Israeli settlers set ablaze Palestinian land in West Bank

Palestinians look at the damage as they stand in a house set on fire by Israeli settlers and where 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Sa’ad Dawabsheh died on July 31, 2015, in the West Bank village of Duma. (AFP)

Palestinians look at the damage as they stand in a house set on fire by Israeli settlers and where 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Sa’ad Dawabsheh died on July 31, 2015, in the West Bank village of Duma

Israeli settlers have conducted yet another arson attack against Palestinian property by setting ablaze hundreds of acres of open land in the occupied West Bank, officials say.

Local sources and senior Palestinian officials confirmed on Sunday that the arson attack was carried out near the village of Burin, located south of Nablus.

There has been no word on possible casualties.

The latest arson attack comes amid boiling anger among Palestinians over the death of two members of a family in a similar attack by settlers on July 31. The 18-month-old toddler of the Dawabsheh family, identified as Ali, burned to death after extremist settlers firebombed the house in the village of Duma near Nablus.

His father, Sa’ad, succumbed to his burns on Saturday.

Thousands of Palestinians poured onto the streets in Duma to attend the mass funeral ceremony for Sa’ad.

Israeli forces fire tear gas toward Palestinians during clashes on August 8, 2015, in the West Bank village of Duma

Meanwhile, Palestinian medical sources say the mother and their 4-year-old son, who were also severely burned in the attack, remain in critical condition.

In recent years, Israeli settlers have carried out various attacks on Palestinian property in the West Bank and al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Settlers, mostly armed, regularly attack Palestinian villages and farms and set fire to their mosques, olive groves and other properties.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 illegal settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East al-Quds in 1967.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

Egypt allegedly sends ground forces into Yemen quagmire

Yemen’s Ministry of Defence has said that Egyptian soldiers are a part of the coalition campaign against the Houthi rebels

Tanks and armoured vehicles of the Saudi-led coalition began deployment on the outskirts of the Yemeni port city of Aden on 3 August

In conflicting reports, officials in Yemen’s government claim that Egypt has sent ground troops to fight alongside government forces, while independent journalists and analysts say that there are no Egyptian soldiers present.

Egyptian ground troops landed in Yemen earlier this week to join the Saudi-led coalition fight against the Iranian-supported Houthis and their allies, Ali Albakly, a spokesman for the Yemeni Ministry of Defence told Middle East Eye on Thursday.

The Egyptians arrived in Aden, part of a 5,000-strong ground troop force which also include Emiratis and Saudi soldiers, the ministry spokesman said.

“Some of the troops will be involved in the protection of public facilities, and part of them will involve in fighting the Houthi rebels,” Albakly said.

“The war has moved from Aden, and moved within the limits of Lahj. The coalition forces will help us to fight the few Houthi rebels troops in Aden and surrounding areas,” Albakly told MEE.

Mamdouh Khalifa, a high-level Egyptian military official, denied that Egypt was taking part in a ground war in Yemen.

Speaking exclusively to MEE on Saturday, Khalifa denied that Egypt had sent any of its troops as part of the 5,000 fighters mentioned by al-Bakli. Instead, Khalifa said, Egypt is participating alongside Saudi Arabia with airstrikes, as well as taking part in efforts to protect Bab al-Mandab strait.

Arab officials express hope that the coalition air campaign – which has the support of the US, GCC, Egypt and Turkey – will exhaust the Houthis, who are positioning to oust President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Since the inception of “Operation Golden Arrow” – the coalition’s campaign to retake the port city of Aden – evidence of coalition land forces has been growing.  Three Emirati soldiers have been killed in Yemen, and news sources say Saudi Arabia sent tanks to support government forces.

Yemeni pro-government forces have recaptured Aden, Taiz, the strategic port of Mocha, and Al Anad air base.

Yemenis are waiting impatiently for the recapture of capital Sanaa and Saada, the Houthis’ home region, from where the militia originally advanced on the capital in September 2014.  They hope to see life restored to normal after a year of conflict that has seen thousands killed and the destruction of the infrastructure of the country.

According to official coalition sources, Arab troops have arrived in Aden to protect Yemeni public and strategic installations. They will participate with pro-government forces in fighting Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“Three thousand Gulf, Egyptian and Pakistani troops arrived at the port of Aden,” an official source told Al-Khaleej Online.

“The troops will protect Aden, the Yemeni installations and vital facilities,” the source, who declined to be named, told Al-Khaleej Online.

Conflicting reports

However, Wajeeh Al Samman, a Yemeni journalist for the TV station Balqis, denied the presence of the Egyptian troops based in Yemen, claiming that Yemenis won’t accept the presence of foreign troops on the ground.

“The Egyptian position is clear towards the Yemeni war. So, they will not participate by [sending] their troops,” Al Samman told MEE.

“Riyadh wants to activate the role of the Yemeni local forces. As long as the resistance has achieved victories in the South through its youth and its members, it will the first [to lead the fight against the Houthis] in the north,” Samman said.

