Gaza death toll hits 1,980 as dozens succumb to war wounds

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Ministry of Health official warned Friday that the death toll in Gaza was expected to continue to rise as dozens succumbed to wounds sustained during the offensive and more bodies were recovered under the rubble of homes.

Healthy ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said that the death toll had hit 1,980 on Friday with at least 10,181 injured.

Dozens have been added to the death count despite a fragile calm maintained through back-to-back ceasefires in recent weeks.

Al-Qidra said that many of those injured are still in a critical condition, and are not expected to survive their wounds.

The low survival rate is also due in part to the continued lack of appropriate medical supplies and facilities for injured patients, while 18-hour daily power cuts and a lack of fuel for generators aggravate the condition of those hospitals still functioning.

The PLO estimates that that 17 hospitals and seven clinics were damaged during the assault, 10 hospitals and 44 primary health clinics were closed, 22 ambulances were damaged, and 83 health personnel injured, along with 19 health personnel who died in Israeli airstrikes.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report on Thursday that supplies of medicine had managed to return to their June levels, when medicines were running at about 70 percent of their required volume due to the Israeli siege and Egyptian limitations on imports into Gaza.

This is a stark improvement from July, however, when the UN body said that “27 per cent of essential medicines and 52 per cent of medical disposables were at zero stock.”

OCHA also said that bed occupancy in Gaza’s surgical wards had fallen from 100 percent to 80 percent as hospitals obtained permission from Israel to transfer some patients to East Jerusalem and Turkey for care.

At the height of the Israeli assault in early August, patients were routinely doubling up in beds or sleeping on the floor due to the lack of space as well as the Israeli shelling of a number of hospitals, which drastically reduced available capacity across the Strip.

Despite the improvements, the inability of medical authorities to properly administer to the injured during the bombardment has had lasting effects being felt as the death toll rises rapidly in the days since.

The massive scale of the destruction of residential neighborhoods — at least 16,800 homes were obliterated or severely damaged — means that it could also take weeks to find all of the dead beneath the rubble.

Al-Qidra said that civil defense and ambulance crews were currently working around the clock to search for the many who are still reported missing in Gaza.

As the days pass, however, the possibility of finding survivors under the rubble was fading and the focus was on recovering bodies.

He added that the ministry’s toll also kept increasing as many families had buried their dead without taking them first to the hospital, as these families had feared being targeted amid intense Israeli bombardment.

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Italian journalist, three bomb disposal experts, two others killed in Gaza

The mother (2nd R) of Palestinian translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash, whom medics said was killed when unexploded …

GAZA (Reuters) – An Italian journalist, three Palestinian bomb disposal experts and two other people were killed in Gaza on Wednesday when unexploded munitions blew up, medical officials and police said.

The explosion was in Beit Lahiya, a town in the northern Gaza Strip that had been the scene of fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during a month-long war.

A three-day ceasefire, in effect since Monday, has given Palestinians an opportunity to search for unexploded munitions.

Gaza’s police force said it was mourning the deaths of its three men: the head of the local bomb squad, his deputy and another officer, killed when an Israeli shell detonated.

Italy’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, offered the government’s condolences to the family of journalist Simone Camilli and said his death underlined the urgency of finding a lasting solution to conflict in the Middle East.

The Associated Press said Camilli, a video journalist, had worked for the U.S. news agency since 2005.

Pope Francis, who has called repeatedly for a ceasefire in Gaza, led a brief prayer with journalists accompanying him on a visit to South Korea.

“I propose a silent prayer for Simone Camilli, one of yours, who left us today while in service,” he said on board the flight, adding: “These are the consequences of war.”

“Let us hope for peace,” he said, referring to not only to the conflict in Gaza but also fighting in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. “What is happening now is terrible,” he said.

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Dutch official: ISIS is a Zionist plot to demonize Islam

I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily,” Benjamin Netanyahu, 2001.

On Wednesday, a senior official at the Dutch Justice Ministry in Twitter messageclaimed that the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” is a Zionist plot, funded by the US and Israel to demonize Islam.

Yasmina Haifi, a project leader at the ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, posted on Twitter: “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionist who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name.”

The message really pissed off the powerful pro-Israel lobby groups. MPs belonging to the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Geert Wilders Party for Freedom (PVV) demanded that the Justice Minister explain how a person with such anti-Semitic views reached such a prominent position in the Ministry.

On August 8, 2014, MP Wilders on his personal blog posted: “We must unconditionally support Israel in battle (against Hamas). At a moment when Israel is the only democracy in the region and a bastion of the free West, we must stand firmly behind Israel.”

As result of Zionist vicious attacks over her Ministry, Haifi later removed the original message, explaining “I realize the political sensitivity in connection with my work. That was not my intention.”

Both anti and pro-ISIS rallies have been held in several Netherlands cities. On July 25, 2014, the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel called upon security authorities to clamp down pro-Hamas rallies during which some Muslim protesters allegedly shouted “Death to Jews”.

Some readers may be surprised to find out that ISIS stands for Israel Secret Intelligence Service. Last month, the Western media also quoted that “Islamist terrorist” ISIS intends to destroy Islam’s most sacred worship place Ka’aba in Saudi Arabia.

Now, let us dig into Yasmina Haifi’s so-called “anti-Semitic” statement. One of India’s top political and religious analyst on the Middle East, Anthony Mathew Jacob wrote on August 12, 2014: “These (ISIS) terrorists are neither Shias or Sunni rebels (as the western media refers to them). They’re ruthless killers, trained funded and supported by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and their western masters.”

The former NSA and CIA agent Edward Snowden has revealed that the ISIS top gun Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi was trained by Israeli Mossad and funded by United States and Britain.

Last month, Netanyahu in his first comment on ISIS victory in Iraq, said that Washington should stay out of the Iraqi conflict – and let the Sunni militants defeat the Shia-dominated government of prime minister al-Maliki and break-up Iraq. “This will weaken Iranian influence in the Arab region,” said Netanyahu during his address at Tel Aviv University’s INSS think-tank.

East Pakistan (Bangladesh)-born academic, historian and author Dr. Sultana Afroz, who taught at the University of West Indies (Jamaica) for many years, said at Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star: “ISIS is a deceptive tool of US-Israel for the New Middle East based on Israeli Yinon Plan.”

Tony Cartalucci, a geopolitical researcher and writer based in Bangkok (Thailand) wrote on August 14, 2014 that ISIS is created, trained and funded by the US-Israel-NATO axis of evil to “counter pro-Iranian political and military fronts across Tehran’s arc of influence – from Baghdad to Damascus, to Lebanon and Hezbollah along the Mediterranean“. Read the rest of articlehere.

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Gaza counts the cost of war: ‘Whole families smashed under the rubble’

Figures from the UN and local human rights organisations show that at least 59 Palestinian families suffered multiple casualties during the Israeli bombardment

Mohamed Bakr and his wife Salwa with their children. The family lost one of their sons during the air strike on Gaza City's beach.

Mohamed Bakr and his wife Salwa with their children. The family lost one of their sons during the air strike on Gaza City’s beach

At least 59 Palestinian families suffered multiple casualties over four weeks of Israeli bombardment in Gaza, according to data collated by the Guardian. The youngest casualty was 10-day old Hala Abu Madi, who died on 2 August; the oldest was Abdel al-Masri, aged 97, who was killed on 3 August.

The figures are based on data from three independent Palestinian human rights organisations – the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan, both based in Gaza, and the West Bank-based Al-Haq; the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem; and the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

However, it is almost certainly an incomplete picture. Systematic identification of bodies and logging of data have been hampered by the sheer scale of the casualties in Gaza – about 2,000 killed in total, and 10,000 wounded – types of injuries, and the need for swift burial.

