Months after night arrest, two children say the trauma isn’t over

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Ahmad A., 16, was sentenced to two months in prison and a five year suspended sentence after Israeli soldiers arrested him at night in March, 2016

Ramallah, July 6, 2016—Two Palestinian children report that the lingering psychological effects of Israeli military night arrests are interfering with their daily lives, causing changes in sleep, a loss of interest in previous activities, feelings of insecurity, and reduced movement.

Ahmad A., 16, was arrested at 3:30 a.m. in Beit Ummar, near Hebron, four months ago. A few months earlier, in January, Israeli soldiers arrested 17-year-old Ahmad Q. also at 3:30 a.m., from his home in Nablus. Although months have passed and both have since been released, they told Defense for Children International – Palestine that their sleep, behaviors, and personalities were altered by the experience.

Many rights groups have advocated for an end to the practice of night arrest because of its potential to cause long-term harm to children. Despite these efforts, night arrests remain a frequent feature of Israel’s military arrest of West Bank children, making up 41.7 percent of cases documented by DCIP between 2012 and 2015.

When compounded with other forms of ill-treatment such as blindfolding, physical abuse, and long interrogations without the presence of a lawyer or family member, night arrests can cause trauma. If untreated in the initial period following the trauma, during which the child may be imprisoned or otherwise detained, the psychological symptoms may persist even into adulthood.

Sleep disturbances are one common psychological symptom reported by Palestinian children previously arrested at night, a time when children should be able to feel safe in their beds. “I wait until 3:30 a.m., the same time I was arrested, to go to sleep,” Ahmad A. told DCIP.

Ahmad Q. also told DCIP he now has trouble sleeping and often lies awake until the early morning prayers. “I fall asleep when the soldiers leave my village, but as soon as I hear a small noise, I think it’s them.”

A loss of interest in previous activities can also be a sign of unresolved trauma, as formerly detained children struggle to put their lives back together upon release. Before the night Israeli soldiers arrested him, Ahmad Q.’s favorite activity was playing soccer, but since his release from detention, he told DCIP that he no longer enjoys the game. “I lost interest in many things,” he said.

Ahmad A.’s mother, Haya, said her son used to be well known for his gregarious personality around the village. After Israeli soldiers arrested and detained him, Haya told DCIP that her son stopped going outside and no longer talks to many people.

“When the child is first released, they feel like a hero,” Hassan Faraj, clinical psychologist at thePalestinian Counseling Center (PCC), told DCIP. “However, as time passes, everyone forgets about the child, and they often become detached and alone.”

Ahmad Q. said his whole town welcomed him with open arms when he was first released from prison. “I felt so loved, all of my friends and family were waiting for me,” he said. “Now, most of the time I sit in my room and don’t go out.”

Children sometimes self-restrict their movements after arrest, fearing interactions with soldiers. Ahmad Q. told DCIP he is too afraid to visit his grandfather, who lives in the neighboring town. “I’m scared of being anywhere near the soldiers,” he said.  Ahmad A. also said fear has motivated his reduced movements. “I never leave my village,” Ahmad A. told DCIP. “I always try to avoid the soldiers.”

Counseling may help a child cope with their experience of night arrest and mitigate some of the negative psychological side-effects. According to Murad Amro, a clinical psychologist with PCC, treatment is most effective when a child receives help “within the first hours and first days.”  Ahmad A. received counseling after his release, and said it has helped him manage his feelings, but still suffers from multiple psychological symptoms.

The Palestinian Counseling Center regularly reaches out to children who underwent military night arrests through home visits. “Many of these children don’t know that they need any therapy,” Faraj said. “We help them by rebuilding their confidence through play therapy, stories, and activities.”

In 2013, a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, Children in Israeli Military Detention Observations and Recommendations, found ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system was “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process.” The report included 38 specific recommendations to address ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the system, including that “[a]ll arrests of children should be conducted during daylight, notwithstanding exceptional and grave situations.”