He added that battle in the north would be harder because of the difficult terrain, the military readiness of the Houthis, and because of the population’s “lack of acceptance of foreign troops on their land”.

“It is natural that we depend on our forces to fight the Houthi rebels in the north, after their victories in the south,” Al Samman added.

“The resistance is now seeking to raise the Yemeni street in the north. It wants the outbreak of the revolt against the rebels,” Al Samman said.

Local newspapers have circulated a story that claims that the Egyptian Defence Minister Sedki Sobhi visited Saudi Arabia to arrange the ground intervention in Yemen between Riyadh and Cairo.

The newspapers quoted unnamed sources as saying that Sobhi told his Saudi counterpart, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that Cairo is ready to provide air, land and naval forces to the coalition campaign in Yemen.

Observers are predicting that Egypt will participate in the Yemen war and will play an important role in the ground war.

Egypt has so far sent six warships to the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, carrying Special Forces troops and about a thousand Thunderbolt Marine soldiers.

‘No Egyptian forces in Yemen’

Regarding the participation of Emirati forces, Mohammed Ali Marm, who acts as President Hadi’s private secretary, confirmed that “an Emirati military battalion arrived in Aden to protect [Aden] airport”.

“The UAE battalion will also support the Yemeni army in operating the sensitive devices that they are not familiar with using before,” Marm told the Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.

For his part, the Egyptian strategy expert Talaat Muslim ruled out the possibility of Egyptian troops participating in the Yemen war.

“Until now, there is no proof of the existence of Egyptian forces in Yemen, despite Egypt announcing that it is part of the Arab coalition. The Egyptian naval forces only protect the Bab Al-Mandab strait,” Muslim told MEE.

“I think that the Egyptian troops will protect Saudi Arabia only if Saudi Arabia is attacked. Egypt shares the same position as Pakistan,” Muslim told MEE.

Finally, the Yemeni army is seeking to train new fighters to join them later. The head of the National Security Agency, Ali Ahmadi, has said that “the training will not last less than 45 days”.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

On Israel’s Little-Known Concentration And Labor Camps (1948-1955)

CAMPS-620

Much of the grim and murky circumstances of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the late 1940s have gradually been exposed over time. One aspect – rarely researched or deeply discussed – is the internment of thousands of Palestinian civilians within at least 22 Zionist-run concentration and labor camps that existed from 1948 to 1955. Now more is known about the contours of this historical crime, due to the comprehensive research by renowned Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta and founding member of the Palestinian resource center BADIL Terry Rempel.

The facts are these.

The study – to be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies – relies on almost 500 pages of International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) reports written during the 1948 war, that were declassified and made available to the public in 1996, and accidentally discovered by one of the authors in 1999.

Civilians captured during the fall of Lydda and Ramle around the time of July 12, 1948 and taken to labour camps. In the July heat they were thirsty and were given a drop of water carried by a child under soldiers’ guard. (Photo: Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine  Land Society)

Civilians captured during the fall of Lydda and Ramle around the time of July 12, 1948 and taken to labour camps. In the July heat they were thirsty and were given a drop of water carried by a child under soldiers’ guard.

Furthermore, testimonies of 22 former Palestinian civilian detainees of these camps were collected by the authors, through interviews they conducted themselves in 2002, or documented by others during different moments of time.

With these sources of information, the authors, as they put it, pieced together a clearer story of how Israel captured and imprisoned “thousands of Palestinian civilians as forced laborers,” and exploited them “to support its war-time economy.”

Digging up the crimes

“I came across this piece of history in the 1990s when I was collecting material and documents about Palestinian,” Abu Sitta told Al-Akhbar English. “The more and more you dig, the more you find there are crimes that have taken place that are not reported and not known.”

At that time, Abu Sitta went to Geneva for a week to check out the newly-opened archives of the ICRC. According to him, the archives were opened to the public after accusations that the ICRC had sided with the Nazis during World War II. It was an opportunity that he could not miss in terms of seeing what the ICRC had recorded of the events that occurred in Palestine in 1948. It was there he stumbled onto records discussing the existence of five concentration camps run by the Israelis.

He then decided to look for witnesses or former detainees, interviewing Palestinians in occupied Palestine, Syria, and Jordan.

“They all described the same story, and their real experience in these camps,” he said.

One question that immediately struck him was why there was barely any references in history about these camps, especially when it became clearer the more he researched that they existed, and were more than just five camps.

“Many former Palestinian detainees saw the concept of Israel as a vicious enemy, so they thought their experience labouring in these concentration camps was nothing in comparison to the other larger tragedy of the Nakba. The Nakba overshadowed everything,” Abu Sitta explained.

“However, when I dug into the period of 1948-1955, I found more references like Mohammed Nimr al-Khatib, who was an imam in Haifa, who had written down interviews with someone from al-Yahya family that was in one of the camps. I was able to trace this man all the way to California and spoke with him in 2002,” he added.