Among families in which four or more people died, 479 people were killed in total, including 212 children under the age of 18, and 15 people aged 60 and over. The deadliest day was 30 July, when 95 members of 10 families were killed. On 20 July, 65 members of 10 families died, and on 21 July, 71 members of six families were killed.

The Guardian has interviewed six families who suffered multiple casualties. In each case, relatives say there was no warning of attack, and all deny any connection with militant organisations in Gaza.

However, in many cases there may have been a military target among the dead. But the number of women and children killed in such attacks has led human rights organisations and international observers to question whether Israel’s use of force was proportionate and in keeping with the obligation under international law to protect civilians in war.

Hamdi Shaqqura, of the PCHR, said: “What has been significant about this onslaught is the deliberate attacks on families – whole families have been smashed under the rubble. We have documented 134 families, in which two or more members have been hit by Israeli forces – a total of 750 people.

“No justification can be accepted in targeting civilians, even if there is a security threat [in the vicinity]. Israel’s excessive use of force is contrary to international law on two counts – the principle of distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants, and the principle of proportionality, under which attacks must be proportionate to threat.”

The Israel Defence Forces did not respond to questions specifically about the six families interviewed by the Guardian. However, in a general statement it said: “As an absolute rule, the IDF never targets civilians, under any circumstance. On the contrary, the IDF takes globally unprecedented steps to limit civilian harm, despite fighting a terrorist organisation that exploits its civilians as human shields and callously embeds its terror infrastructure within the urban environment, including in schools, homes, hospitals and mosques.

“While Hamas indiscriminately targets Israelis, the IDF considers any civilian loss deeply tragic and regrettable and it goes without saying that the IDF categorically and emphatically rejects in the strongest terms any assertion of targeting families. Indeed, tactics such as the ‘knock on roof’ warning procedure are specifically designed to prevent harming civilians whilst striking legitimate and dangerous terror targets that pose an imminent threat to the security of the state of Israel. Over the course of this operation the IDF made over 400,000 warnings in its attempt to limit civilian casualties.”

16 July, Gaza City: Al-Bakr family, four dead

It was one of the most shocking moments of the Gaza war: four boys killed while playing on a beach. As well as the deaths of Ismail, 10, Ehad, 9, Zakaria, 10 and Mohamed, 11, several other children were injured. The event was witnessed by international journalists at a nearby hotel.

Mohamed Bakr, Ismail’s father, said his son had quit school to earn money serving tea to fishermen at the port. But a combination of war and Ramadan meant there were no fishermen, and no tea to serve. Instead the child – one of 10 siblings – went to play on the beach with some cousins.

Salwa al-Bakr with her son Sayed. The family lost their son Mohamed during the air strike on Gaza City's beach.

Salwa al-Bakr with her son Sayed. The family lost their son Mohamed during the air strike on Gaza City’s beach

“I was sleeping when some nephews ran to tell us the TV news said four children had been killed on the beach. I was counting my children, and shouting ‘where is Ismail?’” Mohamed rushed to al-Shifa hospital and found Ismail in the morgue. “Part of his brain was outside his head and his back was burnt. But there were only small marks on his face. It was chaos in the morgue and I thought only my son was dead. But then I saw my brothers screaming.”

Some of Ismail’s siblings had reached the morgue before their father. “They saw him. All the children are afraid to go outside now.”

Twelve-year-old Sayed, the brother of one of the dead boys, also called Mohamed, was on the beach. Despite injuries, he ran home, screaming that his brother had been killed. “I didn’t believe him,” said the boys’ mother, Salwa. “Why were they targeted? Did they have weapons? They were playing.”

Sayed is now deeply traumatised, but has had no psychological help. “I don’t want Jewish mothers to feel the pain I feel,” said Salwa. “I don’t know what they are thinking.”

19 July, Beit Hanoun: Abu Jarad family, eight dead

The Abu Jarads had just finished iftar, the meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast, when two shells ripped into the building that was home to the large extended family.

One shell hit the flat of Alian Abu Jarad, 62, then a second blasted into his nephew’s home. In the black chaos that ensued, Alian rushed out of his house and scrambled up the stairs to find a scene of horror. Three adults, three infants and two teenage girls had been torn to pieces.

Alian pulled the limp, bloody corpse of five-month old Moussa from the rubble and staggered down the stairs with the dead baby in his arms. “All the neighbours came to help,” he later said, standing amid rubble. A pair of child-sized jogging pants, a pillow, shredded curtains and scraps of paper poked out from lumps of masonry and jagged shrapnel in the first-floor room. “There was no warning,” said Alian; no leaflets were dropped telling the families to evacuate the neighbourhood, no phone calls or text messages were received.

“Suddenly – boom,” he said. “There are no fighters here. No one is connected to any political faction. We have a brick factory – we are only concerned with our business. We are civilians. I never thought we’d face this. But now we have to deal with it. What else is there to do?”

His brother, Issa, added: “Palestinian people are not terrorists and criminals. We just want freedom and dignity.”

After the shelling, the homeless family scattered to five different UN shelters. Alian did not know if they would rebuild the property, which overlooks the family orchards of citrus and olive trees. “For now, we don’t want to come back,” he said.

21 July, Rafah: Siyyam family, 11 dead

Nabil Siyyam, 33, wept as he recalled the morning he lost his wife and four children, along with his left arm. A fifth child was in a critical condition in an Egyptian hospital. Nabil pulled up his shirt to reveal shrapnel wounds over his torso.

At 6am, there were several air strikes near the house, and the family decided to leave, fearing their home was at risk. Grandparents Mahrous and Dalal quickly rounded up the extended family and herded them into the road. Two drone missiles hit the group, killing 11 and injuring nine.

Nabil Siyyam lost his wife and four children, along with his left arm. 'I saw my daughter cut into two.'

Nabil Siyyam lost his wife and four children, along with his left arm. ‘I saw my daughter cut into two.’

“The air was full of dust, I couldn’t see anything,” said Nabil. “I felt my arm hanging by skin, and I was bleeding from the chest.” When the air cleared, “I saw my daughter cut into two. I saw my baby thrown 10 metres from her mother. The drones were still in the sky.”

He said there was no warning and no reason for the strike. “They have the technology to watch us – they could see there were women and children.”

From a deep pocket in his robe, Mahrous pulled a handwritten list of the names, birth dates and identity numbers of those killed. At 67, he and Dalal have become substitute parents for baby Mayar, who was in a cast from her armpits to her toes and had lost her mother, father and siblings.

Dalal, left, and Mahrous with their injured 16-month-old granddaughter Mayar in their flat in Rafah. The 67-year-old grandparents are now in effect the child's parents as she lost her mother, father and siblings. Four more members of the family were killed in another air strike the following day.

Dalal, left, and Mahrous with their injured 16-month-old granddaughter Mayar in their flat in Rafah. The 67-year-old grandparents are now in effect the child’s parents as she lost her mother, father and siblings. Four more members of the family were killed in another air strike the following day

Four more members of the Siyyam family were killed in a separate air strike the following day.

21 July, Gaza City: Al-Qassas family, nine dead

Shadia al-Qassas took a crumpled photograph out of her bag, all she had left as mementoes of her two daughters. Lamiya, 13, and Nisma, 12, were killed along with seven other members of the family as they prepared pizza on the balcony of a relative’s house.

