Israel’s military gov’t stopped publishing info in Arabic

The Israeli army unit that administers the occupation has not updated its website for over five months. Instead, it religiously updates its Facebook page with impressive stats and jazzy graphics — in English only. What’s going on?

Israeli soldiers check Muslim Palestinian women's IDs as thousands try to pass through the Qalandiya checkpoint on the last Friday during Ramadan, September 3, 2010. Harsh restrictions by the Israeli army meant that many who attempted to pass were turned away, while others waited for a long time at the checkpoint in Ramallah. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills)

Israeli soldiers check Muslim Palestinian women’s IDs as thousands try to pass through the Qalandiya checkpoint on the last Friday during Ramadan

“Last week there were a total of 6,735 crossings between Gaza and Israel,” COGAT, the administrative arm of the Israeli occupation chirped on its official Facebook page last Sunday.It is a standard social media update for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a unit of the Israeli Defense Ministry that oversees the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. (COGAT controls movement in and out of Gaza and the West Bank, allocates resources to Jewish settlements, and is the final word on distribution of land in Area C of the West Bank.)

Nearly 7,000 crossings sounds like a lot. It’s easy to imagine thousands and thousands of people bustling in and out of the Gaza Strip and COGAT’s presentation of this statistic does not give rise to any questions about its true meaning. Yet this number is not what it seems.

A recent blog post by Gisha, a legal NGO that works to protect Palestinian freedom of movement, challenges COGAT’s numbers on several fronts. Firstly, the crossing figures don’t distinguish between crossings and number of people crossing. If someone leaves Gaza and returns on the same day, for instance, a frequent condition of travel permits for Gazans, they are counted twice.

Secondly, the figures are devoid of any context. As Gisha asks, “Is it a dramatic increase or a slight decrease compared to last month? How about compared to last year or 15 years ago? … Is this a lot or a little for a population of 1.8 million?”

As it turns out, comparing the figures to those 15 years ago takes a lot of the shine off them. In 2000, before Israel levied harsh travel restrictions on Gazans amid the Second Intifada, Gisha notes, “500,000 exits by laborers were recorded at Erez Crossing every month – that’s more than 20,000 people a day (or 40,000 if you want to count their entrances and exits).”

In addition to lots of isolated statistics on the noblesse oblige of Israel’s governance in the occupied territories, COGAT’s Facebook page also offers up statistics on how Palestinians are thriving under occupation (not least in comparison to their uncolonized peers in the Middle East). Moreover, all of this information is provided solely in English, making it fairly clear that the target audience is not Palestinians, or even Israelis.

A graphic from COGAT's Facebook page, which appears to suggest that Palestinians under occupation are faring better than their unoccupied neighbors. (COGAT/Facebook)

A graphic from COGAT’s Facebook page, which appears to suggest that Palestinians under occupation are faring better than their unoccupied neighbors.

These social media updates are, then, little more than a PR exercise. They don’t seek to genuinely inform, just to window-dress. This is all very cynical and manipulative of course. Yet COGAT’s dodgy statistics are just the tip of the iceberg: the Facebook page masks a far more fundamental problem.

When COGAT first launched its Facebook page on June 1, 2015, it appeared to be a standalone hasbara initiative. Given its topical content, the page certainly didn’t seem to be a replacement for COGAT’s website, which is supposed to be an essential resource for COGAT to keep Palestinians in the occupied territories apprised of changes in policies or procedures that may affect them. Yet approximately two weeks after the Facebook page was launched, and to considerably less fanfare, COGAT stopped updating its website.

Over five months later, the website remains inactive. Neither the Arabic, Hebrew or English versions of COGAT’s site have seen any updates since around mid-June. According to COGAT, they are working to fix some technical difficulties.

This issue came to light almost by accident when Gisha inquired as to the progress of a freedom of information request it submitted to COGAT back in May 2014.

The request petitioned COGAT to publish the protocols and procedures that govern its activities. As Gisha notes on its website, access to COGAT’s procedures is essential for the 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and the 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza to be able to exercise their rights.

