UN supports sovereignty for Palestine and slams Israel

UN supports Palestinian sovereignty

Resolution severely criticises the “occupying power”

Something important and, freedom lovers may think, rather wonderful seems to have happened at the United Nations, and it went largely unreported in mainstream media. The UN General Assembly approved a draft resolution“Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources” (Document A/70/480).

It was adopted by 164 to 5 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States), with 10 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu).

What’s so wonderful? The draft resolution pulls no punches and must have thoroughly annoyed the insatiable state of Israel, which has evil designs on the natural resources – oil, gas and water – belonging to its neighbours. The resolution is long but nicely crafted, and is reproduced here pretty much in its entirety as an aide-memoire of Israel’s long history of contemptuous disregard for its obligations.

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolution 69/241 of 19 December 2014, and taking note of Economic and Social Council resolution 2015/17 of 20 July 2015,

Recalling also its resolutions 58/292 of 6 May 2004 and 59/251 of 22 December 2004,

Reaffirming the principle of the permanent sovereignty of peoples under foreign occupation over their natural resources,

Guided by the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, affirming the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and recalling relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967, 465 (1980) of 1 March 1980 and 497 (1981) of 17 December 1981,

Recalling its resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970,

Reaffirming the applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967,

Recalling, in this regard, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and affirming that these human rights instruments must be respected in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the occupied Syrian Golan,

Recalling also the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and recalling further its resolutions ES-10/15 of 20 July 2004 and ES-10/17 of 15 December 2006,

Recalling further its resolution 67/19 of 29 November 2012,

Taking note of the accession by Palestine to several human rights treaties and the core humanitarian law treaties, as well as to other international treaties,

Expressing its concern about the exploitation by Israel, the occupying Power, of the natural resources of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967,

Expressing its grave concern about the extensive destruction by Israel, the occupying Power, of agricultural land and orchards in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the uprooting of a vast number of fruit-bearing trees and the destruction of farms and greenhouses, and the grave environmental and economic impact in this regard,

Expressing its grave concern also about the widespread destruction caused by Israel, the occupying Power, to vital infrastructure, including water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular in the Gaza Strip during the military operations of July and August 2014, which, inter alia, has polluted the environment and negatively affect the functioning of water and sanitation systems and the water supply and other natural resources of the Palestinian people, and stressing the urgency of the reconstruction and development of water and other vital civilian infrastructure, including the project for the desalination facility for the Gaza Strip,

Expressing its grave concern further about the negative impact on the environment and on reconstruction and development efforts of the thousands of items of unexploded ordnance that remain in the Gaza Strip as a result of the conflict in July and August 2014,

Recalling the 2009 report by the United Nations Environment Programme regarding the grave environmental situation in the Gaza Strip, and the 2012 report, “Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?”, by the United Nations country team in the Occupied alestinian Territory, and stressing the need for follow-up to the recommendations contained therein,

Deploring the detrimental impact of the Israeli settlements on Palestinian and other Arab natural resources, especially as a result of the confiscation of land and the forced diversion of water resources, including the destruction of orchards and crops and the seizure of water well by Israeli settlers, and of the dire socioeconomic consequences in this regard,

Recalling the report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,

Aware of the detrimental impact on Palestinian natural resources being caused by the unlawful construction of the wall by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and of its grave effect as well on the economic and social conditions of the Palestinian people,

Stressing the urgency of achieving without delay an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement on all tracks, on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973, 425 (1978) of 19 March 1978 and 1397 (2002) of 12 March 2002, the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet performance-based road map to a permanent two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1515 (2003) of 19 November 2003 and supported by the Council in its resolution 1850 (2008) of 16 December 2008,

Stressing also, in this regard, the need for respect for the obligation upon Israel under the road map to freeze settlement activity, including so-called “natural growth”, and to dismantle all settlement outposts erected since March 2001,

Stressing further the need for respect and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,

Recalling the need to end all acts of violence, including acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction,

Taking note of the report prepared by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan, as transmitted by the Secretary-General,

1. Reaffirms the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and of the population of the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources, including land, water and energy resources;

2. Demands that Israel, the occupying Power, cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion and endangerment of the natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan;

3. Recognises the right of the Palestinian people to claim restitution as a result of any exploitation, damage, loss or depletion or endangerment of their natural resources resulting from illegal measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, and Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and expresses the hope that this issue will be dealt with within the framework of the final status negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides;

4. Stresses that the wall and settlements being constructed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, are contrary to international law and are seriously depriving the Palestinian people of their natural resources, and calls in this regard for full compliance with the legal obligations affirmed in the 9 July 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and in relevant United Nations resolutions, including General Assembly resolution ES-10/15;

5. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, and to cease immediately and completely all policies and measures aimed at the alteration of the character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem;

6. Also calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to bring a halt to all actions, including those perpetrated by Israeli settlers, harming the environment, including the dumping of all kinds of waste materials, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, which gravely threaten their natural resources, namely water and land resources, and which pose an environmental, sanitation and health threat to the civilian populations;

7. Further calls upon Israel to cease its destruction of vital infrastructure, including water pipelines, sewage networks and electricity networks, which, inter alia, has a negative impact on the natural resources of the Palestinian people, stresses the urgent need to advance reconstruction and development projects in this regard, including in the Gaza Strip, and calls for support for the necessary efforts in this regard, in line with the commitments made at, inter alia, the Cairo International Conference on Palestine: Reconstructing Gaza, held on 12 October 2014;

8. Calls upon Israel, the occupying Power, to remove all obstacles to the implementation of critical environmental projects, including sewage treatment plants in the Gaza Strip and the reconstruction and development of water infrastructure, including the project for the desalination facility for the Gaza Strip;

9. Calls for the immediate and safe removal of all unexploded ordnance in the Gaza Strip and for support for the efforts of the United Nations Mine Action Service in this regard, and welcomes the efforts exerted by the Service to date;

10. Encourages all States and international organisations to continue to actively pursue policies to ensure respect for their obligations under international law with regard to all illegal Israeli practices and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly Israeli settlement activities and the exploitation of natural resources;

11. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-first session on the implementation of the present resolution, including with regard to the cumulative impact of the exploitation, damage and depletion by Israel of natural resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, and decides to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-first session the item entitled “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources”.

This is strong stuff. But given the UN’s record, will the action ever suit the words?

Astonishingly, the Israel-adoring UK government voted for it. Let us make a mental note of those five countries – Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, United States – which claim to be freedom loving but are evidently bent on denying the poor Palestinians theirs. And the birdbrained 10 – Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Honduras, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, South Sudan, Togo, Tonga, Vanuatu – which are so lackadaisically uncommitted to the principle of universal human rights that they sat on the fence. Maybe international civil society would like to prod them with a sharp BDS [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] stick to concentrate their minds.

At least one country, happily, is taking a tough line:  Brazil, which, says the BBC, has yet to approve the appointment four months ago of Israel’s new ambassador. Not only is the new man, Dani Dayan, a former chairman of the Yesha Council which promotes illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian lands, but Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu broke the news of the appointment on Twitter before telling Brazil, according to reports.

As even Netanyahu must know, the transfer by an occupier of part of its own population into territory it occupies is considered a war crime, so why should Brazil play host to a foreigner with such a vile record? Israel is threatening to downgrade relations to “secondary level” if Brazil does not give approval to the appointment. And Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely says that Dayan would not be replaced if his appointment isn’t accepted.

Since Brazil is Israel’s largest trading partner in South America you’d think the Israelis would watch their manners. The Brazilians, hopefully, won’t allow themselves to be pushed around by Tel Aviv’s insufferable thugs.

(Source / 31.12.2015)

ROJAVA UPDATE 171: 219 ISLAMIC STATE JIHADISTS REPORTED KILLED AS SDF COMPLETE 4 DAY TISHREEN OPERATION AND LOOK TOWARDS MANBIJ

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

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

SYRIA – IRAQ – NEWS

In their sweep through the south of Kobane Canton to the Tishreen Dam, the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) have removed the Islamic State (IS) from another 640 square kilometres of territory and liberated a further 100 villages and hamlets.

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SDF on Campaign to Liberate Tishreen Dam

219 x IS Jihadists are reported killed in the operation, with 9 dead from the SDF side, including 2 from the Asayish (Kurdish security police).

The SDF have also freed a number of villages on the west bank of the Euphrates in order to protect their fighters looking after the dam.

According to an SDF statement, the civilian workers at the dam were arrested by IS but later released, though one of them was killed as IS withdrew.

The management of the dam and its hydro-electricity facilities has now been given to the Board of Energy in Kobane Canton.

Some very happy villagers on the west bank of the Euphrates, released from IS control, can be seen in this video footage, (English sub-titles) here:

The YPJ Kurdish women’s force have also been fully involved in the latest SDF operation, (English sub-titles) here:

ARA News has a video report on the Tishreen Dam operation, (English sub-titles) here:

One mystery from the capture of the Tishreen Dam is the identity of a tearful little girl found on her own in the vicinity of the river crossing. She was wearing a bloody dress and with no clue to the whereabouts of her parents, the SDF sent her to Amal Hospital in Kobane.