Shadia, her husband and seven children had left their own home after Israeli troops dropped leaflets in the neighbourhood, warning residents to evacuate ahead of the ground invasion of Gaza. They trudged through the streets to what they believed was a safer area; at about 4pm the next day their new home was shelled.

“There were 30 people in the house when it was hit,” she said, wiping away tears with the corner of her hijab. “I saw my daughters brought out on stretchers. They were cut into pieces. We couldn’t recognise their face, just their clothes. We buried nine bodies in one grave because we couldn’t separate the pieces.”

Shadia and Iyad al-Qassas lost two daughters. 'They were cut into pieces. We couldn’t recognise their face, just their clothes,' said Shadia. 'Most of the dead in this war are civilians.'

Shadia and Iyad al-Qassas lost two daughters. ‘They were cut into pieces. We couldn’t recognise their face, just their clothes,’ said Shadia. ‘Most of the dead in this war are civilians.’

Her five surviving younger children “talk about their sisters all the time. They always want to be close to us; they freak out every time they hear a boom.”

She describes Lamiya and Nisma as “very sweet, they liked school and helped me in the house with the younger ones.” Lamiya wanted to be a teacher, and Nisma a hairdresser, she said.

“I don’t know why the house was hit. My father is old, my brothers drive trucks.” Her husband, Iyad, has a cart selling liver sandwiches.

Israel, she said, did not care about killing children. “Most of the dead in this war are civilians – children and women.”

On the heavily damaged top floor of the house, a relative points to the spot where the girls were squatting, kneading dough for pizza. His wife and four daughters were also among the dead.

23 July, Khan Younis: Abu Jame family, 26 dead

Bassem Abu Jame had just sat down to eat with his pregnant wife, Yasmin, and their three young children – Batol, four, Suhaila, three, and 18-month-old Besan – when the extended family’s six-flat home was pulverised in an air strike.

“I had one mouthful, and the explosion came before the second,” he said, standing on crutches amid the ruins. “I hit a wall and lost consciousness. I woke up the next day with no idea what had happened to my wife and children.”

Bassem Abu Jame lost all his family when his home was destroyed in an air strike. He also lost all his possessions, even family photos and his identity card. 'We will never recover from this. The scar will be there for ever.'

Bassem Abu Jame lost all his family when his home was destroyed in an air strike. He also lost all his possessions, even family photos and his identity card. ‘We will never recover from this. The scar will be there for ever.’

They were dead, along with two dozen others including his mother – 26 people in total. Three people survived the blast: Bassem, whose leg was broken in three places, his brother Hussein, and a three-year-old nephew.

He said there was no warning, and he had no idea why the house was targeted. One of the dead was reported to be a Hamas-employed policeman, but Bassem insisted that he and his brothers were vegetable-sellers. “We are not affiliated with any faction,” he said.

As well as his immediate family, Bassem said he had lost everything he owned, including photographs of his loved ones. “All my documents, my identity papers, money, pictures – it’s all gone,” he said gesturing towards a huge crater left by the blast.

“We will never recover from this. It’s like a wound – it might heal, but the scar will be there for ever.”

26 July, Khan Younis: Al-Najjar family, 38 dead (in total)

Before this war, the Najjar family was one of the biggest in Khan Younis, with several branches spread across homes in the area. But in four separate strikes, their number has been reduced by 38. At one attack, on 26 July, seven members of the family, including two children aged three and two, were killed in a huge blast in the middle of the night. “I was sleeping when the explosion came,” said Salah al-Najjar. Clambering over broken glass and fallen masonry to reach his brother’s house next door, Salah heard his nephew calling for help. “I couldn’t see him because of the dust and the dark.”

Other relatives rushed to help. “It took us two hours working with our hands to get three survivors out,” he said. “The fourth was very deep down. He had to wait until the bulldozer came.”

Salah al-Najjar, who dug into the rubble with his hands for two hours to rescue some of his brother's family when their home was hit. Seven members of the family were killed.

Salah al-Najjar, who dug into the rubble with his hands for two hours to rescue some of his brother’s family when their home was hit. Seven members of the family were killed

Salah said there was no warning. “If there had been, we would have left. Our neighbourhood is very quiet. We are farmers. Nothing happens here – usually.” Asked why he thought the house had been targeted, he said: “This is the question we need an answer to. Please tell us.”

In an adjacent house, Nafisa al-Najjar, 45, who survived the blast, was wrapped in a blue-checked cloth on a narrow bed. In the moments following the explosion, she could feel the building collapsing around her and feared being buried alive. Her pelvis and several ribs were broken.

Nafisa’s 10-year-old daughter Nama’a, who escaped with barely a bruise, was crouched at the bedside. “Her cousins ask her to go out and play, but she wants to stay near me all the time,” said Nafisa.

“I’m really shocked that we were targeted. Relatives wanted to come to our house because they thought it was safe. What are my husband and children guilty of?”

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Israel’s Real Target is Not Hamas

It’s Any Possibility of Palestinian Statehood

All colonial settler states are based on the violent dispossession of the native peoples – and as a result, their fundamental and overriding aim has always been to keep those native peoples as weak as possible. Israel’s aim for the Palestinians is no different.

Palestinian statehood is clearly an obstacle to this goal; a Palestinian state would strengthen the Palestinians. Genuine sovereignty would end Israel’s current presumed right to steal their land, control their borders, place them under siege, and bomb them at will. That is why Netanyahu’s Likud party platform “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”; that is why Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated for even suggesting some limited self-governance for the Palestinians; and that is why every proposal for Palestinian statehood, however limited and conditional, has been wilfully sabotaged by successive Israeli governments of all hues.

Within three years of the 1993 Oslo declaration, for example, which promised self-governance for Palestinian areas, foreign minister Ariel Sharon was urging “everyone”  to “grab as many hilltops as they can” in order to minimise the size and viability of the area to be administered by Palestinian Authority. The 1999 election of a Labour Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, made no difference, ushering in “a sustained commitment by Israel’s government to avoid full compliance with the Oslo agreement”, according to Jimmy Carter, most notably in the form of the greatest increase in illegal Israeli settlements that had yet taken place. The popular story that Barak had made a ‘generous offer’ on Palestinian statehood at negotiations in Taba in 2001, turned out to be a complete myth.

In the 2000s, the stakes were raised by the discovery of 1.4trillion cubic metres of natural gas in Gaza’s territorial waters, leading Israel to immediately strengthen its maritime blockade of Gaza to prevent Palestinian access to the reserves. But Palestinian sovereignty over this gas would obviously enormously strengthen the economic position of any future Palestinian state – and thus made the Israelis more determined than ever to prevent such a state from coming into being.

The Saudi peace plan, then, in 2002, turned out to be something of a problem for Israel. Accepted by 22 members of the Arab League, and offering complete normalisation of Israeli-Arab relations in exchange for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders (just 22% of historic Palestine), it was welcomed by the US, and followed up with a statement by George W. Bush in support of a Palestinian state – the first such statement by any US president. This does not imply that the US is in any way committed to genuine Palestinian sovereignty. What the US seeks is rather a thoroughly compromised entity, devoid of all significant attributes of statehood (border control, airspace control, etc) and dependent on Israel, but which it would call a state – and thus would provide the Arab states with a pretext for overt collaboration with Israel . As Jeff Halper has explained, for the US, as for the Saudis, the idea behind the Saudi peace was actually to strengthen Israel, by facilitating Arab support for Israeli-US action against Iran, and thus establishing solid Israeli hegemony across the entire Middle East. In other words, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states wanted a (feeble) Palestinian state to come into existence, in order to justify the collaboration with Zionism being demanded of them by their US masters. But Israel does not particularly want or perceive the need for Arab support. Indeed, the image of the plucky little victim, besieged by ‘hostile enemies’ on all sides, is a fundamental plank of the Israeli national psyche, necessary to ensure the continued identification of the population with the militaristic state and its expansionist policies. And more importantly, in the zero-sum game of settler-vs-native politics, any Palestinian state, however toothless, represents an intolerable retreat for the Zionists.

