Gaza women make inroads into driving

A woman walks past a line of taxi drivers outside a gas station in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, April 7, 2008

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — In the United States, women are accustomed to — and often annoyed by — jokes about female drivers. But there is nothing funny about the topic in the Gaza Strip, where only about 18% of women hold driver’s licenses, Jamal Abu Jarad, the head of the public Transportation Workers Union, told Al-Monitor. Those who are trying to make a living from driving are few and far between.

With the high poverty rate of 65% in Gaza, more women are turning to nontraditional jobs. But working as a driver is considered outlandish for a woman and is denounced by families and the community. The very idea offends customs and traditions. And possibly worst of all, it is often seen as an invasion of male space.

Gazan women have worked in male-dominated industries before, such as carpentry, blacksmithing and fishing, to provide for themselves and their families. Some consider working as a driver a dream — a means of freedom. But for women, driving as a profession is considered off limits.

Answering Al-Monitor’s question of whether they would like to work as drivers, Fida Maghribi and Alaa Khalaf, both Gaza City women in their 20s, both said, “We wish.”

Khalaf added, “I have always told my father that my dream is to work as a cab driver. But the answer was ‘Absolutely not.’ My dream was unattainable.”

Gaza resident Salwa Srour, however, has made that dream a reality. Srour drives a bus at the kindergarten she owns with her sister. She told Al-Monitor, “Problems due to the former driver’s negligence, delay and troubles with the kindergartners’ parents prompted me to take the job myself.”

The parents have strongly encouraged her, and some people see driving children in a positive light. Yet the social criticism continues to flow. “The Gazan community opposes any unconventional conduct,” Srour said. “I survived criticism, sarcastic remarks and people giving me ’the look.’ They didn’t stop me, because I believe in myself and my work.”

Srour has managed to face the criticism judiciously. She recalls handling critics in person with dialogue. “After a while, people understood my job. I am now friends with other drivers; they give me priority during rush hour or in line at gas stations,” she said. “Life is exhausting in Gaza and forces us to opt for jobs that do not fit us at first, but with time, these jobs become enjoyable and familiar.”

Sociologist Arafat Heles confirmed that Gazan society has not reached the point of accepting women working as drivers. “Life is full of problems and insecurity is one of them. This obstructs female professional advancement and freedom, with the parents [often] refusing that their daughters work in mixed-gender workplaces,” he told Al-Monitor.

Raghda Nofal, a Khan Yunis resident, has a degree in psychology but feels fortunate to be working as a driver. After graduating, she worked in a temporary position at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). But once those six months were up, she went four years without finding a job. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said in January that unemployment in the Gaza Strip stood at nearly 47%.

Nofal’s father is sick and unable to work. As the eldest child with no brothers, she told Al-Monitor, “I needed to find myself a respectable job.”

Recalling her college days, she had an idea. “Transportation was a problem for me during my academic years. Back then, I wished that I had a car.” She knew other students must face the same problem. So she decided to become a professional driver, as she already had a driver’s license from her time at UNRWA. She convinced her father and he helped with the logistics.

“I contacted a group of female university students and other female workers, and my job is to drive them from and to their working places and universities according to a specific pickup time,” she said.

Her father arranged for her to “rent” a private car. She pays the owner 80% of the profits and keeps 20%.

The setup works for her. “I am sure I can’t work as a taxi driver; that idea is unacceptable to the community and my family in Gaza. But I am playing it smart and challenging the community at the same time. I am being respectful in doing this job; I don’t [work] late at night, because it does not befit me or my family. I hand over the car to its owner at 6 p.m., and pick it up the next morning.”

Nofal hopes to buy her own car eventually and continue to work. She concluded, “I love my job and I am having a good time with the ladies riding with me. Driving helped me get into many parts of the city. It helps me become patient, because when driving, I am responsible for the lives and health of the people riding with me. It’s a good job that allows me to learn something new every day.”

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Factions in Gaza slam Trump for calling Hamas terrorist

Factions Gaza

Palestinian factions in Gaza Strip slammed the US President Donald Trump for calling Hamas Movement a terrorist group. Trump’s statement represents total bias to Israel which is a symbol of terrorism, the factions said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the factions opined that Trump’s statement represents a cover up for Israeli crimes. Hamas is a movement of national liberation and legitimate resistance of occupation as endorsed by international laws, they highlighted.