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Silent Unidentified Child Rescued from Near Tishreen Dam

Discharged after a day she is now in the care of a family in Kobane until her identity can be confirmed.

The little girl has not spoken a word since she was found on December 26th, not even her name.

With the capture of the town of Tishreen as well, the SDF recovered a lot of ammunition and weapons, most of it, according to the box labelling, originating in Saudi Arabia.

Local reports say that the Islamic State is reinforcing Manbij in Aleppo province with heavy weapons, though its civilian members are being evacuated along with those from Al Bab, to Raqqah.

At least 300 civilians were transported from Manbij on Monday, along with some prisoners, some of whom were executed.

Turkey’s response to the presence of Kurdish YPG members of the SDF on the west bank of the Euphrates remains muted, despite it supposedly being a Turkish “red line”.

Speaking in Serbia, after the Tishreen Dam was recaptured, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey “would not look positively on Syrian forces hostile to Ankara moving to the west of the Euphrates,” but added (delusionally) that “available information indicated that it was Arab forces, and not Kurds, who had crossed the Euphrates over the weekend”.

As the Kurds make up 20,000 of the 25,000 joint Arab, Kurdish, Turkman and Syriac Christian force of the SDF, Davutoglu is clearly in lula land, though other commentators suggest that Turkey, under pressure from Russia and the US, may just have to accept the inevitable – a Kurdish presence all along its southern border. You can read more at Business Insider.

This does not stop acts of Turkish spite, for which it has developed an unenviable reputation. Kurds on the east bank of the Euphrates in Kobane Canton have expressed concern at the vast amounts of uncontrolled water Turkey is allowing to flow down the Euphrates at present.

And near Qamishli in Hasakah province, the Turkish Army has even crossed the border into Rojava, digging a trench under the border fence and taking tens of metres of territory. Asked by Kurdish villagers what they were doing, the Turkish military said they were “regulating the border line”, (English sub-titles), HERE:

A Turkish journalist, jailed by President Erdogan, writes on press control in Turkey, in the Guardian:

The entrance into Aleppo province by the SDF has not stopped IS from attacking Kurdish targets. Yesterday, Wednesday, an IS unit attacked Asayish headquarters in Tel Abyad and detonated explosives inside the building. Several members of the Kurdish security police were killed.

In the clashes that followed 3 x IS Jihadists were killed and 2 captured, the rest of the group escaping towards Raqqah. Another member of the Asayish later died from his injuries.

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One of 2 Restaurant Suicide Bomb Attacks in Qamishli

2 x IS suicide bombers also attacked the Christian sector of Qamishli under Assad regime control late on Wednesday night.

The bombers blew themselves up near 2 restaurants, killing 17 and wounding 30.

In the north-west of Aleppo province in the Kurds Afrin Canton, the Al-Nusra Front (ANF), along with their Islamist allies, Ahrar al-Sham, fired dozens of mortar shells indiscriminately into Afrin city on Monday.

The mortars hit the city centre and residential areas causing a lot of damage and casualties, victims being pulled from the rubble of destroyed buildings. The YPG has vowed to retaliate.

Over in Iraq, 3,000 homes are said to have been destroyed in Ramadi and IS rigged almost all public buildings with explosive devices before leaving.

True to the Islamic State’s grisly and inhuman reputation, IS also took 40 members of 25 families as hostages as they left the city, but later executed them, including women and children.

A large mass grave has been discovered in north-west Nineveh province near Aski village. It is believed to contain the remains of 120 Iraqi security personnel and some civilians, killed when IS swept into Mosul and northern Iraq.

In Mosul on Tuesday, IS is reported to have burned to death 20 media activists on charges of leaking information to “hostile parties”. The executions were carried out in a public square infront of dozens of people, including some of the victim’s family members, in the Al-Houd district of the city.

And yesterday, a well known member of the Jabour tribe in Mosul, was beheaded in public on charges of “treason” after he attempted to help several Yazidi girls escape from IS custody. The girls were unfortunately apprehended and returned to IS headquarters in the city.

(EDITOR: The sooner these monsters are stopped, the better!)

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Map of Northern Syria Showing Tishreen Dam

 

An Open Letter to Young Muslims Everywhere: The Seed of Triumph in Every Adversity

By Ramzy Baroud 

December 31, 2015 “Information Clearing House” –  When I was a little boy, I used to dream of being reborn outside the hardship of the Refugee Camp in Gaza, in some other time and place where there were no soldiers, no military occupation, no concentration camps and no daily grind – where my father fought for our very survival, and my mother toiled to balance out the humiliation of life with her enduring love.

