Israeli court bans hunger striker from leaving hospital

Israeli Public Prosecution informed Israeli medical centre of Barzilai on Sunday not to discharge Palestinian hunger-striker Mohamed Allan.

An Israeli security guard was placed at the entrance of the Israeli medical centre in order to prevent Allan from leaving

Days of Palestine, West Bank –Israeli Public Prosecution informed Israeli medical centre of Barzilai on Sunday not to discharge Palestinian hunger-striker Mohamed Allan.

Allan started to have food and medicines, however, the medical centre had said that he was suffering brain damage.

The hunger striker spent 65 days of hunger strike and he was admitted to the medical centre after failing unconscious because of the deterioration is his health. He is now in conscious and aware of everything around him.

The Israeli Public Prosecution told the medical centre that he will not leave unless after the approval of the meant department.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said that an Israeli coordination committee issue daily permit for Allan to remain in the medical centre.

It also reported that an Israeli security guard was placed at the entrance of the medical centre in order to prevent Allan from leaving.

Allan’s family was informed that if he left the medical centre, he would have been punished and if the family wanted to move him to another hospital, this must have been coordinated by the Israeli security services.

(Source / 24.08.2015)

Four Main Gaza Hospitals Could Shut Down

The Palestinian Ministry Of Health in Gaza has reported that four main hospitals in the besieged and warn-torn coastal region are facing closure as they are running out of fuel than runs their power network.Ziekenhuis Gaza

Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, Dr. Ashraf al-Qedra, has reported that the Shifa Medical Center, Kamal ‘Adwan Hospital, the Gaza-European Hospital, and the Rantisi Hospital for Children, could stop functioning within hours.

On his Facebook and Twitter accounts, Dr. Al-Qedra said the above mentioned hospitals are running out of fuel used to operate their power generators.

Despite Israel’s allegations of “easing the siege on Gaza,” the coastal enclave, still devastated and in ruins following last year’s Israel’s war and aggression, remains lacking basic supplies, including medical supplies.

Israel also frequently bombarded and destroyed the Gaza Power Plant, and deliberately targeted the infrastructure of the already impoverished, besieged, and densely populated region.

(Source / 24.08.2015)

Palestinians hold demo in Gaza, rap UNRWA budget cut

Palestinians protest against the reduction of educational programs by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Gaza, August 24, 2015. (AFP)

Palestinians protest against the reduction of educational programs by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Gaza, August 24, 2015

Thousands of Palestinians, affiliated with a United Nations agency, have taken to the streets in the besieged Gaza Strip to protest against a recent budget cut announced by the UN body.

On Monday, Palestinians working for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) staged a strike outside the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza to show their anger at the budget cut and the reduction of UN’s educational programs.

According to reports, the strike was the largest in a string of protests against the UN’s decision as over 13,000 teachers, health workers and other employees took part in it.

The demonstrators called on UNRWA officials to revoke the decision, which would overcrowd the UN-sponsored classrooms and also send the employees to compulsory one-year unpaid leave. The new measures have reportedly increased the number of Palestinian students to 50 in each class.

A Palestinian protester holds a banner reading “The right to education is recognized by all international laws and conventions” during a rally against UNRWA, Gaza, August 24, 2015

The protesters held banners reading “The UNRWA is the only witness to the refugee catastrophe,” “No to touching the right of refugees, whether students or employees,” and “The right to education is recognized by all international laws and conventions.”

The strike left UN-sponsored schools closed while the schools run by the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas, that controls the Gaza Strip, started the scholastic year on Monday.

Following the massive rally, UNRWA Spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said the agency has suspended its unpaid leave plan.

UNRWA, a UN agency which was established in 1949, is tasked with providing assistance and protection to a population of some five million registered Palestine refugees.

The agency, whose budget mainly relies on voluntary contributions by donors, currently faces a budget deficit of some USD 106 million.

Last summer, Israel waged a brutal war against the besieged coastal sliver, killing 2,140 Palestinians, including 557 children. According to a report released by the UN, at least 223 schools were also targeted in the war.

