Ref: 64/2019: Date: 24 April 2019: Time: 11:20 GMT: The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns that the Israeli authorities stationed at Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing arrested a patient’s companion, from the Gaza Strip, while returning to the Gaza Strip.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 12:00 on Tuesday, 23 April 2019, the Israeli authorities arrested Karam Mustafa Mohammed Tantawi (51), from al-Qal’a buildings, south of Khan Younis. Karam, who was accompanying his wife Safa’ ‘Abed al-Majeed Tantawi (47), a cancer patient, was arrested while returning to the Gaza Strip after his wife received treatment at al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem.
Safa’ said to PCHR’s fieldworker that on 01 April 2019, she left the Gaza Strip along with her husband to al-Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem through Beit Hanoun “Erez” Crossing. She added that she received treatment for 20 days and while she was returning to the Gaza Strip along with her husband, the Israeli authorities arrested him. She clarified that after around 15 minutes, Israeli soldiers ordered her to leave alone to the Gaza Strip, but she refused and waited until 18:00. After that, the Palestinian Civil Liaison informed her that she should return to the Gaza Strip because her husband was arrested.
It should be noted that the PCHR’s lawyer, in his capacity as the legal agent for al-Tantawi, was prevented today from visiting him in al- Majdal Prison. The court extended his arrest until next Tuesday, 30 April 2019.
PCHR stresses that the ongoing Israeli forces policy of arresting patients and their companions is considered as violation of the international human rights law and the international humanitarian law. It also constitutes a form of inhuman and degrading punishment, which coincides with the policy of tightening the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. This aggravates the patients’ suffering as their treatment is not available in the Gaza Strip hospitals.
In light of the above, PCHR:
Strongly condemns the arrest of Palestinian patients and their companions during their travel to receive treatment by the Israeli authorities. PCHR also calls for their immediate release and ensuring not to put their lives in danger.
Calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations and assume their responsibilities and intervene to put an end to the Israeli forces’ violations to the international humanitarian law against Palestinians.
Calls for ensuring the freedom of movement of the Gaza Strip’s residents from/to the West Bank, including Jerusalem
The Palestinian Detainees’ Committee has reported, Wednesday, that Israeli soldiers repeatedly assaulted three children while abducting then and subjected them to torture during interrogation.
The Committee stated that the soldiers abducted Bara’ Yousef, 16, from Hijja town, near the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, after storming his family’s home late at night, and ransacking it, causing serious property damage.
It added that the soldiers then dragged Bara’ to their jeep, and while transferring him to the al-Jalama interrogation center, they constantly kicked and punched him.
The child was then interrogated for several hours and was forced to stand against the wall for a long period. He spent a total of fifteen days in solitary confinement before he was moved to Majeddo prison.
The soldiers also assaulted Omar Salim, 17, after storming his home in Azzoun town, east of Qalqilia, and dragged him out of the property while kicking and beating him, and once they placed him in their jeep, the soldiers repeatedly stomped him with their heavy military boots.
The Committee stated that the soldiers moved Salim to their base in Karnei Shomron illegal colony, where he was strip-searched him, and held for several hours in a container while his hands and feet where bound.
He was later moved to the police station in Tzofim illegal colony, where he was interrogated, and was then moved to Majeddo prison.
Furthermore, the soldiers abducted Abdullah Mansour, 15, from his home in Jenin refugee camp, in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, after they smashed the door of the property and stormed it while shouting at him and the family, and dragged him outside before cuffing and blindfolding him.
The soldiers continued to assault the child in their military base, and held him in a container for several hours, before transferring him to Majeddo prison.
The Israeli violations against the Palestinian detainees, including detained children, are direct violations of International Law and several articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in addition to various human rights agreements on the protection of civilians, especially the children.
Doctors tell MEE that Palestinian protesters’ crippling injuries, especially to lower limbs, were inflicted deliberately
By Dania Akkad
More than 150 Palestinians, who took part in the peaceful protests of the Great March of Return and Breaking to Siege in Gaza, were shot by Israeli snipers in their legs to internationally be maimed.
Israeli snipers have intentionally maimed Palestinians protesting in Gaza over the past year, creating a generation of disabled youth and overwhelming the territory’s already crippled medical system, frontline doctors tell Middle East Eye.
According to a United Nations inquiry released this month, over 80 per cent of the 6,106 protesters wounded in the first nine months of the Great March of Return were shot in the lower limbs.