When I grew older, and revisited my childhood fantasies, I came to quite a different conclusion: if I had to, I would do it all over again, I would not alter my past, however trying, in any way. I would embrace every moment, relive every tear, every loss, and cherish every triumph, however small.

When we are young, they often fail to tell us that we should not fear pain and dread hardship; that nothing can be as rewarding to the growth of one’s identity, sense of purpose in life and the liberation of the human spirit than the struggle against injustice. True, one should never internalize servitude or wear victimhood as if a badge; for the mere act of resisting poverty, war and injustice of any kind is the first and most essential criterion to prepare one for a more meaningful existence, and a better life.

I say this because I understand what many of you must be going through. My generation of refugee camp dwellers experienced this in the most violent manifestation you can ever imagine. These are difficult and challenging years for most of humanity, but all the more for you, young Muslims, in particular. Between the racism of American and European politicians and parties, the anti-Muslim sentiment sweeping much of the world, propagated by selfish individuals with sinister agendas, playing on people fears and ignorance, and the violence and counter-violence meted out by groups that refer to themselves as ‘Muslims’, you find yourself trapped, confined in a prison of stereotypes, media hate speech and violence; targeted, labeled and, undeservedly, feared.

Most of you were born into, or grew up in that social and political confinement and remember no particular time in your past when life was relatively normal, when you were not the convenient scapegoat to much of what has gone wrong in the world. In fact, wittingly or otherwise, your characters were shaped by this prejudiced reality, where you subsist between bouts of anger at your mistreatment, and desperate attempts at defending yourself, fending for your family, and standing up for your community, for your culture and for your religion.

Most importantly, you continue to struggle, on a daily basis, to develop a sense of belonging, citizenship in societies where you often find yourself rejected and excluded. They demand your ‘assimilation’, yet push you away whenever you draw nearer. It is seemingly an impossible task, I know.

And, it seems that, no matter what you do, you are yet to make a dent in the unfair misrepresentation of who you are and the noble values for which your religion stands. Their racism seems to be growing, and all the arrows of their hatred persistently point at Islam, despite your passionate attempts to convince them otherwise.

In fact, you hardly understand why Islam is, indeed, part of this discussion in the first place. Islam never invited the US to go to war in the Middle East, to tamper with your civilizations and to torment fellow Muslims in other parts of the globe.

Islam was never consulted when Guantanamo was erected to serve as a gulag outside the norms of human rights and international law.

Islam is hardly a topic of discussion as warring parties, with entirely self-interested political agendas, are fighting over the future of Syria or Iraq or Libya or Yemen or Afghanistan, and so on.

Islam was not the problem when Palestine was overrun by Zionist militias, with the help of the British and, later, the Americans, turning the Holy Land into a battlefield for most of the last century. The repercussions of that act has sealed the region’s fate from relative peace into a repugnant and perpetual war and conflict.

The same logic can be applied to everything else that went awry, and you have often wondered that yourself. Islam did not invent colonialism and imperialism, but inspired Asians, Africans and Arabs to fight this crushing evil. Islam did not usher in the age of mass slavery, although millions of American and European slaves were, themselves, Muslim.

You try to tell them all of this, and you insist that the likes of vicious groups like ISIS are not a product of Islam but a by-product of violence, greed and foreign interventions. But they do not listen, countering with selective verses from your Holy Book that were meant for specific historical contexts and circumstances. You even share such verses from the Quran with all of your social media followers: “…if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole of mankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole of mankind…” (Chapter 5; Verse 32), hoping to elicit some understanding of the sanctity of human life according to your religion, but a fundamental change in attitude is yet to come.

So you despair, at least some of you do. Some of those who live in western countries cease to share with others the fact that they are Muslim, avoiding any discussion that may result in their being ostracized from increasingly intolerant societies. Some of those who live in Muslim majority countries, sadly, counter hate with hate of their own. Either way, they teeter between hate and self-hate, fear and self-pity, imposed apathy, rage and self-loathing. With time, a sense of belonging has been impossible to achieve and, like me when I was younger, perhaps you wonder what it would have been like if you lived in some other time, in some other place.

But, amid all of this, it is vital that we remember that the burdens of life can offer the best lessons in personal and collective growth.

You must understand that there is yet to exist a group of people that was spared the collective trials of history: that did not suffer persecution, racism, seemingly perpetual war, ethnic cleansing and all the evils that Muslims are contending with right now, from Syria to Palestine to Donald Trump’s America. This does not make it ‘okay’ but it is an important reminder that your hardship is not unique among nations. It just so happens that this could be the time for you to learn some of life’s most valuable lessons.