The documents cover dozens of practical administrative issues such as, inter alia, the procedure for issuing entry permits from Gaza and the West Bank into Israel, dealing with medical requests from Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and arranging for Palestinians to travel between Gaza and the West Bank, etc.

COGAT had originally said that it did not have to make these documents available to the public, despite a 2013 note from the Justice Ministry saying that COGAT is indeed legally obligated to publish them under Israel’s Freedom of Information Act. However, COGAT eventually conceded and committed to make the policies and procedures available to the public in three phases, beginning in February 2015 and ending in June 2015.

Palestinians walk through the kilometer-long path through the “no-go zone” separating Israel’s Erez crossing and Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, December 18, 2013. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians walk through the kilometer-long path through the “no-go zone” separating Israel’s Erez crossing and Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip, December 18, 2013

While COGAT’s roll-out of policies and procedures did eventually commence, it has been slow to translate them into Arabic, the key language if they are to fulfill their purpose — i.e. keeping the occupied Palestinian population informed as to how it can navigate the military occupation it are subject to. Furthermore, the fact that the website has not been updated since June means that Palestinians have not been kept abreast of changes to protocols or policies, such as those on travel, which are frequently modified. Nor have any reports on COGAT’s activities been released since then, beyond the sprinkles available on their social media pages.

And yet, throughout all the apparent technical problems with its website and as it delays releasing essential information, COGAT has been prolifically updating its Facebook and Twitter feeds with jazzy infographics and saturated facts that are low on context and high on the benevolence of its military rule.

COGAT’s procrastination over keeping Palestinians informed also has legal ramifications. Speaking with +972 Magazine, Gisha spokesperson Shai Grunberg explained that every administrative authority in Israel must publish information that is relevant to the public. “Not publishing this essential information is a breach of the law,” she added.

It is easy to focus solely on the physical violence of the occupation. After all, guns, tear gas and arrests are far sexier than official documents, petitions and bureaucrats. Yet it is this element, the structural violence of blocking Palestinians at every turn with the swish of a pen or the tap of a key, that drives the occupation.

And the Facebook page? That is simply a lesson in how to market the occupation. It is another indication that the Israeli government’s prevailing concern is how its control over Palestinians appears to the world, and not whether it exerts that control in line with even its own laws.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Saudi jets drop cluster bombs on own soil to stop Yemeni forces’ rapid advance

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Syrian Free Press

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(FNA) ~ Saudi Arabia’s warplanes are targeting the Southern parts of the kingdom with cluster bombs in a bid to stop the Yemeni army and popular forces’ continued and rapid advance deep into their territories.

Saudi Arabia has used cluster bombs many times before, but this is the first time that it is using it against its own population in a desperate move to stop the huge advances made by the Yemeni forces inside the kingdom in recent days.

Saudi Warplanes Drop Cluster Bombs

The Yemeni army and popular forces have frequently crossed the border captured the Saudi military bases and outpost, ruined the military sites and returned home in the last few months and after the Riyadh-led coalition refrained from stopping its air raids on residential areas in Yemen’s cities.

But, after months of coalition intensified air raids on civilian areas, the Yemeni forces changed strategy and warned that they would start ground assaults on Saudi territories to force Riyadh stop the massacre.

The new strategy was put into effect on Sunday, when Yemen’s army and popular forces crossed the border and captured several key military bases in three provinces in Southern Saudi Arabia near the border.

The Yemeni forces seized Malhama, al-Radif and al-Mamoud military bases in Jizan, al-Rabou’a military base in Asir and Nahouqa military base in Najran provinces.

Then on Monday, the Yemeni forces took control of three more Saudi military bases in al-Shurfa region in Najran.

They also captured a military camp in Najran, and destroyed the military vehicles in there.

On Tuesday, the Saudi warplanes used banned cluster bombs against civilians in 5 airstrikes on residential areas in Yemen’s Hajjah province. Tens of people were killed and wounded in the air raids.