UNICEF has engaged in a dialogue with Israeli authorities since releasing the report to implement the recommendations. In February 2014, Israeli military authorities implemented a new pilot program in parts of the West Bank involving the use of written summonses as an alternative to night arrests. However, despite general compliance with summonses, which are often provided via phone or delivered at night, summonses have not improved the situation for Palestinian child detainees. Once in Israeli military custody, Palestinian children still experience physical violence and other forms of ill-treatment, according to DCIP documentation.

In the first half of 2016, night arrests have shown no sign of slackening, with 46.6 percent of child detention cases documented by DCIP involving the practice.

Night arrests violate Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that the best interests of the child must be the primary consideration guiding a state’s treatment of any child. Arrest of children should be a last resort and children should be presumed innocent, informed promptly and directly of charges against him or her, and have prompt access to legal assistance and to be accompanied by their parents during questioning.

“If I had been notified of my arrest ahead of time instead of being taken from my home, I would have been prepared for it,” Ahmad A. said. “I never knew they were coming for me. I never thought they would take me from my home.”

(Source / 07.07.2016)

22nd day of hunger strike: Bilal Kayed encourages solidarity efforts, expresses determination to continue despite health challenges

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Palestinian prisoner Bilal Kayed is continuing his open hunger strike on the 22nd day as of 7 July; Addameer lawyer Mona Nadaf visited him in isolation in Ashkelon prison, where he remains in a very small cell without ventilation. Nadaf reported that he is continuing to refuse any kind of vitamin or salt supplements and medical examinations, and only consumes water.

She also reported that he is in very high spirits with unshaken determination to proceed with the strike until its conclusion. Kayed’s cell is very small; inside his cell he has only underwear and the Quran. He has been denied access to additional clothing or any other books or written materials, and the Israeli prison administration continues to refuse to provide a fan despite the high summer temperatures. In addition, the prison administration refuses to provide mineral water and he can only drink lukewarm water from the tap in the cell’s broken sink.

Kayed has lost a significant amount of weight and suffers from fatigue and dizziness; he is only able to sleepone hour a night.

Kayed sent his thanks and greetings to all of the people standing in solidarity with him, confirming that his struggle will continue until the end, with high morale and solid will.

Bilal Kayed has been on hunger strike since 15 June in protest of his administrative detention without charge or trial. He was ordered to administrative detention on 13 June after the completion of his 14.5 year sentence in Israeli jails, where he has been imprisoned since December 2001. His administrative detention wasconfirmed by the Ofer military court on 5 July after a hearing which he refused to attend, noting the illegitimacy of administrative detention and the military court system. He rejected a proposal to deport him to Jordan for four years and give up political activity in exchange for his freedom.

Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have engaged in solidarity hunger strikes and protests in support of his demand for freedom. His case represents a threat of indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial for all Palestinian prisoners completing lengthy sentences.

Kayed’s comrades in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are planning to escalate their protests inside the prisons, up to a collective hunger strike, beginning on Friday, 8 July; prisoners from all Palestinian factions will also engage in protest actions for Kayed’s freedom.

As the protests inside the prison are scheduled to ramp up, imprisoned PFLP leader Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh was transferred on Wednesday, 6 July from Hadarim prison to Ramon prison, days after fellow PFLP leader Wael Jaghoub was transferred from Ramon to Hadarim prison. These events were cited by their imprisoned comrades as an attempt to undermine and prevent the escalation of the struggle to free Kayed.

Protests and marches have taken place across Palestine (photo above from Eid rally in his hometown, Asira al-Shamaliya) for Kayed’s freedom, as well as in cities around the world. Over 150 international and Palestinian organizations have signed on to the call for action to free Kayed, and further mobilizations are planned for the Week of Action to Free Bilal Kayed between 8-15 July. Protests and events will take place inNew York; Tampa; Arklow, Ireland; Manchester; London; Beirut; and Milan, with more cities to be announced shortly.