To surmount this hardship, you must first be decidedly clear on who you are; you must take pride in your values; in your identity; you must never cease to fight hate with love, to reach out, to educate, to belong. Because if you don’t, then racism wins, and you lose this unparalleled opportunity at individual and collective growth.

Sometimes I pity those who are born into privilege: although they have access to money and material opportunities, they can rarely appreciate the kind of experiences that only want and suffering can offer. Nothing even comes close to wisdom born out of pain.

And if you ever weaken, try to remember: God “does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” (Chapter 2; Verse 286).

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Health ministry: 2015 was the most difficult year for Gaza patients

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian health ministry has described 2015 as the toughest year for the Gazan patients, who need medical treatment abroad, especially because of Egypt’s persistent closure of the Rafah border crossing.

Spokesman for the ministry Ashraf al-Qudra stated on Thursday that the Egyptian authorities had opened the Rafah crossing sporadically for a total of 21 days during the year, which allowed only a very few number of patients to have medical care in Egypt’s specialized hospitals.

Qudra added that Israel’s racist policies and practices against Gaza patients at its crossings also contributed to their suffering and deprived them of their right to get proper medical treatment.

He also pointed to the continued scarcity of medical supplies in Gaza hospitals, which led to further deterioration in the health sector.

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Palestinian killed for allegedly running over soldier, Nablus

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Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on Thursday morning have shot dead a Palestinian for allegedly running over an Israeli soldier at Huwwara checkpoint south of Nablus, northern West Bank.

Israeli media said that an Israeli soldier sustained light injuries after he was ran over by 22-year-old Palestinian, Hassan Bzour, who was immediately shot and killed by soldiers.

Hassan Bzour (22) killed by IOF after alleged run-over on Huwwara checkpoint
Hassan Bzour (22) killed by IOF after alleged run-over on Huwwara checkpoint

Following the shooting, IOF closed the roads leading to the checkpoint and prevented the passengers from passing.

Hassan is the 143rd Palestinian to be killed by Israeli Forces following similar or proclaimed attacks.

On the Israeli side, some 22 settlers have been killed in run over or stabbing attacks, or mistaken army bullets.

The tensions were raised in October with the Israeli settler attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest place in Islam, and Israeli restrictions over Palestinian entrance.

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Jordanian held in Israeli prison reinstates hunger strike

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Jordanian prisoner of Israel, Abdullah Nuh Abu Jaber, reinstated his hunger strike on Thursday, after Israeli authorities reportedly reneged on promises to meet his conditions, Jaber’s lawyer said.Hanan al-Khatib, a lawyer with the Prisoners and Former Prisoners’ Affairs Committee said Jaber continued his hunger strike on Dec. 27th after being transferred from Israel’s al-Affula hospital, where he was being treated after already having been on hunger strike for 47 days, back to al-Ramla prison hospital.Jaber said he had initially suspended his strike on Sunday, after he met with an Israeli intelligence officer who allegedly promised to meet his conditions. Jaber was demanding that Israel continue his treatment at al-Affula hospital, allow his family to visit, allow him to contact the Jordanian ambassador, and eventually release him to Jordanian authorities.Instead, Jaber was transferred back to al-Ramla prison hospital after ending his strike. Jaber reportedly contacted the Israeli intelligence officer after his transfer.Jaber immediately reinstated his hunger strike after the intelligence officer allegedly apologized to Jaber and informed him that his demands would not be met.Jabers lawyer told Ma’an that Jaber had since been moved to solitary confinement and was allegedly assaulted by the al-Ramla prison hospital’s manager.Al-Khatib added that Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq is also on hunger strike and being held in solitary confinement in al-Ramla prison Israeli authorities against the standards of International Humanitarian Law.Jaber, who is currently serving a 20 year sentence, started his first hunger strike in protest against his internment on July 18. The Jordanian national’s main demand is that he be deported or transferred to a Jordanian prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence.Earlier this month, Issa Qaraqe, the head of the PA Committee for Prisoner’s Affairs, said Israeli authorities have threaten to force feed Jaber if he does not willingly end his strike.On July 30, the Israeli parliament approved a law allowing prisoners on hunger strike to be force fed, sparking criticism from rights groups and medical experts.The law, which sought to prevent imprisoned prisoners from pressuring Israel by refusing food, was initially approved in June 2014 at the height of a mass hunger strike of Palestinian detainees, during which dozens were hospitalized.The law, which passed by 46 votes to 40, “will be used only if a doctor determines that the continued hunger strike will create an immediate risk to the life of a prisoner or long-term damage to his health,” David Amsalem of the ruling Likud party said at the time.The Israeli Medical Association called the law “damaging and unnecessary,” stressing in July that its doctors would “continue to act according to medical ethics, which prohibit doctors from participating in torturing prisoners.”It said force feeding was “tantamount to torture.”Physicians for Human Rights Israel said the “shameful” law revealed the “anti-democratic face” of the Israeli parliament, saying they would continue to oppose the law and its implementation, and “support anyone who will refuse to obey the law.”Spokeswomen for both organisations said they were considering filing petitions at the high court against the law, however it is unknown if such petitions have been filed.The PPS also added that journalist prisoner, Muhammad al-Qiq, who has been on a hunger strike for 28 days, is being held in a solitary confinement by Israeli authorities against the standards of International Humanitarian Law.