(Source / 24.08.2015)

Former hunger striker Allan’s health improves

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Minister of Health said Monday that former hunger striker Muhammad Allan is in a stable health condition and that his health is improving gradually.Jawad Awwad’s statement was released following a meeting with neurologist Adel Misk, who had recently visited and evaluated Allan at the Barzilai Medical Center in Israel where Allan is being treated. Awwad added that Misk evaluated Allan upon Awwad’s request.Misk said that after evaluating Allan’s nervous system, he found that Allan’s sense of awareness and muscular development was gradually improving after he had suffered seizures due to a dysfunction in his metabolism from the strike.Allan, 31, ended his 66-day hunger strike on Thursday after Israel’s top court suspended his administrative detention. He entered a coma twice before the hunger strike was through.A spokesperson at Barzilai Medical Center confirmed Misk’s evaluation, telling Ma’an that Allan is “improving, he’s awake, his sense of awareness and strength is improving and he’s responding.”Misk added that he requested Allan be given new medical tests, including a new MRI scan and a brain EEG.Allan’s hunger strike has sparked new calls for Israel to curb its use of administrative detention under which prisoners may be held without trial or charge for renewable six-month periods, indefinitely.Israeli officials claim it is an essential tool in preventing attacks and protecting sensitive intelligence because it allows authorities to keep evidence secret.However, it has been strongly criticized by the international community as well as both Israeli and Palestinian rights activists.They say that international law allows for such detention only under extreme circumstances, but that Israel uses it as a punitive measure on a routine basis to circumvent the justice system or as a crutch to avoid trial.Activists have called on Israeli authorities to charge or release those held under administrative detention.There are currently 400 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails without charge or trial under the policy.

(Source / 24.08.2015)

Malala Yousafzai Gives $50,000 To Reconstruction Of Gaza Schools

Nobel peace prize winner says money will go through UN agency and help rebuild 65 schools in Palestinian territory.

Malala Yousafza

Malala Yousafzai, center, poses with girls for a picture at a school for Syrian refugee girls in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on July 12. The Malala Fund, a non-profit organisation that supports local education projects, paid for the school in the Bekaa Valley, close to the Syrian border

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani education campaigner shot by the Taliban, has donated $50,000 (nearly £31,000) towards the reconstruction of schools in Gaza.

The Nobel peace prize winner, speaking after receiving the World Children’s Prize for the rights of the child in Marienfred, Sweden, on Wednesday, said the money would be channelled through the United Nations relief agency UNRWA to help rebuild 65 schools in the Palestinian territory.

Malala, who now lives in the UK and has her own fund to help small-scale organisations in a number of countries, including Pakistan, told journalists that children in Gaza had suffered from conflicts and war. The money would help children get “quality education” and continue their life, knowing they were not alone and that people were supporting them, she said.

She is the first person to receive the children’s prize and the Nobel in the same year. The Sweden-based organisers of the children’s prize said millions of children around the world had voted for Malala.

The children’s prize also announced two honorary laureates. John Wood, who quit his job as a Microsoft manager, has spent 15 years working for books, school libraries, and schools for millions of children, through his Room to Read organisation, while Indira Ranamagar from Nepal has fought for 20 years for the rights of the children of convicts to education and to live outside of prisons.

In remarks published on the UNRWA website, Malala said the organisation was performing “heroic work” to serve children in Gaza.

She added: “The needs are overwhelming – more than half of Gaza’s population is under 18 years of age. They want and deserve quality education, hope and real opportunities to build a future.

“This funding will help rebuild the 65 schools damaged during the recent conflict. Innocent Palestinian children have suffered terribly and for too long.”

(Source / 24.08.2015)

Animals suffer in Gaza’s cash-strapped zoos

Amid a crippling Israeli blockade of the Palestinian territory, zoos in Gaza cannot properly care for their animals.

An injured ostrich lies outside its cage as a roaming cub approaches at the struggling Rafah Zoo in Gaza [Silvia Boarini/Al Jazeera]

An injured ostrich lies outside its cage as a roaming cub approaches at the struggling Rafah Zoo in Gaza

Rafah, Gaza Strip – On a dirt road, behind tall white walls decorated with faded paintings of zebras, giraffes and lions, lies Rafah Zoo.

It is hidden away from Rafah’s busy streets, but inside, hundreds of colourful birds in cages tweet loudly – almost drowning out the sound of children playing in a pool nearby.

Opened in the late 1990s by the Jumaa family, Rafah Zoo was the first amusement and leisure park for communities in the Gaza Strip.

Jihad Jumaa, a zookeeper and son of the zoo’s owner, told Al Jazeera that his father’s original mission had been to provide a place for Gaza’s families – small children, especially – to relax and enjoy themselves.