Israeli soldiers intentionally shot civilians and may have committed war crimes in their heavy-handed response to the protests, which have been held regularly across Gaza since 30 March 2018, the report concluded.
Healthcare providers say the pattern of wounds shows that Israeli soldiers are purposefully shooting to maim protesters, most of whom are in their 20s and now require long-term medical care.
“The soldier knows exactly where he’s putting the bullet. This is not random. This is very intimate. This is very planned,” said Ghassan Abu Sitta, professor of surgery at the American University of Beirut (AUB), who treated injured protesters for three weeks at Gaza’s Al-Awda Hospital last May.
“When you have such a huge number of almost identical injuries, where many of the patients were 150 metres away, not in direct contact with the Israeli soldiers, you realise that this is an intentional policy rather than collateral damage,” Abu Sitta told MEE.
Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), agreed. “This is obvious. When you have almost 90 percent of the people injured in the lower limb, it means that there is a policy to target the lower limbs,” she said.
MEE asked the Israeli military if soldiers were intentionally harming protesters. Underlining the conditions that soldiers operate under – including being shot at, attempts by protesters to enter Israel, tyre burning, stone throwing and Molotov cocktails – a spokesperson told MEE by email: “The IDF uses live ammunition only as a last resort and in accordance with regulations that comply with international law.” The spokesperson also directed MEE to a page of FAQs about the protests.
Among the more than 6,000 wounded Palestinians is a footballer whose career was ended, a student journalist whose right leg was amputated, and a 16-year-old schoolgirl who was waving a Palestinian flag when she was shot.
At least 136 of have had their limbs amputated, according to the latest Gaza Ministry of Health data – 122 of those amputations have been of lower limbs alone.
But the figures don’t give a full picture of the challenges that the wounded protesters, suffering painful injuries, and their families face, as the vast majority live in poverty, said Dr Bassem Naim, who served as Gaza’s minister of health from 2006 to 2012.
“To be honest, it is catastrophic. Of those wounded, many of them are handicapped forever,” Naim said. “To bring them from the house to the hospital every two days for rehabilitation or care? It is a very, very huge burden.”
“I live on the ninth floor and, at least every day for 12 to 16 hours, I don’t have electricity. Can you imagine if you are a young man without a leg?”
Not only have the lives of thousands of protesters and their families been changed, but Gaza’s struggling medical system is also under severe strain as a result of the intensive care required to treat leg wounds.
With mass demonstrations planned this weekend to mark one year since the beginning of the Great March of Return, health professionals fear the system’s breaking point may be just around the corner.
Patterns of injury
On 30 March 2018, tens of thousands of Palestinians protested along Gaza’s 65-km boundary with Israel, pressing for the right of return to homes from which their families fled in 1948 and an end to an 11-year siege on the coastal Palestinian territory.
Almost as soon as the protests started, Israeli soldiers began shooting demonstrators at close range with sniper rifles. By the end of that first day of protests, 16 Palestinians had been killed and at least 400 others were wounded by gunfire.
What was supposed to be a six-week campaign has since stretched into a year, over which time at least 197 Palestinians have been killed and 29,000 injured. Two Israelis were killed and 56 injured in the same period, according to the UN.
One out of every four injured Palestinians has been shot with live ammunition, and the vast majority have been hit in the legs.
One of them was 31-year-old Mohammed al-Akhras.
Akhras, who was employed as an iron worker, said he decided to join the protests after being tortured during six years of detention in Israeli prisons.
He was 19 when he was hunting for birds on the eastern borders of Rafah, in southern Gaza, when Israeli forces arrested him and accused him of being involved in military operations with armed Palestinian factions.
He was released in 2013, but the memories and frustrations stemming from his arrest and detention pushed him to demonstrate, he said.
On 18 May, Akhras said he was protesting like others around him and wasn’t doing anything special, when two explosive bullets – which explode on impact and rip through tissue and bone – struck his left leg.
He required a quick operation, but it would be two months until he could have surgery – in Egypt.
Israeli authorities would not allow him to travel through the Erez crossing for surgery in Jordan because he was a former prisoner.
“I managed to travel to Egypt after several attempts, and after the swelling in my leg reached the point of exhaustion,” he said. By then, doctors were forced to amputate.