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Israel confiscates land, builds military watchtower in Hebron village

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces razed Palestinian lands in the Wadi Sair area of eastern Hebron on Thursday, with the intention of building a military watchtower, the mayor of the village told Ma’an.Kayid Jaradat said Israeli forces had started razing lands early Thursday without notifying the Palestinian municipality or the owner of the land, Ismail Abed Rabbu al-Shalaldeh, prior to the land confiscation.Jaradat added that the military tower is expected to be a precursor to a permanent military checkpoint in the area, which would restrict Palestinians’ movement, particularly on the main northern route out of Hebron toward the rest of the occupied West Bank.Activist Ahmad Halayqa said that the tower would restrict Palestinians’ movement and would be located near the Asfar Israeli settlement, which was also built on Sair village land.Meanwhile, the Hebron municipality constructed a fence in Hebron City’s Wadi al-Nasara neighborhood in order to provide protection to residents against Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arab, who often assault Palestinians and their homes in area.Freedom of movement for residents across the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron has been severely restricted since mid-October. With Israeli military checkpoints having been set up at the entrances to most villages, residents have reported harassment, arbitrary detentions, an increase in traffic, and curfews.

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Egyptian fighter jets bombard targets in Rafah

This file photo shows an Egyptian Air Force F-16 fighter jet.

This file photo shows an Egyptian Air Force F-16 fighter jet

Egyptian military aircraft have carried out aerial assaults against targets in the city of Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip, which has been subject to a tight Israeli blockade for the past eight years.

Palestinian witnesses said the warplanes struck areas in Rafah, located 340 kilometers (211 miles) northeast of Egypt’s capital, Cairo, on Thursday.

Video footage later showed an Egyptian fighter jet flying over Gaza. The loud sound of an airstrike could be heard afterwards, and a thick black column of smoke stretched across the area.

The development comes as the Egyptian army has demolished thousands of homes in Egypt’s side of Rafah over the past year. The demolitions are part of Cairo’s efforts to create a so-called buffer zone with the Gaza Strip, and cut off cross-border tunnels between Rafah and the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The Egyptian army said on its official Facebook page on December 7 that it had demolished 20 underground tunnels along the border with the Gaza Strip. The tunnels had reportedly been found and destroyed a month earlier.

The Gazans have been using the tunnels to bring in basic needs into the besieged enclave.

Dozens of people, mostly Palestinians, have lost their lives during the destruction of tunnels that has intensified since the 2013 ouster of the former Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi.

Israel and the Egyptian military have launched a campaign to destroy the tunnels, preventing the people in Gaza from bringing most of their basic goods like construction materials, food, and fuel into the coastal enclave.

A report by the World Food Program (WFP) in February 2014 revealed that the tunnels represented “the main supply and commercial trade route for goods into Gaza” since 2007.

The WFP report added that the “closure of the tunnels by Egypt hampers the few remaining drivers of economic growth in the Gaza strip.”

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Haunted by the horrors of war, Gaza’s children struggle to heal

Amid lack of a political solution, resilience is the only shield available to young Gazans coping with the effects of trauma

A child outside the morgue at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City stares at blood left by one of the victims brought in following a bombing in the city on 28 July 2014

Mohammed* has a bruise on his chin. “He took a lighter and burnt himself,” his mother told MEE in exasperation as she tilted her son’s head up for inspection. “I don’t understand how he can hurt himself like this, he never did this sort of thing before.” Mohammed is an eight-year-old boy from the Jabalia refugee camp, in the north of the Gaza Strip.

He sits, quiet, on the thin mattresses laid on the floor of the living room in the family home. He is nestled against his father’s legs, his deep black eyes trained on the plastic carpet underneath his small feet.