The factions strongly refused labeling Hamas as terrorist, saying that this gives Israel a green light to carry on with its aggression on the Palestinians.

The statement called on Arab and Muslim scholars and leaders to refuse Trump’s hostile statements against the Palestinian people and their legitimate resistance.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

37th Day of Hunger Strike: Strikers’ health deteriorates rapidly as Palestinians protest Trump visit

On 23 May, Palestinian prisoners entered their 37th day of hunger strike. 1500 prisoners – out of a total of approximately 6500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails – launched the strike on 17 April 2017, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day. Throughout that time, strikers have consumed salt and water only to protect their lives and health.

Palestinian hunger strikers have faced harsh repression from Israeli occupation prison authorities. They have been denied legal and family visits, thrown in isolation and solitary confinement, abusively transferred repeatedly from prison to prison and had their personal belongings confiscated, including in many cases the salt on which they rely.

On the 37th day of hunger strike, prisoners begin to face very serious threats to their lives and health. There are many reports of fainting, serious fatigue, lowered blood pressure and heart rate and severe weight loss. Nevertheless, Palestinian prisoner Karim Younes, the longest consecutively-held prisoner jailed for 34 years, issued a statement emphasizing that despite their declining health, the strikers would continue and even escalate their strike.

One prisoner, Adnan Sari Hussein, 31, from Tulkarem, has been on hunger strike for 37 days; he is held in Shatta prison clinic and was reportedly treated with a defibrillator after his heartbeat momentarily stopped, reported Asra Voice. Hussein is reportedly still facing a very serious condition.  Meanwhile, in Eshel Prison, a number of hunger strikers are experiencing a sharp decline in weight and blood pressure, with many vomiting or urinating blood and experiencing skin diseases. 10 prisoners have been transferred to the Soroka hospital in the past two days said Palestinian lawyer Yousef Nasasreh, following his meeting with hunger striker Amjad Abu Latifa.  Hunger-striking prisoner Nasser Abu Hmeid said that Ashkelon prison has been “turned into a field hospital,” shortly before an announcement that many Palestinian prisoners would shortly be transferred to civilian hospitals.

The Prisoners’ Affairs Commission demanded on Tuesday that the International Committee of the Red Cross reveal the current situation and condition of hunger-striking imprisoned leader Marwan Barghouthi, who is held in solitary confinement in Jalameh prison and is currently being denied legal visits. The ICRC met Barghouthi briefly once before his one legal visit, but did not disclose information about his condition publicly. Numerous Palestinian activists and families of the prisoners have been sharply critical of the ICRC‘s performance during the hunger strike, particularly noting that one of the prisoners’ demands is for the restoration of the second monthly family visit cut by the ICRC due to “budget cuts” in 2016.

200 more strikers joined the strike on Sunday from prisoners held in Ramon, Eshel and Nafha prisons. The strikers’ demands focus on basic human rights: an end to the denial of family visits, proper medical care and treatment, the right to access distance higher education and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial.  Leaders of the hunger strike include Barghouthi, imprisoned PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat, longest-held Palestinian prisoners Nael Barghouthi and Karim Younes, and fellow imprisoned leaders Anas Jaradat, Abbas Sayyed, Hassan Salameh, Ahed Abu Ghoulmeh and others.

Hunger striking prisoner Ayed Dudeen joined the strike on 4 May with other prominent leaders and is held in administrative detention without charge or trial, which is indefinitely renewable. Prior to launching his strike, he had been ordered to another 4 months in administrative detention; his family reported that an additional 2 months were now added to his sentence as punishment for participating in the collective hunger strikes.

