Watch: Israel blasts route of wall near Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Residents of Bethlehem and nearby villages awoke to loud blasts Thursday as Israeli construction crews dynamited a planned route of the separation wall.
“It was routine construction for the fence,” an Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an.

The blasts were related to controversial construction of a separation wall cutting through the village of Walaja, which abuts an Israeli settlement outside Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Footage of one of the explosions later Thursday was uploaded to YouTube by Anne Paq of the Active Stills photo agency. Villagers said explosions near houses in Walaja were to make room for the wall which will surround the village, Paq told Ma’an, adding that previous blasts had damaged houses.

The village holds regular protests against construction of the wall and settlements.

( / 03.11.2011)

US warns on new Gaza-bound activist flotilla

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The United States warned on Thursday that a new effort to send a flotilla to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip was dangerous and urged US citizens not to take part.

Activists set sail from Turkey on Wednesday aboard two yachts carrying medical supplies. The Israeli military said it would not permit them to breach its blockade.

In May 2010, nine Turkish activists, including one with dual US-Turkish nationality, were killed in an Israeli raid on a similar convoy that nearly ruptured ties between Turkey and Israel, both critical US allies in the region.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington had been in touch with the Turkish government on Thursday about the flotilla, and had also spoken to Israeli officials.

“My sense of this was that, given the way this came together there was some element of surprise for both the Turkish government and our own government,” Nuland said.

She said the United States had sought clarification on news reports that Turkish warships might be accompanying the flotilla and were told “quite emphatically” by Turkey that this was not the case.

“We’ve been clear to them that we think that would be an extremely bad idea and they’ve now reassured us that that is not what they are doing in this case,” she said.

Nuland repeated US warnings about earlier flotilla plans, saying that US citizens who take part in efforts to deliver material support or other resources to Hamas could face civil and criminal penalties. Hamas has been officially designated as by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization.

Mediterranean tensions 

The latest challenge to Israel’s embargo of Gaza, in force since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007 from Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces, comes during a period of tension in the eastern Mediterranean.

The United States has backed the blockade, which Israel regards as necessary to prevent weapons from being smuggled to gunmen in the enclave.

The Palestinians maintain that the blockade is illegal collective punishment.

Turkey was angered by Israel’s refusal to apologize for the May 2010 raid and two months ago expelled the Israeli ambassador. Turkey has also increased its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, and expressed disappointment over the conclusions of United Nations inquiry into the incident.

The 27 activists on board the Canadian and Irish vessels came from Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United States, and included Palestinians and at least one Israeli Arab citizen, according to organizers. Turkey has stressed that the vessels were not Turkish-flagged, had no Turkish passengers and the captains were not Turkish.

Israel has offered to unload any aid supplies and deliver them to Gaza. Israel permits limited amounts of humanitarian aid, food and other supplies to enter Gaza for its 1.5 million people, many of them impoverished refugees, via land crossings it closely monitors.

Gaza also has a border with Egypt, but it is primarily used for pedestrian traffic.

( / 03.11.2011)

Two boats are a day and a half from Gaza, and plan to arrive at daylight

Democracy Now! is covering the latest Gaza flotilla, with exclusive video coverage from Jihan Hafiz, who is aboard the Canadian boat, the Tahrir. And here is a portion of Amy Goodman’s conversation with Hafiz, one of five journalists on the boat.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, we can hear you fine. Can you tell us the latest report from where you are in international waters? You’re on the Tahrir, the Canadian boat. The other boat that is alongside of you, the Irish boat—have you made contact yet? And what are your plans, the group’s plans, on the two boats at this point?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes, for the first time today, actually since this trip was planned, the delegations from the Canadian boat were able to make physical contact with the Irish boat. As we’ve been sailing, it’s been—the seas—the waters have been very rough here. So they haven’t been able to board the boat, and we haven’t been able to board their vessel. However, the plan is to continue the voyage, to continue this voyage to Gaza, regardless of the threats coming from the Israeli government. And in fact, both teams met today to hold meetings with the journalists and delegates on board to discuss a strategy for when the Israelis do intercept the boat, if they intercept the boat, and what will take place from there.