RELATED: Where do Gaza’s lions sleep tonight?


Now 25 years old, Jumaa grew up with baboons, gazelles, snakes and lions roaming around his backyard. The zoo consists of just a few hundred square metres, located on land the family owns next to their home.

“People loved this place because it was unique and they spent a lot of time here. No one wanted to leave,” Jumaa said. “When we opened the zoo, it was the only one in Gaza. But after a few years, more opened. Now there are five or seven zoos.”

Competition from new zoos and amusement parks, combined with the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza and the closure of smuggling tunnels into Egypt, has made it impossible for Rafah Zoo to run a profitable business amid a rapidly deteriorating economic situation.

Children pay one shekel, or $0.25 for entrance to the zoo, while adults pay three shekels, or $0.75.

With 80 to 100 visitors a week, the monthly income does not come close to covering the monthly operating costs of around $3,000 for food, clean water and fuel for the generator needed, given Gaza’s frequent power cuts.

“Today, our expenses are not covered,” Jumaa said.

Jihad Jumaa, son of the Rafah Zoo owner, plays with the zoo’s parrot

Gaza is not an easy place to run a business – and an even more difficult place to run a zoo. Birds lay dead on the bottom of their cages. In the middle of the park, an ostrich, which has lost most of its feathers, is too sick to stand up.

The sound of an Israeli F-16 jet buzzing in the sky serves as a reminder of the extraordinary difficulties of running a zoo in the volatile area.

The zoo employs several workers, but is mostly maintained by family members.

Rafah Zoo is not alone in facing such challenges. Earlier this year, a team of veterinarians from the animal welfare organisation, Four Paws, cited horrendous conditions at the Khan Younis Zoo in the central Gaza Strip.

Without money to pay zookeepers, the zoo was falling into disrepair. Cages were full of waste and debris, and animals that had gone without access to food or water died of starvation.

“The Khan Younis Zoo has been classified as the worst zoo in the world, as the animals, which had starved and died, had been stuffed and put back in the cages,” Amir Khalil of Four Paws told Al Jazeera.

In September 2014, just after the Israeli war on Gaza, Four Paws carried out an emergency operation to evacuate three lions from the severely shell-damaged al-Bisan Zoo in northern Gaza.

Rafah Zoo was unable to maintain the cost of keeping its lion cubs and sold them to a family in Gaza

Located just a few kilometres from the Israeli and Egyptian borders, Rafah Zoo has also come under attack several times. The area was flattened in 2004, when Israeli tanks demolished large parts of the neighbourhood. Many of the animals were killed, and the family spent the next 10 years rebuilding it from scratch, collecting new animals smuggled from Egypt.

Last summer, during the 51-day Gaza war, the zoo experienced another blow.

As Jumaa and his brother were giving water to the zoo’s cats, the surrounding area was hit by Israeli rockets. The young men were badly injured, and the zoo’s tiger, kangaroo, raccoon, baboon and several jaguars were killed.


RELATED: Gaza zoo ravaged by Israeli shelling


Faced with another round of expenses estimated at $700,000, the family has started to look for alternative solutions to keep the zoo afloat.

“We decided to sell the lion cubs because we needed money,” Jumaa said.

For years, a local fan of the zoo from the nearby al-Shabora refugee camp, 54-year-old Saad Jamal, had been asking to buy Rafah Zoo’s next batch of lion cubs.

“I’ve always loved lions,” Jamal told Al Jazeera during one of his frequent visits to the zoo.

The cubs, Max and Mona, were two months old when Jamal purchased them and took them home.

“I made a room for them with beds and toys and with an opening to the rest of the apartment so they got used to the place,” Jamal said. “They’d join us when we watched TV and played with my grandchildren – the youngest, who is two, would put her finger in their mouths and they wouldn’t bite.”

Images of the cubs lying in Jamal’s living room and playing with the children of the refugee camp went viral, launching the zoo and Jamal to international fame. Some expressed support, while Four Paws condemned the decision, saying it threatened both the welfare of the lions and the humans around them.

An animal welfare organisation condemned the zoo’s decision to sell its lion cubs to a resident

In June, Jamal decided that the cubs had become too big for his house, and temporarily returned them to Rafah Zoo. Jamal and his son still visited the cubs regularly, taking them out of their cage and letting them roam the premises. Curious families would ask to take photos with the cubs.