This problem – of a growing consensus in support of a Palestinian state – was compounded for Israel in 2003, when the so-called “Quartet” (US, the UN, Russia and the EU) produced their ‘roadmap’ for peace, based, like the Saudi plan, on the principle of a Palestinian state being a fundamental prerequisite for lasting peace. Whilst the Israelis publicly accepted the ‘roadmap’, behind the scenes they listed 14 ‘caveats’ and preconditions which rendered it meaningless and unworkable –divide-and-ruin-book-covereffectively refusing to make any concessions whatsoever until the Palestinians were completely disarmed and their major organisations dissolved, whilst other caveats stripped any ‘state’ that might somehow emerge of all major attributes of statehood and sovereignty, just in case.

Since then, there have been various attempts by the US at restarting ‘negotiations’ on this roadmap, despite Israel’s obvious hostility to its declared aim of Palestinian statehood. In the latest round, beginning in July 2013, the Palestinians – who had already conceded the 78% of historic Palestine conquered before 1967 – even agreed to drop their demand that talks should be based on the 1967 borders. Yet none of this made any difference to Israel, who worked hard to scupper the negotiations as best they could. As historian Avi Shlaim put it, “During the nine months of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks orchestrated by secretary of state John Kerry, Netanyahu did not put forward a single constructive proposal and all the while kept expanding Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Kerry and his adviser, General John Allen, drew up a security plan that they thought would enable Israel to withdraw from most of the West Bank. Israel’s serial refusnik dismissed it contemptuously as not worth the paper it was written on.” After nine months of this futile enterprise in self-humiliation, John Kerry threw in the towel in desperation, saying the two sides would have to work it out between themselves.

Israel’s excuse for its reluctance to take negotiations seriously has always rested on two planks: a) Palestinian ‘terrorism’ and b) Palestinian ‘disunity’. Both of these, Israel claims, means it has no ‘partner for peace’; no one to negotiate with – either because they are terrorists, or because there is no single entity representing the Palestinian population who they can talk to. In 2006, following the election of Hamas, the US and EU effectively supported this line, and joined forces with Israel in refusing to recognise Hamas as the governing body of the Palestinian Authority. Likewise, when a unity government was formed with Fatah the following year (combining the two parties who together represented 86% of the popular vote), it was not recognised as legitimate by Israel’s international backers who instead supported a government led by Salam Fayyad, whose party had gained just 2% in the previous year’s election.

However, reaction to the recent unity government announced in April this year was very different. A government of ‘technocrats’ – comprising not a single Hamas member – was endorsed by both Fatah and Hamas in an attempt to end the isolation and strangulation of the Gaza strip. As noted in the Independent at the time, this “new government would “adhere to the conditions of the Middle East Quartet [the EU, UN Russia and US], recognise Israel, ratify all signed agreements and renounce violence” according to a “senior Palestinian official” quoted on the Times of Israel site. As such, it was welcomed by both the US and the EU. Israel no longer had ‘Palestinian disunity’ as an excuse for refusing to engage in peace talks. Nor did they have ‘terrorism’ as an excuse, as Hamas had steadfastly stood by the terms of the 2012 ceasefire, not only ceasing their own rocket fire, but also successfully preventing rocket attacks by other Palestinian groups in Gaza. And all this despite continuous violations of the ceasefire by Israel beginning before the ink was even dry – from a refusal to lift the blockade (as required by the ceasefire terms), to continued attacks on Palestinians, killing 4 and maiming nearly 100 within the first three months of the ‘ceasefire’ alone. Even after Israeli attacks were stepped up over the past year, with four Palestinian children shot dead by Israeli forces between December 2013 and May 2014, including a 15 year old shot in the back from 100m, Hamas held their fire.

Netanyahu’s narrative of negotiations being impossible due to Palestinian terrorism and disunity was being increasingly undermined by reality – and crucially, his US-EU backers were not buying it. The Israeli government responded to the unity government by “what can only be described as economic warfare. It prevented the 43,000 civil servants in Gaza from moving from the Hamas payroll to that of the Ramallah government and it tightened siege round Gaza’s borders thereby nullifying the two main benefits of the merger” (Avi Shlaim). Still Hamas held their fire.

What Netanyahu really needed was a provocation against Hamas to which they would be forced to respond. Such as response would again allow him to paint them as the bloodthirsty terrorists with whom one can never negotiate, would provide the opportunity for another wave of devastation in Gaza, and would exacerbate tensions within the unity government between Fatah and Hamas.

Nine days after the swearing in of the unity government, on June 11th, the IDF made a raid on Gaza in which they killed a 10 year old boy on a bicycle. But still Hamas held their fire.

The following day, however, the apparent kidnapping of three Israeli settlers in the West Bank provided the opportunity for a provocation on an altogether larger scale. Having blamed the kidnapping on Hamas (without ever producing a scrap of evidence), Netanyahu used it as an excuse for an attack on the entire Hamas leadership in the West Bank, while his economy minister Naftali Bennett announced that “We’re turning the membership card for Hamas into a ticket to hell”. Operation Brother’s Keeper did precisely that, with 335 Hamas leaders arrested (including over 50 who had only just been released under a prisoner exchange scheme), and well over 1000 house raids (which left them looking “like an earthquake had taken place” according to one Palestinian activist). Noam Chomsky notes: “The 18-day rampage….did succeed in undermining the feared unity government, and sharply increasing Israeli repression. According to Israeli military sources, Israeli soldiers arrested 419 Palestinians, including 335 affiliated with Hamas, and killed six Palestinians, also searching thousands of locations and confiscating $350,000. Israel also conducted dozens of attacks in Gaza, killing 5 Hamas members on July 7. Hamas finally reacted with its first rockets in 19 months, Israeli officials reported, providing Israel with the pretext for Operation Protective Edge on July 8.” Thus having killed eleven Palestinians in under a month, Israel then used retaliatory rocket attacks which killed no one as an excuse to launch the biggest slaughter of Palestinians in decades.

Operation Protective Edge went on to kill or maim over 12,000 Palestinians over the course of the month that followed. But for Israel, it allowed it to push forward its key aim – prevention the formation of a functioning Palestinian state – on a number of fronts. Firstly, it helped to rekindle tensions between Fatah and Hamas that the unity government had threatened to heal. Fatah’s existing co-operation agreements with Israeli security obliged them to cooperate with the crackdown on Hamas in West Bank that was supposedly a ‘hunt for kidnappers’, which obviously led to suspicion and mistrust between the two parties. Furthermore, as Fadi Elhusseini has pointed out, ““Protective Edge” gave the new Palestinian unity government that irked Israel a heavy blow. Any plans of this new government to implement the reconciliation deal and prepare for national elections have gone by the wayside as priorities have changed in the face of Israeli aggression. Also, Israel bet — as it has always done — on contradictory positions among Palestinians on how to deal with its aggression, increasing the chances for setback in Palestinian reconciliation.” A breakdown in the unity government, of course, would once again provide Israel with the pretext for avoiding negotiations with the Palestinians on the grounds that they are not united.

