Frequent border closures add to Gaza gas woes

GAZA CITY (IRIN) — Frequent closures of the only crossing for commercial goods between Israel and the Gaza Strip have left the coastal territory short of gas for cooking and heating, businessmen say, affecting businesses, agricultural production and health services.

Kerem Shalom crossing reopened on 26 June after two days of closure, described by the Israeli military as a response to rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel has closed the crossing five times since the end of February after similar rocket fire, for a total of 15 working days, in addition to six days of closure due to holidays.

Before this most recent closure, Gazans said they were still recovering from the series of closures in the spring, which they say created a cumulative deficit in gas.

At one of Gaza’s major gas distributors, some 40,000 empty cylinders fill the station.

“Some people have been waiting for months to get their cylinders filled,” owner Yusri Daban told IRIN. He manages to fill about 1,500 per day, but is flooded with an equal amount of empty arrivals.

Daban’s company used to receive 25 tons of gas per day for distribution. His share decreased to 18 tons due to the shortages, and has not been increased since. He says he needs 35-45 tons a day to deal with the backlog.

Maher Tabba’, spokesperson of the Gaza chamber of commerce, says the shortages have affected production on farms, factories, bakeries and restaurants; and have added to the chronic power cuts by putting an even higher demand on electricity.

Along the wall of Ahmed al-Ajrami’s bakery, about a dozen gas cylinders sit empty. His current stock covers him for just two weeks, he says.

“I am [stuck] between gas shortages and power cuts which impact my business deeply,” he told IRIN. “Either way is very difficult, but we are trying to adapt to keep working and to serve customers.” He estimates that his revenue dropped by about 10 percent as a result of the recent shortages.

Collective punishment?

Gisha, an NGO that campaigns for freedom of movement, describes the closures of Kerem Shalom crossing as a form of collective punishment against a civilian population, which is a violation of international law.

“International law provides Israel with a wide range of lawful actions, military and diplomatic, that can be used to counter the threat of rockets,” the organization wrote in a May 2013 position paper. “Restrictions on movement of people and civilian goods as a means of punishment fall outside this range.”

The closure-related shortages come on top of long-standing restrictions on imports and exports, related to a blockade on Gaza imposed by Israel since 2007.

“The additional closures of Kerem Shalom over the past months have aggravated existing shortages,” Gisha said.

The Gaza-based Association of Gas Station Owners, which is responsible for the import of cooking gas, estimates that the demand in Gaza is about 1,250 tons per week, but that on average, only 850 tons are brought in from Israel. Another five tons are brought in daily through tunnels from Egypt, but the process is complicated and the price is high.

As a result of chronic shortages over the years, many businessmen have switched from gas stoves, to electrically-powered devices, incurring the increased costs of running a generator. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), access restrictions, including repeated closures, have widened the gaps in key areas such as health, education, electricity, water and sanitation.

“These measures are resulting in the depletion of stocks of essential supplies, including basic foodstuffs and cooking gas, and undermine the livelihoods and rights of many vulnerable Gazan families,” humanitarian coordinator James Rawley said in April during a closure of Kerem Shalom. “If these restrictions continue, the effect upon the Gaza population will be serious.”

Bassam Barhoum, a Palestinian health ministry official, said public hospitals and health centers need 4-4.5 tons of gas per month to feed patients and staff and disinfect bed sheets and clothing.

“What we have now is [stocks] roughly enough for about four days,” he said, down from the usual stocks of one to two weeks. “We are in dire situation.”

How Gaza gets gas

Gas reaches Gaza through trucks that transmit gas from the Israeli side through a pipe at the crossing to trucks waiting on the Palestinian side. The trucks need special permission to enter the border crossing area.

According to Gisha and to the Association of Gas Station Owners, the pipeline operates from 8am to 3 or 4pm, at a capacity of 22 tons per hour, bringing in between 160-180 tons per day. But the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defense responsible for coordination in OPT, says the crossing has a capacity of 240 tons a day – a stance Gisha and others question.