Jamal had been planning to move Max and Mona to a larger cage he was building in a public park, but later gave in to pressure from Four Paws and allowed them to take the young lions to a sanctuary in Jordan.

“The economic situation is very difficult, and the zoo needs help from associations that care for animals in the form of medicine and food,” Jamal said. “But it’s important to keep the zoos running for the children who suffered during the war. If we allow the idea of another war to stop us, there will be no place for entertainment in Gaza.”

Khalil, who represented the Four Paws delegation to Gaza, said there were still around 45 lions in Gaza – and the number has been growing.

It’s our source of life. I was raised here and will continue to work and fight to keep it open.

Jihad Jumaa, son of Rafah Zoo’s owner

As none of the zoos are able to properly care for the big cats and other animals, the organisation is working on a solution.

“Our suggestion is to close all the zoos and make one public park of proper standards – a place where kids and families can visit in Gaza,” he said. “We offered to the responsible authorities that if they offer the land, we can realise a better place for the animals, including training for the staff.”

This would improve the local economy, he said, because it would include buying food for the animals locally and employing staff and caretakers.

But due to the political instability and the fact that thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are still without proper housing, Khalil believes zoos are not a priority for the authorities.

Palestinian Land Authority official Ibrahim Radwan said the government would be ready to look into such a proposal if it came through the proper channels.

“Despite the circumstances, it is important for cultural purposes to provide information to [people], especially students, about animals,” Radwan told Al Jazeera.

In Rafah, Jumaa admitted that the situation is difficult, but said the idea of closing the zoo or giving up the animals is unthinkable.

“It’s our source of life,” he said. “I was raised here and will continue to work and fight to keep it open.”

(Source / 24.08.2015)

ROJAVA UPDATE 130: COALITION JETS POUND IS POSITIONS AT AL-HAWL AS YPG CLOSE IN, WHILE UK JETS DOUBLE ATTACKS IN IRAQ:

By Peter Clifford                     ©              (www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-iraq-news-5/)

http://www.petercliffordonline.com/syria-news-3

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

The fight for Al-Hawl, south of Hasakah is on. Over the weekend, the YPG decisively cut the road running from Al-Hawl across the border into Sinjar province in Iraq and the Islamic State (IS) are now concentrated in a pocket south of Tel Brak.

US Central Command is reporting that at the end of last week it made 6 airstrikes around Al-Hawl over a 2 day period, destroying 5 x IS fighting positions, an IS weapons cache, an IS bunker and 2 x IS excavators.

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

UK’s Royal Air Force Attack IS Command Centre Near Mount Sinjar

Hopefully, it will not be long before Al-Hawl is abandoned by the Jihadists and the Kurds, the FSA and the Coalition can move towards to recapture of IS’s Syrian HQ at Raqqah.

Altogether there were 15 airstrikes on Syria between Thursday and Saturday, other targets being Hasakah (where 3 x IS structures were destroyed, 4 x IS fighting positions and an IS sniper nest) and Kobane province where 3 x IS fighting positions were destroyed, an IS artillery piece and an IS heavy machine gun.

There were also 2 strikes in Aleppo province hitting an IS tactical unit and destroying an IS cannon.

The frequency of Coalition attacks in Syria, while maintaining the strike rate in Iraq, has increased since the US has been allowed to use its base at Incirlik in Turkey for attacks, greatly reducing flying and refuelling time.

Previously, most of the aircraft were flying out of the Gulf States, much further away.

Since the IS June attack on tourists in Tunisia, most of them British, the UK has doubled its attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq.

British Tornado jets based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus are attacking IS positions wherever they can.

Earlier is August it has been revealed, UK reconaissance aircraft identified an IS base near Mount Sinjar. Kurdish Peshmerga and SAS (British special forces) crept within 1.5 mile of the base and spotted targets for the incoming jets.

6 laser guided Paveway missiles were fired by the Royal Air Force (RAF) hitting an IS command centre, a barracks, ammunition dumps and equipment stores. The waiting Peshmerga and SAS fired rockets and mortars at anyone trying to escape.

An estimated 40 IS x Jihadists were killed in the attack. You can read more at the Daily Mail. The article is below one on “Jihadi John” who is accused of murdering foreign hostages on behalf of IS and has recently been seen in Deir Ez-Zour.