Secondly, even as it enraged global public opinion, Israel’s blitzkrieg succeeded in getting Western governments back in line behind its ‘Hamas terrorists can never be trusted’ propaganda line: Elhusseini wrote that “Tellingly, whereas most of the actors in the international community started to accept the Palestinian position and reprimand the adamant stands of Israel, which became a quasi-loner state, the rockets fired from Gaza brought them back to the Israeli fold, announcing that Israel has the right to defend itself, regardless of its excessive use of force and the horrifying death toll among the Palestinians.” Indeed, having in April faced a US government supporting the unity government, once the massacre of Gazans (and corresponding rocket fire) was under way, the US Senate instead voted unanimously in support of Israeli aggression against Gaza while condemning “the unprovoked rocket fire at Israel” by Hamas and calling on “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel.”

Third, the onslaught was an opportunity to destroy as much as possible of the infrastructure that would provide the basis for a Palestinian state. Of course, as the Israelis openly stated, this includes the military defence infrastructure, primitive as it is, but also all the economic infrastructure necessary for a functioning society. Thus, Israeli shelling destroyed Gaza’s only power plant, cutting off electricity for 80% of Gaza’s 1.6 million inhabitants, as well as dozens of wells, reservoirs and water pipelines, according to a recent report by Oxfam. A summary by Middle East Monitor notes that  Oxfam “estimate that 15,000 tons of solid waste is rotting on the streets, wastewater pumping stations are on the verge of running out of fuel and many neighbourhoods have been without power for days, due to Israel’s bombing of the only power plant in Gaza. Oxfam said it was working in an environment that has a completely destroyed water infrastructure that prevents people in Gaza from cooking, flushing toilets, or washing hands, emphasising that the huge risk to public health. “Gaza’s infrastructure will take months or years to fully recover,” the head of Oxfam in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel reported.” The head of UNICEF’s field office in Gaza, Pernille Ironside, added that “There is a very limited amount of water available and it is used for drinking which means that there is no enough water for sanitary purposes. We see children who come from shelters infected with scabies, lice and all kinds of infectious diseases. The worst thing is that most people outside the shelters did not receive water for several weeks now. It is horrible that they have not been able to receive any clean drinking water that is not contaminated by sewage which can lead to diarrhoea and increases child mortality, especially among those under five years old”.

In addition to attacks on water and electricity infrastructure, the private economy has also come under attack. The biggest factory in Gaza, a biscuit factory that had just won the contract to supply the UN in Gaza, was completely obliterated by Israeli shellfire, and even conservative British daily the Telegraph notes that “anecdotal evidence of the systematic destruction of Gaza’s civilian economy and infrastructure is compelling”. The report continues: “Outside central Gaza City, a string of businesses with no obvious links to militant activities lie in ruins after being demolished by missiles or shells. They include a plastics factory, a sponge-making plant and even the headquarters of the territory’s main fruit distribution near the northern town of Beit Hanoun, much of which has been levelled in the Israeli land invasion.

A few miles north of the Alawada plant, the headquarters of the El Majd Industrial and Trading Corporation – producing cardboard boxes, cartons and plastic bags – was reduced to a heap of concrete and twisted metal.

It had taken two direct hits from missiles fired by an Israeli war plane in the early hours of Monday morning, according to Hassan Jihad, 25, the factory caretaker, who survived fortuitously because he had moved to the company’s administrative headquarters outside the main factory for the duration of the conflict.

He too had little doubt about the reason behind the strike. “The Israelis are trying to destroy the economy and paralyse Gaza,” he said. “This is the only factory in the Gaza Strip producing cardboard containers. We don’t have any rockets in the place.”

Roward International, Gaza’s biggest dairy importer and distribution company, met a similar fate on Thursday afternoon. Its plant in the al-Karama neighbourhood was totally flattened by a missile after an Israeli army operator phoned in a warning in time for its 60 workers to be evacuated.

Majdi Abu Hamra, 35, accounts manager in the family-run business, said the firm bought milk from producers in the West Bank, before importing it into Gaza via Israel.

The territory’s main power plant – also on Salaheddin Road, not far from the Alawada factory – went up in flames last Tuesday after being struck by Israeli shells. Israel denied targeting the plant but experts say it is now out of commission for the next year, leaving Gaza virtually without any electricity other than that supplied by generators. The resulting shortage has already affected the water supply, with power now insufficient to pump water to homes located above ground level.

In addition, a public health crisis may be looming after two sewage pumping stations – one in the crowded Zeitoun area, the other near Gaza’s coastal road – were damaged in strikes on neighbouring targets, prompting UN officials to warn that raw sewage could flow onto the streets in the coming days.

Trond Husby, head of the UN’s development programme in Gaza, was non-committal when asked if he believed Israeli forces were deliberately targeting private businesses in Gaza.

But about the effects of the damage, he was unequivocal. “This is a humanitarian disaster,” he said. “I was in Somalia for two years, Sierra Leone for five, and also South Sudan and Uganda, and this beats them all for the level of destruction.””

Finally, as many commentators have noted, even if Israel were successful in its stated aim of destroying or weakening Hamas, this would only result in even more militant groups emerging, perhaps even Al Qaeda type groups such as ISIS, gaining support from a traumatised population by promising revenge attacks and uncompromising armed jihad. Whilst many have argued that this would somehow be against Israel’s interests, the reverse is likely to be true. Groups such as ISIS have played a key role in facilitating US and British policies in the Middle East in recent years, by weakening independent regional powers (or potential regional powers) such as Libya, Syria and now Iraq. They would likely have the same effect on Palestine, and would certainly set back the prospects for the emergence of a Palestinian state: they would never countenance, for example, unity with Fatah, and would rather serve to provide a permanent pretext for savage Israeli attacks which Western Europe and North America would be obliged to support. Moreover, if Gaza became an ungoverned and ungovernable disaster zone – which is what Israel is in the process of creating – there would of course be no question of its gaining sovereignty over its territory, and even less over its waters and gas reserves. Israel would remain free to bomb at will, just as the US and Britain remain free to bomb at will in the failed states they have created in Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Iraq.

The desire to destroy any potential for Palestinian statehood, then, explains why Israel have launched their latest round of bloodletting. But to understand how it has become emboldened enough to launch their most destructive attack in decades requires an understanding of the regional context.

The Palestinian struggle for independence rises and falls with the overall Arab struggle for independence. Whilst many commentators have focused on the fall of President Morsi in Egypt to explain Hamas’ weakness and relative isolation, in fact the Western-sponsored wars against Libya, Syria and Hezbollah are of greater significance. These wars have respectively destroyed, weakened and preoccupied three of the major independent and anti-Zionist forces in the region, and thus strengthened Israel’s ability to act with impunity. As George Friedman explains, “Currently, Israel is as secure as it is ever likely to be….Israel’s economy towers over its neighbours….Jordan is locked into a close relation with Israel, Egypt has its peace treaty and Hezbollah is bogged down in Syria. Apart from Gaza, which is a relatively minor threat, Israel’s position is difficult to improve.” Clearly, the transformation of Libya into a failed state at the hands of Western-sponsored sectarian militias, and the attempt to do the same to Syria, serves the long term Israeli goal of dividing and weakening all its regional foes (real or potential). Recognising this obvious point, an incendiary 1982 journal piece by Israeli academic Oded Yinon (notable not so much for its originality as for its blunt honesty) explicitly called for the region’s balkanisation: “Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. … This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area [sic – he means Israel] in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today”. He goes on to describe the coming break-up of Iraq with remarkable prescience: “Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel….Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.” Thus, the Western-backed offensive in Syria, and its current spillover into Iraq, directly serves Israeli goals by weakening all potential counterweights to Israeli dominion in the region – and thus directly facilitates Israel’s current slaughter.