OCHA says access restrictions are just one of many factors at play in the gas shortages. Others include delays in the placement of orders by local gas dealers; the costs related to taxes and fees; a two-day weekend during which the crossing is closed; higher transportation costs due to the location of the crossing on the southern border of the Strip (a more accessible crossing point at Nalah Oz was closed in 2010); and the security coordination procedures between Israeli and Palestinian trucks on either side of the pipeline, which can sometimes take hours.

Gas dealers say the underutilized capacity at the crossing is due primarily to the last factor: delays in actually reaching the pipeline.

“What we need now because of the cumulative shortage is 250-300 tons a day to close the current gap,” said Mahmoud al-Shawwa, head of the Association of Gas Station Owners.

Gas dealers have requested that Israel extend working hours of the crossing, open the crossing on Fridays, build more pipelines to boost the capacity, increase the number of trucks allowed into the crossing area, and set up a reserve tank on the Palestinian side.

Last week, Israel began allowing an extra truck of gas on some days, bringing an additional 20 or so tons of gas. But gas dealers say no longer-term solutions have been implemented. “So far all we’ve seen is promises,” al-Shawwa said.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

Iraq attacks in Sunni areas kill 10

Baghdad: Attacks in Sunni Arab areas of Iraq killed 10 people on Saturday, the latest in spiralling violence that has left more than 420 dead this month and sparked fears of renewed sectarian war.

The surge in unrest comes as the country grapples with a prolonged political deadlock and months of protests by the Sunni Arab community alleging discrimination at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities.

Analysts warn that the political stand-off could persist until general elections due next year.

In Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad, a bomb in a market killed three people and wounded at least 10 others, while in nearby Garma, gunmen opened fire on a group of policemen and killed three before fleeing.

In the main northern city of Mosul, meanwhile, three civilians were gunned down in an electronics shop.

Separate attacks in Taji, Sharqat and Mosul — all predominantly Sunni Arab towns and cities north of Baghdad — left one person dead and 13 others wounded.

Among the victims were one Sahwa fighter killed and five wounded, a day after a wave of attacks targeting the militiamen killed at least eight.

The Sahwa are a collection of Sunni tribal militias who turned against Al-Qaeda and joined forces with the US military from late-2006 onwards, helping to turn the tide of Iraq’s bloody insurgency.

They are often targeted by Al-Qaeda-linked militants who regard them as traitors.

The latest attacks pushed the overall nationwide death toll for June to 428, the third successive month the figure has topped 400, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.

April and May saw more than 1,000 people killed in all.

However, figures compiled by the United Nations are higher still, pegging the death toll for April and May at more than 1,750.

Iraq has seen a rise in violence since the beginning of the year, coinciding with rallies among the Sunni Arab minority against what demonstrators see as discrimination and the authorities targeting them.

Analysts say a government failure to address protesters’ grievances has given militant groups recruitment fodder and room to manoeuvre.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

The Blessings of the Month of Ramadan

 

Blessed Ramadan

By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The month of Ramadan is a blessed month for many reasons, so we must be sure to take advantage of all of its blessings.

Allah said:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ ۚ فَمَن شَهِدَ مِنكُمُ الشَّهْرَ فَلْيَصُمْهُ ۖ وَمَن كَانَ مَرِيضًا أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ فَعِدَّةٌ مِّنْ أَيَّامٍ أُخَرَ ۗ يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلَا يُرِيدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ وَلِتُكْمِلُوا الْعِدَّةَ وَلِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights the month, let him fast it. Whoever is ill or on a journey, then fast an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that to which He has guided you, for perhaps you will be grateful.