A view of what was a child’s room following the heavy bombing of the border neighbourhood of Shujayea, July 2014

Around him, his parents’ words erupt like a flash flood, rushed and unexpected. In 10 seconds they fill the room with painful memories of blood, mutilated bodies and bombings; memories that will likely linger for days.

The room’s serene pale-pink walls, decorated with a silver flower motif, violently clash with the crude gesture of a hand slicing an imaginary body in two; the body of Mohammed’s uncle, brutally cut in half by an Israeli missile.

Mohammed winces, as if trying to fight a thought insinuating itself in his brain, an area of his body that sometimes eludes his control. At just eight-years old, he is a veteran of three wars and during the last one he witnessed more horror than most could bear in a lifetime. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Everyone wants the old Mohammed back. “He was sweet and shy,” his mother recalls wistfully. Instead, one and half years after that war, the family and Mohammed himself are learning to cope with a very different child; one who needs medication to function, has night terrors, violent outbursts against his siblings and classmates and who recently began self-harming.

On a day of ceasefire just before the end of the 2014 war, children play by the sea in Gaza city. August 2014

Taking away the ‘post’ from traumatic stress disorder

A study carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and published in July 2015, estimated that a year after the war the majority of Gazan children – 51 percent – were still suffering from the effects of PTSD.

According to mental health professionals in the strip, although alarming, this is only to be expected. The unstable political context, the ongoing siege, the worsening economic situation and the lack of basic protection, mean that even during times of relative peace, the causes of trauma are never fully removed, making talk of “recovery”, or of “post” traumatic stress, futile.

“The children of the First Intifada were the youth of the second, the youth of the second have fathered the children facing these wars,” psychologist Hassan Zeyada, head of the Gaza city branch of the GCMHP, told MEE.

“Through the years, entire families have been subjected to different types of trauma, from torture and arrests, to invasions and bombings,” he continued, adding a generational perspective to the problem.

“In the Gaza Strip we are in the unique position of dealing with the effects of trauma while the trauma is ongoing,” he explained. “We can never guarantee that the last air strike will definitely be the last one and, as you see, the siege hasn’t ended, therefore ‘post’ doesn’t really apply here.”

What GCMHP seeks to do with Mohammed and thousands of children like him, is “build resilience”, Zeyada explains, both through therapy and through a community-based approach that sees social, cultural and religious institutions involved in supporting and accepting those with mental health issues.

The fact that recovery may never be fully achieved poses some ethical questions. “We must ask ourselves if we aren’t just preparing people to withstand the next Israeli operation,” posits Zeyada, conceding that the attacks won’t stop until a political solution is reached, Israel is held accountable and human rights are extended to all Palestinians.

Unprotected

Gazans talk of the 2014 war as the one in which no-one was safe. Israeli forces wiped out entire families, targeted homes with people still inside, bombed schools and mosques. The feeling was that everyone was a walking target.

At the height of the war, the UNRWA Girls’ Elementary School in Jabalia offered shelter to some 3,300 displaced people.  When Israel hit the building on 30 July 2014, the shells hissed unannounced through the early morning silence killing sleeping men, women and children. Twenty died and around a hundred were injured. Amongst the dead was Mohammed’s uncle.

He had moved his family to the school from the border city of Beit Hanoun after the Israeli air force dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate or face likely death. “It was a massacre,” Mohammed’s father recounted to MEE.

Shortly after, UNRWA commissioner general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, told the press “today the world stands disgraced“. By the time Israel’s army spokesman, Colonel Peter Lerner, was on TV blaming Hamas for forcing Israel to kill civilians, Mohammed and his father were hurrying to the Jabalia hospital to look for the uncle.

Only two weeks earlier, Mohammed had experienced the shocking confusion of a bombing site. A neighbour’s home was hit by a missile while he was alone outside. He fell to the ground and as the crowd rushed to the to look for survivors, he was trampled, sustaining injuries to his arm and head.

In the mayhem of the Jabalia hospital, he held on tightly to his father’s hand. Bodies and body parts were strewn across the ground, the morgue was overflowing and there were no more fridges. It was summer, the putrid stench of rotting flesh was nauseous and the blood was everywhere.

Dragged along by his father, Mohammed’s small feet stepped on several corpses before they found the missing uncle. Shrapnel had laid waste to his body, which lay decapitated.

The GMHCP exhibited artwork made by children suffering from PTSD following the last war 

Dealing with the aftermath

It was on that day that Mohammed changed. He told his father that he felt as if there was blood all around him, seeping in from everywhere, that he couldn’t get the smell of that blood out of his nostrils. He felt a constant need to throw up.