According to the UN report and as emphasised by the Israeli military spokesperson, Israeli security forces’ rules of engagement allow soldiers to fire at demonstrators “as a last resort in the event of imminent threat to life or limb of Israeli soldiers or civilians”.
But international doctors and Palestinians who spoke with MEE said they witnessed protesters who were shot even when they did not threaten soldiers.
Naim, the former Gaza health minister, said he was at the protest on 8 February with his 14-year-old son and a group of friends. Nearby, a friend of the boys’ was chewing on sunflower seeds and watching the demonstration, about 100 or 150 metres from the fence with Israel.
“Suddenly, they saw a child [who had been eating sunflower seeds] that had fallen down, and when they ran to him, they found a pool of blood around him and he was shot in the neck,” he said.
“I can send you hours of videos of cultural activities [at the protests] and, at the same time, you will see a few especially young people trying to throw stones or penetrate the fence. Okay, but I can say in 99.9 percent of the cases, there was no threat to the soldiers.”
While he is no longer directly involved in the medical field, Naim said he believes Israeli soldiers are intentionally maiming protesters – both based on what he has witnessed at this year’s demonstrations and his experience as a doctor during the Second Intifada.
During that uprising in the early 2000s, when he was working at the Naser Hospital in Khan Younis, Naim said there were noticeable patterns to the wounds inflicted by Israeli snipers.
“On one day, you will get only legs. Another day, you get only buttocks. A third day, you get chest,” he said.
“If they want to break the will of the people, then they shoot with the goal of killing. But sometimes, if they don’t want things to go out of control, they shoot, but they try to avoid killing people – shooting in the legs, in the hands.”
Nearly two decades later, Naim believes snipers are using same precision now at the Gaza frontier.
“I can be sure this is right because some Fridays, you have one martyr or two or three. And sometimes you have 50 or 25, because they want to exercise more pressure,” he said.
Medical system on the brink
In addition to raising troubling questions about the Israeli army’s tactics, the Great March of Return has put Gaza’s struggling medical system under renewed focus, as thousands of injured protesters are routinely brought in for emergency treatment.
Dr Medhat Abbas, director of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, describes 14 May last year as one of the worst days the hospital has experienced.
Hours after US President Donald Trump opened the new US embassy in Jerusalem and protests erupted in Gaza in anger over the move, around 500 wounded Palestinians arrived at Al-Shifa, almost as many as the 760-bed hospital can accommodate.
Patients lay on the ground and in the corridors as surgeons, too few of them with inadequate supplies, worked around the clock in all 14 of the hospital’s operation rooms.
“It was a black day in Palestinian memory,” Abbas told MEE, answering questions in recorded WhatsApp messages at odd hours, too busy for a phone interview.
In Jabaliya refugee camp, Abu Sitta, the AUB surgery professor, was working at Al-Awda Hospital specifically because it was near one of the main demonstration sites.
“We knew that those numbers that we were seeing every Friday were going to increase on the day of the move of the embassy,” he said.
It wasn’t just Shifa that was overwhelmed: between 4pm and 8pm that day, 3,400 protesters were injured, 1,000 more than the total number of hospital beds in Gaza, Abu Sitta said.
Gaza’s healthcare system was already weak as a result of the 11-year siege, which has limited the flow of medical equipment, supplies and doctors, particularly those with surgical specialities, into the territory.
But the mass casualties on days like 30 March or 14 May have left a lingering burden on Gaza’s hospitals. Gunshot wounds to legs, particularly those caused by sniper bullets shot at close range, can require as many as nine periods of surgery to treat, said Abu Sitta.
“Think about the number of orthopaedic and plastic surgeons you would need to do reconstructive surgery on 80 percent of 6,500 [injured patients],” he said.
“It’s beyond the human resource capacity of Gaza. It’s beyond the number of available operating room hours, in terms of materials, in terms of medication, in terms of rehabilitation. And the aim is to completely overwhelm the system. There’s an intention to maim.”
If doctors are unable to move quickly to help the wounded, they can suffer complications for the rest of their lives, said MSF’s Ingres.
“We are struggling because we are afraid that if there is not enough involvement in the response, thousands of people could be disabled,” she said.
“Already 200 people have been amputated, and if we are not able to treat them tomorrow, it means among the young generation, many of them will be disabled because we will not be able to save their legs – and it is possible.”
The leg wounds have also triggered concerns over antibiotic resistance in Gaza. Ingres said MSF estimates that at least 1,200 people may have developed bone infections, which require six weeks of hospitalisation and a high-level antibiotic before any surgeries.