(Source / 07.07.2016)

Ramadan 2016: Harassment, Collective Punishment and Settlement Expansions in the Occupied West Bank

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07 JUL
9:21 PM

07/07/16 | International Solidarity Movement | al-Khalil team

Monday the 6th of June marked the beginning of the Ramadan; the holiest holiday in Islam. The Ramadan is a sacred month in the Islamic calendar, where Muslims celebrate when the Qu’ran was revealed for the first time to the Prophet Muhammad.

For Muslims all over the world who celebrate the Ramadan, it’s a month of prayers and celebrations, with the intention to improve morality and character as well as strengthening ones relationship with Allah.

However, for Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank under illegal Israeli military occupation, the Ramadan is also a month filled with uncertainties and harassment.

Since the beginning of the Ramadan, more than 330 Palestinians have been detained throughout the West Bank; at least 60 of these were children, the youngest being 10-year old Marwan Sharabati from Al-Khalil (Hebron).

Discrimination and aggression in East Jerusalem

Israeli discrimination and aggression has especially been intense in and around occupied East Jerusalem, where thousands of Palestinians from in and outside East Jerusalem go to visit and pray at the Al-Aqsa compound and mosque, the third most religious site in all of Islam.

The Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem was annexed in 1967 as a part of Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank – this annexation was never recognised by the international community.

On Sunday 26 of June, Israeli soldiers broke in and raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque, harassing and disturbing peaceful Palestinians during prayer. Israeli forces also escorted a group of approximately 200 settlers into the mosque, shouting and harassing Palestinians praying. This action was in contravention of a long running tradition that only Muslims would enter the mosque during the final 10 days of Ramadan.

Watch video of soldiers raiding the mosque here

As a result of the clashes, Israeli authorities enforced the understanding to restrict access to Muslim worshippers although also placed punitive restrictions on Palestinians; refusing access to all males under 45 years old, breaching their right to exercise freedom of religion.

On Friday 30 June, Israeli soldiers shut down the Qalandiya checkpoint, preventing thousands of Palestinians, including males younger than 45 years old, to pass in order to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Israeli forces then proceeded to attack Palestinians at Qalandiya checkpoint with live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets and teargas, wounding 40 Palestinians as well as killing a 63 year old Palestinian man due to massive teargas inhalation.

Watch video from Qalandiya here

Collective punishment and settlement expansion during the Ramadan

After an attack at a market in Tel Aviv, where four Israeli citizens where killed, Israel has conducted a large collective punishment strategy, suspending entry permits for more than 83,000 Palestinians from the West Bank. The 83,000 people impacted had nothing to do with the crime committed, and thereby preventing them from going to Al-Aqsa in the annexed East Jerusalem is another clear example of Israel enforcing illegal collective punishment.

To further ignite the situation, Benjamin Netanyahu announced a large-scale settlement expansion, consisting of a total of 800 housing units in East Jerusalem. The scheme contains of 560 housing units in the settlement Ma’Ale Adumim, 140 in Ramot and 100 in Har Homar and Pisgat Zeev.

Following a Palestinian attack on a 13-year old American-Israeli settler, Netanyahu has also approved construction of 42 new housing units in the settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron. The settlements are illegal according to international law, and the UN and EU leaders have denounced the expansion, urging Netanyahu to reverse the decision.

Netanyahu’s actions continue to escalate the situation in the West Bank and completely disregard the recently released Quartet report, which has resulted in the U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon condemning Israel for this continued expansion of illegal settlements.

(Source / 07.07.2016)

Palestine Museum of Natural History

Dr. Sana Atallah

Dr. Sana Atallah

The idea of a museum to research and document animals in Palestine came from the first Palestinian zoologist, Dr. Sana Atallah.  Born in 1943, Atallah grew up in Beit Sahour, Palestine and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in science at the American University of Beirut.  His master’s thesis research was on rodents.  He then completed his PhD in 1969 at the University of Connecticut, U.S.A., on mammals of the Eastern Mediterranean region.  Offered a position at the Pahlavi University in Tehran (later called Shiraz University) in 1970, Atallah taught only one semester before being killed, at the age of 27, in a tragic car accident along with a student researcher.