Earlier today, the Yemeni army spokesman Sharaf Luqman said that the army and popular forces are advancing deep inside Saudi Arabia and capturing more military bases in the Southern parts of the kingdom.

“The Yemeni forces have managed to inflict heavy losses on the Saudi enemy inside Saudi Arabia,” Luqman said.

He reiterated that the Yemeni army and the popular forces are having high morale to fight the enemy, and said, “The military operation to capture new military bases of Saudi Arabia is underway.”

Luqman said that the Saudi enemy has resorted to airstrikes which will surely fail.

Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen for 252 days now to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 7,103 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.

Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries of the Houthi movement.

Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi warplanes are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Israeli Airstrikes Over Damascus Confirmed

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Al-Masdar News has been informed by a military source from the Syrian Air Defense that the Israeli Air Force did indeed violate Syrian airspace on Thursday to strike the 155th Brigade’s Headquarters (also known as the “Missile Base”) for the second time this year and the third time in two years.

According to the military source from the  Air Defense, the Israeli warplane struck the 155th Brigade’s Headquarters in the northern Damascus countryside on Thursday evening; this abrupt airstrike did very little damage as it hit an abandoned warehouse outside of the base’s main command center.

The source further added that this deliberate attack and violation of Syrian airspace was likely to provoke an aggressive response from the Syrian Air Defense in order for the Israeli Intelligence apparatus to confirm whether or not the Syrian Government now possesses the Russian manufactured S-300 anti-aircraft missile.

Earlier this week, Al-Rai News’ Chief Correspondent, Elijah Magnier, reported that the Syrian and Iranian Governments were officially in possession of the S-300 missiles, which would likely agitate the Israeli government as they are currently trying to get the world to impose harsh sanctions against the Iranian people.

The military source from the Syrian Air Defense was unable to comment on the reported delivery of the S-300 missiles.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Palestinians’ uprising not to end anytime soon: Activist

Palestina Protest

Palestinian protesters throw stones during clashes in the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron)

Press TV has interviewed Joe Catron, a member of the International Solidarity Movement in New York, to discuss the rising tensions between Israeli regime forces and Palestinians.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: How do you feel about this ongoing violence and Israeli aggression?

Catron: Well I think there are a couple of different dynamics we see at work. The Palestinians are making it very clear that their uprising, what some have called, perhaps prematurely, a third Intifada is an ongoing one that won’t be brought to a close any time soon certainly not through repressive measures by the Israelis.

At the same time we see Israel trying to implement a similar plan of repression as it put into effect last summer in the West Bank and later the Gaza Strip to crush Palestinian resistance through sheer overall repression against an entire occupied population. Up until now of course that plan has failed completely.

Press TV: So how will this work out? As you said many people maybe prematurely have called this an Intifada. Is this forming into an Intifada?

Catron: Many people certainly think so. I have been in touch with friends on the ground about what it is and what it could become. No one who has been through the first two Intifadas seems entirely clear on whether this will ultimately form into a third, it simply depends on its staying power and how long it will last.

Press TV: Many people say it does not even matter what we term this uprising at this point, they say that it is different from previous uprisings in the sense that it is the youth in the West Bank and al-Quds etc who are carrying this out?

Catron: Of course and commentators like Ramzy Baroud have said that it is probably futile to try to isolate an Intifada to create this idea of third Intifada as opposed to resistance that has proceeded it and that will certainly follow it. It is obviously part of an ongoing Palestinian struggle, one that has had its ebbs and flows but that has continued without a pause since the occupation of Palestine initially in 1948.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Palestinians bid farewell to martyr, clashes erupt in Jerusalem

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– Hundreds of Palestinians in Aboud village to the west of Ramallah bade farewell to martyr Abdurrahman al-Barghouti who carried out an anti-occupation stabbing operation on Friday leading to the injury of an Israeli soldier. Meanwhile, clashes broke out in the Occupied Jerusalem.

The participants in the martyr’s funeral, at noon on Saturday, waved the Palestinian flag along with the flags of national factions.