Palestinian lawyer Jawad Boulos reported on Monday, 22 May that the prison administration has created a list of 30 prisoners, and if a lawyer visits one of these 30 strikers, he will not be allowed to visit the others. Boulos met with striking prisoner Nasser Oweis, held in isolation in Ayalon Ramle with strike leaders including Haitham Hamdan, Ziad Zahran, William Khatib, Samer Ghaith, Ibrahim Hamed, Marwan Fararjeh, Louay al-Mansi, Kamil Abu Hanish, Khalil Shilo and Abdel-Rahman Abu Houli. He reported that the strikers are all experiencing severe health deterioration and that Oweis had lost 17 kg (35 pounds) so far on his hunger strike; however, Oweis told Boulous that “we are more determined than ever to continue our struggle until victory.” At the same time, Boulos was denied access to hunger-striking prisoner Samer Issawi, held in the Ramle prison clinic.

On Monday, 22 May, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine issued a joint statement warning of any attempts to circumvent or undermine the prisoners’ strike in an attempt to break the prisoners’ movement, the backbone of confrontation of the occupation and all projects that aim to undermine Palestinian rights and freedom. They particularly warned of schemes associated with the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump to the region, urging sharp confrontation of Trump and the U.S. role in Palestine.

At the same time, the Committee to Support the Dignity Strike emphasized that there have been no serious negotiations to the present time and that reports that a deal is close are “deceiving and misleading” and meant to undermine popular and official solidarity with the strike.

On Monday, 22 May, Palestinians throughout occupied Palestine engaged in a strike in support of the prisoners’ strike, closing schools, universities, shops, markets, and government institutions. At least 20 Palestinians were shot and injured by Israeli occupation forces as they attacked and violently suppressed rallies for the prisoners.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, 23 May, thousands of Palestinians in Gaza took to the streets in a protest declaring Trump not welcome in Palestine, dedicated to the prisoners on their 37th day of hunger strike. Marchers denounced Trump and the U.S. role in the region and demanded freedom for Palestinian prisoners.

International actions also continued in support of the prisoners, as students and others in the United States participated in a one-day hunger strike and action under the banner of #DignityStrike36, and the US Palestinian Community Network called for a week of action across the U.S.  Solidarity hunger strikes will continue today, and an international solidarity hunger strike is growing for Thursday, 25 May, as well as a one-day hunger strike throughout Ireland on 24 May. Events are being organized in New York, Washington, San Francisco, Houston, Cagliari, Milan, Choisy, Marseille, Paris, Lyon, Albertville, Nimes, Saint-Etienne, Montpellier, Brussels, Berlin, Victoria, Portadown, County Kildare, Dublin, Belfast, Stuttgart, London and more.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all supporters of Palestine to continue to mobilize, demonstrate and organize in public squares, government offices and outside Israeli embassies, as the prisoners have urged. We also urge participation in the urgent call to action to pressure the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to take a real stand and end its complicity in the violation of Palestinian prisoners’ rights. Take Action: 

1) Organize or join an event in support of the hunger strikers. Protest outside your local Israeli embassy, consulate or mission, or at a public square or government building. You can drop a banner or put up a table to support the prisoners and their strike. See the list of current international events here, and add your own: send your events and actions to us at, on Facebook, or use the form to tell us about your actions.

2) Hunger Strike for Justice! Join the Palestinian hunger strikers to support their demands with a symbolic one-day hunger strike in your community or on your campus. Tell us about your solidarity strike at, on Facebook, or use the form.

3) Call your government officials and demand action.  Call your foreign affairs officials – and members of parliament – and urge action for the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

Call your country’s officials urgently:

  • Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop: + 61 2 6277 7500
  • Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland: +1-613-992-5234
  • European Union Commissioner Federica Mogherini: +32 (0) 2 29 53516
  • New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully: +64 4 439 8000
  • United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson: +44 20 7008 1500
  • United States President Donald Trump: 1-202-456-1111

Tell your government: Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike for their basic human rights – for family visits, medical care, and freedom from imprisonment without charge or trial. Governments must pressure Israel to recognize the prisoners’ demands!

4) Take action on social media! Support the hunger strike on social media. Post a picture of yourself with a sign saying you support the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike! Include the hashtag #DignityStrike when posting your photo to Facebook or Twitter. Share and re-share information about the strike with the #DignityStrike hashtag.