Despite his young age, Atallah had already produced over a dozen scientific publications, and his doctoral thesis was published posthumously in two parts (1977 and 1978).  In the 1960s Atallah collected specimens from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine.  His research collection is now spread among many museums, including those at AUB, University of Connecticut, Shiraz University, and here in Palestine.  In 1972, David Harrison named a subspecies of the hare Lepus capensis atallahi in honor of his departed friend Atallah—who had earlier named a taxon in honor of Harrison (Acomys russatus harrisoni) and one in honor of his AUB advisor and friend (Acomys lewisi).

Dr. Sana Atallah

Dr. Sana Atallah

As a child, Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh, founder of the Palestine Museum of Natural History, often accompanied his uncle Sana Atallah for research in the field, which inspired his love of nature in Palestine.  Qumsiyeh was thirteen years old when Atallah died in a car accident, and that is when he resolved not only to fulfill his uncle’s mission of doing research on mammals in the Arab world, but also to build a museum.

Baker Prof. Qumsiyeh & his PhD advisor Dr. Robert J. Baker

IMG_0931Prof. Qumsiyeh & B.U. Master’s students

Qumsiyeh finished high school in Bethlehem, among the top ten students in the Tawjihi matriculation exam for Palestinians (West Bank and Gaza).  He earned his bachelor’s degree at Jordan University and while still an undergraduate, published his first research paper (on new records of bats from Jordan).  He went on to get his Master’s of Science degree at the University of Connecticut (on the bats of Egypt) and his PhD at Texas Tech University (on chromosomes of gerbils and jirds).  He then did medical genetics training in Memphis, Tennessee, and served on the faculties of medicine at three U.S. universities (Tennessee, Duke, and Yale), before returning to Palestine in 2008.  Prof. Qumsiyeh has published over 130 scientific papers on topics ranging from systematics to biodiversity to cancer, plus hundreds of other refereed articles.  His books include Bats of Egypt, Mammals of the Holy Land, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle (in English, Spanish, and German) and Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment (Arabic, English, French, forthcoming in Italian).

Currently Professor Qumsiyeh teaches and does research at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities.  In addition to directing the main clinical cytogenetic laboratory at Bethlehem University, he is the director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability.  He was chairman of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, and served on the board of Al-Rowwad Children’s Theater Center in Aida Refugee Camp.  His main civic interests lie in media activism and public education.  Qumsiyeh has given hundreds of talks around the world, has published over 250 letters to the editor in publications such as Boston Globe, Time Magazine, and NY Times, and has been interviewed extensively on TV and radio (local, national, and international).  His book on human rights activism is published electronically on his website (http://qumsiyeh.org)

Since returning to Palestine 2008, Prof. Qumsiyeh has developed a system for working with and empowering young people, as he believes this is the key to freedom and development in Palestine.  He and his students were the first Palestinians to publish research on biodiversity in such groups as scorpions and amphibians, to demonstrate genetic impact on human health of Israeli industrial settlements, to study infertility among Palestinian males, to study cancer cytogenetic in Palestine, and on other topics.  Based on these studies and others, plus the work and ideas of dozens of young volunteers, the Palestine Museum of Natural History was launched in June 2014 with ambitious plans—described in our section on mission and goals.

It has not been an easy task to do this.  The Museum was started with land and building facility use from Bethlehem University and seed operating money from Dr. and Mrs. Qumsiyeh and from individuals.  In the transition period of 2014-2017, we rely heavily on volunteers and we welcome your support (see sections on staff and support).  We are working to apply for institutional fundings in order to bring on board much needed professional team members.

(Source / 07.07.2016)

Army Kidnaps A Wounded Palestinian In Qalandia

07 JUL
3:42 PM

Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday at dawn, Qalandia refugee camp, north of occupied Jerusalem, and kidnapped a young wounded Palestinian man.