We’re about 120—excuse me, 150 to 170 kilometers off the coast of Gaza. It will take us about another day and a half to get there.

As I mentioned in the report, the activists and the organizers of both flotillas do not want to reach Gaza’s borders, at least the territorial region, until daylight. They do not want to have a similar situation to what happened to the Mavi Marmara. That boat was attacked in the evening. And they want to avoid any kind of misperception about violence, if violence is committed. As mentioned in the report, as well, there’s also a commitment to nonviolent resistance. There was training for that today on the boats to make sure that if we do come in contact with the Israelis, there will be no confrontation from those on either boats. Aside from that, the spirits have been very high.

AMY GOODMAN: Jihan, is there a boat that is following you?

JIHAN HAFIZ: At the moment, there is not. There was—last night, up until 4:00 in the morning, on our side, there was an unidentified boat that was following us. The only other boat that followed us out of international waters was the Turkish coast guard. So, from the boat, we all presumed it was the Turkish coast guard, but there’s no longer anyone following us. It’s only the Irish boat and the Canadian in open waters.

AMY GOODMAN: Jihan, we—you took us on a tour of the boat you are on, the Tahrir, and we met some of the activists on board—Canadian, Australian, there’s a U.S. citizen on board, as well. Who’s on the Irish boat?

JIHAN HAFIZ: These are solely Irish delegates. Some of them are former members of parliament. We haven’t been able to sit down and speak with them, but we do know that there are three to five on board who are former members of parliament. Also, they’re a group that has been making—that has continuously made efforts, through different initiatives, to reach Gaza. And we haven’t been able to speak with them, but they have been to Gaza a number of times before, some of the delegates. And they planned this on their own, in close coordination with the steering committee here. However, we have not been in touch with them at all. They’ve sort of been on their own in this journey, mainly because of the waters, but also because of the secrecy of the planning of this. So they’re mainly—it’s mainly an Irish delegation.

I also want to mention that the Canadian boat was restricted to 12 people. Of the 36 who were meant to come along on the Tahrir, the Canadian boat, only 12 were allowed on, whereas the Irish boat, they only allowed them to have 12 on, but they snuck some people on their boat. And so, the entire Irish delegation that came to Turkey to take this—to make this voyage to Gaza is present, and they’re heading in that direction now. We have—supporters from this boat are still in Turkey. Some returned home, and they’re working on—they’re working on logistical work, as well as media work, to communicate with people on the boat. The internet hasn’t been—hasn’t been precise at times. It goes out every now and then. But there is a lot of international support from the organizations represented on this boat, as well as the Irish one, including a number of committees around the world that are supporting what these Freedom Waves to Gaza are: essentially, an extension of the Free Gaza movement, which is a movement to break the siege by any means, at any costs.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there fear on board your boat, the Tahrir, the Canadian boat that you’re covering? There are 12 people on board the boat, is that right? The captain, six activists and five journalists?

JIHAN HAFIZ: Yes. There is concern. I wouldn’t say “fear.” I think people here are defiant, in that they believe in what they’re doing, and they believe that what they’re doing is peaceful and that they will—even if there is any kind of—if the Israelis do board the boat or intercept the boat, there will not be any resistance, any violent confrontation from any of the activists here. So the concern is mainly losing—losing a lot of their equipment.

( / 03.11.2011)

Israeli Warships Move Against Surprise Gaza Aid Flotilla

Israeli warships are on the move tonight, preparing to attack a pair of aid vessels from Ireland and Canada which are attempting to deliver medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, insisting they will “take whatever measures will be necessary” to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza.

Israeli officials were quick to condemn the move as a “provocation” and claimed that an attempt to deliver aid amounted to a “deplorable propaganda exercise.” The ships are currently in international waters.

The ships left from the Turkish port of Fethiye today, and were supposed to sail to Rhodes, according to Turkish officials. Instead the ships are heading to Gaza, with 19 activists and five journalists between them.