More references were eventually and slowly discovered by Abu Sitta that included information from a Jewish woman called Janoud, a single masters thesis in Hebrew University about the topic, and the personal accounts of economist Yusif Sayigh, helped to further flesh out the scale and nature of these camps.

After more than a decade, Abu Sitta, with his co-author Rempel, are finally presenting their findings to the public.

From burden to opportunity: concentration and labor camps

The establishment of concentration and labor camps occurred after the unilateral declaration of Israel’s statehood on May 1948.

Prior to that event, the number of Palestinian captives in Zionist hands were quite low, because, as the study states, “the Zionist leadership concluded early on that forcible expulsion of the civilian population was the only way to establish a Jewish state in Palestine with a large enough Jewish majority to be ‘viable’.” In other words, for the Zionist strategists, prisoners were a burden in the beginning phases of the ethnic cleansing.

Those calculations changed with the declaration of the Israeli state and the involvement of the armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Transjordan, after much of the ethnic cleansing had occurred. From that moment, “the Israeli forces began taking prisoners, both regular Arab soldiers (for eventual exchange), and – selectively – able-bodied Palestinian non-combatant civilians.”

The first camp was Ijlil, which was about 13 km northeast of Jaffa, on the site of the destroyed Palestinian village Ijlil al-Qibiliyya, emptied of its inhabitants in early April. Ijlil was predominately made up of tents, housing hundreds and hundreds of prisoners, categorized as POWs by the Israelis, surrounded by barbed wire fences, watchtowers, and a gate with guards.

As the Israeli conquests grew, in turn exceedingly increasing the number of prisoners, three more camps were established. These are the four “official” camps that the Israelis acknowledged and were actively visited by the ICRC.

The study notes:

All four camps were either on or adjacent to military installations set up by the British during the Mandate. These had been used during World War II for the interment of German, Italian, and other POWs. Two of the camps – Atlit, established in July about 20 kms south of Haifa, and Sarafand, established in September near the depopulated village of Sarafand al-Amar in central Palestine—had earlier been used in the 1930s and 1940s to detain illegal Jewish immigrants.

Atlit was the second largest camp after Ijlil, it had the capacity of holding up to 2,900 prisoners, while Sarafand had the maximum capacity of 1,800, and Tel Letwinksy, near Tel Aviv, held more than 1,000.

All four camps were administered by “former British officers who had defected their rankswhen British forces withdrew from Palestine in mid-May 1948,” and the camp’s guards and administrative staff were former members of the Irgun and the Stern Gang – both groups designated as terrorist organizations by the British before their departure. In total, the four “official” camps were staffed by 973 soldiers.

A fifth camp, called Umm Khalid, was established at a site of another depopulated village near the Zionist settlement of Netanya, and was even assigned an official number in the records, but never attained “official” status. It had the capacity to hold 1,500 prisoners. Unlike the other four camps, Umm Khalid would be “the fist camp established exclusively as a labor camp” and was “the first of the “recognized” camps to be shut down…by the end of 1948.”

Complementing these five “recognized” camps, were at least 17 other “unrecognized camps” that were not mentioned in official sources, but the authors discovered through multiple prisoner testimonies.

Civilians taken to Labour Camps Ramle July 1948 (1)

Civilians in a labour camp in Ramleh, July 1948.

“Many of [these camps],” the authors noted, “[were] apparently improvised or ad hoc, often consisting of no more than a police station, a school, or the house of a village notable,” with holding capacities that ranged from almost 200 prisoners to tens.

Most of the camps, official and unofficial, were situated within the borders of the UN-proposed Jewish state, “although at least four [unofficial camps] – Beersheba, Julis, Bayt Daras, and Bayt Nabala – were in the UN-assigned Arab state and one was inside the Jerusalem “corpus separatum.”

“[T]he situation of civilian internees was ‘absolutely confused’ with that of POWs, and… Jewish authorities ‘treated all Arabs between the ages of 16 and 55 as combatants and locked them up as prisoners of war.’” – ICRC report, 1948

The number of Palestinian non-combatant detainees “far exceeded” those of Arab soldiers in regular armies or bona fide POWs. Citing a July 1948 monthly report made by ICRC mission head Jacques de Reynier, the study states that de Reynier noted, “that the situation of civilian internees was ‘absolutely confused’ with that of POWs, and that the Jewish authorities ‘treated all Arabs between the ages of 16 and 55 as combatants and locked them up as prisoners of war.’” In addition, the ICRC found among the detainees in official camps, that 90 of the prisoners were elderly men, and 77 were boys, aged 15 years or younger.

The study highlights the statements by an ICRC delegate Emile Moeri in January 1949 of the camp inmates:

It is painful to see these poor people, especially old, who were snatched from their villages and put without reason in a camp, obliged to pass the winter under wet tents, away from their families; those who could not survive these conditions died. Little children (10-12 years) are equally found under these conditions. Similarly sick people, some with tuberculosis, languish in these camps under conditions which, while fine for healthy individuals, will certainly lead to their death if we do not find a solution to this problem. For a long time we have demanded that the Jewish authorities release those civilians who are sick and need treatment to the care of their families or to an Arab hospital, but we have not received a response.