Local sources in Qalandia said the soldiers broke into the home of Salah Lutfi Hamad, 21, and kidnapped him, after violently searching the property.

Hamad was shot by the soldiers, last Monday, when the army invaded the camp and demolished the homes of Anan Abu Habsa and Issa Assaf, who were killed on December 24, 2015, after carrying out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem.

At least four Palestinians were shot by live army fire during the invasion, while many others suffered the effects of teargas inhalation.

(Source / 07.07.2016)

Why is Hamas giving away government-owned land?

Palestinian Hamas-hired civil servants wait to receive payment outside a post office in Gaza City, Oct. 29, 2014

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Controversy has not stopped the Land Authority in the Gaza Strip from proceeding with the second phase of a scheme to hand government-owned lands to Hamas government employees who have not been paid since 2013. Registration for the project’s first phase began Dec. 14, and the distribution process took place on June 1-9. In the meantime, registration for phase two began in mid-May, with distribution yet to get underway.

This project was developed as Hamas continued to struggle with a crippling financial crisis, and the Palestinian consensus government, formed in 2014, refused to recognize Hamas government employees in Gaza as civil servants and therefore pay them. Hamas’ Change and Reform Bloc from the Palestinian Legislative Council introduced the scheme on March 9, 2015. On Nov. 3, the consensus government weighed in, declaring the distribution of government-owned lands to employees illegal. According to the government in Ramallah, any such act is null and void, does not convey any rights and represents a violation of state property and lands.

In the first phase of the program, 49 plots across Gaza were given to government employees. The size of the parcel received was determined by how much a worker was owed in back pay and the land price per square meter, which varied depending on location.

Jumaa Hassan, a Rafah resident who works in security for the Hamas government, was given a tract of 168 square meters (1,800 square feet) as compensation for the 95,000 shekels ($24,000) owed to him. “I am satisfied with the plot handover as compensation for the salary I thought I would never receive,” Hassan told Al-Monitor. “Today, I can sell it, like some of my colleagues did, and get my past due wages in cash, which I have not received for years.”

Mohammed al-Nazli, a resident of Gaza City who works at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, refused to take part in the project. He told Al-Monitor that the scheme promotes divisiveness and further separates Gaza from the West Bank given the disagreement between Hamas and the consensus government over the land distribution project.

“My [unpaid] salary is worth $5,000, which is not enough for me to get a 30-square-meter [323-square-foot] plot,” Nazli said. “I am convinced that we are going through dark times. The distribution of land at this stage, in the absence of Palestinian national unity and in light of the national divide, is contrary to the laws and norms of the state of Palestine.”

Nazli said that there is no guarantee that the land will remain the property of the employees in the future. “As an employee, I look forward to receiving my salary and past wages, to be able to pay my debts and have a decent life similar to any government employee,” he said.

Ibrahim Radwan, the chairman of the Land Authority and Supreme Committee for Land, told Al-Monitor that the project — which the Land Authority calls the Low-Income Earners Housing Project — is based on laws granting the Supreme Committee for Land the authority to dispose of government property, that is, Law No. 2 of 2015, which is an amendment of Law No. 6 of 1942 on government lands.

“It is not the first time that a ruling party in Gaza has disposed of government-owned lands,” Radwan said. “It has always been the case in the Gaza Strip, starting with the British Mandate, Egyptian rule, Israeli occupation and up to the Palestinian Authority.”

Radwan said that the amount of land distributed during the first phase of the project amounted to 1,500 dunams (371 acres). Some 40,000 Gaza government employees are expected to be paid with land. Nearly 13,000 have already received allotments, Radwan claimed.

He noted that according to the mechanism established for implementing the project, plots slated to be used for housing collectives are registered in the names of multiple employees, with a single plot ranging in size from 500 to 1,000 square meters and owned by 10-20 employees.

Lawyer Bakr Turkmani told Al-Monitor that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is the only party with the authority to issue decisions to privatize government-owned lands in the public interest.