The sail was something of a surprise and activists from the two ships said they deliberately kept a low profile until reaching international waters, fearing that they would be detained in port or sabotaged like previous ships.


( / 03.11.2011)

Palestine news 03.11.2011

#Dublin EMERGENCY DEMO in support of #FreedomWaves – End the Siege of #Gaza, FRI 4 NOV, 6PM, Spire… #flotilla #palestine

Video Showing IOA Destroying electricity lights/ lines – #Occupation #Crimes #HumanRights #Palestine

Thank you all for your concern and your vigilance. Everyone on board both ships is grateful for your support of #FreedomWaves

No additional info to confirm re: boat trailing. We remain on course to Gaza. We’ll strive to update w/ confirmed info only.

Al-Jazeera English: Israel to ‘prevent’ aid ships reaching #Gaza :

a sorry state of affairs ! RT @ibnezra: Israeli attacks on #flotillaships usually occur at night and in international waters.

Conflicting info on #Saoirse – Some say radio silence in effect, others say boat radioed that Israeli warships have faded into distance.

#2ALL The #FreedomWaves are being trailed by zioboats .. so we need all help now to RT! U can use also… for tweets to RT

important news from irish boat: 2 israeli warships shadowing saoirse, 2 spotter planes overhead #FreedomWaves

#Palestine – Gaza: Breaking via @huwaidaarraf: Important news from Irish boat: 2 israeli warships shadowing.

Israel to ‘prevent’ aid ships reaching Gaza

Israeli navy says it will stop two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists from reaching blockaded territory.

Israel has announced that its navy will attempt to stop two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists bound for the Gaza Strip, in the latest attempt by activists to break the four-year Israeli blockade against the territory.

The Israeli military spokesman’s office said the country’s navy was “prepared to contact” the vessels and had “completed the necessary preparations in order to prevent them from reaching the Gaza Strip”.

The Canadian boat Tahrir and the Irish boat MV Saoirse left the port of Fethiye in southwest Turkey on Wednesday after Turkish authorities gave them permission to sail to the Greek island of Rhodes.

Click for map of ships and passenger details


Al Jazeera’s Casey Kauffman, on board one of the ships, said that in total it would be a 50-hour journey, and they were currently one-fifth of the way there.

“Everyone on the boat wants to get to Gaza,” he said, adding that while the activists are prepared for the possibility of an Israeli interception, the initiative will not be wasted.

“It will still bring attention to the situation in Gaza, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military official, would not say how the boats might be stopped, saying only “we will have to assess and see if we are facing violent passengers.”

Describing their journey as a “provocation”, she said Israel would offer to unload any aid supplies on board and deliver them to Gaza.

Sailing under the flag of the Comoros Islands, the Tahrir is carrying six activists, a captain and five journalists.

The Saoirse – sailing under the US flag – has 12 Irish nationals on board, none of whom are journalists.

‘Support from Turkish society’

David Heap, a member of the steering committee on board the Tahrir, told Al Jazeera that the activists chose to leave from Fethiye because of the strained relations between Turkey and Israel.

“The Turkish government has been creating more distance from Israel diplomatically and we know there is support from Turkish society for what we are doing.

“Our judgment was that the Turkish state would not interfere with us if we didn’t make too much of a public issue of our plan to depart from there,” Heap told Al Jazeera.

Freedom Waves
A Canadian boat to Gaza

History of Israeli blockade on Gaza

In Quotes: Shalit and the siege

Map: ‘Freedom Waves’


It will take at least a couple of days before the boats reach the Palestinian waters of the Gaza Strip, where they expect to be approached by the Israeli navy.

“We have some distance to cover between where we are now and Palestinian territorial waters of Gaza.

“Obviously we are going to avoid going through Israeli territorial waters.

“Our plan is to go directly from international waters into the territorial waters of Gaza – within a couple of days.

The activists say the new attempt the break the siege on the Gaza Strip is part of a campaign they call “freedom waves”, implying that more such efforts will follow.

Both ships were part of previous attempts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip that was stalled when the Greek government refused to let a flotilla leave from its shores in July this year.