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:185

During the month of Ramadan, Satan finds it more difficult to mislead the Muslims, so it becomes easier for Muslims to perform good deeds.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

‏إِذَا دَخَلَ شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ فُتِّحَتْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ، وَغُلِّقَتْ أَبْوَابُ جَهَنَّمَ، وَسُلْسِلَتِ الشَّيَاطِين‏

When the month of Ramadan begins, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the devils are chained.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 1800, Grade: Sahih

The month of Ramadan is blessed because Muslims can receive forgiveness for their sins due to their prayers and fasting out of sincere faith.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

الصَّلَوَاتُ الْخَمْسُ وَالْجُمُعَةُ إِلَى الْجُمُعَةِ وَرَمَضَانُ إِلَى رَمَضَانَ مُكَفِّرَاتٌ مَا بَيْنَهُنَّ مَا اجْتُنِبَتْ الْكَبَائِرُ

The five prayers, Friday to Friday, and Ramadan to Ramadan will be expiation for the sins between them, so long as major sins are avoided.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 8944, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ صَامَ رَمَضَانَ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ وَمَنْ قَامَ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ

Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan out of faith and seeking reward, then Allah will forgive all of his previous sins.

Source: Sahih Muslim 760, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ قَامَ رَمَضَانَ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ

Whoever stands in the night prayer during Ramadan out of faith and seeking reward, then all of his previous sins will be forgiven.

Source: Sahih Muslim 759, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

The month of Ramadan is blessed because the virtue of fasting is magnified, even though it is already a great virtue.

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

قَالَ اللَّهُ كُلُّ عَمَلِ ابْنِ آدَمَ لَهُ إِلاَّ الصِّيَامَ فَإِنَّهُ لِي وَأَنَا أَجْزِي بِهِ

Allah said: All the deeds of the children of Adam are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.

The Prophet said further:

وَالصِّيَامُ جُنَّةٌ وَإِذَا كَانَ يَوْمُ صَوْمِ أَحَدِكُمْ فَلاَ يَرْفُثْ وَلاَ يَصْخَبْ فَإِنْ سَابَّهُ أَحَدٌ أَوْ قَاتَلَهُ فَلْيَقُلْ إِنِّي امْرُؤٌ صَائِمٌ‏.‏ وَالَّذِي نَفْسُ مُحَمَّدٍ بِيَدِهِ لَخُلُوفُ فَمِ الصَّائِمِ أَطْيَبُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مِنْ رِيحِ الْمِسْكِ، لِلصَّائِمِ فَرْحَتَانِ يَفْرَحُهُمَا إِذَا أَفْطَرَ فَرِحَ وَإِذَا لَقِيَ رَبَّهُ فَرِحَ بِصَوْمِهِ

Fasting is a shield. If one of you is fasting, he should avoid intimate relations with his wife and arguments. If somebody should fight or argue with him, he should say: I am fasting. By Him in whose hand is my soul, the unpleasant smell coming from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast and the other when he meets his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 1805, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi

Jabir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّ لِلَّهِ عِنْدَ كُلِّ فِطْرٍ عُتَقَاءَ وَذَلِكَ فِي كُلِّ لَيْلَةٍ

Verily, Allah has people he redeems at the time of breaking fast, and that is during every night.

Source: Sunan Ibn Majah 1643, Grade: Hasan

The month of Ramadan is blessed because during it occurs the Night of Decree (laylat al-qadr) during which worship for one night is better than worship for a thousand months.

Allah said:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ

Verily, We sent the Quran down during the Night of Decree. What will make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace is therein until the emergence of dawn.

Surah Al-Qadar 97:1-5

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

مَنْ قَامَ لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ إِيمَانًا وَاحْتِسَابًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ

Whoever stands in prayer during the Night of Decree out of faith and seeking reward, then Allah will forgive all of his previous sins.

Source: Sahih Muslim 760, Grade: Sahih

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

فِيهِ لَيْلَةٌ خَيْرٌ مِنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ مَنْ حُرِمَ خَيْرَهَا قَدْ حُرِمَ

Allah has made a night during Ramadan that is better than a thousand months, so whoever is deprived of it is truly deprived.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 7108, Grade: Sahih

The exact date of the Night of Decree is unknown to us, but it occurs sometime during the last ten days of Ramadan. This encourages us to strive hard in worship during the last ten days.

Ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

الْتَمِسُوهَا فِي الْعَشْرِ الْأَوَاخِرِ يَعْنِي لَيْلَةَ الْقَدْرِ فَإِنْ ضَعُفَ أَحَدُكُمْ أَوْ عَجَزَ فَلَا يُغْلَبَنَّ عَلَى السَّبْعِ الْبَوَاقِي

Look for the Night of Decree in the last ten nights of Ramadan, but if one of you is weak or frustrated then do not be overcome during the remaining seven nights.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1165, Grade: Sahih

Aisha reported:

كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَجْتَهِدُ فِي الْعَشْرِ الْأَوَاخِرِ مَا لَا يَجْتَهِدُ فِي غَيْرِهِ

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, would exert himself in worship during the last ten nights more than at any other time.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1175, Grade: Sahih

It is recommended to perform a retreat (i’tikaf) inside the mosque during the last ten days of Ramadan as a means of receiving its blessings during this time.

Aisha reported:

النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ كَانَ يَعْتَكِفُ الْعَشْرَ الْأَوَاخِرَ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ حَتَّى تَوَفَّاهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ ثُمَّ اعْتَكَفَ أَزْوَاجُهُ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to retreat in the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan until Allah the Exalted took him. His wives continued to observe this practice after him.

Source: Sahih Muslim 1172, Grade: Sahih

Ash-Shafi’ee said:

وَمَنْ أَرَادَ الِاقْتِدَاءَ بِالنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فِي الِاعْتِكَافِ فِي الْعَشْرِ الْأَوَاخِرِ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ فَيَنْبَغِي أَنْ يَدْخُلَ الْمَسْجِدَ قَبْلَ غُرُوبِ الشَّمْسِ لَيْلَةَ الْحَادِي وَالْعِشْرِينَ مِنْهُ

Whoever desires to follow the example of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, should seek seclusion in the mosque during the last ten nights of Ramadan; so let him enter the mosque before the setting of the sun on the twenty first night.

Source: Al-Majmu An-Nawawi 501

Overall, Muslims want to greatly increase their acts of worship during the month of Ramadan, such as reciting the Quran, performing prayers, and giving in charity.

An-Nawawi said:

قَالَ أَصْحَابُنَا وَالْجُودُ وَالْأَفْضَالُ مُسْتَحَبٌّ فِي شَهْرِ رَمَضَانَ وَفِي الْعَشْرِ الْأَوَاخِرِ أَفْضَلُ اقْتِدَاءً بِرَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَبِالسَّلَفِ وَلِأَنَّهُ شَهْرٌ شَرِيفٌ فَالْحَسَنَةُ فِيهِ أَفْضَلُ مِنْ غَيْرِهِ

Our companions said that being generous and performing favors are highly recommended during Ramadan, specifically during the last ten nights. By doing so, we emulate the example of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, as well as our pious predecessors. This month is honored and good works carried out in this month are more blessed than they are at any other time.

Source: Al-Majmu 501

We ask Allah to allow us to reach this blessed month and to benefit from its virtues.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

O mens

By Marianna Laarif

O’ mens, die streeft naar beroemdheid, fortuin en opwinding, vergeet niet
dat je straks alleen en eenzaam zal zijn in de duisternis van het graf.

O’ mens, die graag in een glanzende auto wil rijden, vergeet niet dat jij op
een dag horizontaal als passagier vervoerd zal worden.

O’ mens, die gek is op dure en mooie kleding, vergeet niet dat je
uiteindelijk niet meer dan een wit doodskleed zal dragen.

O’ mens, die alles opoffert om in grote dure huizen te wonen, vergeet niet
dat het graf straks je huis wordt.

O’ mens, die gulzige hapjes en lekkernijen verslindt, vergeet niet dat je op
een dag een maaltijd zult zijn voor mieren en maden.

Maximum Land with Minimum Palestinians: The Annexation of Area C

In the vast majority of Area C Israel denies Palestinians any opportunity to build or develop.

In the vast majority of Area C Israel denies Palestinians any opportunity to build or develop.