“According to public property and land laws applicable in Palestine, public lands are state-owned properties and may not be subject to any act whether by takeover or privatization unless by virtue of a law,” Turkmani said. “The president of the state, head of the government or any party authorized by them is the sole competent authority in this regard.”

Turkmani added, “We recognize that the Hamas employees in Gaza have the right to be paid their salaries and dues,” but said, “The problem of accumulated unpaid financial dues will re-emerge.” As soon as the affected employees receive land, their unpaid salaries will begin accruing anew.

“Moreover,” said Turkmani, “it is possible that a number of land middlemen and traders will try to exploit the situation of these employees and offer to buy their lands at low prices.”

Despite the objections and legal questions surrounding the distribution scheme, the process remains ongoing.

(Source / 07.07.2016)

Israeli Soldiers Kidnap Five Palestinians In Hebron

07 JUL
1:28 PM

The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) has reported that Israeli soldiers have kidnapped, Thursday, five Palestinians, during military invasions in Hebron city, and two nearby communities.

The PPS said the soldiers invaded Doura town, and the al-Borj village, south of Hebron, searched a number of homes and kidnapped four Palestinians.

The kidnapped have been identified as Hussein Jabarha al-Faqeeh, Ra’ed Ghaleb al-‘Amayra, 18, Wael Hussein al-Fqeihat, 38, and Ayman Ibrahim al-Fqeihat, 38.

In addition, the soldiers kidnapped one Palestinian, identified as Abbas Abu Mayyala, 20, near the Ibrahimi Mosque, in Hebron city.

(Source / 07.07.2016)

As Medina reveals: ISIS is not hijacking Islam, it is actively at war with Islam

A car bomb close to the Prophet's tomb at Medina
A car bomb close to the Prophet’s tomb at Medina

If a self-proclaimed Catholic group bombed the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica and constantly killed scores of innocent Catholics, then we would deem such an entity, in various degrees, as an anti-Catholic terrorist group.

Likewise, ISIS is not a radical Islamist movement as much as it is an active anti-Muslim, terror movement.

ISIS kills more Muslims than any other religious followers, bombs Muslim-majority cities, fights against every known Islamic principle, destroys the heritage of centuries that was not harmed by earlier Muslims, and they actively pervert the peaceful month of Ramadan.

ISIS is not misinterpreting Islamic texts, it is burning Islamic texts.

ISIS is not seeking Muslim hearts, it is ripping out Muslim hearts.

ISIS is not hijacking Islam, it is actively at war with Islam.

ISIS is anti-Quran, anti-Islamic tradition, anti-Islamic history, and anti-Prophet.

ISIS sees nothing sacred, neither time, space or place.

This is the same ISIS that hates Muslims but loves the European far-right and Trump. For who else will indirectly help ISIS thrive?

Now they bomb, among other cities, the holy city of Medina where Islam’s Prophet rests.

How many more sickening anti-Muslim, if not anti-human, acts does it take for a diabolical group to be dissociated from a religious body in the eyes of the world?

(Source / 07.07.2016)

 

Rights groups speak out as new Israeli war haunts Gaza

A Palestinian man looks at the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israel’s 50-day war against the Gaza Strip, Sept. 8, 2015. ©AFP)

A Palestinian man looks at the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israel’s 50-day war against the Gaza Strip, Sept. 8, 2015

Rights groups have expressed alarm over the lack of reconstruction and war crimes prosecutions in the Gaza Strip, two years after Israel’s devastating invasion of the besieged territory.  

In a report ahead of Friday’s anniversary of the invasion, a coalition of leading NGOs urged Israel on Thursday to lift its crippling blockade of Gaza where more than 1.8 million Palestinians live in despicable conditions.

Amnesty International expressed its great frustration over the lack of genuine criminal investigations, saying it was “indefensible” that no criminal cases had been brought for alleged war crimes.

