder until he finds himself within the safe walls of a hospital. Like the man who spoke before him, he’s had run-ins with Egyptian soldiers who seemed unnaturally curious about what he was doing outside of Gaza. In one instance, he recalls, he narrowly missed a beating after telling an enraged policeman that the reason he spoke with a dialectic “g” sound was because he was actually from Jordan.

Another man shared a similar story about a friend who was threatened by Egyptian soldiers that he’d be “thrown” to a “pack” of pro-regime demonstrators who had become fed up with Gaza’s alleged dependence on Egypt.

It was easier for me to hide my identity. I carry an American passport and my Arabic contains linguistic elements from every major Arab subpopulation in the city of Chicago.

When I said I was visiting Egypt as a tourist, the officer at the customs booth almost bought it. But then he looked at my last name, a fairly common one in the Gaza Strip, and made me wait. He radioed a command and consulted the officer next to him. All of the other lines seemed to move so fast now, and the man behind me impatiently breathing down my neck was doing nothing to ease my anxiety.

The officer kept asking what I was planning on doing. I told him that I had come to Egypt purely for vacation purposes now that I had graduated from school.

The Rafah border crossing had opened the previous day after being closed for almost two entire weeks since the coup. But I didn’t want him to know that I was aware of that.

So when he asked me to respond in Arabic, I pretended I didn’t know how. I was just a tourist.

Luckily, neither I nor my uncle had been the victim of any violence in Egypt as a result of our backgrounds. But not everyone is as lucky. In the weeks preceding this rooftop conversation, Palestinians from Gaza were being thrown into dingy holding cells underneath Cairo’s old airport as part of the military regime’s renewed policy to keep any and all Palestinians out.

My aunt, for example, was one of dozens of Muslim pilgrims from Gaza who performedumrah (pilgrimage) in Saudi Arabia just before the coup. She was due in Gaza about two weeks before I was due to arrive, but because of Egypt’s airlines policy, the flight she booked took off without her.

She was stranded in a foreign country with no direct line of support. Those who had managed to board planes were promptly thrown underground until they could afford a flight out. It was the most dehumanizing experience.

Invisible costumes

I was joined by my mother and sister when I left Gaza in July. We spent a few days biding our time in Cairo while avoiding any heated protests. Whenever we took a cab, we put on invisible costumes.

For one cab ride, we were Americans originating from Amman. In another, I was visiting from the West Bank.

In one instance, I mistakenly strayed from the script and revealed that I have family in Gaza. The cab driver mentioned how Gazans were largely responsible for Egypt’s turbulence. I connected eyes with my mother through the rear view mirror and knew that it was time for me to close my mouth.

Anti-Gazan incitement in Egypt exists. It is certainly not the most physical or bloody form of incitement the world has seen.

But that does not justify the discomfort many Palestinians from Gaza feel under the watchful eye of the Egyptian military. That does not justify the scattered beatings and the regular intimidation faced by Palestinians from Gaza by virtue of a few false rumors spread by politicians and corrupt police officers.

Egypt is, for so many, an opportunity to escape the strangulation of Israel’s siege on Gaza. It is supposed to be a friend in the region to a people who have faced dispossession for so many decades. Its people share many values and cultural norms and at different points in history were even governed by the same bodies.

There is nothing more shameful than coercing someone to hide his or her identity as if it is something to be ashamed of. But that is what is happening now and what has been happening for years.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

Most Egyptians favour Morsi return as president

 

Mohammed Morsi

A poll conducted in Egypt suggests that 68 per cent of a random sample of the population is in favour of the return to office of the deposed President Mohamed Morsi. The percentage of those supporting his ousting has fallen to 18, while 12 per cent support neither Morsi nor the coup.

Conducted by the Egyptian Centre for Media Studies and Public Opinion (Integration Egypt), the poll revealed that the total number of people who took part in anti-Morsi events was less than 5.5 million. Pro-Morsi demonstrations attracted 26 million Egyptians in the same period, it is claimed.

The director of the centre, Mustafa Khodri, said that the study called into serious doubt the Egyptian media’s claim that the number of people participating in protests supporting the isolation of President Morsi topped 33 million. He also pointed out that the study was conducted by means of a field analysis and the level of confidence in the results is 95 per cent.