Early this month Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem published a report on Israel’s policy in Area C and its implications for the population of the West Bank.  Less then a week later Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, in the midst of Kerry’s attempts to start the stalled peace talks, reiterated his plan to annex all of Area C to the Israeli state, bringing with it the 350,000 some od settlers as well as 62% of land of the West Bank.

In a conference held by the settler Yesha Council Bennett said “the attempt to establish a Palestinian state in our land has ended .. That we need to Annex area C of the West Bank now because the idea of creating a Palestinian state there is over.”

Bennett’s comments were met with international condemnation, the timing of his words seen as purposefully undermining Kerry’s attempt to restart the stalled peace negotiations.  These comments, along with others from the Israeli right, have been presented as marginal within the mainstream Israeli political discourse.  However the substance of Israeli policy and practice in the West Bank requires that these ideas been taken seriously.

Bennett’s “Israel Stability Initiative” published in 2012 lays out his plan for annexation, while B’tselem’s Report on Area C outlines the application and effect of Israeli Policy in Area C from 1995 till today.  Each report has fundamentally different political objectives yet both provide a window into Israeli politics and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt).

The Israel Stability Initiative

In 2012 Naftali Bennett presented a 7-point plan for managing the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Judea and Samaria, the biblical term for the West Bank.  The Israel Stability Initiative outlines a plan whereby Area C, the territory that Israel maintains full security and planning control after the Oslo agreement, would be annexed to Israel and the Palestinian State would be created in the disconnected cannons of areas B and C.  Bennett’s plan would naturalize the 50,000 Arab residents (official number at 180,000), along with the 350,000 Israeli settlers.  No Palestine refugee would be allowed to return to the west bank or Israel, and Gaza would be left to fend for itself.

The PA would be granted, “Full autonomy in areas A and B” while Israel would maintain a “full security umbrella for all of Judea and Samara.” The IDF would maintain a strong presence and complete security control over all of Judea and Samaria.”

While this proposal might seem especially partial to Israeli interests, B’tselem’s recent report on Area C shows how Bennet’s plan is in essence the institution of permanence for something has already become the de-facto reality in the west bank today.

B’Tselem Report

Earlier this month B’Tselem published a 111 page report titled “Acting the Landlord: Israeli Policy in Area C, the West Bank.  The report presents Israel’s policy in Area C and explores its implications for the population of the West Bank as a Whole.

Area C is a product of the Oslo accords, an interim agreement that was supposed to lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state next to Israel.  In 1995 the interim agreement went into effect in West Bank and the region was divided into three administrative categories A, B and C.  “Area A: Under full control of the Palestinian Authority, comprising 18 percent of west bank including most Palestinians cities and population center.  Area B, 22%: Israel retains military control while PA controls civil matters.  Area C, 60 percent: Israel controls security and land related matters, including land allocation, planning and construction, and infrastructure.”

These divisions were based on demography not geography, with A and B subdivided into 165 disconnected cantons with no territorial continuity and surrounded by area C.  Area C on the other hand is territorially contiguous, and comprises all the settlement and settlers in the west bank (350,000) along with some 180,000 Palestinians.

Area C contains the vast majority of the West Bank’s natural resources (water, agricultural, mineral) and nearly all of the development potential for a future Palestinian state.   Area C lands surround all areas of A and B stifling growth in these already built up areas, and disconnecting the regions from one another

Legalizing the Norm

Claim to the greater land of Israel (Eretz Israel), has been a common thread in Israeli politics since the state’s inception and before.  Bennet’s proposed plan to annex all of Area C (a modified two state solution) is interesting in it simply cements the reality on the ground today, extending it to a final solution to the conflict.

B’Tselem’s report underscores how Israel’s policy in area C is anchored in the perception of the area as meant above all to serve Israel’s Own Needs in favor to those of the Palestinians by restricting Palestinian construction and development throughout.

In the vast majority of Area C Israel denies Palestinians any opportunity to build or develop. In fact since 67 only .6 percent of the entire area C has been allocated to Palestinians by the Civil Administration, while 31 percent has been allocated to pseudo governmental World Zionist Organization (which develops settlement), 8 percent to Settlement Authorities, 12% to government ministries with an additional 30 percent designated as Military Firing Zones.