As the report noted, “there are no precise figures on the total number of Palestinian civilians held by Israel during the 1948-49 war” and estimates tend to not account for “unofficial” camps, in addition to the frequent movement of prisoners between the camps in use. In the four “official” camps, the number of Palestinian prisoners never exceeded 5,000 according to figures in Israeli records.

In general, the living conditions in the “official” camps were far below what would be considered appropriate by international law at that time. Moeri, who visited the camps constantly, reported that in Ijlil in November 1948: “”[m]any [of the] tents are torn, that the camp was “not ready for winter,” the latrines not covered, and the canteen not working for two weeks. Referring to an apparently ongoing situation, he stated that “the fruits are still defective, the meat is of poor quality, [and] the vegetables are in short supply.”

Furthermore, Moeri reported that he saw for himself, “’the wounds left by the abuse’ of the previous week, when the guards had fired on the prisoners, wounding one, and had beaten another.”

As the study shows, the civilian status of the majority of the detainees were clear for the ICRC delegates in the country, who reported that the men captured “had undoubtedly never been in a regular army.” Detainees who were combatants, the study explains, were “routinely shot on the pretense that they had been attempting to escape.”

The Israeli forces seemed to always target able-bodied men, leaving behind women, children, and the elderly – when not massacring them – the policy continued even after there were low levels of military confrontation. All in all, as the Israeli records show and the study cites, “Palestinian civilians comprised the vast majority (82 percent) of the 5,950 listed as internees in the POW camps, while the Palestinians alone (civilian plus military) comprised 85 percent.”

The wide-scale kidnapping and imprisonment of Palestinian civilians tend to correspond with the Israeli military campaigns. For example, one of the first major roundup occurred during Operation Danj, when 60-70,000 Palestinians were expelled from the central towns of Lydda and Ramleh. At the same time, between a fifth and a quarter of the male population from these two towns who were over the age of 15 were sent to the camps.

The largest round-up of civilians came from villages of central Galilee who were captured during Operation Hiram in the fall of 1948.

One Palestinian survivor, Moussa, described to the authors what he witnessed at the time.

They took us from all villages around us: al-Bi’na, Deir al-Asad, Nahaf, al-Rama, and Eilabun. They took 4 young men and shot them dead…They drove us on foot. It was hot. We were not allowed to drink. They took us to [the Palestinian Druze village] al-Maghar, then [to the Jewish settlement] Nahalal, then to Atlit.

A November 16, 1948 UN report collaborated Moussa’s account, stating that some 500 Palestinian men “were taken by force march and vehicle to a Jewish concentration camp at Nahlal.”

Maintaining Israel’s economy with “slave labor”

The policy of targeting civilians, particular “able-bodied” men, was not accidental according to the study. It states, “with tens of thousands of Jewish men and women called up for military service, Palestinian civilian internees constituted an important supplement to the Jewish civilian labor employed under emergency legislation in maintaining the Israeli economy,” which even the ICRC delegation had noted in their reports.

The prisoners were forced to do public and military work, such as drying wetlands, working as servants, collecting and transporting looted refugee property, moving stones from demolished Palestinian homes, paving roads, digging military trenches, burying the dead, and much more.

As one former Palestinian detainee named Habib Mohammed Ali Jarada described in the study, “At gunpoint, I was made to work all day. At night, we slept in tents. In winter, water was seeping below our bedding, which was dry leaves, cartons and wooden pieces.”

Another prisoner in Umm Khalid, Marwan Iqab al-Yehiya said in an interview with the authors, “We had to cut and carry stones all day [in a quarry]. Our daily food was only one potato in the morning and half dried fish at night. They beat anyone who disobeyed orders.” This labor was interspersed with acts of humiliation by the Israeli guards, as Yehiya speaks of prisoners being “lined up and ordered to strip naked as a punishment for the escape of two prisoners at night.”

“[Jewish] Adults and children came from nearby kibbutz to watch us line up naked and laugh. To us this was most degrading,” he added.

Abuses by the Israeli guards were systematic and rife in the camps, the brunt of which was directed towards villagers, farmers, and lower class Palestinians. This was so, the study said, because educated prisoners “knew their rights and had the confidence to argue with and stand up to their captors.”

What is also interestingly noted by the study is how ideological affiliations between prisoners and their guards had another effects in terms of the relationship between them.

Citing the testimony of Kamal Ghattas, who was captured during the Israeli attack in the Galilee, who said:

We had a fight with our jailers. Four hundred of us confronted 100 soldiers. They brought reinforcements. Three of my friends and I were taken to a cell. They threatened to shoot us. All night we sang the Communist Anthem. They took the four of us to Umm Khaled camp. The Israelis were afraid of their image in Europe. Our contact with our Central Committee and Mapam [Socialist Israeli party] saved us .… I met a Russian officer and told him they took us from our homes although we were non-combatants which was against the Geneva Conventions. When he knew I was a Communist he embraced me and said, “Comrade, I have two brothers in the Red Army. Long live Stalin. Long Live Mother Russia”.