In Sinjar city itself, where it has been relatively quiet over the last 2 weeks, the Islamic State staged a surprise attack on Saturday near the Sulieman Begg Citadel. With the help of Coalition airstrikes, the Peshmerga repulsed the attack. Reports vary but as many as 20 x IS Jihadists may have died, while one Peshmerga fighter is reported wounded.

West of Sinjar mountain, Kurdish PKK and Yezidi fighters managed to seize an IS armoured personnel carrier, known as an Otokar, HERE:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Iraq’s Christians Now Forming Their Own Militias

While, both Iraq’s Christians and Yezidi women are fighting back against the Islamic State too.

There were once 1.5 million Christians living along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Wary of depending on the unreliable Iraqi central Government, they are now taking up arms and are fighting for their own survival. You can read more, HERE:

For surviving Yezidi women, portrayed for the last 12 months as victims of the Islamic State, they are also taking this opportunity in their history to fight back not just militarily but socially and politically too, forming tight knit groups to stand up for women’s equality and rights. Inspiring article, HERE:

Back in Kobane city, the Firefund Appeal did not unfortunately reach its target of $130,000. $50,002 was pledged but none of this will be redeemed (if you signed up) because it represents only 38% of the target. The administrators of Kobane have said that this experience “has made them stronger” and they will come back with a new appeal soon.

The YPG has complained to the Coalition about shell attacks which they believe have come from Turkey. A video report from VOA.

And lastly on Kobane, another sign of normalisation as the first wedding since the city’s destruction has taken place among the ruins, here:

SYRIA and IRAQ NEWS

 

Wedding Among the Ruins of Kobane

MORE NEWS FOLLOWS SHORTLY ….

Palestine, “Dying of Thirst”. The Drought is Deliberately Inflicted by Israel

California_Drought_Dry_Riverbed_2009

As World Water Week kicks off in Stockholm  with a theme of ‘Water for Development’, the drought being deliberately inflicted on Palestinians is firmly on  the agenda, writes Laith Shakir. While Israelis water their lawns, irrigate crops and swim in Olympic-sized pools, Palestinian communities a few kilometers away are literally dying of thirst.

California is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, prompting Governor Jerry Brown to declare a water “state of emergency.”

Ordinary Californians are bearing the brunt of this disaster. While the governor has imposed restrictions to reduce residential water consumption, businesses in the fields of agriculture and hydraulic fracturing have been largely exempt.

Palestinian water tanks vandalized by Israeli settlers in Hebron. (Photo: ISM Palestine / Flickr)

Palestinian water tanks vandalized by Israeli settlers in Hebron.

Brown’s unwillingness to take on these gargantuan corporate water-wasters lends a sharp political element to an otherwise natural disaster.

There’s another region in the world, however, where access to water isn’t just decided on the whims of politicians dealing with natural disasters. In fact, the very existence of water crises is official state policy for one country: Israel.

Dying of thirst

Despite its location in a region thought to be perennially dry, the Holy Land actually has ample natural freshwater resources – namely in the form of underwater aquifers and the Jordan River. Palestinians in the West Bank and Israeli settlers live in roughly equal proximity to these resources, which theoretically would allow for equal consumption.

Israeli water policy, however, has made this prospect virtually impossible. In fact, there’s a shocking disparity.

report from the United Nations found that the average Israeli settler consumes 300 liters of water per day – a figure surpassing even the average Californian’s 290. But thanks to Israeli military action and legal restrictions on access, the average Palestinian in the occupied West Bank only gets about 70.

And for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live off the water grid altogether, daily consumption hovers at around 30. That’s just 10% of the Israeli figure.

Both figures are well below the minimum 100 liters per day recommended by the World Health Organization. While Israelis are watering their lawns and swimming in Olympic-sized pools, Palestinian communities a few kilometers away are literally dying of thirst.

Weaponizing water

This inequality has deep roots – and it’s no accident.

Almost immediately after the creation of Israel in 1948, the fledgling country took comprehensive action to secure control of the region’s water. These policies were ramped up again following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Israel first assumed control of the Palestinian territories.

That year, the Israeli armed forces issued Military Order 92 – an initiative that put Palestinian water resources under Israel’s military jurisdiction. This was shortly followed by Military Order 158, which required Palestinians to obtain permits from the military in order to build new water infrastructure.

If they built new wells, springs, or even rain-collecting containers without Israeli permission, soldiers would confiscate or destroy them, often without prior notification.