“So we know already that the treatment will be long and very expensive,” she said.
The toll on a generation
Beyond the layers of medical crisis in Gaza, say the doctors, are the long term implications of a generation of young, disabled Palestinians.
“The media will say ‘two, three Palestinians dead, 500 wounded today’. But actually, these 500 have been condemned to a life of disablement, of economic unproductivity, and years of painful surgery,” said Abu Sitta.
“It is also a psychological problem,” added Ingres, “because now the young people understand that it will be very difficult for them.”
“They just wanted to demonstrate for the majority of them to show that they have the right to exist like everybody in the world. And today, after one year, what do they have? They have nothing.”
Ingres said the spectre of a large demonstration to mark the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return is worrying.
“To be frank with you, if there is a new massive number of injured people, nobody will be able to manage Gaza,” she said. “It will be a disaster.”
But even with clear knowledge of the risks they take to protest near the frontier, young Palestinians have continued to demonstrate, with calls for a million people to join the anniversary march on Saturday.
Akhras, the 31-year-old who was shot in the leg last May, may be among those protesters, despite the fact that his life has taken a dramatic turn since he was shot.
No longer able to make money as an ironworker, Akhras had been receiving a salary from the Palestinian Authority for injured people until two months ago when it was cut, leaving him in challenging economic circumstances.
His wife, Haneen al-Qutati, 23, helps support the couple through her work as a nurse, and their first baby is due soon. Meanwhile, Akhras is training to be a woodworker through an organisation that helps disabled people.
He says he feels the ache of his injury frequently, but doesn’t want to take painkillers for fear of becoming addicted. He is still without a prosthetic leg, using crutches to move around.
“I feel a lot of pain in the evening, but I try to show my wife that there is no pain,” he said. “Some look at me as a pity. It is a painful feeling for my wife.”
Nonetheless, he’s gone out on several recent Fridays to join protests near Rafah, still determined to protest.
One fifth of Palestinian families in the study area reported at least one of their children was arrested by the Israeli occupation since 2015
UN report has revealed that 5,600 Palestinian residents of occupied West Bank city of Al-Khali must cross Israeli checkpoints on foot to reach their homes.
The, report, which was issued on Wednesday by the UN OCHA, is a study of so-called H2, an area of direct Israeli control constituting 20 per cent of the occupied Palestinian city. The study looked at the impact on local Palestinians of the Israeli military and settler presence.
Around 33,000 Palestinians live in Al-Khalil’s H2 area, as well as a few hundred illegal Israeli settlers, who are being protected by thousands of Israeli occupation forces.
“The centre of Hebron (Al-Khalil) has been physically separated from the rest of the city through the deployment of physical obstacles, among other means,” UN OCHA noted, adding that “currently there are 121 such obstacles, including 21 permanently-staffed checkpoints.”
According to the findings of the survey, “some 5,600 Palestinians in the affected areas must cross a checkpoint on foot to reach their homes, including virtually all those residing in the prohibited area and two thirds of the population in the restricted area.”
In the last quarter of 2015, after a number of Palestinians attacked or attempted to attack soldiers and settlers, Israeli occupation authorities “declared an area encompassing four of the five settlement compounds as a ‘closed military zone’, where only those Palestinians registered as residents of this area are allowed to enter.”
“Since end-2015, six of the checkpoints controlling access to both these areas have been fortified with towers, turnstiles, revolving doors and metal detectors,” UN OCHA reported.
“Palestinians crossing some of these checkpoints are photographed, and cameras for face recognition have been introduced to control movement,” the survey found.
The survey documents the “pervasive impact” of the access restrictions “on all aspects of life” in the affected areas, an impact particularly felt by “persons with disabilities (PwD), the elderly and parents with young children, who often must walk hundreds of metres, and undergo checkpoint searches, before they can leave the area.”
The survey’s findings indicate that 75 per cent of the households in the affected areas have been searched by Israeli forces at least once since October 2015; in 97 per cent of the cases, the searches involved “intimidation and threats,” and a third reported physical assault.
One in every five families, meanwhile “reported that they have a child who was arrested at least once since October 2015.”