Yet, the less fortunate Palestinians faced acts of violence which included arbitrary executions and torture, with no recourse. The executions were always defended as stopping “escape attempts” – real or claimed by the guards.

Ultimately, by the end of 1949, Palestinian prisoners were gradually released after heavy lobbying by the ICRC, and other organizations, but the releases were limited in scale and very focused to specific cases. Prisoners of Arab armies were released in prisoner exchanges, but Palestinian prisoners were unilaterally expelled across the armistice line without any food, supplies, or shelter, and told to walk into the distance, never to return.

It would not be until 1955 when most of the Palestinian civilian prisoners would finally be released.

Forced Labour Camps Atlas. (Source: Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land Society)

Forced Labour Camps Atlas.

The importance of this study is multifaceted. Not only does it reveal the numerousviolations of international law and conventions of the age, such as 1907 Hague Regulations and the 1929 Geneva Conventions, but also shows how the event shaped the ICRC in the long run.

Because the ICRC was faced with a belligerent Israeli actor who was unwilling to listen and conform to international law and conventions, the ICRC itself had to adapt in what it considered were practical ways to help ensure the Palestinian civilian prisoners were protected under the barest of rights.

Citing his final report, the study quotes de Reynier:

[The ICRC] protested on numerous occasions affirming the right of these civilians to enjoy their freedom unless found guilty and judged by a court. But we have tacitly accepted their POW status because in this way they would enjoy the rights conferred upon them by the Convention. Otherwise, if they were not in the camps they would be expelled [to an Arab country] and in one way or another, they would lead, without resources, the miserable life of refugees.

In the end, the ICRC and other organizations were simply ineffective as Israel ignored its condemnations with impunity, in addition to the diplomatic cover of major Western powers.

More importantly, the study sheds more light on the extent of the Israeli crimes during its brutal and bloody birth. And “much more remains to be told,” as the final line of the study states.

“It is amazing to me, and many Europeans, who have seen my evidence,” Abu Sitta said, “that a forced labor camp was opened in Palestine three years after they were closed in Germany, and were run by former prisoners – there were German Jewish guards.”The study essentially shows the foundations and beginnings of Israeli policy towards Palestinian civilians that comes in the form of kidnapping, arrest, and detainment.

“This is a bad reflection of the human spirit, where the oppressed copies an oppressor against innocent lives,” he added.

The study essentially shows the foundations and beginnings of Israeli policy towards Palestinian civilians that comes in the form of kidnapping, arrest, and detainment. This criminality continues till this day. One merely has to read the reports on the hundreds of Palestinians arrested prior, during, and after Israel’s latest war on Gaza mid-summer of this year.

“Gaza today is a concentration camp, no different than the past,” Abu Sitta concluded to Al-Akhbar English.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

Lack of funds threatens food aid for millions in Iraq

A woman carries a box of food from the World Food Programme at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015

A major shortage of aid funding for Iraq threatens food assistance relied on by more than two million people, the U.N.’s humanitarian coordinator for the country said on Sunday.

ISIS jihadist group overran around a third of Iraq last year, sparking a conflict that has displaced millions of people, causing a major humanitarian crisis.

The “food pipeline, which is keeping more than two million people alive, breaks… in October. We’ve got about eight weeks before it breaks,” Lise Grande told AFP in Baghdad.

“The food pipeline right now provides supplemental support to families that are food insecure. So what we would expect to see when that pipeline breaks is that food insecurity… is going to increase, there’s no question about this, dramatically,” Grande said.

On June 4, the United Nations launched an appeal for half a billion dollars to tackle the spiralling humanitarian crisis in Iraq, where conflict has displaced more than three million people since the start of 2014.

“Of the $500 million that we asked for, more than $100 million has been received to date,” and other countries have said that they want to help, said Grande.

“We’re confident that tens of millions more dollars will be coming, but by our own calculation, we’re still only halfway there,” she said.

And $500 million is the absolute bare minimum required: “We presented the most pared to the bone humanitarian appeal that had ever been launched in this region,” Grande said.

The lack of funds has already taken a toll on aid programmes, causing 184 of 220 frontline healthcare programmes to be shuttered.

“We estimate that a million people who would have been receiving some kind of support are not going to be because we’ve had to close these programmes. It’s devastating,” Grande said.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

Gaza struggles with shortage of medical supplies

A Palestinian woman waits to receive medicine from a pharmacy at a hospital in Gaza City, Dec. 10, 2013

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip — A severe shortage of medicine and medical supplies threatens the health of one-third of patients in Gaza, Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, told Al-Monitor. “The shortage is at 32% for medicines and 38% for medical supplies, which is equivalent to 154 different types of medicines and 342 types of medical disposables,” said Qudra, warning of potential negative repercussions for Gazans’ health should these shortages persist.

