Israel says to allow some exports from Gaza

Gaza is under an Israeli land and sea blockade

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — An Israeli official said Thursday that military authorities have approved the entry of 100 million shekels from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip to assist with a liquidity crisis, amid a host of measures to facilitate the entry and exit of goods at Gaza crossings.

The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli land and sea blockade, and its sole border crossing not controlled by Israel, Egypt’s Rafah terminal, is not equipped for the passage of goods.

Khatib Mansour, director of the Israeli army’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said regular meetings with Palestinian representatives in Gaza had enabled Israel to approve several new measures.

He said the improvements will continue as long as border violence with Gaza militants remains under control. Israeli military forces shelled Gaza on Friday, killing two men it accused of involvement in attacks against Israel.

But Mansour said Israeli authorities had carefully studied the situation in Gaza, and on Sunday would allow the currency injection into the coastal strip.

He also said Israel will allow furniture and clothes to be exported from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. In May, Israel permitted the first export of clothes from Gaza to a foreign country in five years, as a truck carrying 2,000 pieces of mainly woolen garments was transferred via Israel to Britain.

Israeli legal center Gisha says sale of goods from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel has been prohibited since 2007, when Israel tightened its restrictions on Gaza when Hamas took power in the coastal strip.

Israel’s blockade destroyed Gaza’s export-dependent economy. The World Bank says the private sector will not recover until access to its traditional markets in Israel and the West Bank is restored.

On Thursday, the World Food Programme said it was transporting 1.2 million fortified date bars produced in Gaza to its West Bank school meals initiative, the second batch of an export sent from Gaza in March. Then, the WFP delivery was the first from Gaza to the West Bank in five years.

Mansour said Israel also approved materials for 16 road and school projects sponsored by international aid organizations in Gaza. Ten refrigerated trucks for transporting produce have also been cleared to enter Gaza, he continued.

After the next meeting between Palestinian and Israeli coordination bodies on Sunday, several products will be removed from a blacklist permitting their import to Gaza, Mansour added.

In recent reports ahead of a PA donor conference this month, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations have warned of a worsening economic crisis in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

“We should all be concerned about Gaza’s future if there is no change to the current untenable situation,” UN special envoy Robert Serry said on Thursday.

( / 20.09.2012)

Abbas calls Hamas leader over brother’s killing

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Hamas leader Ahmad Yousef on Thursday to send his condolences after the killing of Yousef’s brother.

Ashraf Mahmoud Salah, 38, was killed in an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday. The Israeli military said Salah was a member of the Popular Resistance Committees who had admitted in the past to transferring two people into Egypt to attack Israel.

( / 20.09.2012)

UN envoy: PA state-building at risk amid deadlock

UN special coordinator for the peace process Robert Serry.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority’s achievements in building the institutions of a future state are at risk due to political and economic deadlock, a UN envoy warned on Thursday.

“Amidst a fiscal crisis and related social unrest in the West Bank, the stakes are growing,” UN special coordinator for the peace process Robert Serry said.

A report from his office, released ahead of a PA donor meeting in late September, called on donors to increase aid to the Palestinian Authority.

The UN report also stressed the need to reduce obstacles to Palestinian movement in the occupied West Bank, in order to facilitate private sector growth.

Areas of the West Bank areas under full Israeli control, known as Area C, are essential to a viable Palestinian state, the report said.

It noted a recent UN study warning that the Gaza Strip would not “liveable” by 2020 without urgent action to improve water sanitation, electricity, education, health and other services.

“We should all be concerned about Gaza’s future if there is no change to the current untenable situation,” Serry said. He noted Israel had approved some construction projects in 449 houses and six schools operated by the UN.

The Gaza Strip is isolated by an Israeli land and sea blockade, despite the easing of some restrictions in mid-2010.

An International Monetary Fund report on Thursday said while the easing boosted Gaza’s economy, growth has declined to 6 percent in the first quarter of 2012.

In the West Bank real GDP growth declined to 5 percent in 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, down from an annual average rate of 9 percent, the IMF said. Unemployment grew in both the West Bank and Gaza in 2012, the report added.

