UN says Food Aid for Palestinian Refugees May End Soon (VIDEO)

24 FEB
8:22 PM

The head of the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza warns that it cannot guarantee food distribution beyond the end of June.

The agency is blaming major funding cuts by the United States for this situation.

There are growing concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and its potential to prompt conflict with Israel.

~Al Jazeera/Days of Palestine

02/24/18 Gaza Municipal Services Reduced by 50%

(Source / 24.02.2018)

24 Years since Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre in Hebron

24 FEB
8:36 PM

Hebron marks, on Sunday, 24 years since the Ibrahimi mosque massacre took place, when an Israeli settler opened fire at Muslims observing the dawn prayers on a Ramadan morning, killing 29 worshippers and injuring 150 others before he was caught and killed by the crowds.

The settler, an American-Israeli physician identified as Barouch Goldstein, who resided in the ultra-fanatic Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron, walked into the mosque as a large number of Muslim Ramadan worshippers, mainly elderly, were praying and opened fire at random from his Israeli army-issued machine gun leading to the large number of deaths and injuries.

To make matters worse, Israeli soldiers, who were in the vicinity of the mosque, closed the doors to the mosque and prevented the worshippers from running for their lives. They also prevented people from outside to enter it to help in evacuating the dead and wounded.

Residents who wanted to reach the mosque, and those inside, fought with the soldiers, leaving an additional number dead and injured. Later, related violence raised the number of Palestinians killed on that day to 50, in Hebron alone, and to 60, adding those killed in confrontations that broke out elsewhere in the West Bank, against Israeli occupation forces.

WAFA additionally reports that, immediately following the massacre, Israel decided to punish the victims by closing down the old town of Hebron, where the Ibrahimi mosque is located, for six months. An all-Israeli committee was formed to probe the massacre, instead of punishing the settlers, to divide the mosque between Muslims and Jews, and to close down several commercial streets, most famously Shuhada Street, which remains closed for Palestinians until today. Army checkpoints were also set up to restrict the movement of Palestinians, while Israeli settlers continued to move freely and without any restrictions.

The new facts on the ground created after the massacre to punish the victims are still in place until today.

(photo: Wikipedia)

Wiki article: Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre

(Source / 24.02.2018)

Palestinian youth injured by Israeli gunfire in Nablus clashes

Youth Nablus injured

A Palestinian man on Saturday were injured by Israeli gunfire during clashes that erupted in Bourin town to the south of Nablus city in the northern West Bank. The clashes broke out after settlers of the illegal Yitzhar nearby settlement attacked the town in the afternoon.

Local sources told the PIC reporter that Israeli occupation forces (IOF) unleashed rubber and live bullets and fired tear gas canister towards the youth. As a result, a man was shot and injured in his hand by an Israeli live bullet. He was transferred to hospital for treatment.

(Source / 24.02.2018)

Gaza to pump sewage straight into sea as crisis worsens

Last month the United Nations envoy warned the enclave was on the verge of ‘full collapse’

Municipalities in Gaza has announced they would pump sewage straight into the sea from Palestinian coastal enclave due to fuel shortages and desperate humanitarian situation in the Strip.

“The beaches of the Gaza Strip will be completely closed and sewage will be pumped into the sea because the municipalities are unable to provide fuel for treatment plants,” said Nizar Hejazi, head of the Gaza City municipality.

Hejazi also noted “the policy of collective punishment (which) continues to be imposed on the population,” in a statement representing municipalities across the strip.

“We announce a state of emergency in the cities and municipalities of the Gaza Strip,” Hejazi said, noting services would be cut by as much as 50 percent.

The only power plant in Gaza stopped operating last week due to lack of fuel, leaving the strip totally reliant on imports.

Israeli occupation has imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza for more than a decade, while Egypt has also largely sealed its border in recent years, with both citing security measures.

Residents currently receive only a couple of hours power per day.

Last month the United Nations envoy warned the enclave was on the verge of “full collapse.”

(Source / 24.02.2018)

Israeli special force abducts injured Palestinian in Bethlehem

Akram al-Atrash

An Israeli special force at dawn Saturday kidnapped the injured Palestinian youth Akram al-Atrash, 23, from al-Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.

The PIC reporter said that a special force riding a civilian car at 2:00 am raided the camp, broke into al-Atrash’s house and arrested him.

Al-Atrash, whom the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have been chasing for four months, was taken to an unknown destination.

Local sources told the PIC reporter that Palestinian youths in the camp tried to thwart the arrest operation by confronting the IOF soldiers with empty bottles and Molotov cocktails but they could not as the soldiers showered them with live bullets and tear gas canisters injuring a young man in the foot.

The IOF had raided al-Atrash’s house and arrested his father many times before in an attempt to force him to hand himself in. They also threatened to assassinate him if he did not do so.

In an interview with the PIC reporter, al-Atrash’s father, Imran, held the Palestinian Authority responsible for his son’s life and blamed it for not offering him any assistance to complete his treatment or at least protecting him from arrest while he is in such a difficult health condition.

Akram al-Atrash was seriously injured about four months ago by explosive bullets in the chest and shoulder during clashes with the IOF in al-Dheisheh camp.

After he was denied treatment at Hadassah Hospital in Occupied Jerusalem, Akram tried to obtain a medical referral to complete his treatment anywhere else but he could not as he was constantly chased by the IOF.

(Source / 24.02.2018)

Israeli Soldiers Attack Weekly Protests Across The West Bank And Gaza Strip

23 FEB
5:10 PM

Israeli soldiers resorted, Friday, to the excessive use of force against Palestinian protesters across the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, causing scores of injuries, as the protesters held their weekly processions against the Annexation Wall and Colonies, and for the twelfth consecutive week, marched against the illegal U.S. recognition of occupied Jerusalem as the unified capital of Israel, in violation of International Law and numerous United Nations and Security Council resolutions.