According to international law, Planning and construction policy for Area C should rely on Jordanian planning law, but this has been altered by order to the Israeli military to serve the state’s purposes.  One outcome has been the refusal if Civil Administration to plan villages, approving Mandatory Plans for only 16 of 180 villages in Area C.  Since all construction in Area C requires approval of Civil Administration, the prospect for receiving a building permit without a master plan is negligible.  In fact between 2000-2010 of the 3050 application for permits only 6.5% were approved.  Many are forced to build without permits, at constant risk of demolition (660 a year since 2000).

Yet “in contrast to the restrictive planning policy followed for Palestinian communities, the Israeli settlements, also in Area C, enjoy expansive allocation of land, detailed planning, connections to advanced infrastructure and a blind eye regarding illegal construction.”

In 75% of the settlements, building was carried out without the appropriate permits, legalized retroactively by government and military.  Between 2000-2007, 91 building permits were issued for Palestinians, same period 17,000 residential units were built in settlements.  While Palestinians in area C are isolated from areas A and B, Jewish settlements are connected to one another and to Israel proper by Jewish only Bypass roads.

The international community has time and again confirmed the illegality these actions under International Humanitarian Law.  Yet insufficient international pressure (particularly from the U.S.) has led to a situation where Israel strengthens it hold on Area C and “preserves a de-facto annexation of area C and creates circumstance that will help perpetuate this state and influence the Final status of the Area.”

The Party Line

Bennet’s Ideas about area C reflect a broader hostility within the Knesset about Palestinian statehood and the need to annex all or most of West Bank.  In a Times of Israel interview, Deputy minister of Defense Danny Dannon spoke about the sentiment within the coalition government: “there was never a government discussion, resolution or vote about the two-state solution… and nobody will bring it to a vote, it’s not smart to do it — but if you bring it to a vote, you will see the majority of Likud ministers, along with the Jewish Home [party], will be against it.”

Numerous quotes from current cabinet minsters confirm this position:

 “The essence of Zionist existence in Israeli settlements across the country.” – Moshe Ya’allon:  Defense Minister.

“The real solution is to extend Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in Judea and Samaria.” — Danny Dannon, Deputy Defense Minister.

“We will try to apply sovereignty over as much as we can at any given moment.” — Ze’ev Elkin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“Israel should announce the annexation of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.” — Gilad Erdan, Minister of Communication and Home Front Defense.

 “Israel will need to take unilateral steps to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.” — Yisreal Katz Minister of Transportation.

Annexation: The Final Solution

The vocal support of annexation has been attributed to the right wing shift in the government in Israel, yet its mainstream credentials are exposed with even a cursory glance at policy and practice in the west bank through Israeli history.

Every Israeli president since Menachem Begin in the 70’s has publicly espoused a two state solution based on Bilateral U.S. brokered negotiations, while simultaneously doing everything in their power to undermine its physical viability on the ground.

Netanyahu’s most recent statements, considered “moderate” in comparison to Bennets, nonetheless betray the administration’s position to undermine the two state solution, as noted in Peace Now’s report on Settlement construction under the current administration.  In response to the proposed peace talks Netanyahu said that Israel would continue to build and that “construction in major settlement blocks does not substantially affect Israel’s ability to come to an agreement.” He went on to say that “We will continue to live and build in Jerusalem, which will always remain united under Israeli sovereignty,” as published by the Israeli daily, Isreal Hayom and Haaretz.

Considering East Jerusalem is the internationally recognized future capital for the Palestinian state, and that settlement expansion is the number one obstacle to peace, these comments say much about the prospects for a future agreement.  Furthermore the proposed state Netanyahu supports is one that according to him “would have to be demilitarized and with arrangements that rely fully on the Israel Defense Forces for security.” A state that doesn’t control its borders or security and whose army is the occupying power is not an autonomous State, but the “state” of Palestine today.