These orders, among others, remain on the books to this day. They form the basis for the administration of water access for nearly 4.4 million Palestinians. Although control of water resources is now officially the domain of Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, Israeli forces routinely perform operations with the explicit intent of destroying Palestinian water infrastructure.

A veneer of legality

Decades of peace negotiations have done little to grant Palestinians sovereign control over their resources.

Even after the Oslo Accords of the early 1990s, which were supposed to grant the Palestinians some semblance of political agency in the territories, water access remains limited. In fact, the accords simply codified the unfair distribution of water in the region, imbuing these flagrantly harmful practices with a veneer of legality.

Even in Palestinian-administered portions of the West Bank, Israeli troops regularly demolish rain cisterns, pipelines, and agricultural water structures. The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq has meticulously documented a number of these instances, compiling them in a report examining the extent of the hardship these operations cause to West Bank residents.

One case study detailed the destruction of a farmer’s well in a village east of Jenin. His well, along with five others in the area, was destroyed by the military under the pretext that it had been built without proper authorization by Israel – despite the fact that an Israeli permit is supposedly not needed in the Palestinian-administered Area B of the West Bank, where these villages are located.

These operations showcase the coordination between civil and military channels to restrict Palestinian access to water, a system that’s been startlingly effective in its goal.

Even when Palestinians attempt to go through the ‘proper’ Israeli channels, they’re met with innumerable obstacles. Two regulatory organizations – the Joint Water Commission (JWC) and the Israeli Civil Administration – have created a bureaucratic nightmare for West Bank residents attempting to acquire permits to either build new instillations or repair the region’s floundering infrastructure.

Both organizations are capable of vetoing petitions without explanation, creating a system that prevents Palestinians from maintaining consistent and comprehensive water access.

Meanwhile, access is severely curtailed even where Palestinians have permission to pump water. The most striking inequality lies in the division of the Mountain Aquifer, the only underground aquifer that Palestinians in the West Bank are allowed to access. Despite being the sole source for the territory, Palestinian extraction is limited to 20% of the aquifer’s total capacity.

Israel, on the other hand, has access to 80% of the aquifer’s water – a stunningly unequal distribution, considering it also has unfettered access to the region’s remaining aquifers and the Jordan River.

A worsening crisis

California’s drought has captivated US audiences, sparking concern and calls to action to prevent ecological disaster in the face of natural causes. On the subject of Israel’s deliberate drought, however, media attention has been virtually nonexistent.

This crisis has become the norm for Palestinians for decades now, though its severity continues to increase as water becomes more scarce. The UN estimates that due to Israel’s siege, the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by the year 2020. Though the West Bank is relatively well-off in comparison, the water crisis there has resulted in severe economic hardship for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, a situation that’s not conducive to long-term stability in the region.

This water disparity is emblematic of the power disparity between Israel and Palestine – a gulf that seems wholly unrecognized during regional peace talks. In order to have a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question, both parties must enter negotiations on an equal playing field.

This is only possible once Israel’s occupation in the West Bank is dismantled, and Palestinians are given access to the water resources they need in order to live their lives with dignity.

(Source / 24.08.2015)

Yemen: The war nobody is talking about

Alastair SloanAlastair Sloan

Al-Baghdadi, Al-Assad, Al-Sisi, Netanyahu, Rouhani – these regional goliaths with their recent adventures have swallowed up the available column inches. So when Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and Amnesty International yell: “WAR CRIMES IN YEMEN”; nobody, sadly, is listening. This has to change.

As it stands, British taxpayers are fuelling a conflict in which war crimes are almost definitely being committed. Tobias Ellwood, a junior minister at the Foreign Office, told Parliament late last month that while British personnel were not on the front line, the UK was not only providing “technical support” and “exchanging information…through pre-existing arrangements” but also supplying “precision-guided weapons”.

Ellwood also told the Commons that British troops were now deployed at the air and maritime headquarters for the Saudi co-ordinated invasion.

When pressed by Labour MP Andrew Smith, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon would not reveal the number of bombs we had given the Saudis, saying it would harm relations between the two countries.

Fallon did say, somewhat unconvincingly, that Riyadh had “assured [the UK] that British-supplied munitions will be used in compliance with international humanitarian law and we continue to engage with them on these assurances.”