The blockade imposed on Gaza after Hamas took control of the territory in 2007 is preventing local factories from getting the necessary raw materials for medicines in addition to spare parts for equipment damaged by war and years of deterioration. Qudra told Al-Monitor, “The siege that has been ongoing for eight consecutive years has hampered companies’ ability to import medicines through the Israeli crossings, which led to a shortage in medicines and medical supplies, undermining the health [sector] in the Gaza Strip.”

He also accused the Palestinian consensus government of not fulfilling its duties toward Gaza, saying, “The Ministry of Health under the consensus government should transfer 40% of its medicine in Ramallah, most of which is provided by international parties, to the Gaza Strip, while 60% remains for the West Bank. However, only around 5% to 7% actually reaches the strip.”

Qudra further asserted, “That the Egyptian side has been preventing convoys of support and relief to enter through the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt since former President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in 2013 led to depriving the strip of 30% of its medical needs, gradually resulting in a decline in pharmaceutical [reserves].”

The wars with Israel have been another factor, casting a shadow over the sole industrial area in Gaza. Most of the factories there were destroyed or closed, while others produce very little. According to an official from the Palestinian Ministry of Health who requested anonymity, there are two factories producing medicine in Gaza, and a third factory is currently trying to meet licensing standards to begin production.

Lina Radwan, technical director of the Arab-German Pharmaceutical Production Company, told Al-Monitor, “The Arab-German company was established in 2013, in an attempt to offset the shortfall in some pharmaceutical products, as well as the high cost of imported products, in light of the deteriorating economic situation.”

The Arab-German company began producing medicines in 2014. Thus far, it has brought seven medicines onto the market, including drugs for mental illness, antibiotics, antihistamines and different types of pain relievers, and now hopes to increase production as well as development.

Middle East Pharmaceutical and Cosmetics Laboratories Ltd., or Megapharm, which began production in 1997 with six types of medicine, has gradually grown over the years. Marwan al-Astal, a Megapharm director, told Al-Monitor, “We started out producing six different types of medicine, and now we produce 87 that meet 15% of the local market’s needs, including antibiotics, capsules, ointments and creams.”

Megapharm, located in the northern industrial area near the border town of Beit Hanoun, was hit by artillery fire during the war in summer 2014, resulting in the destruction of the factory’s main control room, its stock of raw materials, drugs and some manufacturing areas. After a four-month interruption, the factory resumed operations. Megapharm manages only a quarter of the output as it did before Israel blocked the export of pharmaceutical products and equipment from Gaza to the West Bank, while theoretically allowing the import of products from the West Bank and Israel.

“We request the raw materials through Israeli companies, and in spite of having a license from the Israeli Ministry of Health and the Israeli supplier companies, after the products start coming in through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only commercial crossing, the Israeli authorities either return them or prevent their entry without giving reasons,” Astal said.

He rebutted the often-cited Israeli argument of potential dual-use — for medical as well as military purposes — in justifying the prohibition of certain raw materials. “Had they been forbidden at the security level,” said Astal, “we would not have gotten the Israeli Ministry of Health’s approval to import them in the first place.”

Munir al-Bursh, director general for pharmacies at the Ministry of Health, told Al-Monitor, “The Ministry of Health’s policy is to support national pharmaceutical products — 60% of primary care medicine in the ministry’s hospitals and [Ministry of Health-affiliated] medical centers [should be] local pharmaceutical products produced in the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank.”

The ministry usually tries to acquire drugs only produced in other countries in the form of aid from the United Nations, but Bursh remarked, “The political division began to impede the flow of medicine from international parties straight to the strip. They are being transferred to the West Bank instead.”

Like others, Bursh blamed the Israeli siege, Egypt’s closing of the Rafah crossing and the failure of the consensus government for Gaza’s difficulties in obtaining adequate medical supplies and medicines. He lamented, “The problem [is] more complicated than it sounds.”

(Source / 09.08.2015)

Israel plans to force-feed hunger-striking Palestinian prisoner

Israeli authorities tell Mohammad Allan, who has been hunger striking to protest being held without charge, that they intend to ask a district court to authorize force-feeding him.

Palestijnse gevangenen1

Illustrative photo of Palestinian prisoners in an Israeli military prison

Israeli authorities plan to use a brand new “force-feeding” law against a Palestinian man currently being held without charge who is on the 52nd day of a hunger strike.

Authorities on Friday told Mohammad Allan’s attorney that they intend to ask a district court to authorize force-feeding him, according to Physicians for Human Rights — Israel.

PHR sent out a press release on Saturday:

This would be the first recourse to the shameful legislation that the Knesset has approved on July 30, authorizing the force-feeding of Palestinian detainees on hunger-strike against their will despite vehement opposition of the medical community and human rights organizations in Israel and worldwide. PHR-Israel is about to appeal against it in Israel’s Supreme Court, while the Israeli Medical Association has submitted its petition last week.