In this respect, the overthrow of Egyptian President Morsi by the Egyptian army actually strengthened the Arab position, ending the divisive policies which were causing huge religious rifts internally, and ending the prospect of Egypt gratuitously tearing itself apart through direct military involvement in the Syrian civil war. Indeed, Morsi’s policies had been well on the way to realising Yinon’s dream of a balkanised Egypt. In 1982, he wrote that “Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front.”By thoroughly alienating the country’s Christian communities, Morsi was paving the way for precisely such a scenario to unfold. Regardless of Hamas’ relationship with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood organisation, the army’s move against Morsi, by ending Egypt’s trajectory towards state breakdown and failure, strengthened Egypt’s ability to act as a counterweight to Israeli domination in the region – a necessary precondition for any advance on the Palestinian front.  As Ali Jarbawi put it after the Egyptian Presidential elections of April this year, “Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s election as the new Egyptian president has given Palestinians a sliver of hope that their cause will return to the forefront of Arab affairs — or that, at least, there will be a slight adjustment in the balance of power with Israel. This has nothing to do with any value judgments about the Egyptian revolution. It is a purely pragmatic stance, based on the fact that Mr. Sisi’s election will influence Palestinian affairs” positively, particularly by restoring the stability necessary for Egypt to act as a counterweight to Israeli power, but also by realigning Egypt more towards Russia and thus towards a less dependent relation with the US. Indeed, the desire on the part of Israel to destroy as much as possible of Gaza before Egypt fully regains its strength and independence may well have added urgency to their latest attack.

In sum, despite its current ability to rip thousands of Palestinians to shreds on the flimsiest of pretexts, all is not well for Israel. Even their short term goals have not been met in this latest attack. Despite everything, the unity government has not broken, and Fatah and Hamas are currently presenting a united front in the ceasefire negotiations. Likewise, Hamas has not been defeated, even militarily (let alone politically) by this attack, and has been able to continue its military resistance right up until the beginning of the various ceasefires that have taken place. If Kissinger is right that in asymmetrical warfare, “The conventional army loses if it does not win [whilst] the guerrilla wins if he does not lose”, then this is not a war that Israel has won. For all its delaying tactics, the Israelis cannot postpone forever Palestinian citizenship in some form or other – and if the Israelis make the creation of a separate Palestinian state impossible, they should not be surprised if demands shift instead to citizenship in a single state comprising the entirety of historic Palestine.

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Iraq PM Maliki Steps Down, Backs Successor

Abadi still has to form a new government in Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, after a multi-day attempt to retain power that included deploying tanks into the Baghdad Green Zone and filing lawsuits claiming constitutional violations, has finally agreedto step down and end his eight years in office.

Maliki gave a speech today announcing he is stepping down and endorsing his successor, Prime Minister-designate Hayder Abadi, who is also a member of his Dawa Party.

Maliki had maintained that as the Dawa leader, only he was constitutionally allowed to be PM-designate, though his overwhelming unpopularity, even within his own party, meant he had no chance of forming a government. That task will now fall of Abadi, who seems to have enough votes to do so.

Whether Abadi will be any different in practice than Maliki was is another matter entirely. Both are members of the same political movement with roughly analogous backstories, and the primary difference isthat Maliki has fallen out of favor both domestically and internationally after eight years of failures, while Abadi is, at the very least, a fresh face.

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Saudi Arabia: Imprisoned Activist Dragged, Beaten

Abu al-Khair shouldn’t be in prison at all, much less hustled from one prison to another almost a thousand kilometers away from his family. Saudi authorities should stop tormenting Abu al-Khair and free him immediately and unconditionally.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director

(Beirut) – Saudi authorities on August 11, 2014, forcibly moved an imprisoned rights activist to another prison almost 1,000 kilometers away from his family. Since the arrest of Waleed Abu al-Khair in April, authorities have moved him five times, shuffling him in and out of several facilities, sometimes without explanation. In the latest move, the authorities initially refused to tell his family where he was. He was allowed to call only 24 hours later.

Abu al-Khair’s wife, Samar Badawi, told Human Rights Watch that during the phone call, Abu al-Khair said that officials at Jeddah’s Bureiman prison beat him on his back and dragged him from the prison with chains, injuring his feet, after he refused to cooperate in his transfer to another prison the previous day. Abu al-Khair was moved to al-Malaz prison in Riyadh, over 960 kilometers from his family in Jeddah.

“Abu al-Khair shouldn’t be in prison at all, much less hustled from one prison to another almost a thousand kilometers away from his family,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Saudi authorities should stop tormenting Abu al-Khair and free him immediately and unconditionally.”

Abu al-Khair has been one of Saudi Arabia’s leading human rights advocates for years, and so a thorn in the side of the government. In July, the Specialized Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal,convicted him on a number of broad and vaguely worded charges that stemmed solely from his peaceful activism, including comments to news outlets and on Twitter criticizing Saudi human rights violations. The court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a 15-year ban on travel abroad, and a fine of 200,000 Saudi Riyals (US$53,000).

Abu al-Khair played no active part in his trial. He refused to recognize the legitimacy of the court or defend himself against the charges. He also refused to sign a copy of the trial judgment or to appeal the conviction or his sentence. Abu al-Khair’s organization, the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia,stated on August 12 that it believes his prison transfers are a punitive measure for Abu al-Khair’s refusal to recognize the court.

Following Abu al-Khair’s transfer to Riyadh on August 11, police and prison authorities refused to tell his wife where they had taken him, she said. Abu al-Khair was finally allowed to call her in the afternoon on August 12.

The 1988 UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, states, “If a detained or imprisoned person so requests, he shall if possible be kept in a place of detention or imprisonment reasonably near his usual place of residence.” Prisoners should not be moved arbitrarily, and not as a punitive measure for their political positions.

The 1955 UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners further direct authorities to pay “special attention” to the maintenance of a prisoner’s relations with his family. Both legal instruments also direct authorities to provide prisoners’ families prompt notice of their transfer between locations. The Standard Minimum Rules state, “Every prisoner shall have the right to inform at once his family of his imprisonment or his transfer to another institution.”

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Israel targeted and killed those with special needs in Gaza

Palestinian children hold posters and banners outside an UNRWA school during a protest against the killing of children on August 10, 2014 in the southern city of Rafah, a week after the school was hit by an Israeli strike, killing at least 10 Palestinians

During its war on the Gaza Strip, the Israeli occupation has worsened the plight of those whom life has already wronged. Its random and intentional targeting of civilians did not spare the mentally handicapped.

Gaza – Mohammed Matar, 38, was one such person. He used to make daily visits to the cemetery where his brother had been laid to rest, until he finally joined him in the afterlife after being hit by an Israeli drone missile. It was the 16th day of the war when Mohammed washed his brother’s grave with his own blood instead of water.

Mohammed frequently washed and laid flowers on the grave of his older brother Majed, who was shot and killed in the summer of 2007 by occupation forces in the east of Gaza. Majed’s martyrdom had struck Mohammed hard, because he was the one who paid him the most attention and care.

A few weeks have already passed since Mohammed, nicknamed “the wild one” was martyred, yet his older brother, Abu Awad, still cannot grasp the idea of losing him.

“He was peaceful and everyone loved him…he went as usual to visit his brother but they killed him,” Abu Awad, 45, sighed.