The Tahrir, the larger ship of the two, was intercepted by the Greek coast guard with more than 30 pro-Palestinian activists onboard.

Two of them were detained for defying Greece’s ban on setting sail to Gaza. The vessel was stopped about 10 minutes after it left port on the island of Crete.

The Irish boat allegedly suffered damage when it was sabotaged while waiting to join the flotilla from Turkish waters. The ship has since been repaired and kept in dry-dock in Turkey.

( / 03.11.2011)

President Obama urges Bosnian leaders not to support Palestinian bid at UN

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Bosnian leaders urging them not to support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the U.N. Security Council, authorities said Thursday.

Bosnia has a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, and its three-member presidency is split on the issue. The Bosniak supports the Palestinians, the Serb is pro-Israeli and the Croat has not made his position clear. Without unanimity, Bosnia must abstain, which counts as a ‘no’ at the Security Council.

As a result, the country has become the focal point of lobbying efforts by Israelis, Palestinians and others with a stake in the outcome of the vote, which may come Nov. 11. The Palestinians claim they have secured eight of nine required votes for a majority on the council, while the U.S. has promised a veto.

According to a statement from the cabinet of the Serb member of the presidency, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker personally handed over Obama’s letter on Wednesday.

“The stand of the U.S. government is that the Palestinian effort on statehood in the U.N. and other places is not going to achieve what we want to see for both the Israelis and the Palestinians in the Middle East,” U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia Patrick Moon said. “The solution we all want to see will be achieved through a negotiated settlement.”

The Palestinians are trying to rally nine votes in part to trigger the American veto, believing that would give them a moral victory by placing the U.S. at odds with most of the international community.

The Serb member of the Bosnian presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, said Thursday that he has been locally and internationally criticized for not supporting the Palestinian bid, but that he is just “acting in the interest of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina … as well as in the interest of the Jewish people, the Palestinians and the peace in the Middle East.”

He said he believes a solution can only be found in a Israeli-Palestinian agreement, and that Reeker told him the U.S. “appreciates his position.”

With peace talks stalled for the past three years, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the Security Council in September to admit Palestine as a full member state. The Palestinians say that although any vote will not end Israel’s occupation of lands they claim, they believe a strong international endorsement would boost their position in future negotiations.

Last week, the Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers visited Bosnia to argue their sides, but neither the Bosniak nor Serb presidents changed stances.

( / 03.11.2011)

Israeli leaders’ price tag against the Palestinians

This price tag meted out by the forum of eight is not much different than the settlers’ price tag; it’s violent, uncontrolled and seeks vengeance.

What, for heaven’s sake, is so terrible about Palestine being accepted to UNESCO? Why is this considered an “anti-Israeli” step? And in general, what’s so bad about the Palestinians relinquishing terror and going over to the international arena? If Israel were to behave intelligently, it would vote to accept the Palestinians to any respectable international organization.

And if Israel were to behave with integrity, the hollow talk about two states would be translated into support for the Palestinians’ diplomatic moves to achieve that. International recognition of a Palestinian state is the last chance to thwart a one-state solution. It’s also the last chance to preserve the Palestinian Authority’s strength and prevent Hamas from taking over instead. Israel should support that enthusiastically.

If the U.S.-led international community that supports Israel were to act with integrity and wisdom, it too would welcome the Palestinians’ move. We’re talking about nothing less than a friendly step, the best way to ensure Israel’s future as the nation-state of the Jewish people. But instead, the Americans and Israelis are meting out punishment and the Palestinians are being punished. It’s doubtful whether they received such punishment even during the worst days of terrorism. Two world powers, the United States and Israel, are hitting at their pockets and part of Europe has rushed to follow in a scary way.

This might be one of the only examples in history where the occupied country is punished because of its justified and nonviolent struggle to win its freedom, while the violent occupier that continues its settlement enterprise and control by force wins the West’s support. This is the dish Barack Obama’s America is serving up and this is the chaotic situation Israel is leading – stopping assistance to a cultural and scientific organization that has accepted into its ranks a nation fighting for its independence.