“During 50 days of attacks, Israeli forces wreaked massive death and destruction on the Gaza Strip, killing close to 1,500 civilians, more than 500 of whom were children,” Amnesty’s Philip Luther said.

According to UN figures, nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli invasion, including 577 children, and about 11,100 others injured.

Amnesty International said only three Israeli soldiers have been charged over the war, all for minor offences.

“The fact that no one has been held to account for war crimes that were evidently committed by both sides in the conflict is absolutely indefensible,” said Luther who is Amnesty’s director for  Middle East and North Africa Program.

“Two years have passed and it’s high time the wheels of justice started turning,” he added.

Israel has maintained its decade-long blockade on the enclave, limiting the entry of many goods essential for construction.

According to AIDA, an umbrella body for major international NGOs working in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Tel Aviv’s siege is “severely impeding reconstruction and recovery” in Gaza.

Palestinian men work on the remains of a building, which was destroyed during Israel’s 50-day war against the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, April 30, 2016

“Unless it is lifted, Palestinians living in Gaza will be unable to move on with their lives and live in freedom, dignity and safety,” Chris Eijkemans, country director at AIDA with the British charity Oxfam, said.

Under the Israeli siege, Gaza’s economy has collapsed while Tel Aviv’s wars have wiped out the coastal territory’s infrastructure.

As a result, most roads remain destroyed, many areas desolated and homes, schools and medical centers toppled.

Around 20,000 homes were left totally uninhabitable in the war and more than 120,000 others at least partly damaged, according to the United Nations.

Unemployment rate of more than 47 percent in the Mediterranean enclave is one of the highest in the world.

With little or no improvement in their living conditions, residents in the Gaza Strip fear another Israeli invasion might be on the horizon, which would be the fourth since 2008.

“I am very worried a fourth war is coming. The occupation is threatening war on tunnels,” Mohammed Abu Daqa, a 26-year-old employee at a government school, was quoted as saying.

Israeli leaders have threatened to wage another war on the territory after allegedly uncovering two tunnels across the Egyptian border in May.

Tunnels are generally used by the Gazans to ship basic needs into the territory in the face of the Israeli blockade.

The Egyptian government under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has stepped up its demolition of those tunnels, choking off the last resort for sustenance by the Palestinians.

The AIDA statement called on “world leaders to live up to their commitments and press for an immediate end to the blockade.”

(Source / 07.07.2016)

Egypt ‘highly concerned’ after Israel’s announcement of new illegal settler homes

Egypt called on Israel to cancel the illegal settlements decision and to put an end to its policy of ‘escalation’ and the killing of hope for the Palestinian people

Israel

File photo of Illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank

Egypt said it is “highly concerned” following a decision by Israel to build new illegal settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, a Wednesday foreign affairs ministry statement read.

“[The decision] undermines efforts to resume the [Palestinian-Israeli] peace process,” the statement added.

On Monday, Israel said it had approved 560 new settler homes for the occupied West Bank in the illegal settlement of Maale Adumim.

Media reports also said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin also gave approval for the planning of 240 new homes in East Jerusalem settlement neighbourhoods, as well as for 600 units for Palestinians in the city’s Beit Safafa district, AFP reported.

Egypt’s foreign affairs ministry also said it “condemns the Israeli government’s continual expansion of illegal settlement housing on occupied Palestinian land.”

The timing of this “escalation,” according to the statement, is “unjustified as it coincides with regional and international efforts to encourage Palestinians and Israeli’s to build trust,” and resume peace talks.

The statement called on Israel to cancel the illegal settlements decision and to put an end to its policy of “escalation” and the killing of hope for the Palestinian people.

Egypt has been a strong advocate of the right of Palestinians to establish an independent state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

France held an international conference in June, where neither Israelis nor Palestinians were invited, that aimed to reinitiate peace talks and lay the groundwork for a full-fledged peace conference to be held by the end of the year

Palestinians have welcomed the French initiative but Israeli officials have said an international conference would not work, and that only direct talks between the two sides can bring peace.

(Source / 07.07.2016)