He said that he tried to stop his brother from going to the graveyard in Beit Lahiya, in the north of Gaza, because he was worried about him. But Mohammed kept repeating, “Majed is waiting, he wants water, I must go, I do not want him to be upset with me.” He then snuck out of the house without anyone noticing.

A few minutes later, an explosion was heard at a place close by and the media declared that a man was targeted at Beit Lahiya’s graveyard. Abu Awad felt at once that his brother was the target; he cried “Mohammed is there…. they killed him.”

He rushed to the graveyard to find paramedics gathering up what was left of Mohammed’s remains, which were scattered all over the grave of his brother Majed. On the same day, Mohammed became his brother’s neighbor, laying in a grave nearby and holding the title of a martyr.

Mohammed, however, was not the first special needs person to be killed by Israeli forces. Around the call of prayer on the dawn of the fourth day of the war, an F-16 jet fired two missiles at the Palestinian Charitable Association for the Disabled, hitting four special needs girls.

In the south of the Strip, in the town of Khaza’a, a broken wheelchair was all that was left of 18-year-old Ghadir Abu Rjeileh. Her decomposed remains were scattered nearby as rescue teams had to wait 10 days before they were able to access the town.

Abu Rjeileh could not leave her besieged town with her family and hundreds of her neighbors during the second day of the land invasion.

Her brother Ghassan was shot in the hand by an Israeli sniper stationed on the roof of a house near the town’s entrance, as he pushed her wheelchair.

He revealed that they were attacked as they were getting out of their houses carrying white flags. He was severely injured and his sister was martyred.

“My sister was left sitting alone in the middle of the road in front of tanks. No one knew anything about her until we received a call from someone close to the region saying she was hit by a missile and was ripped to pieces,” he said.

With time, the young woman’s body started to decompose and to smell, but her wheelchair, her companion ever since she was child, remained standing as a witness to the crime committed against her.

Ghassan and his brother were able to return to the town on the morning of the first day of the three-day truce. Nidal, Ghadir’s 30-year-old brother found her dead body laid on the ground. He covered her with a sheet, sat next to her and cried.

In another case, the occupation’s army showed no compassion to 20-year-old Ahmed al-Awar, who also suffered from a handicap, as its planes bombed the building where the young man lived. He could not leave because his handicap restricted his movements, so he died a martyr and his body was retrieved from under the rubble.

Shahed al-Qirinawi was a blind seven-year-old child. She was playing with her sister Salwa inside their house in the town of al-Nassirat, in central Gaza. She had no clue the door that was supposed to protect her would fall on her as a result of the pressure emanating from a car that was bombed nearby. She was left with heavy injuries to her fragile body.

Her father Jihad said he left his little girls playing inside the house. Once he left, a municipality car was bombed and the door of their house was ripped off and hit his daughter Shahed.The wall also collapsed, hurting his other daughter Salwa.

The distraught father anxiously lifted Shahed while his older daughter carried Salwa and they all rushed to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital located 500 meters away, as no ambulances were available. Shahed was later transferred to al-Shifa Hospital’s Medical Center due to the severity of her injuries, but she was later announced a martyr, after the many attempts to revive her heart failed.

Awni Matar, the chief of Gaza’s General Union for the Disabled denounced the international silence toward the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation in Gaza, urging human rights organizations and international bodies to provide the Palestinian people with international protection and take “real measures to hold those committing crimes against civilians in general, and particularly people with special needs, accountable.”

Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Matar said the Israeli crimes went beyond all reason and humanity. [Israel] violated international agreements and charters, including article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the case of danger and humanitarian emergencies, which stipulates that member states should take all possible measures to insure the protection and the well-being of people with special needs who are found at risk, including in the situation of armed conflicts, humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters.

(Source / 15.08.2014)

Palestinians express “solidarity with the people of Ferguson” in Mike Brown statement

Palestinian groups and individuals inside and outside of historic Palestine have signed thefollowing statement in solidarity with their brethren in Ferguson, Missouri.

Unsurprisingly, many of the police deployed to crush unarmed protesters demanding justicefor the brutal murder of eighteen-year-old black American Mike Brown are Israel-trained. Despotic tactics Palestinians largely associate with Israel’s colonial military, such as teargassing protesters and harassing journalists, have all been implemented in Ferguson.

Although Ferguson and Palestine are two different contexts, both places and their people are fighting against white supremacist regimes of oppression which continue to view them as “disposable others” and act accordingly.

The individuals who signed the statement below may not all know or agree with each other. However, the undersigned all believe that it is the moral responsibility of every Palestinian to support and foster relations with the struggles of the oppressed all over the world.

It is also worth noting that the Palestinian struggle for freedom is not a copy of the struggle of our black brothers and sisters both in the past and present. Neither is the black struggle a homogeneous one. Finally, the struggle of our black brethren is not a simple tool to “popularize” ours.

But the Civil Rights, anti-apartheid and anti-colonial movements in the United States, South Africa and foreign colonies across the African continent in the past offer us various models from which we should learn. In the present, Palestinians (though this does not apply to sell-outs such as Mahmoud Abbas and his minions) stand up against the despotism which the US, the settler-colony known as Israel, and various European and Arab governments embody.

Full statement

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.

And we stand with you.

We recognize the disregard and disrespect for black bodies and black life endemic to the supremacist system that rules the land with wanton brutality. Your struggles through the ages have been an inspiration to us as we fight our own battles for basic human dignities. We continue to find inspiration and strength from your struggles through the ages and your revolutionary leaders, like Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Kwame Ture, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, Bobby Seale and others.

We honor the life of Michael Brown, cut short less than a week before he was due to begin university.  And we honor the far too many more killed in similar circumstances, motivated by racism and contempt for black life: Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tarika Wilson, Malcolm Ferguson, Renisha McBride, Amadou Diallo, Yvette Smith, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Kathryn Johnston, Rekia Boyd and too many others to count.

With a Black Power fist in the air, we salute the people of Ferguson and join in your demands for justice.