Meanwhile, violent clashes erupted between Palestinian youths and Israeli forces in the vicinity of Silwad town to the east of Ramallah. Palestinian young men closed Street 60 and prevented settlers’ cars from passing through it.

The district of the Damascus gate in the Occupied Jerusalem witnessed violent clashes led to the injury of two Palestinians by Israeli gunfire.
(Source / 05.12.2015)

Officials: Israel to confiscate 244 dunams of land in northern Hebron

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities have ruled to confiscate 244 dunams of land from the villages of Surif and al-Jabaa in the northern Hebron district, local officials told Ma’an Thursday.

The mayor of Surif, Muhammad Lati Ghneimat, said that the land is located in the al-Ghazal, Khillet Abu Ghneim, Deir Moussa, and Thahr al-Mansara areas in al-Jabaa village.
“There are hundreds of olive trees planted in these lands that are very old belonging to the Ghneimat, al-Hur, Hmeidat and other families,” the mayor said.
“As soon as we received the military orders from locals we informed specialized sides to legally follow-up on the case.”
Israeli authorities issued the confiscation orders on Tuesday this week.
Local officials say the confiscation of land in the villages is intended to expand the nearby Gush Etzion settlement bloc.
The northern and western entrances of al-Jabaa will be closed following the orders, preventing local farmers from accessing the agricultural lands.On Jan. 27, an Israeli court issued an order to confiscate hundreds of dunams of land northwest of Hebron in the village of Beit Ula. The land is located in Area C, under full Israeli security and administrative control.
Last December, Israeli authorities declared a vast area of private Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley a closed military zone in preparation to confiscate the land, an official said.
Ribhi al-Khandaqji, the governor of the Tubas district, said in a statement that the land was located in the Ein al-Sakut area and measured about 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres).

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Google denies censorship of Palestinian footage

Google

Google has denied reports that it has bowed down to pressure to censor videos which “incited” Palestinian violence against Israelis, Tikun Olam reported a statement by the company saying.

The world’s leading search engine said that though its officials did meet with Israeli ministers, this “was one of many [meetings] that we have with policymakers from different countries to explain our policies on controversial content, flagging and removals.”

The annoucement came “following media reports about a meeting last week betweenGoogle/YouTube executives and the Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs” Tzipi Hotovely, following which the Israeli minister announced that “there had been an agreement with Google to establish ‘a mechanism to monitor online materials’.”

Since the latest escalation of violence between Palestinians and Israeli security services that erupted at the beginning of October, many people have been sharing videos depicting Israeli aggression towards Palestinians to highlight the Palestinian perspective of the conflict.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

How Britain killed democracy: Illegal wars and terror wars

Anti-war protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, December 2, 2015. © Neil Hall

Anti-war protesters demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, December 2, 2015

And so it has begun … shortly after British Prime Minister David Cameron manipulated his way to war, Britain dispatched its first planes to Syria, pounding, officials have confirmed, those targets London identified as radical hideouts.

“I can confirm that four British Tornados were in action after the vote last night attacking oilfields in eastern Syria – the Omar oilfields – from which the Daesh terrorists receive a huge part of their revenue,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Thursday, adding: “This strikes a very real blow at the oil and the revenue on which the Daesh terrorists depend.”

But there’s more, Britain is already gearing up for a much larger military deployment as it wants to commit eight additional jets – two Tornados and six Typhoons – to its operations in Syria.

Without so much as a mention of international law, or even an acknowledgement of Syria’s territorial sovereignty, Fallon was only too eager to note how Britain was finally meeting the coalition’s military needs by stepping up its military involvement.

“We are doubling our strike force. The additional eight aircraft being sent to Akrotiri are now in the air and on their way … These are the aircraft the coalition has been asking for,” said the Defense Secretary.

And so here we are, contemplating yet another war against yet another country in the name of lady national security – this elusive siren neocons have serenaded for the past decade, arguing cataclysmic plagues to a gullible public should they fail to intervene.