Force-feeding violates medical ethics as it administers forceful treatment to a patient against his will, and is considered a form of torture. Article 7 of the 1975 World Medical Association Declaration of Tokyo states that doctors are not allowed to force-feed hunger strikers. Israel’s medical community should stand firm and united in this testing time. PHR-Israel encourages the doctors and nurses in Soroka hospital to refuse to carry out any act that violates the letter and spirit of medical ethics.

PHR-Israel urgently calls to refrain from any type of forced treatment on Mohammad Allan and urges the Israeli authorities to release him immediately.

Two weeks ago Israeli authorities agreed to release another Palestinian hunger striker, also being held without charge in administrative detention.

The World Medical Association has unequivocally stated that physicians should respect a patient’s refusal to accept food and/or water. “Forced feeding contrary to an informed and voluntary refusal is unjustifiable,” the WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikersreads.

The WMA declaration goes on to explain, hunger strikes “are often a form of protest by people who lack other ways of making their demands known. In refusing nutrition for a significant period, they usually hope to obtain certain goals by inflicting negative publicity on the authorities.”

The head of the Israeli Medical Association, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, has long opposed attempts to force-feed prisoners. As similar legislative measures came and went over the years, he has consistently argued that they contradict medical ethics and declared he would advise doctors to ignore any order to administer force-feeding.

By force-feeding hunger striking Palestinian prisoners, Israel hopes to undercut the only non-violent path prisoners have to protest their treatment and denial of due process. Hunger strikers have gained significant support on the Palestinian street, and Israeli authorities have long warned that letting high-profile hunger strikers die could spark unrest. Israeli politicians also believe that Israel would face international pressure over its practice of administrative detention if hunger strikes go on for too long.

According to Palestinian prisoner support organization Addameer, Israeli authorities were holding 414 Palestinians in administrative detention as of April 1, 2015, including a number of elected members of the Palestinian parliament.

Administrative detention is permitted under international law but only in extreme circumstances. Under Israeli law, the practice is a holdover from the British Mandate period and has been kept in effect by Israel’s emergency regulations. Those emergency regulations supersede most basic civil and human rights in Israel.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

IS battles Syria rebels for key supply lifeline: monitor

Heavily damaged buildings in Aleppo’s Syrian regime-controlled neighbourdhood of Karm al-Jabal on July 30, 2015

BEIRUT (AFP) – 

Jihadists from the Islamic State group battled rebel forces, including Islamists, on Sunday for a series of key villages in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The four villages in the northern province of Aleppo lie along the rebels’ supply line from Turkey, which is a major backer of Syria’s opposition.

“IS is trying to seize control of these villages from rebels to cut their supply route between Aleppo city and its outskirts, and the town of Azaz,” a rebel bastion near the border, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

He said two IS suicide bombers, one using a suicide belt and one in a bomb-laden car, began the assault on the villages on Saturday night.

The ensuing clashes, which lasted throughout the night, left at least 10 IS jihadists and 18 rebel fighters dead, Abdel Rahman added.

The extremist group has swept through territory in Iraq and Syria in an effort to build a cross-border “caliphate,” and sees both the regime of Bashar al-Assad and rival rebel factions as its enemies.

On Sunday, Syria’s official news agency SANA reported a new death toll for deadly rebel rocket fire on the Syrian capital Damascus the previous day.

“The number of victims in the rocket fire Saturday on Damascus by terrorist organisations has risen to 11 dead, including three children, and 46 wounded including some in critical condition,” the agency reported.

The agency said 10 of the dead were killed in the central Ath-Thawra neighbourhood, and that the rocket was launched from the rebel-controlled Jobar district.

The Britain-based Observatory, which uses a broad network of sources in Syria to gather information, confirmed the new toll.

And on Saturday, more than 1,000 people took to the streets in the coastal city of Latakia, heartland of the Assad regime, to protest the killing of a Syrian air force official.

Colonel Hassan al-Sheikh was shot dead earlier this week by Sleiman al-Assad, a cousin of President Assad, after a dispute at a checkpoint, the Observatory said.

Saturday’s demonstrators said they would continue protests until Sleiman al-Assad is executed.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

BURNING CHURCHES IS LEGITIMATE UNDER JEWISH LAW

mideast_israel_church_fire-1

arton17895-2a856
By Gilad Atzmon
Commentators on modern Jewish history are often puzzled by the animosity of secular Jews toward gentiles. Particularly puzzling is the scale of Jewish ‘revolutionary’ violence towards Christianity and churches in particular. It is no secret that Bolshevism set many churches ablaze. The International Brigade followed a similar pattern in Spain (1936). It is an established fact that Yiddish was the lingua franca of the International Brigade that was formed following a tidal wave of Church burning by the Republicans. That act of barbarism didn’t seem to deter the salt of the Jewish Left who rushed to liberate Spain in the name of the ‘International’.  And yet, historically, this kind of barbaric act was never associated with rabbinical Judaism.
Apparently, this is not the case anymore. In the Jewish State, Orthodox Jews do burn churches and they do it in the name of the Torah and in accordance with their interpretation of the Jewish religion. In an unusually brave article, Ynet revealed yesterday that, Bentzi Gophstein, the head of Lehave, an Orthodox Jewish organisation dedicated to preventing assimilation in the Holy Land, said that he unquestionably supports burning churches and ‘houses of idolatry.’ Gophstein further stated that church burning is a legitimate act under Jewish law. The right wing activist made the statement during a summer seminar in Jerusalem.