Signatories

  • Susan Abulhawa, novelist and activist
  • Linah Alsaafin, graduate student, SOAS
  • Budour Hassan
  • Rinad Abdulla, Professor, Birzeit University
  • Ramzy Baroud, Managing Editor, Middle East Eye
  • Diana Buttu, Lawyer, Palestine
  • Rana Baker, graduate student, SOAS
  • Abbas Hamideh, activist and organizer
  • Abir Kopty
  • Ahlam Muhtaseb, Professor, CSU
  • Alaa Milbes, Ramallah, Palestine
  • Alaa Marwan, Ramallah, Palestine
  • Nour Joudah, Washington DC
  • Ali Zbeidat, Sakhnin, Palestine
  • Areej Alragabi , Jerusalem, Palestine
  • Areej Saeb, student, Jerusalem
  • Asma Jaber
  • Beesan Ramadan, Nablus
  • Dina Zbidat, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Dr Jess Ghannam, UCSF
  • Huwaida Arraf, Attorney, New York
  • Nejma Awad, Tetra Tech DPK
  • Monadel Herzallah, USPCN, San Francisco Bay Area
  • Ghassan Hussein
  • Dinna Omar
  • Randa C. Issa
  • Amal Khoury, MD MPH, Washington, DC
  • Amani Barakat Moorpark, California
  • Fadi Quran
  • Fajr Harb
  • Falastine Dwikat, PCACBI
  • Hala Gabriel
  • Khaled Jarrar
  • Osama Ahmad, AMP Bay Area director
  • Hala Turjman
  • Halla Shoaibi, Birzeit University
  • Harun Arsalai
  • Zaid Shuaibi
  • Hurriyah Ziada
  • Dima Eleiwa, Shujaiyah, Gaza, Palestine
  • Jamil Salem, Birzeit University
  • Karam Saleem, International Solidarity Movement, Palestine
  • Khaled Barakat
  • Khuzama Hanoon, Palestine
  • Laila Awartani, Ramallah, Palestine
  • Lana Habash, Let’s Go There Collective
  • Lana Khoury, Washington DC
  • Yousef Aljamal, University of Malaysia
  • Safwan Hamdi
  • Leena Barakat
  • Lema Nazeeh, lawyer
  • Yara Kayyali Abbas, Palestine
  • Mariam Barghouti, Birzeit University
  • Mohammad Ayyad, graduate student, SOAS
  • Nader Elkhuzundar
  • Nancy Mansour, Existence is Resistance, New York/Palestine
  • Mohammed Alkhader, Birzeit University
  • Nazik Hassan, attorney, Riverside, California
  • Nora Taha
  • Rena Zuabi
  • Roleen Tafakji-Haidami
  • Samera Sood
  • Sana Ibrahim
  • Sherene Seikaly, UCSB
  • Taher Herzallah
  • Tamara Reem, Washington DC
  • Ahmad Nimer, Palestine
  • Riya Al’sanah, journalist, London
  • Alaa Milbes, Ramallah
  • Belal Dabour, Gaza doctor
  • Huda Asfour, PhD, Durham NC
  • Iyad Afalqa, Irvine, CA
  • Ruba Leech, Portland, OR
  • Rashad Al-Dabbagh, Network of Arab American Professionals
  • Maysoon Suleiman-Khatib, Civil Rights Specialist
  • Diana Alzeer, Ramallah, Palestine
  • Mona Kadah, Boston MA
  • Lucy Garbett, Jerusalem, Palestine
  • Hadeel Assali, Columbia University, NYC
  • Magid Shihade, Oakland, CA
  • Tamara Tamimi, Palestine
  • Hammam Farah, psychotherapist and editor
  • Dina Elmuti, Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture
  • Laila Hamdan, Portland OR
  • Bushra Shamma, VA, USA
  • Rev. Fahed Abuakel, Presbyterian minister , Atlanta, GA
  • Rehab Nazzal, artist, Canada
  • Ezees Silwady, Palestine
  • Dua’ Nakhala, freelance researcher, Belgium
  • Amal Oweis, Palestine
  • Shaheen Nassar, UCR
  • Amin Dallal, youth counselor
  • Dr. Tariq Shadid, surgeon
  • Zaha Hassan, Esq
  • Randa Issa, PhD
  • Murad Saleh, GED
  • Lila Sharif, Ph.D
  • Sa’ed Atshan, Ph.D
  • Rasha Khoury, MD Jerusalem
  • Hadeel Assali, Columbia University, NYC
  • Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Associate Professor of Race and Resistance Studies, San Francisco University
  • Tanya Keilani
  • Shahd Abusalama

Organizations

  • American Muslims for Palestine
  • Free Amer Jubran Campaign
  • International Solidarity Movement, Palestine
  • Let’s Go There Collective
  • Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
  • Students for Justice in Palestine, University of New Mexico
  • The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat
  • Bay Area Intifada, Bay Area
  • PAWA, Palestinian American Women Association
  • NSJP, National Students for Justice in Palestine
  • Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights
  • Mashjar Juthour, Palestine
  • Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee
  • Al-Awda NY, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition
  • Stop the Wall
  • The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

(Source / 15.08.2014)

U.N. Security Council blacklists ISIS

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution that aims to weaken ISIS and al Qaeda’s Syrian wing Nusra Front

The United Nations Security Council took aim at Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria on Friday, blacklisting six people including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) spokesman and threatening sanctions against those who finance, recruit or supply weapons to the insurgents.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution that aims to weaken ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Syrian wing Nusra Front, Reuters reported.

ISIS has long been blacklisted by the Security Council, while Nusra Front was added earlier this year. Both groups are designated under the U.N. al Qaeda sanctions regime.

The resolution is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes it legally binding for U.N. member states and gives the
council authority to enforce decisions with economic sanctions or force. However, it does not mandate military force to tackle the insurgents.

EU ministers agreed Friday to back the arming of beleaguered Iraqi Kurd fighters by key bloc member states, a diplomat told AFP.

“This is strong and sends the desired political message,” the source said after foreign ministers from the 28-nation EU met for more than three hours to achieve unanimous approval for the shipment of weapons to forces fighting Islamic State jihadists.

Meanwhile, Canada is sending two military cargo planes to Iraq to help deliver weapons to Iraqi Kurds who are battling Islamic militants, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.

Since July, ISIS militants have seized a swathe of northern Iraq including the city of Mosul, routing Shiite-led Iraqi forces and driving out waves of refugees from the minority Christian and Yazidi communities.

The ISIS advance also threatens Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region and host to a U.S. consulate and other facilities. President Barack Obama, while ruling out sending U.S. combat troops, has vowed to protect it.

‘No holiday when people are dying’

The unscheduled gathering of EU ministers comes after days of forceful demands by France, whose Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized EU colleagues for remaining on holiday while besieged civilians were being killed in Iraq.

“When there are people dying … you have to come back from your holidays,” Fabius said earlier this week, after writing a letter to EU foreign affairs supremo Catherine Ashton demanding an extraordinary meeting of ministers.

Italy, which currently holds the EU’s rotating leadership and whose foreign minister Federica Mogherini is on the short-list to replace Ashton this year, also called for talks.

“We’re not talking about military intervention but providing support, even of a military sort, to the Kurdish government,” she said.

Defense matters are strictly the purview of member states and France and Britain have already announced they will ship weapons to Iraqi Kurds struggling to push back Islamic State fighters.

EU governments are also alarmed by ISIS’ ability to attract fighters from Europe who then return home to the West battle-hardened from jihad.

Earlier this week, the European Commission announced it would boost humanitarian aid to Iraq to 17 million euros ($22 million), but Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, also a frontrunner to replace Ashton, said the real challenge in helping civilians was access, not funding.

Germany sends aid

On Friday, Germany’s armed forces on Friday began sending aid supplies to northern Iraq and the defense minister said Germany was looking into whether it would also deliver military equipment.

The first plane set off for Arbil carrying medicines, food and blankets and further aid flights were planned for the day.

“Of course this is just the beginning and we’re working hard on sending further aid if necessary and it’s becoming apparent that is the case,” Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told reporters at Hohn airbase in northern Germany.

“We are also working on the question of whether equipment is needed,” she added, such as protective helmets and vests.

Von der Leyen said Iraqi troops were trained on and wanted weapons from the former Soviet Union. “Germany does not have such weapon systems and could also not deliver them,” she said.

But in an interview with German’s mass-selling daily Bild she said: “Generally, if a genocide can be prevented with German weapons, then we must help.”

U.S. airstrikes

On Thursday, U.S. jets and drones launched more air strikes in northern Iraq to destroy vehicles operated by ISIS fighters, the military said.

The latest operations came after Obama said the air campaign had achieved its initial objectives but warned of more strikes to protect U.S. personnel in the Kurdish city of Arbil.

U.S. Central Command said drones and fighter jets took part in the latest strikes, the first at 1505 GMT to take out two armed trucks that had been firing on Kurdish forces.

The second strike took place just over 30 minutes later, targeting an MRAP — a heavy armored truck of the type supplied by Washington to Iraqi forces and presumably captured by ISIS forces in recent months.

“All aircraft exited the strike area safely,” Centcom said.

(Source / 15.08.2014)