His mother remembers Mohammed’s screams at his uncle’s funeral. “I don’t want to die, I want to stay alive,” he shouted, as he clung onto her skirt. They couldn’t recognise this child, and they didn’t know how to make him feel better.

For Mohammed and his family, the 2014 war ended with an early morning Israeli strike on the home of their next-door neighbour. No one died, they say relieved, but as they lay in their beds, bits of their own home crumbled on top of them, lightly injuring the children. Shortly after, a long-term ceasefire came into effect.

They approached the GCMHP when at an outing organised by a local charity right after the war, Mohammed was overheard saying he wanted to bring a knife to school to kill a teacher.

Since then, he has been attending weekly one-hour sessions at the Gaza centre. In the playroom he talks with his therapist, draws and plays. His toys of choice are still weapons, he says. Coyly, he adds that he likes it at the centre because it’s relaxing and he feels he can talk about anything.

His voice is feeble, his manner self-effacing, it is hard to imagine this boy threatening his siblings with a lighter or fighting with his classmates. And yet even with the regular therapy, his parents can’t see any obvious improvements.

He still complains of a fierce pain in his legs, which is of psychosomatic origin, and even when there is a small positive step forward, an Israeli air strike, heavy rain or fireworks are enough to set him back to fearful and aggressive behaviour.

His parents can’t remember the last time he slept in his bed for a whole night. “He sneaks in with us and we need to leave the light on or he won’t fall asleep.” Mohammed rocks forward to touch his feet, his voice barely audible. He feels safer sleeping next to his parents in the big bed, he says in barely a whisper.

And of the future..

Despite the uncertainty enveloping daily life in the strip and the lack of a political situation that could enable his recovery, this eight-year-old still has the strength to look ahead and imagine himself as an adult. He wants to be a doctor, he says. This resilience is something he shares with most Gazans.

“Israel attempts to create a state of total helplessness,” stated Zeyada. “It aims to create desperate people who blame themselves and who believe that their lives can never improve if they continue to resist the aggressor.”

But, he argues, Palestinians are still resisting, struggling for their rights and this in itself is a psychological process that can help give meaning to the experience of loss and trauma.

“Look outside your window at 6am,” Zeyada said, “you see children on their way to school, men and women on their way to work and fishermen sailing out to sea. Palestinians still have their self-respect, their self-confidence and their self-esteem.”

On a day of ceasefire at the beginning of the war, children gather by the sea at Gaza city port. July 2014

(*Mohammed’s name has been changed to protect his identity.)

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Syria releases prominent opposition figures

Ahmad al-Asrawi & Munir al-Bitar from the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change were stopped at border with Lebanon

Syrian authorities have released two prominent members of the domestic opposition who were arrested on Wednesday as they travelled to Riyadh to meet other regime opponents, their party said.

Ahmad al-Asrawi and Munir al-Bitar, members of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change (NCCDC), were stopped at Syria’s border with Lebanon, said the body’s secretary general, Yahya Aziz.

Both Asrawi and Bitar were headed to Saudi Arabia to join fellow members of the opposition’s “supreme committee for negotiations,” Aziz told AFP.

The “supreme committee” is a 33-member group formed in December at a landmark meeting of Syria’s armed and political opposition in Riyadh.

The committee is set to choose at least part of an opposition delegation for peace talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government next month.

Aziz said Asrawi and Bitar were taken “to an unknown location,” adding: “Those who want a political solution would not do this.”
The NCCDC later on its Facebook page announced “the release of our colleagues Ahmad al-Asrawi and Munir al-Bitar”, calling for “freedom for all prisoners and detainees.”

Earlier the group said their arrest contradicted “international efforts to reach a just political solution” to the conflict in Syria.

A statement from the supreme committee said the pair had been due to meet other opposition figures on January 1 to finalise a delegation to negotiate with the government.

“The regime and its allies Russia and Iran are not serious about the political process, (because) they are targeting members of the Riyadh conference that are committed to a political solution,” the statement said.

The arrests came less than a week after Syria’s army claimed responsibility for the killing of rebel chief Zahran Alloush.
Alloush was the head of Jaish al-Islam, the most powerful rebel faction in Damascus province which had also had taken part in the opposition meeting in Riyadh.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday that the killing did “not serve the peace process and (efforts) to achieve a political solution in Syria”.

He appeared to blame Moscow, a key backer of Assad that has carried out three months of air strikes against rebels in Syria, saying: “I don’t know what the Russians have in mind.”

(Source / 31.12.2015)