5) Build the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign! Join the BDS Movement to highlight the complicity of corporations like Hewlett-Packard and the continuing involvement of G4S in Israeli policing and prisons. Build a campaign to boycott Israeli goods, impose a military embargo on Israel, or organize around the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Tunisian police use tear gas to disperse protesters

Tunisians stage a protest after a person was killed during clashes between security forces and protesters in Tunis, Tunisia on 22 May, 2017 [Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisians stage a protest after a person was killed during clashes between security forces and protesters in Tunis, Tunisia on 22 May, 2017

Tunisian police yesterday fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who attempted to break into a gas pumping station in the south of the country as protests over jobs turned violent, Reuters reported.

Protesters forced the closure of the Vana Pumping Station along with other oil and gas facilities in the area over the weekend. They called for a share in the job market and energy revenues.

The Tunisian defence ministry said that it would use force to protect and retake the gas and oil facilities, while the army reopened Vana station however the protesters closed it again, triggering a violent response from the army.

Read: Tunisia protesters close oil pumping station after army standoff

Witnesses told Reuters that the clashes broke out at Vana when the military took back control to reopen the station.

Following the protests, the Tunisian government offered 1,000 job opportunities to locals with a further 500 to become available next year.

It said that the protesters rejected this offer, noting that they wanted all the jobs to start immediately in addition to a development fund with a $50 million deposit paid by the oil companies.

Tunisia is a small oil producer with an output of about 44,000 barrels per day. Italian, Austrian and French firms are investing in the country’s oil industry.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Morocco cracks down on fighters returning from IS

Mohamed Mahzouz (L), Mohamed Alami (3rd L) and Brahim Benchekroun (fourth L, in white), three Moroccan former Guantanamo detainees and members of Harakat Sham al-Islam, in an undated photo

For the last two years, Moroccan authorities have been cracking down on Islamic State (IS) fighters’ returning from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. While they have been accused of turning a blind eye to the departure of hundreds of volunteers to jihad in the early days of the conflict in 2012, authorities are now arresting returnees, fearing they would get involved in terrorist activities at home.

This zero tolerance policy on returnees has prevented many from coming back to Morocco, with some remaining in Turkey, according to sources close to Salafists Al-Monitor spoke with.

Khalil Idrissi, a lawyer who has defended several returnees, draws attention to their motivations to return home. Many had been lured with promises of money, he told Al-Monitor, while others dreamed of living under their own interpretation of Islam and came back to their country disappointed with their experience with IS.

According to Abdelhak Khiame, the head of the Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), affiliated with the Interior Ministry, at least 1,600 Moroccans have left to join diverse groups and more recently, mainly IS. During the last two years, about 70 were arrested while coming back to Morocco.

But critics point to the lack of rehabilitation programs and denounce a security approach that does not really address the roots of radicalization. “They simply jail them for two or three years; they are then released without any guidance. But their ideas do not change. Authorities have to create programs for detainees and do a follow-up after they are released. They have to open a dialogue with them and create social as well as economic programs to integrate them,” Abdelwahab al-Rafiqi, a former cleric and researcher known as Abu Hafs, told Al-Monitor.

According to Mohamed Masbah, an associate fellow at Chatham House, authorities became increasingly concerned with returnees as well as combatants trying to leave Morocco in 2014 with the rise of IS. He told Al-Monitor, “Royal Armed Forces joined the US-led anti-IS coalition forces in Iraq and Syria in September 2014. The intelligence services are a source of valuable information about transnational jihadi networks and work closely with several European countries. In addition, authorities targeted networks and cells of recruitment. This approach has prevented more than 500 prospective travelers from reaching Syria. Authorities arrested tens of presumed jihadis who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and/or had planned to perpetrate terrorist attacks in Morocco.”

When the first wave of Moroccan combatants left to Syria and Iraq, they could easily get out of the country and travel there through Turkey. Several former detainees who had been charged with terrorism obtained travel documentation from the state and left Morocco without any difficulties, sometimes just days after being released, according to sources close to Salafi activists Al-Monitor spoke with.

But when they started to return to Morocco and as the terrorist threat increased, Moroccan authorities began to systematically arrest them. Since 2014, most of those who came back have been brought to court. In January 2015, the anti-terrorism law of 2003 was amended in order to criminalize joining groups outside Morocco. The BCIJ was created in March 2015, and has since officially dismantled more than 40 cells and arrested at least 548 people.