Netanyahu’s position toward the Palestinians in consistent with the low ceiling allowed for Palestinian aspirations since the onset of the peace processes. Oslo, the basis of the most current arguments about annexing area C, provides a telling example. As scholar Rashid Khalidi, one of Yassar Arafat’s key advisers during the Oslo negotiations, states, “It (the Oslo agreement) was never designed to achieve independent Palestinian statehood.  It was never designed to end the occupation.  It was really designed, of all people, by Menachem Begin, to make permanent Israeli control over the occupied territories.  And that is what has succeeded until now.”   Indeed it has. Since the signing of the Oslo agreement settlement population in West Bank (not including East Jerusalem) has tripled from 110,900 to nearly 350,000, according to B’Tselem.

Palestinian author Naseer Aruri notes the occupation was never designed to be temporary, but has been used to create the illusion of a two-state solution when that option has never been on the real agenda.  Madrid, Oslo, Camp David all have been used as diplomatic cover as Israel has consolidated and even extended its illegal occupation.

B’Tselem’s report exposes the fact that Israeli policy gives every indication of permanence. “Israel preserves a de-facto annexation of area C and creates circumstance that will help perpetuate this state and influence the Final status of the Area.” If we acknowledge Israeli policy in tandem with territorial usurpation, then comments like Bennet’s need not be viewed as extreme. It is time the International community, the U.S. and those moderates in the Israeli Knesset acknowledge that what Bennett’s is arguing for is not on the margins of Israeli political thought but the ideological underpinning of Zionism as practice in the oPt.  And In area C the Zionist goal of maximum land with minimum Palestinians is on full display.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

Syrian regime assaults rebel stronghold Homs

Jets and mortar-bomb attacks reported as government forces battle rebels for control of crucial central city.

Government forces have reported ‘great progress’ in the Khalidiya district of Homs
Syrian regime forces have launched a major offensive against rebels in Homs in their latest drive to secure an axis linking Damascus to the Mediterranean.

Activists said jets and mortar bombs pounded rebel-held areas of the city, which have been under siege by President Bashar al-Assad’s troops for a year, and soldiers fought battles with rebel fighters in several districts.

“Government forces are trying to storm from all fronts,” an activist using the name Abu Mohammad told the Reuters news agency on Saturday.

There were no immediate details of casualties but video uploaded by activists showed heavy explosions and clouds of smoke rising from what they said were rebel districts. Loud, concentrated bursts of gunfire could also be heard.

Syrian state media said the army was “achieving great progress” in the Khalidiyah district.

The attack on Homs city comes after gains made by Assad forces in provincial Homs villages and towns close to the Lebanese border. They have been supported by Hezbollah fighters.

 

Three weeks ago Hezbollah aided the recapture of the border town of Qusayr, a former rebel bridgehead for guns and fighters smuggled into Syria, and last week secured another border town, Tel Kalakh.

Those gains have consolidated Assad’s control of a corridor of territory which runs from Damascus, through Homs, and to the traditional heartland of Assad’s minority Alawite sect in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean.

The rebel setbacks have also motivated rebel allies abroad to increase their support, with Saudi Arabia reported to have fast-tracked heavy weapons shipments into Syria to combat regime armour.

Despite losing ground around Damascus and Homs, rebels registered a symbolic victory on Friday when they overran a major military checkpoint in Deraa, the southern city where the uprising first erupted.

Rami Abdulrahman, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the fall of the army post was strategically significant and could change the balance of power in Deraa, where rebels control most of the old city.

The province of Deraa, on the border with Jordan, has been a conduit for rebel arms supplies.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

IOA interrogates prisoner

 

 

AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) interrogated a Palestinian prisoner serving five life sentences and 18 years.

Family of the prisoner Jamal Al-Hur quoted their lawyer as saying that Hur was suddenly taken from his prison cell in Nafha desert prison to Petah Tikwa detention center for investigation.

Hur, from Sourif village in Al-Khalil, was charged with being a member of a commando cell in Al-Khalil in the years 1996-1998 that carried out a number of resistance attacks against Israeli military targets.