In addition, nearly 70 per cent of the respondents “reported that at least one member of their household has experienced an incident of settler violence or harassment since October 2015.” (Source /25.04.2019)
Maryam Saadi, a photographer and filmmaker, checks her camera at a photoshoot. Posted March 21, 2019.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — For Maryam Saadi, many of the women in Gaza are miracle workers, who manage to help others despite facing major hardships themselves, but no one knows about them. To bring them into the light, Saadi launched the Facebook page Lady in a Story to document and share the stories that newspapers don’t.
Saadi believes their stories need to be told, especially those who have chosen professions considered to be unorthodox for women in their society. Among those she has thus far documented are the Quran tutor Hajja Saadia, the psychologist Dina Nassar and the storyteller and thespian Khitam Abu Kwik.
With a diploma in technology and multimedia from the University College of Applied Sciences, a technical college, Saadi taught herself photography and filmmaking through online tutorials. She then decided to narrate women’s stories on Facebook through photography and short videos accompanied by short texts based on interviews with the women and her observations about their lives.
“I decided to create this page as I have always believed that women are the ones who can change the world,” Saadi told Al-Monitor. “Palestinian women in particular lead difficult lives, given the dire economic and political conditions plaguing Gaza.”
Developing portraits of the women begins with a long meeting, in which the women talk about daily life, which is often filled with exhausting undertakings, such as plowing the earth and farming under less-than-ideal conditions. It also gives them an opportunity to vent, to let off some of the steam generated by their hardships.
The first woman Saadi documented was Hajja Saadia from Rafah. Twice-widowed and never having had children, Saadia found herself alone in her suffering after being diagnosed with cancer.
“Cancer does not kill [the mind or the spirit],” said Saadia, who once worked as a nurse in a government-run clinic. She ultimately found relief in the company of the 35 students to whom she taught the Quran.
In contrast to the conservative and religious Hajja Saadia, Khitam Abu Kwik is a fiercely unorthodox woman. Abu Kwik, from Gaza City, decided in her late 40s that she belonged on the stage. Some 10 years on, she continues to perform, her stage presence representing a rarity. In Palestinian society, theater has long been considered a male domain.
Abu Kwik is also a famous “hakawaty,” a storyteller, who mostly relays traditional tales, legends and fables passed down for generations. Combining her stage experience and theater skills, Abu Kwik co-produced “Some Comfort,” a play decidedly feminist in tone about the lives of women in Gaza. It was staged last month at Theatre Day Productions, in Gaza City.
Among the younger women whose lives Saadi has documented is Dina Nassar, a psychologist who in her spare time volunteers at the children’s oncology center at the Rantisi Hospital in Gaza City. Nassar dresses as a colorful clown to lift the children’s spirits. Saadi made the short documentary “Dina the Clown” to highlight this aspect of Nassar’s life. It will be screened at the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, which runs April 20 through May 2.
Saadi told Al-Monitor that last December she began audiovisual training with Theatre Day Productions, established in 1994 in Gaza. In addition, she is doing an online course taught by Noe Mendelle, director of the Scottish Documentary Institute, focusing on documentary filmmaking using smart devices.
With Lady in a Story attracting increasing numbers of followers, Saadi aspires to reach even more people around the world who are interested in the stories of Palestinian women’s lives. Saadi has so far documented 24 women’s stories, 18 of which she published on Facebook. She said it only took her two weeks. Saadi has another seven narratives in the works.
Faculty for Palestine, and the undersigned signatories would like to express our strong and unwavering support for SPHR McGill and other students at McGill University who have been organizing and mobilizing in opposition to the new POLI 339 course. This course, which isscheduled to be held this summer, includes a two-week exchange program at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. As student activists have critically and consistently argued, this discriminates against Palestinian, Arab and Muslim students who would be subjected to potential harassment, detention and/ or expulsion by the Israeli border authorities. Moreover, the funding for this course is strongly tied to the violent Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories, and Hebrew University itself is partially situated on illegally obtained land in East Jerusalem.
As strong supporters of the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, we are appalled by the McGill University’s continued support for and engagement in exchanges with Israeli institutions, and by the senior Administration’s refusal to recognize the constitutionally binding vote of the Arts Undergraduate Society Legislative Council NOT to approve the additional fee that will be charged for this course. We stand in solidarity with the students in demanding that McGill University cancel the POLI 339 course.
NOTE:Signatures are organized alphabetically by last name, and are used in a personal capacity. Institutional affiliations are for identification purposes only.
Nahla Abdo (PhD.), Professor, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario
Professor Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, PhD, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, San Francisco State University