And intervene they did! If anything in this past decade, intervention has been a constant – the very matrix upon which national and foreign policies have been weaved upon and arched towards.

But intervention against whom? Or rather, intervention against what principles?

Britain’s latest declaration of war on the Syrian nation, which nation I’d like to note never once warranted such ire, did not just sound another chapter in Western interventionism in the Middle East, it very much spelled out the end of Western democracy.

Over dramatic you say? Britain is standing up to terror so that democracy can ring in those corners of the world where only tyranny has ruled you say? I would suggest you take a good look around because democracy reigns no more …. it hasn’t for a very long time.

Ask yourself this: how did Britain get its war? What events allowed for war’s sponsors to position themselves as the voice of reason? In times of great fear, ignorance leads, for passions and not reason are running the argument.

And since fear is all that Britain, Europe and the Western world can think about, breathe and debate, warmongers are holding nations hostage, masquerading political and social radicalization for democracy and free speech.

A lot can be said of a government which labels its political detractors terror sympathizers. A lot can be said of a government which holds closest to its heart those allies whose behavior is disturbingly in sync with terror. And a lot can be said of those powers which deny one nation’s sovereign rights so that they could increase the breadth of their own.

Western powers have played by terror’s rules for so long it has become difficult to differentiate between the two – only maybe that one has yet to become institutionalized.

Who needs democracy when all is required is the illusion of one? Men are best kept in those cages they cannot feel or touch.

Only Britain is starting to look like a rather disturbing democratic devolution.

Britain sold its war to parliament; bullying its MPs into playing the establishment’s game, thus denying the public the luxury of a real democracy.

Police stand guard as anti-war protestors demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, December 2, 2015. © Peter Nicholls

Police stand guard as anti-war protestors demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in London, December 2, 2015

In all fairness, war in Syria was always going to happen! It is likely Cameron and Co. would have found other means and arguments to back, push and legitimize their calls for more military intervention, should Jeremy Corbyn have presented a stronger front.

Never mind the collateral damage and lives such a decision will ultimately cost, and never mind the petty legalities if it means conglomerates are there to earn a profit.

Britain was going to have its war regardless … Britain’s hawks were always going to engineer those narratives which would permit war to become a seemingly worthy alternative – not even a well-meaning Jeremy Corbyn could ever have hoped to bring sanity in a system which strives on irrationality.

And though many in Britain will feel betrayed by Mr. Corbyn, to his credit, he did play by democracy’s rules, allowing his party members to act according to their beliefs, and not political obligation.

At the end of the day, war won the argument, stealing the very narrative which should have cemented political cooperation over military intervention.

“We are here faced by fascists,” Hilary Benn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary told MPs on Wednesday. No argument there …

He went on: “Not just their calculated brutality but their belief that they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt. They hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt.”

This is the speech which drew MPs to tears and allowed for Syria’s life to be sentenced away.

So I’m asking: whose fascism, and whose terror? Who is holding who in contempt when it is Western capitals which refuse so categorically to value those foreign lives they perceive as lesser than their own?

There is no legitimate ground for war in Syria – not when it means bypassing its sovereignty, not without risking turning into those very radicals we claim to oppose.

There are more than one form of fascism and more than one form of radicalism – and where Daesh holds the religious ground, Britain and other Western powers certainly have claimed ultra-capitalism their own.

If few will indeed argue that terror needs to be addressed, should be destroyed and more importantly ought to be crushed, if ever, peace and stability are to be restored to the Middle East, the jury remains very much out when it comes to identifying those servants of terror.

This war in Syria serves unfettered capitalism interests, not democracy. This war on Syria was declared so that corporations could better carve and chop at those resources, those political holdings capitalist view as their birthrights.

The UK, like many other Western capitals, are increasingly acting like a despot against their own people, using a language of fear and ostracization to push their policies.