Hur’s son Takkiuddin has been held in the same prison with his father for the past two years.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

THOUSANDS IN ISTANBUL PROTEST DEMONSTRATOR’S DEATH

ISTANBUL (AP) — Thousands have gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, demanding justice for a protester slain by police fire during demonstrations that have swept Turkey this month.

The protesters on Saturday also denounced the killing of a Kurdish demonstrator by paramilitary police in a mainly Kurdish town a day earlier.

A brutal police crackdown on a peaceful environmental sit-in ignited the nationwide protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Four people have died during nearly three weeks of demonstrations.

The demonstrators in Taksim were angry over a court decision that released a police officer from custody pending his trial for the killing of a protester in Ankara.

Earlier Saturday, hundreds in southeast Turkey attended the funeral of the Kurdish youth, who was shot while protesting the construction of a military post.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

Hamas warns against ‘futile’ negotiations

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Hamas movement said Saturday that peace negotiations with Israel were ‘futile’, as US Secretary of State John Kerry extended his shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian leaders for a third day.

The Islamist movement warned Fatah and the Palestinian Authority against the “mirage” of negotiations, and called on the PA to reject pressure from the United States to accept economic initiatives and instead focus on implementing national unity between Palestinian factions.

“We in Hamas look carefully at US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to re-launch the so-called peace process, which is based upon an American-Zionist agenda which sees settlements devour land and the Judaization of Jerusalem and holy sites,” a statement read.

“These negotiations will not bring anything new,” the group added, warning that talks will only perpetuate national divisions.

On Saturday, Kerry took a helicopter from Jerusalem to Amman where he spent two hours in talks with President Mahmoud Abbas then flew back again for his third meeting in under 48 hours with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry has spent seven hours since Thursday sounding out Netanyahu.

Kerry’s aides have played down expectations of an imminent breakthrough and instead are hoping to make incremental progress to set the stage for substantive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two sides have not formally met for peace talks since September 2010 and even then the negotiations broke down quickly, with Abbas saying Israel was not serious about a discussion on the future.

A growing number of Israeli ministers have recently expressed their opposition to the two-state solution.

Earlier this month, coalition partner Naftali Bennett, who heads the far-right Jewish Home party, said the idea of a Palestinian state was at a “dead-end,” and central to the problem was the reluctance of Israel’s leadership to simply insist that the West Bank belongs to “the people of Israel.”

“There was never a Palestinian state here, and we were never occupiers, this is our home,” he said.

Likud’s Danny Danon, who serves as deputy defense minister, sparked uproar earlier this month after he came out against a Palestinian state.

Danon said the government was not serious about it and that moves to create one would be opposed by most of the coalition.

(Source / 29.06.2013)

More Israeli settler-terrorism: Settlers attack two Palestinian buses in Jerusalem

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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Palestinian sources in Jerusalem said Jewish settlers on Friday night attacked buses carrying 100 Palestinian children participating in a summer camp organized by Health Work Committees in Silwan in occupied Jerusalem.

Health Work Committees pointed in a press release on Saturday that the camp includes a group of children between 7 and 12 years old, a number of them had been previously arrested in the occupations jails.

The settlers threw stones at the buses, breaking their windows and terrorizing the children.

The committees condemned the attack and called for “providing protection for the Palestinian people and children from settlers’ violence in occupied Palestine, committed under the protection of the occupation army.”

In al-Khalil, another group of Israeli settlers attacked on Thursday evening a Palestinian civilian near Yatta, and fled the scene in the absence of the occupation forces, locals reported.

They added that the citizen sustained wounds as the settlers threw stones at him and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Jewish settlers set on Thursday fire to agricultural lands in the archaeological area of Sebastia near the city of Nablus in the north of the West Bank.

Na’el Shaer, Sebastia’s mayor, said that groups of settlers from the settlement of Shavei Shomron built on the town’s land set fire to agricultural land, damaging large stretches of land, including land planted with olives and almond trees.

He added that the settlers have been continuously targeting the town as it represents an archaeological and historical area, noting that they had previously destroyed crops after pumping wastewater into the cultivated lands.

(Source / 29.06.2013)