The first wave of departures began in 2012, at a time when the international community opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Many young people, among them some who were not following radical Islam or were not even close to jihadi groups, answered the call of renowned religious scholars. In February 2012, clerics such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi declared it was a duty to help those fighting against Assad. In December 2012, Morocco hosted the Friends of Syria conference in Marrakech, a go-ahead for volunteers to jihad, who interpreted this event as an encouragement to support the Syrian opposition and by extension, jihad.

In 2013, a new organization, which provided a network for Moroccans eager to go fight Assad’s regime, was created in Latakia, Syria. The group, Harakat Sham al-Islam, was almost exclusively composed of Moroccan combatants, among whom were Mohamed Mahzouz, Mohamed Alami and Brahim Benchekroun, three former Guantanamo detainees. The group was active between 2013 and 2016, and Moroccan fighters have split between Jabhat al-Nusra and IS for the most part, according to experts.

The personal links between the former detainees was essential in organizing the group and convincing other Moroccans to join. Benchekroun had been jailed in 2005 for having recruited fighters for Iraq in the same period and location as other high-profile detainees, including some sentenced in the wake of the 2003 Casablanca attacks.

Benchekroun and Anas el-Haloui, also a member of Harakat Sham al-Islam, both former convicts killed in Syria in 2014, were also prominent members of the Joint Committee for the Defense of Islamist Detainees (CCDDI), a group created in 2011 to defend Salafi detainees.

Umm Adam, the most renowned woman in the Moroccan Salafi sphere, took part in several protests alongside members of the CCDDI. Educated at the Sorbonne in Paris and the wife of Karim el-Mejatti, an al-Qaeda member killed with their son in Saudi Arabia in 2005, she had pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. After being extradited from Saudi Arabia in 2003, she was detained for several months in Morocco. In July 2014, she decided to settle with IS in Syria and followed her other son there.

Umm Adam is one of many former al-Qaeda supporters who shifted to IS. But IS has also attracted random Moroccans mainly eager to live under the caliphate. Its creation is the achievement of a dream for many, said Abu Hafs, sentenced to 30 years in jail for having inspired the 2003 Casablanca bombings. As a cleric, he would make speeches defending jihad, and authorities arrested him for the content of his speeches several weeks before the attacks.

After he was released by royal pardon in 2012, Abu Hafs’ discourse dramatically changed and he reviewed his positions, clearly voicing his opposition to jihad in Syria. In March, he launched Al-Mizan, a research center financed by the traditionalist Istiqlal party, to gather information as well as analysis on terrorism-related issues in order to use his own experience to fight extremism, Abu Hafs told Al-Monitor.

Abu Hafs recalls dreaming of an Islamic state in his youth. “It was not the jihadis but those we call moderates who gave me that dream,” he said.

The Syrian conflict has attracted people from diverse social backgrounds throughout the country. In a country where opportunities to climb the social ladder are scarce and youth unemployment is high, reaching IS and playing a role there can be in many cases a source of enrichment. But for many, it can also be a sign of personal achievement.

Abdelaziz el-Mehdali’s story illustrates this sense of realization and fulfillment many jihadis believed they couldn’t find at home. Known as Abu Oussama el-Maghribi, the former street vendor was one of the most well-known Moroccan jihadi fighters. In 2011, he had taken part in the February 20 Movement’s pro-democracy protests, although like most Salafists he was mainly calling for the release of Salafi prisoners, considered to be political detainees.

Faced with a lack of opportunities in his hometown, Fnideq, where many jihadis come from in the north of Morocco, he joined Jabhat al-Nusra, a group he later left to join IS. In 2014, he was killed in clashes with Jabhat al-Nusra fighters.

Ahmed (not his real name), a 21-year-old student nurse, dreamed of a new life under the caliphate. But on his way to Syria, he was stopped with his mother at the Turkish border. And as soon as he stepped foot on Moroccan soil, he was arrested. He was later tried — his mother was not — and sentenced to a two-year term for trying to join a terrorist organization as per the anti-terrorism law, his lawyer, Idrissi, said.