Another report issued before the donor meeting, from the World Bank, warned of a deepening fiscal crisis in the Palestinian economy, urging donors to act immediately.

Access to resources in Area C could play a significant role for the development of Palestinian industry in areas such as construction, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism, the report said.

( / 20.09.2012)

Israel: Samer al-Barq still in custody

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli Prison Service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman on Thursday evening denied a PA official’s announcement that hunger-striking prisoner Samer al-Barq is poised for deportation to Egypt.

“Its not happening today, and not tomorrow,” she told Ma’an.

Prisoners Minister Issa Qaraqe said earlier that al-Barq, on his 122nd day of hunger strike, will be released to a hospital in Egypt within hours.

Palestinian Prisoners Society lawyer Jawad Bulus told Ma’an that the deal was still in place and only technical obstacles stood in the way of his immediate release.

( / 20.09.2012)

Fatah activists in brief protest over minister’s visit to Dura

Labor Minister Ahmad Majdalani

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Dozens of Fatah activists on Thursday protested the visit of Labor Minister Ahmad Majdalani to Dura, a town south of Hebron.

Protesters tried to close a street in Dura to stop Majdalani entering and carried signs calling on the Palestinian Authority to fire the minister, but after a series of phone calls by senior Fatah leaders, the protest was abandoned, a Fatah official said.

Maher al-Nmoura, Fatah’s spokesman for the southern West Bank, told reporters at a press conference that protesters were angry that Majdalani had hindered a project to unite Dura and surrounding villages into one municipality.

“After calls with the General Secretary of the southern region, Yasser Dodeen, and members of the regional committee with PA officials, the presidential office, the Fatah central committee, the governor of Hebron and directors of security services, protesters obeyed instructions of leadership of the region to back up and suspend the protest,” al-Nmoura said.

Majdalani denied reports that he had been attacked in Dura, and police said the minister’s convoy entered the town without incident, apparently after the protest had already been called off.

Officials said Majdalani attended the opening of an organic fertilizer factory in Dura and would continue his tour of the region.

( / 20.09.2012)

PLO leader: One-state solution is option, not inevitable

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A top PLO official said Thursday that the one-state solution was just one of several options for the Palestinians, not an inevitable outcome.

Ahmad Qurai told Ma’an that “the one-state solution is one of the options the PA has, and not the only one. We will not stop talking about it unless the two-state solution is adopted.”

Qurai’s remarks in favor of one state a week earlier to Israeli media had drawn criticism from his Fatah party, which largely supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Responding to that criticism, Qurai said the one-state solution was once considered possible. He said that in 1969, Fatah officials called for a secular and democratic state for all.

“The Oslo Accords exist in practice but theoretically it has ended because it represented a transitional period,” Qurai said, noting that daily coordination continued with Israel.

The accords were intended as a five-year interim agreement ahead of a final agreement which was supposed to be negotiated in Madrid.

Qurai, who helped negotiate the Oslo Accords, said the decision not to allow the transitional period to last more than five years followed lengthy discussions.

He added: “Oslo didn’t give us a state; it’s a temporary agreement.”

On President Mahmoud Abbas’ plan to seek recognition as a non-member state of the UN, Qurai said the initiative would not change much on the ground.

( / 20.09.2012)

Legal expert counts 469 (illegal) settlements in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem

A Palestinian expert in international law has revealed that the number of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is now 469, of which 29 are in Jerusalem. The settlements outside the Holy City house more than 500,000 Jewish settlers. All settlements in occupied territory are regarded as illegal under international law.

Dr. Hanna Issa pointed out that about 9,500 Jews have settled in the Jordan Valley, putting pressure on the 65,000 Palestinians who are the rightful owners of the land. The valley represents 29 per cent of the West Bank, with an area of almost 6,000 square kilometres. “Israel is investing four and a half billion dollars a year in the occupied Jordan Valley,” he revealed.

The number of Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem is now 29, he added, which are inhabited by 350,000 illegal settlers. Sixteen of these settlements have been annexed unilaterally by Israel in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians Authority considers to be the capital of a future State of Palestine within the borders of June 1967.