The poll showed a degree of relative stability in the number of those supporting Morsi’s legitimacy, with a sharp decline in those supporting his isolation. “There has been a 28 per cent reduction in the number of those supporting the isolation since last August,” added Khodri.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

Journalists covering protests targeted by Israeli forces

New York, December 2, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the reported targeting of journalists covering protests in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association reported on Sunday that Israeli forces threw stun grenades and fired rubber-coated bullets at journalists covering clashes on November 29 between protesters and Israeli security forces at the Qalandiya crossing, which connects the northern West Bank and Jerusalem.

The report said that one rubber-coated bullet was fired at an Italian freelance journalist at eye level. “Fortunately the photographer was taking pictures at the time and the rubber bullet shattered the camera instead of his head,” the FPA report said.

In a statement to the FPA, the Israel Defense Forces said that an initial review of the incident had concluded that the bullet was not intentionally fired at the journalist but was merely part of “riot dispersal.”

Security forces also threw stun grenades at journalists, who had their hands raised, showing that they were leaving the protest. The soldiers threw the grenades at their backs, the report said. No one was injured.

“The Israel Defense Forces have a record of tolerating the targeting of journalists, and this is unacceptable,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. “We call on the IDF to conduct a credible investigation into this attack and hold the soldiers responsible to account.”

Earlier this year, Palestinian freelance photographer Mohammed al-Azza sufferedmultiple broken bones in the face after an Israeli soldier shot him with a rubber-coated bullet from approximately 35 feet away, al-Azza’s uncle told CPJ. The IDF told CPJ at the time that it had “decided to conclude the complaint in question” after conducting an inquiry.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ’s Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory page here.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

UNHCR airlifts winterization supplies and vaccines to north-eastern Syria

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has airlifted urgently needed winterization supplies for extremely vulnerable families as well as polio vaccines for more than 538,000 children from Damascus to Al Hassakeh, Syria in a series of flights over recent days.

On Saturday 30 November a UNHCR-chartered Antonov-12 aircraft transported 14.4 metric tons of aid including 2,000 thermal blankets, 1,000 sheets of plastic tarpaulin and other equipment to Al Hassakeh for onward delivery to the UN hub in Qamishly, in north-eastern Syria.

That airlift followed a flight on Thursday 28 November in which the Antonov 12 carried polio vaccines for 538,000 children from the Syrian capital Damascus to Al Hassakeh on Thursday, as a contribution to the inter-agency effort led by WHO and UNICEF to ensure the vaccination of children living in hard-to-reach areas of Syria. In addition to the polio vaccines, the UNHCR air charter of 12.5 metric tons of aid carried tens of thousands of vaccines against meningitis, tuberculosis, MMR, tetanus for 150,000 individuals.

The transportation of vaccines is a delicate matter as the cold-chain must be preserved to keep these vaccines effective. UNHCR’s airlift of urgently needed relief items is particularly important as the main road from Damascus to Al Hassakeh remains perilous for aid deliveries and no significant deliveries of relief items have been able to reach the region by road since May 2013.

UNHCR’s airlift also included five incubators for Qamishly hospital’s neonatal unit and a ton of infusion fluid which was sent to the health department in Al Hassakeh from where it will be delivered to hospitals in Hassakeh Governorate.

“The medicines delivered to Al Hassakeh are intended to cover the gaps in Syria’s northeast including in hard-to-reach areas of Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Al Hassakeh governorates,” said UNHCR Representative Tarik Kurdi. These vaccines against polio will be used in the second round of vaccinations, which will start on 8th December.”

The UN refugee agency has maintained an office in Al Hassakeh since 2010 and expanded its presence in Qamishly in May 2013 to help address needs amongst displaced persons and refugees living in the region.

Because of its unique access into Al Hassakeh, UNHCR has been actively involved registering internally displaced persons (IDPs), and providing assistance with core relief items like shelter material, blankets, cooking sets, sleeping mats, hygienic supplies and other aid alongside cash distributions to help vulnerable families and also providing health care.

So far over 2013, UNHCR has registered 33,000 displaced families (approximately 115,000 people) in Al Hassakeh including 23,000 families who came from Deir Ezzor. UNHCR has provided its specially designed package of core relief items to 23,500 people in Al Hassakeh and 94,500 people in Deir Ezzor.

UNHCR also runs a cash assistance programme in north-eastern Syria that has assisted 57,400 vulnerable displaced individuals over 2013.

The UN refugee agency continues to run a primary health care polyclinic in Al Hassakeh which serves both refugees and vulnerable displaced Syrians. So far over 2013 this polyclinic has provided primary health care to more than 48,000 patients.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

Israelis demolish 4 Palestinian homes

RAMALLAH: The Israeli military on Monday demolished four houses in the Jordan Valley, officials in the Al Auja village said.