The issue is the Saudi-led coalition isn’t complying with international humanitarian law, at all. This has been clear for months. In April, the United Nations accused coalition warplanes of killing 40 civilians – including seven children – after bombing a bridge. By that point, there had already been around 1,500 non-combatant deaths. In the same month, Human Rights Watch acquired videos and photos suggesting the coalition were using American-manufactured cluster bombs, and more evidence has emerged since. Last week, US officials even admitted they were being used.

In May, the UN rapped Riyadh again for targeting hospitals and schools, during a brutal 24 hour barrage encompassing 130 airstrikes. The entirety of Sadaa was deemed a military target, meaning thousands had to flee their homes.

Earlier this month, another critical report appeared from Amnesty International. A Saudi spokesperson appeared on Al Jazeera desperately refuting their claims – saying that “researchers in a London office can’t make assessments of what is going on in Yemen.”

This was a blatant lie. As the report made clear, a number of Amnesty delegates had visited Yemen in June and July. The frenetic exculpations of the Saudi spin doctor are best explained by the damning nature of the researchers’ findings; deliberate targeting of civilians, with Amnesty concluding that “such attacks constitute war crimes”. A fact-finding mission by a Human Rights Watch researcher earlier this month found similar.

In spite of the above, Defence Secretary Fallon conveys to the British Parliament that Riyadh has assured “British-supplied munitions will be used in compliance with international humanitarian law.”

This is a carefully worded statement. “British-supplied” suggests that it is perfectly OK for our allies to commit war crimes, so long as they don’t use British bombs.
It is shocking to see such semantics deployed. For every bomb we give the Saudis; true, they may not commit war crimes with that particular weapon, but it simply frees up more resources to commit war crimes elsewhere.

The second part of Fallon’s statement is even more cynical – “we continue to engage with [the Saudis] on these assurances.” How convenient then, in case British-supplied munitions are later found to have been used illegally – it will surely be the Saudis’ fault for not notifying the British government of their transgressions. Fallon, Ellwood and their Conservative government will be off the hook.

This isn’t the UK supplying fighter jets to Saudi Arabia or the UAE, which they later happen to use for war crimes, this is a live conflict, in which war crimes are being committed right now (by both sides, which is an important point). Not only are British troops deployed, but hi-tech explosives are being sent over by our own Ministry of Defence to keep the war going. Just as Tehran is arming the Houthi war criminals, Whitehall is arming the Saudi war criminals. This should be a front-page scandal, but Fleet Street has focused their energies elsewhere. Quietly and insistently, the UK is getting away with murder.

(Source / 24.08.2015)

13,000 UN employees protest relief spending cuts in Gaza

Almost 13,000 employees of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) have gone on a strike in Gaza protesting cost cutting measures.

“Stop the injustice. Refugees rights” and “The UNRWA is the only witness to the refugee catastrophe,” said the protesters’ banners. The rally started at the agency’s headquarters and ended outside the Commissioner-General of UNESCO’s office in Gaza.

UNRWA employees protest against overcrowding at UNRWA schools, unpaid vacations, downsizing, and postponing the academic year.
The demonstration was called in response to the agency’s new rules that would impose one-year of unpaid leave on staff members and increase the number of students in UN-run classrooms, Associated Press reports.
According to the union, after the rule change comes into effect, more than 50 schoolchildren are to be taught in each classroom. Employees had unsuccessfully urged the agency to decrease the maximum number of pupils to 38 per classroom.
Despite Monday being the first official day of the school year, UN-led schools in Gaza remain closed because of the protests and more than 220,000 Palestinian pupils had no classes as a result.
The protest was the largest in a series of demonstrations against the cost cutting measures.

Typhus in vluchtelingenkamp

On Monday, the UNRWA published a report that warned about a possible delay in the school year due to a lacking of funding. It stated that the agency is taking measures to overcome this shortage.
“The potential delay in the start of the school year for Palestine refugee children in the region has kept tensions high in Gaza,” said the report.
“UNRWA is facing its most serious financial crisis ever: currently, UNRWA has a funding shortfall for core activities… the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective center management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work,” the agency wrote.
According to the same report, the agency is looking for additional sources of funding as well as trying to implement a number of austerity measures aimed at decreasing costs.

Watch more: Gazans storm UNRWA building after funding slashed

The UNRWA was found in 1949 to “provide assistance and protection for some five million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development.”

(Source / 24.08.2015)