static1.squarespace

The seminar panel included prominent rabbis and political figures, and was led by Rabbi Abba Turetsky. During a heated debate surrounding the status of Christian churches in Israel that were labeled ‘houses of idolatry,’ Gophstein was asked,  “Do you support burning churches in Israel, yes or no?” Gophstein replied that he did, citing a Maimonides ruling that churches should be burned. “Are you for Maimonides or against him?” he asked rhetorically
Rabbi Moshe Klein, who shared the panel, failed to present a Judaic counter-argument. He did attempt to persuade Gophstein to keep his thoughts to himself.  “You are on camera and being recorded. If this lands in the hands of the police, you will be arrested.” Gophstein answered, “That’s the last thing that worries me. I’m willing to sit in prison for 50 years (for telling) the truth.”
Later Gophstein denied the recorded reports and stated that he was merely quoting Maimonides as a part of a Halachic (Jewish law) debate. But the question remains open – is the animosity towards ‘Goyim’ a new Jewish secular phenomenon or is it truly embedded in Judaic thought?  Is it Zionism that corrupted Gophstein’s Judaic thought or did Maimonides really advise his Jewish followers to burn ‘houses of idolatry?’
Follow whistleblower, Gilad Atzmon at his website for more related news.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

More prisoners in Israeli jails to join hunger-strike

One of the prisoner is on hunger strike for more than 55 days, protesting being held without trial

Some 120 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails fifth day on hunger strike on Sunday, as they protest mal-treatment Israeli Prison Service (IPS).

Around 5,750 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, over 400 of whom are held under administrative detention

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Some 120 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails fifth day on hunger strike on Sunday, as they protest mal-treatment Israeli Prison Service (IPS).

The 120 prisoners, all held in Nafha jail , are demanding that they be returned to their former prison wings after they were moved to different sections last week.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS), the prisoners are also demanding family visits, an end to solitary confinement, public telephones, a kitchen and bakery and the return of a canteen.

The PPS said that two prisoners in Eshel jail joined the hunger strike on Saturday. It also said that 30 other prisoners in Eshel plan to join the hunger strike if the IPS has not yet responded to the prisoners’ demands in Nafha.

There has been widespread unrest in Israeli prisons in recent days, with Hamas-affiliated prisoners threatening a campaign of disobedience following Israeli plans to move Hamas-affiliated prisoners from Nafha Prison in the south to Gilboa Prison in the north.

Forced feeding

On Saturday, the Israeli authorities declared their intention to force feed Palestinian prisoner Mohamed Allaan, who has been on hunger strike protesting his administrative detention for more than 55 days.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned Friday that the alleged Islamic Jihad activist, who has been held without trial or charge since November, was “at immediate risk” of death.

On July 30, Israeli Knesset approved a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike facing death to be force fed, sparking criticism from rights groups and doctors.

Forced feeding contravenes international law, and the ICRC has said that “it is essential that the detainees’ choices be respected and their human dignity preserved.”

Around 5,750 Palestinians are currently being held in Israeli jails, over 400 of whom are held under administrative detention.

(Source / 09.08.2015)

Saudi Arabia keeps bombing Yemen, kills 5 in Amran

Vendors salvage for goods from under the rubble of their shops following an airstrike by Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, on July 20, 2015. ©AFP

Vendors salvage for goods from under the rubble of their shops following an airstrike by Saudi Arabia on the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, on July 20, 2015

Saudi Arabia continues its deadly aggression against Yemen, killing at least five civilians in its latest airstrikes in the province of Amran.

The civilians lost their lives on Sunday after Saudi warplanes bombarded the district of Harf Sufyan in the northwestern Yemeni province.

The Yemeni jets also bombarded government buildings in the northern province of al-Jawf late on Saturday.

At least ten civilians were killed and a number of them were injured after Saudi jets carried out multiple raids on residential areas in a village in the southwestern province of Ibb.

The Yemeni warplanes also bombarded the district of Zinjibar in the southern province of Abyan.

In a separate development in the country, militants loyal to Yemen’s fugitive former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, fired rockets on several areas in the southwestern province of Ta’iz, killing at least five people.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants also launched an attack on the city of Ta’iz, killing one civilian and injuring a child.

Riyadh began its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in a bid to undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to Hadi, an ally of Riyadh.

According to the United Nations, the war on Yemen has killed some 4,000 people, nearly half of them civilians, since late March. Local Yemeni sources, however, put the fatality figure at a much higher number.

(Source / 09.08.2015)