Ahmed had decided to follow his mother, a housemaid who wanted to leave for Syria because of a family conflict and resulting financial problems that she believed didn’t leave her any other choice. Stuck with her son in a small apartment in Morocco that she was forced to share with her brother, who allegedly led a debaucherous life and heavily drank alcohol, she decided to join IS and convinced her son to go with her.

He didn’t want to let her go to Syria by herself. He had always dreamed of going to medical school, which he was brought to believe he could do in Syria under IS. To both of them, settling in IS territory was a way out that matched their religious beliefs.

“They [IS] were giving them [mother and son] some hope,” Idrissi told Al-Monitor.

“They were looking for an easy solution,” he said. “Paradise if they die, or IS if they remain alive.”

(Source / 23.05.2017)

UNRWA: Our financial deficit in 2017 is $115 million

UNRWA financial

UNRWA said on Monday that its financial deficit in 2017 amounted to 115 million dollars, noting that no reduction will occur to the services provided to refugees but it will be forced to implement austerity measures.

Director of the UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip, Bo Schack, said during a joint press conference with his counterpart in the West Bank, Scott Anderson, on Monday evening in Amman that the UNRWA launched an emergency appeal for 2017 worth 406 million dollars but then reduced it to 140 million dollars only due to the lack of support.

In the conference that took place during the meeting of the UNRWA advisory committee, Schack added that the UNRWA has received donations that are not at the required level and it still needs 20 million dollars.

Schack warned, according to the Jordanian newspaper al-Ghad, that the situation in Gaza is on the verge of explosion due to the ten-year blockade imposed on it, the deterioration of life conditions and the absence of solutions.

For his part, director of the UNRWA operations in the occupied West Bank, Scott Anderson, said that the UNRWA is suffering from a huge deficit in the budget that covers the services delivered.

Anderson stated that the UNRWA regular budget for 2017 is 700 million dollars to manage its operations in the five regions (Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza Strip), but, he added, the Agency currently suffers from a major financial deficit of about 115 million dollars.

He explained that the UNRWA relies on voluntary donations and that was forced to pursue an austerity policy to address its difficult financial situation without affecting the basic services in addition to expanding the donor base.

He pointed out that the UNRWA Commissioner-General urged in his report published two weeks ago the donor countries to find effective ways to address the UNRWA financial situation and presented a proposal to allocate a fixed budget for the Agency by the United Nations.

Anderson affirmed that the UNRWA is working to improve the infrastructure of the refugee camps and will rebuild 42 health centers in the West Bank during the next five years.

He noted that the houses of the camps have been worn out for decades and that there are 8,000 houses in the West Bank that need either demolition or reconstruction or restoration. He emphasized that the UNRWA presented this issue to the donor countries and is waiting for their responses.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Gaza blockade causes delay of more than 1,000 surgeries

Palestinian specialists

A number of Palestinian specialists held on Tuesday Israel fully responsible for the significant decline in health services in the past years in the Gaza Strip and accused it of consolidating the Palestinian political division.

Yasser Abu Jamea, Director General of the Gaza Ministry of Health, said that the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip as well as the existing political division caused the postponement of more than 1,000 surgeries in al-Shifa Hospital. Furthermore, 500 blood units are at the risk of being damaged, he added.

This statement was voiced during a workshop organized by the NGO network on Tuesday on the division’s impact on the health sector in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Jamea affirmed that the Ministry of Health’s stores lack 30% of the necessary medications, adding that Israel is not the only party held accountable for the crisis afflicting the Gaza Strip and affecting 2 million citizens.

Director-General of the Gaza Mental Health Program called for exerting all efforts to lift the Gaza blockade and obtain sources of funding for the Ministry of Health and the other institutions, stressing the need to draw the international community’s attention to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

For his part, the director of the World Health Organization office in Gaza, Mohammed Lafi, touched on the main reasons for the decline in the health sector largely due to the Israeli siege and the Palestinian division.

Lafi emphasized that the crisis is not new but has emerged since the beginning of the siege ten years ago, noting that only 32% of the required medications is available. This is in addition to the shortage in the medical equipment, Lafi stated.