“Settlements are spreading everywhere, threatening the Palestinian presence,” said Issa. “They split Palestinian territory into cantons.”

Ongoing settlement activity has accelerated under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinian Authority insists on a total freeze of settlement building before peace negotiations can resume.

( / 20.09.2012)

Israeli settlement products are illegal, says European Parliament’s second biggest group

Pisgat Zeev, an illegal Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.

The Socialists and Democrats (S&D) grouping in the European Parliament, the parliament’s second largest group, have declared that goods manufactured in illegal settlements “do not comply with EU law.”

Quoted in an official press release after a new EU-Israel trade protocol was narrowly approved by the European Parliament’s international trade committee, S&D vice president Véronique de Keyser said that “products produced in the occupied territory cannot be considered ‘lawfully traded’ and therefore cannot be part of this trade agreement.” The S&D’s constituent parties include the UK’s Labor Party, France’s Socialist Party and German’s Social Democractic Party.

Settlement products are currently freely sold in Europe, but the Danish and UK governments insist that they must be labelled differently from other Israeli produce and some European governments are believed to be considering introducing a trade ban on the goods.

Two recent publications by Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq have argued that states are legally obliged to end the trade in settlement goods.

Attempts to block new EU-Israel trade protocol narrowly defeated

The S&D statement was released after a proposal to postpone the implementation of a new EU-Israel trade protocol was defeated by just two votes in the European Parliament’s international trade committee. The Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA) will facilitate trade in industrial and pharmaceutical goods and will now be voted on in a plenary session at the parliament.

Palestinian, European and Israeli organizations oppose the protocol as an upgrade in EU-Israel relations that rewards Israel for its continued impunity and recognises Israeli control of illegal settlements. The Coalition of Women for Peace have also raised concerns about Israel’s pharmaceutical industry. Thousands of signatures have been collected on petitions opposing the implementation of the protocol.

In a statement the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) condemned the decision:

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) is disappointed MEPs passed a major trade agreement between the EU and Israel yesterday, in a move that clearly undermines the EU’s declared position on the settlements and International Law

On Tuesday, MEPs sitting on the Committee on International Trade (INTA) voted in favour of the “Protocol on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products” between the European Union and Israel, commonly referred to as “ACAA”.

MEPs may claim that it is not an upgrade of relations between the EU and Israel, but this enhanced cooperation and the prospective conclusion of this protocol does in fact reflect a significant stepping-up of trade relations. Specifically, ACAA effectively brings Israel into the European single market.

The EMHRN finds this decision by the MEPs particularly deplorable in that ACAA provides for the recognition of an Israeli authority responsible for the occupied Palestinian territory, in direct violations of the EU’s obligations under International Law.

( / 20.09.2012)

Soldiers Kidnap Four, Including Two Children, Near Qalqilia

Israeli soldiers invaded, on Thursday at dawn, Kufr Qaddoum village, east of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, broke into several homes and kidnapped four residents, including two children.


Local sources reported that at least fifty Israeli soldiers, supported by armored vehicles, invaded the village approximately at 2 A.M., and surrounded several homes before breaking into and searching them, and kidnapped the four residents.

The kidnapped residents were identified as Taha Mohammad Amer, 17, Mohammad Abdul-Fattah Amer, 16, Tha’er Nader Abdul-Rahim, 23, and Yousef Mustafa Shtewy, 20. They were all cuffed, blindfolded and were taken to an unknown destination.

The Popular Resistance Committee in Kufr Qaddoum reported on its Facebook page that dozens of residents clashed with the invading army, and managed to uncover a hideout location used by the undercover forces who were trying to ambush the residents.

The Committee added that the Israeli army deliberately targets school and university students in the village in order to prevent them from obtaining the needed education, and added that the residents believe in the power of knowledge and education.

Kufr Qaddoum is one of many West Bank villages that are active in nonviolent resistance, including weekly peaceful protests, against the illegal Israeli settlements and Israel’s illegal Annexation Wall, built on privately-owned Palestinian lands, and preventing the residents from reaching their own lands and orchards.

( / 20.09.2012)