Let’s not speak Democracy when policies continue to be driven, dictated and directed by financial conglomerates.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Khater: Palestine will remain the core of conflict in the region

DOHA, (PIC)– Member of the political bureau of Hamas Sami Khater said the Palestinian people, who ignited the intifada last October, are doing their duty in defense of their rights and the holy places regardless of the world’s preoccupation with other issues.

Khater said, in a statement to Quds Press on Friday, that the Palestinians were confronting the Israeli occupation not in order to draw the world’s attention, but rather because it is their duty.

He underlined that the Palestinian people are defying the repressive measures carried out by the Israeli occupation against them. He added, “This duty must be done and maintained regardless of unfavorable circumstances”.

Khater confirmed that the Palestinian people are confident of victory, saying: “We are sure that the Arab and Islamic peoples are with Palestine, but the difficult conditions they are currently experiencing might be what prevent them from clearly expressing their support for the Palestinian resistance. But our destiny as Palestinians is to resist the occupation and continue to do so until liberation, and we are absolutely confident of victory”.

Khater pointed out that the Palestinian cause will continue to be “the essence of the conflict in the region, no matter how many different issues and concerns are occurring in the region”.

He added, “The whole world is aware that Palestine is the core of the conflict in the region, but some international and regional powers ignore it. Most of the world is convinced with the justice of the Palestinian cause.”

On the other hand, Khater expressed his regret as regards the status of the official relations between Egypt and the Palestinians in Gaza, saying: “with regard to the Palestinian-Egyptian relations, it is not important whether there are communications between Egypt and Gaza or not, but the important thing is the position and policy on the ground.”

“We hear that Egypt stands by the Palestinian cause and supports it officially, but actions on ground are negative, especially in Gaza, the closure of Rafah crossing is enough evidence,” he elaborated.

He called on the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing permanently, as it is a “human and geographic need, as well as being the only outlet for Gaza.

(Source / 05.12.2015)

Egypt re-seals border with Gaza Strip after two days

Grens Gaza

Palestinians await permission to enter Egypt as they gather inside the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 21, 2014

CAIRO (Ma’an) — Egyptian authorities on Friday re-sealed the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, upholding a near-permanent closure of the border this year, Egyptian security sources said.Egyptian security sources told Ma’an that the crossing was closed after Egyptian authorities permitted Palestinian movement through the border for two days.Around 628 Palestinians passed from Gaza into Egypt on Thursday, and 259 from Egypt to Gaza, the sources said.Egyptian authorities also released 34 Palestinian prisoners who had been held in Egyptian jails under charges of “illegal infiltration” of Egypt borders, the sources told Ma’an.Dozens of trucks passed through the crossing during the rare two-day window, carrying medical supplies and materials for reconstruction of the strip, still devastated from Israel’s 2014 offensive that left tens of thousands homeless.The sources added that 350 Palestinians who planned to cross during the two-day period were unable to leave the besieged enclave Friday evening due to “the curfew in Rafah and Sheikh Zweid,” which began around 7:00 p.m.Both towns are located on the edge of Egypt’s borderline in the northern Sinai peninsula. Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi declared that the area was in a “state of emergency” in October 2014, and has continually renewed a curfew for residents since.The state of emergency was declared after over 30 Egyptian military personnel were killed in an attack by anti-regime militants. Such attacks became commonplace after Sisi took power from democratically-elected Muhammad Morsi in July 2013.The Rafah crossing has only been open for a total of 37 days since the October 2014 attack, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.Hamas — Gaza’s de-facto governing power who was closely allied with the Muslim Brotherhood leader — has since suffered poor relations with Sisi’s Egypt, which accuses Hamas for supporting Sinai insurgents.Such relations have led to the ongoing Rafah crossing, a lifeline for Gaza’s 1.8 millions residents who lack basic needs due to Israel’s ongoing blockade of the strip.During the recent opening, priority was given to humanitarian cases who had previously registered to cross the Rafah terminal.Authorities in Gaza say that over 25,000 Palestinians in Gaza have registered with “urgent needs” and are still waiting to cross.

(Source / 05.12.2015)