He added that the health sector in Gaza has not witnessed any improvement in years, pointing out that there are 20 deaths among each 1,000 newborns, a ratio that has improved in all parts of the world except Gaza.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Medicines in such short supply in Gaza, treatments will stop

Munir Al-Barsh, General Director of Pharmacy in the in Gaza during a press conferene in Gaza on 23 May, 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Munir Al-Barsh, General Director of Pharmacy in the in Gaza during a press conferene in Gaza on 23 May, 2017

Medication supplies in the Gaza Strip have reached dangerously low levels after the decision was made to stop providing hospital and health centres in the southern municipalities with the required items, a senior official in the Ministry of Health warned today.

Munir Al-Barsh, General Director of Pharmacy in the in Gaza, stressed during a press conference that as of April, there were 170 types of medications that are not available and the deficit rate has reached 35 per cent, while the number of medical supplies that are unavailable reached 270. This indicates the seriousness of the consequences for the patients with chronic diseases, cancer and those on dialysis.

He also noted that the shortages in basic services, such as cancer medication, infant formula, dialysis services, emergency services, surgery, intensive care and specialised units of patients with hepatitis, cystic fibrosis, cardiac catheterization and open heart services suggest a health catastrophe that will negatively impact the lives of the patients. Treatments will stop as a result of the shortages, he warned.

Read: PA denies halting medical shipments to Gaza

The Ministry of Health in Gaza is making contact with relevant forces to alleviate the crisis and to try to find solutions, he added, or convince the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, which has decided to abandon its responsibilities for the lives of two million Gazans to comply with its duties.

(Source / 23.05.2017)

Karim Younes from isolation: “Weakness and fatigue have hit our bodies, but our will and determination have grown”

Karim Younes, the longest consecutively-held Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails and one of the imprisoned leaders who joined 1500 fellow Palestinian prisoners in launching the Strike for Freedom and Dignity issued a statement from prison on Tuesday, 23 May. The statement was presented by Younes’ brother and lawyer, Tamim Younes:

Our resisting people

I address you from behind the barbed wire on the 37th day of the battle for freedom and dignity to inform you that our bodies may be weakened and barely able to move, but our spirits reach the sky, and despite the stretch of the battle and its ferocity, we are determined to continue until we achieve victory, not only for us but for all of our people.

The prison and security authorities have tried through several meetings offered to us to suspend the strike and discuss our demands after that, but we refused and have categorically rejected this approach.

We are determined to complete the mission to the fullest. This battle is not only a battle of prisoners and their demands, but it is the battle of the people and their dignity.

It is no secret that weakness and fatigue have hit our bodies, but our will and determination have grown and strengthened above the ability of our bodies.

On the 37th day, we assure you that we will not retreat before the escalation and arrogance of the occupier. We will escalate our steps of struggle in the days to come, at the forefront of these steps to refrain from taking salt water.

This requires a parallel escalation of our people and our supporters to expand and take the battle everywhere.

The occupation and its jailers have imprisoned our bodies, but our souls remain resisting and free.

We will not retreat, will not retreat, will not retreat.

Either victory or martyrdom.

Karim Younes
Isolation cells, Ramle Ayalon prison

23 May 2017

(Source / 23.05.2017)

‘Resistance is not terrorism’: Palestinians burn effigies of Trump in Gaza

Resistance is not terrorism

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continued to express outrage over US President Donald Trump calling out the Hamas movement — Gaza’s de facto leading party — in a list of terrorist organizations during a speech in Riyadh on Saturday before 50 leaders of Arab and Muslim-majority countries.