Palestinian media said at least 50 Palestinians have been rendered homeless.

The army also destroyed eight agricultural structures in Jordan Valley, which is about a third of the occupied West Bank. Israel has declared 94 per cent of the area off limits to Palestinians.

The excuse for the demolition is that the houses and farms were set up on land that belongs to the waqf.

Three bulldozers were used for the demolition, apart from some 15 Israeli army vehicles.

Palestinian media quoted one affected resident as saying that an appeal is pending in the Israeli courts against the demolition.

Israel claims around 56 per cent of Jordan Valley as part of closed military areas.

Meanwhile an Israeli court said on Monday an Israeli Arab pleaded guilty to planting a bomb on a Tel Aviv bus a year ago, during Israel’s eight-day offensive in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The bomb detonated as the bus was driving near the Israeli defence ministry, wounding 15 people.

The Tel Aviv District court accepted a plea deal from Mohammed Mafarja, 19, and convicted him of attempted murder, attempting to assist the enemy and assault, the ruling said.

Mafarja, who was accused of working on behalf of Hamas, will be sentenced at a later date, the court said.

SEA PROTEST

Hundreds of Palestinian youth activists sailed from the shores of the Gaza Strip on Monday to protest at Israel’s restrictions on fishing in the seas off the Islamist-ruled enclave.

Palestinian fishermen say they cannot meet demand in Gaza due to Israel’s naval blockade on the territory and limit of six nautical miles (11 km) in which they can take out their boats off shore.

Israel eased the blockade somewhat in 2010 after an Israeli commando raid on a ship in an activist flotilla bent on reaching Gaza left nine Turks dead and raised an international uproar, but Palestinians say the gestures were not enough.

On Monday, Gaza’s Coalition Intifada group said about 200 youths boarded fishing boats heading out of Gaza City toward the fishing zone boundary, before returning to shore.

Organisers said some boats crossed the six-mile maritime limit.

“We have sent a message of solidarity with the fishermen and a message to the world that they must act to end the Gaza blockade,” said Shorouq Mahmoud, the group’s spokeswoman.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said none of the boats breached the fishing zone limit.

Israeli forces have regularly shot at Gaza boats seen as trying to breach the blockade.

Israel tightened its land blockade on Gaza after the Hamas seized control of the enclave in 2007.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Pope Francis on Monday as part of a visit to Rome during which he restated his firm opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran.

Netanyahu was received for the first time for a short audience by the pontiff, who is expected to travel to the Middle East next year.

Francis and Netanyahu met for 25 minutes for closed-door talks in the presence of an interpreter.

Israeli sources say Francis’s visit to the Middle East could take place before Israeli President Shimon Peres ends his term in July.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

Egyptian troops survive huge explosion in Rafah

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) — A parade of Egyptian military vehicles survived an explosion Monday afternoon in Rafah in the northernmost Sinai Peninsula.

Security sources told Ma’an that a very highly explosive roadside device was detonated when a parade moved near the Unknown Soldier square in Rafah. Nobody was harmed despite the severity of the explosion, the source added.

Separately, Egyptian military forces discovered another explosive device and safely detonated it after they evacuated the area to make sure nobody was hurt. Locals in Rafah in Egypt and in the Gaza Strip said they heard a very huge blast.

In the nearby city of el-Arish, four masked gunmen stopped a money transfer vehicle and forced its driver to run away at gunpoint. Egyptian security sources said the vehicle belonged to the Bank of Egypt and there was no cash in it. They highlighted that “Takfirists” might try to booby-trap the vehicle and use it to ambush Egyptian officers.

(Source / 02.12.2013)

Gaza’s children protest against naval blockade

 

Gaza children protestThe event is being seen as part of an increase in popular demonstrations against the siege, including protest marches. Activists and local media outlets have backed the programme

Schoolchildren in the Gaza Strip have organised their own unique protest against the naval blockade of the territory. With the support of international activists, the children made and floated hundreds of model boats as a symbol of being able to break free from the stifling blockade of Gaza’s small ports.

The event is being seen as part of an increase in popular demonstrations against the siege, including protest marches. Activists and local media outlets have backed the programme.

Gaza’s territorial waters have been blockaded by the Israeli navy since 2006, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Gunboats attack Palestinian fishermen on an almost daily basis. Many have had their boats and equipment confiscated and destroyed; a number have been killed or wounded by the Israelis.

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00004_0010000500006 (Source / 02.12.2013)