It’s interesting how Obama, who until only a short while ago was in favor of freedom, comes to terms with this before he goes to bed at night. It’s interesting how the leaders of Europe, some of whom voted against accepting the Palestinians, explain this to their voters. Muammar Gadhafi was bombed in the name of freedom while they support the continuation of the occupation by Israel, the enemy of freedom, which is thwarting democratic and diplomatic moves aimed at a nation’s liberation.

What’s left for Mahmoud Abbas to do? What can any Palestinian living under the occupation think? They tried for years to sit quietly, waiting for Godot, but Godot didn’t arrive. They tried to fight against the occupation with stones and knives but nothing happened. They tried negotiations, but these dragged on futilely for years and didn’t move them a step forward. They tried cruel suicide bombings but nothing changed. There is no one they can talk to in Jerusalem and nothing to talk about.

Now they are trying to enlist the world, and what do they get in return? A punishment that may yet turn into a death sentence for the PA and the most moderate Palestinian leader there will ever be. It was enough to hear Abbas promise an end to the conflict during an interview on Channel 2 Friday night to understand that. That interview should have reverberated throughout every Israeli household. But instead it was received sourly by the analysts who know everything.

A gang of thugs, the forum of eight senior ministers, decided on the steps to punish the man who dared to act contrary to the desires of the familia. They’re building another 2,000 housing units in the settlements, which are for the first time being characterized as punishment. And they’re stealing the Palestinians’ tax money and canceling some of their leaders’ VIP passes. At least now we know that every apartment in a settlement is a punishment and every settler who lives there is doing so as revenge.

The Palestinian leaders will also know that their relative and privileged freedom of movement was nothing more than a wretched and insulting bone thrown to them by the occupying power, in return for their collaboration. If they collaborate, they’ll get; if they don’t, they won’t. If they abduct a soldier, they’ll get; if they go to the United Nations, they’ll be punished.

This price tag meted out by the forum of eight is not much different than the settlers’ price tag. It’s violent, uncontrolled and seeks vengeance. So settlers, you can continue with your price tag because your country is doing the same thing, and in broad daylight.

( / 03.11.2011)

Embassy slams Gaza bid ‘hypocrites’

Human rights activists on board an Irish ship attempting to break the blockade on Gaza have been labelled hypocrites on a publicity stunt.

Former rugby player Trevor Hogan and several politicians are on the MV Saoirse, which is in international waters about 200 miles from Palestine.

The Canadian ship MV Tahrir also set sail as part of the Freedom Waves humanitarian mission. The vessels are carrying 27 passengers from seven countries who hope to reach Gaza on Friday.

Dr Fintan Lane, of the Irish Ship to Gaza group, said the only obstacle in their way was Israel’s military – which last year killed nine Turkish activists taking part in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.

The MV Saoirse was also forced to pull out of a flotilla in June after it was damaged while docked in Turkey, which activists claimed was deliberate sabotage by Israel. “The Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity – not charity,” Dr Lane said. “Our primary goal is to help free Palestinians from their inhumane isolation in what is in effect an open-air prison.”

But the Israeli Embassy in Dublin warned the vessels will be intercepted before reaching Gaza and accused those on board of being “hypocrites on a provocative publicity stunt”.

“If these people care about human rights in the Arab world, why not take a flotilla to Syria, where over 3,000 people have been killed by the regime?” said a spokesman. “If they care about Palestinians, why not speak out against the Hamas regime in Gaza, which represses all dissent and the rights of women and homosexuals?”

Israel maintains it imposed the naval blockade to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas militants and that aid and consumer goods are reaching the area through Israel and Egypt.

Last year, nine people were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the MV Marmara, a Turkish aid ship trying to break the naval blockade. Each side blamed the other for the violence.

A UN panel report later blamed Israel, Turkey, and organisers of a Gaza-bound flotilla for the deadly raid. It found the blockade of Gaza was legal but it called the raid on the flotilla “excessive and unreasonable” and the killing of eight Turkish activists and a Turkish-American “unacceptable”

( / 03.11.2011)