Palestinians in Gaza from across the political spectrum united in denouncing the remarks, which have been interpreted as a blanket condemnation of all forms of Palestinian resistance.
“No description of the suffering and depravity can begin to capture its full measure. The true toll of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and so many others, must be counted not only in the number of dead. It must also be counted in generations of vanished dreams,” Trump said, in his first speech delivered abroad since taking office.
Shortly after the speech was broadcast, Hamas reacted by accusing Trump of “complete bias” toward the policies of the Israeli occupation by designating the movement as a terrorist organization.
The designation “denies the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to resistance to liberate their land and holy places,” Hamas, which identifies as a Islamist national resistance movement, said.
Hamas denounced Trump’s message at the summit in Saudi Arabia — which focused heavily on what he called “the crisis of Islamist extremism” — for attempting to divide the Muslim world, as Trump meanwhile “ignores the Zionist crimes of killing children and women and demolishing the roofs over their heads.”
Israeli officials have routinely claimed that Palestinian armed resistance is part of an international rise in Islamist extremism, while many Palestinians have instead pointed chiefly to the frustration and despair brought on by Israel’s decades-long military occupation of the Palestinian territory and the absence of a political horizon.
The Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees organized a rally in Rafah city in the southern besieged coastal enclave Monday evening protesting Trump’s remarks.
Dozens of supporters crowded at Shuhada Square in the center of the city and torched US flags, as well as photos and an effigy of Donald Trump.
“Palestinian resistance is a source of pride for the nation fighting its enemy and occupier and trying to liberate its country,” leader of the Popular Resistance Committees Abu Fares al-Shamali said.
Trump’s remarks, al-Shamali added, were blindly throwing US support behind the interests of Israeli occupation, “which is the true source of terrorism and violence in the region and in the world,” he said.
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On Tuesday, anti-Trump protests raged on in the small Palestinian territory.
Hundreds of supporters of the leftist and secular Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) rallied in Gaza City to protest Trump’s remarks made in Riyadh, demonstrating that the comments were being interpreted as offensive to Palestinian resistance movements at large, irrespective of political or religious affiliation.
Demonstrators waving Palestinian flags, PFLP flags, as well as Hezbollah and Iranian flags rallied from Palestine Square to the prisoners’ solidarity sit-in tent at Saraya Square, chanting against US policies in the region.
Two masked PFLP gunmen aimed their guns at an effigy of Trump tied up in ropes in Saraya Square, behind a banner that simply stated: “Resistance is not terrorism.”
Member of the PFLP’s politburo Kayid al-Ghoul told Ma’an that the rally reflected the group’s support for the demands of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners and firm solidarity with their plight, as well as opposition to Trump’s policies, which he said were “predictably in support of Israel’s conditions for the so-called peace process.”
Al-Ghoul said that, “today, we are sending a message that the Palestinian people refuse to give up any of our rights, and refuse to go back to US-sponsored negotiations.”

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The Islamic Jihad movement also organized a rally in central Gaza City condemning “Trump’s statements against resistance factions,” with the group stressing that they completely rejected the US president’s characterization of Hamas as a terrorist organization, raising a banner that said: “Our dignity is our most valuable possession. Trump, resistance is not terrorism — we will triumph and you will leave.”
Member of the Islamic Jihad’s politburo Muhammad al-Hindi said that “Palestinian resistance factions are holding on to Palestinian rights stronger than ever, despite all the conspiracies being planned against the Palestinian cause.”Al-Hindi said that “Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his description of the resistance as terrorism, in front of all of the Arab and Islamic world leaders, is a reflection of the ongoing deterioration in the region,” referring to a growing alliance between heads of state in the region, the United States, and Israel at the expense of the Palestinian cause.
Al-Hindi denounced the leaders — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas among them — for their silence to Trump’s message, particularly as the US president famously hinged his presidential campaign on inflammatory, anti-Muslim rhetoric.

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Ahead of Trump’s visit to Riyadh — which was marked by the US signing a $110 billion weapons deal with the Saudi regime — Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International Philip Luther said that the “potential for President Trump to build toxic alliances with leaders who share his disdain for human rights during his first foray into foreign diplomacy is deeply worrying.”Touching on Trump’s ambitions to secure “the ultimate deal” for Middle East peace, Amnesty International’s statement also deplored successive Israeli governments for large-scale violations throughout the 50-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territory, which “have inflicted mass suffering on Palestinians.”The international rights group highlighted how the state of Israel has been “emboldened” by the new Trump administration to accelerate the expansion of illegal settlements in violation of international law as well as step up Palestinian home demolitions.
Trump’s visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory was also met with a widely observed general strike and protests in the occupied West Bank, with a combined message of support for a mass hunger strike under way in Israeli prisons, and also to voice opposition to the resumption of peace talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel under US sponsorship.
Protests Monday erupted into violent clashes, as a “Day of Rage” has also been called for on Tuesday.
(Source / 23.05.2017)