Official: Over 2m Palestinians live tragic situation in Gaza

Palestinian children play outside their home in the poverty-stricken quarter of Al-Zaytoon in Gaza City on 29 September 2014

More than two million Palestinians in Gaza, including 1.4 million refugees, are living in “tragic” situations as a result of the 11-year Israeli siege on the enclave, the head of the Palestinian government’s Information Office in Gaza, Salama Marouf, said yesterday.

In a press conference held in Gaza, Marouf said: “This siege has scarred many aspects of life.”

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorated after the latest punitive measures imposed on the coastal enclave by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, including salary cuts, forcing public servants in to early retirement and halting payments to the health and education ministries in addition to other sectors.”

Since April 2017, he said, the PA government in Ramallah cut 30 per cent of the salaries of Gaza employees. Last week workers received only 50 per cent of the outstanding payments due to them for the months of March and April.

Marouf said that 56.6 per cent of Gaza residents suffer food insecurity and 80 per cent are living below the poverty line. “About half of the residents of Gaza receive monthly food assistance from UNRWA,” he said.

Read: 53% of Gaza residents live in poverty

He condemned the PA’s delay in paying social benefits in Gaza, which are estimated to amount to $9 million a month, noting that 72,000 families are benefit from this social scheme.

The official condemned the continuous closure of the Rafah Crossing, noting it was opened for only 39 days in 2017 and that 85 per cent of Gaza residents are unable to travel through the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing between Gaza and Israel, due to Israeli restrictions.

Marouf also said that 56 per cent of patients in urgent need of treatment abroad had not been allowed to travel through Erez.

#GazaCrisis 

In addition, he said: “The Ministry of Health in Gaza has reduced its capacity due to the lack of most of the basic needs for surgical operations and basic treatments. All of the unurgent surgeries – 4,000 — were suspended.”

He also said that the unemployment rate had increased to 43.9 per cent in 2018, compared to 41.7 per cent in the same period of the previous year – this means that more than 28,000 people lost their jobs in Gaza.

“Imports decreased by 11.5 per cent in March and 38 per cent in April… The number of university students who are unable to pay their fees increased by 39 per cent,” he said, noting that UNRWA’s financial situation has also had a negative impact on life in Gaza.

(Source / 09.05.2018)

Israel approved just 0.09% of asylum requests over past nine years

Migrants in Israel protest against deportation

Israeli authorities approved just 52 of more than 55,000 asylum requests submitted since 2009, according to a report published by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira.

Of the 52 requests granted, a mere 0.09 per cent of the total applications, only ten were from Sudanese or Eritrean nationals.

Meanwhile, Haaretz noted, the processing of 29,783 of the 55,433 total requests had not been completed by the end of last year.

The government watchdog said that “the services offered to asylum seekers are extremely deficient, and there are substantial delays in handling requests – some of which are rejected out of hand due to delays in submission.”

Israel: Another country will receive forcefully deported asylum seekers

Shapira also noted that officials from the UNHCR refugee agency were not invited to discussions by an Israeli advisory committee, which he described as “a blow to transparency”.

The State Comptroller also accused the government of failing “to honour and implement the international commitments it took upon itself”.

The report specifically examined the issue of asylum applicants from Darfur, with 2,500 such requests submitted 2009-2017. During this period, “decisions were made in only six cases”, with refugee status eventually granted to just “a few hundred” individuals “for humanitarian reasons”.

(Source / 09.05.2018)

Israel to spend $16.6 million on excavations under Al-Aqsa Mosque

A view of the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem

The Israeli government is planning to spend 60 million shekels ($16.6 million) on excavation projects under Al-Aqsa Mosque, amid calls for illegal Jewish settlers to storm the Muslim holy site, Ma’an has reported. A draft resolution on the issue will be presented by Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, with the funding provided by her department and the Department of Education over the next two years.

Israeli occupation forces have also ordered that part of the cemetery of Bab Al-Rahma be separated from the eastern wall of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa compound that it adjoins. Residents of the town of Silwan have protested against the desecration of the cemetery, which contains the graves of many Palestinian scientists, scholars and martyrs. There has been an increase in the number of Israeli violations of the sanctity of Bab Al-Rahma, with plans for a park to be established there.

Israel has continued to excavate the ground beneath the Noble Sanctuary, in the search for evidence of an ancient Jewish presence in the area, including the existence of a Jewish Temple. Such excavations weaken the foundations of Al-Aqsa Mosque. This, say critics, is the real reason for the digging, because Jewish extremists want to destroy the mosque and build a temple in its place.

Read: Israel prevents restoration works at Al-Aqsa

Government funded extremist groups, such as the Temple Movement, have already made detailed blueprints in preparation for the building of such a temple. Hundreds of Jewish settlers regularly storm the Noble Sanctuary compound backed by Israeli security forces, performing rituals and pledging to destroy the mosque, whilst Muslim worshippers are locked out.

In April alone, some 3,747 settlers broke into the compound, usually protected by the police or army. So far, 2018 has witnessed a 30 per cent increase in such incursions over last year.

Furthermore, the Temple Movement has called on its supporters to participate in a large-scale incursion of the mosque next Sunday, coinciding with the anniversary of the 1967 occupation of Jerusalem, and the day before the US will open its new embassy in the city. “It is time to declare victory in the war,” the group said on its website. “On Jerusalem Day we will enter the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa Compound] by the thousands.”

Last month, an Israeli court ruled that Jewish visitors entering Al-Aqsa Mosque may chant patriotic slogans as they do not count as religious prayers. The ruling was given after a right-wing Jewish activist was detained for several hours in 2015 for chanting “The people of Israel will live” in Hebrew.

In March, an Israeli Magistrates’ Court in Jerusalem also ruled that Jewish settlers can perform prayers at the gates of Al-Aqsa Mosque, adding that it would be “the best proof of the Israeli control of the area.” This violates the status quo agreed upon for the management of the site between the Islamic Waqf (Religious Endowment) Ministry and the Israeli government.

Read: Israel bans Al-Aqsa guards from site for a week

(Source / 09.05.2018)

Israel expels Palestinians from Jordan Valley for army training

Israeli forces stationed in the Jordan Valley during a military training session

The Israeli army forcefully expelled five Palestinian families from their homes yesterday in order to carry out military training in their village which is located in the Jordan Valley area of the northern occupied West Bank.

Local activist Aaref Daraghmeh told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the Tubas-area village of Khirbet Humsa Al-Fawqa, whose residents live in tents.

Daraghmeh said that Israeli forces expelled five families, sending them several kilometres away from their tents in order to conduct military training in the area.

Israeli authorities had reportedly notified the families about the planned evacuation one month ago.

Read: Israel destroys water pipes in Jordan Valley

The Jordan Valley forms a third of the occupied West Bank, with 88 per cent of its land classified as Area C which falls under full Israeli military control.

Some 57 per cent of the land in the Jordan Valley has been declared closed military zones, also known as a “firing zones” where Israeli army forces routinely train using live ammunition and explosive devices.

Nearly 20 per cent of the occupied West Bank has been declared “firing zones” since the 1970s, but according to the UN, some 80 per cent of these areas are not in fact used for military training. However, when military training does take place, Israel forces families to leave their homes for hours or days at a time until the drill is over.

(Source / 09.05.2018)