The soldiers fired dozens of live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades at the protesters, causing dozens of injuries.

In the al-‘Isawiya town, in the center of occupied Jerusalem, the soldiers attacked nonviolent protesters as they matched near the western entrance of the town.

Dozens of soldiers were deployed in the village, and around it, and installed many roadblocks.

In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers attacked protester who matched in the al-Mazra’a al-Gharbiyya village, northwest of the city, marking the 49th anniversary of the establishment of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

The soldiers fired dozens of gas bombs at the nonviolent protesters, causing many to suffer the effects of teargas inhalation, in addition to causing fires in olive orchards.

The protest was held against a recent Israeli decision, illegally confiscating large swaths of privately-owned Palestinian lands to pave a new segregated road for illegal colonizers, northwest of Ramallah.

In addition, the soldiers caused many Palestinians to suffer the severe effects of teargas inhalation near the main entrance of al-Biereh city, near Ramallah, while many youngsters hurled stones and empty bottles at them.

In related news, the soldiers shot and moderately injured a child with live rounds in his leg, in the al-Janiya village, west of Ramallah, before he was rushed to Palestinian Medical Complex.

Also in Ramallah, the soldiers attacked the weekly procession against the Annexation Wall and colonies, in Bil’in village, west of the city.

In Hebron, in southern West Bank, the soldiers attacked dozens of Palestinians, who marched in the Old City, marking the establishment of the DFLP and in commemoration of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre, when Israeli terrorist Baruch Goldstein opened fire on worshipers in the holy site, killing 29 and wounded dozens.

The army fired dozens of gas bombs and concussion grenades at the protesters and prevented them from reaching the mosque.

In Nablus, in northern West Bank, the soldiers shot two Palestinians with live fire, and two others with rubber-coated steel bullets, after the army attacked protesters, who marched near Huwwara military roadblock, and at the main entrance of Beita town.

In addition, illegal Israeli colonizers of Bracha outpost, which was built on private Palestinian lands south of Nablus, attacked many homes and fired live rounds.

Furthermore, the soldiers attacked protesters in Kufur Qaddoum town, in the northern West bank governorate of Qalqilia, and fired many rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs and concussion grenades at them.

In the Gaza Strip, medical sources have reported that the soldiers shot four Palestinians near Nahal Oz military base, east of Gaza city, before medics rushed them to a local hospital.

They added that the soldiers shot three Palestinians near the Shuahada Graveyard, east of Jabalia refugee camp, in northern Gaza, and three others east of Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.

Dozens of Palestinians also suffered the severe effects of teargas inhalation in several parts of the coastal region.

(Source / 24.02.2018)

Exclusive – Winners and Losers from the Egypt-Israel Gas Deal

The Egypt-Israel gas deal has sparked optimism in Cairo, concern in Ankara and Doha

Over the past week, the debate has raged at research and economic centers over the news that Egypt signed a deal to import gas from Israel. Speculation has arisen over the goal of this agreement after Egypt had effectively started producing gas from the Zohr field, the largest in the Mediterranean.

The Israeli energy group Delek said on Monday agreements have been signed between Delek and its associate Noble Energy of the United States to supply 64 billion cubic meters (2.26 trillion cubic feet) of gas from Israel’s Leviathan and Tamar offshore fields to the Egyptian firm Dolphinus over a 10-year period.

The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources initially did not comment on the details of the deal, “because it concerns private sector companies.” On Tuesday however, it said that “Egypt’s strategy to become a regional energy center includes importing gas from several eastern Mediterranean countries, including Israel and Cyprus.”

Egyptian energy experts told Asharq Al-Awsat that Cairo is seeking from its deal with Israel to restore operation at two gas liquefaction plants, resolve international arbitration issues and transform the country into a regional energy hub. Cyprus’ Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis announced earlier this week that Nicosia was “on the verge of selling natural gas to liquefaction plants in Egypt.”

Indeed, Cyprus and Egypt signed on Thursday a preliminary agreement to set up pipeline between their two countries. Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tarek El Molla highlighted after signing the deal the significance of his country’s location on the eastern Mediterranean, saying that its facilitates the export of gas to the east, west, Gulf and Mediterranean.

“This will attract other investments and petroleum industry players from neighboring countries,” he added.

The Egyptian-Cypriot rapprochement has been met with major Turkish opposition. This is not the first time that Ankara objects to their rapprochement. In 2013, it had rejected a marine border demarcation agreement signed between Greek Cyprus and Egypt.

Business and politics

Defenders of the Egypt-Israeli deal believe that it will boost Egypt’s economy, noting that the country already has the needed infrastructure to make progress in its implementation. A pipeline already exists between Egypt and Israel. They added that the deal would not have been possible without the parliament’s ratification in July 2017 of a law on the establishment of a gas regulatory authority. The law was approved by President Abul Fattah al-Sisi a month later.

Experts estimate that gas reserves enjoyed by Turkey, Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Cyprus amount to over 370 trillion cubic feet, the second largest in the world.

Energy expert Mohammed al-Sayyed Bedawi stressed to that end the need to “separate business from politics.”

“Six years ago, Egypt was exporting gas to Israel through the East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG), which was owned by Egyptian businessman Hussein Salem before he was arrested on financial and legal charges,” he explained to Asharq Al-Awsat.

He therefore highlighted the significance of the deal with Israel, saying that Egypt was set to make major revenues. It will also allow it to restart the gas liquefaction plants that will in turn benefit Egyptian and foreign investors in this field.

Egypt’s gains

Egypt has two gas liquefaction plants. The first is the Egyptian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (ELNG), which is located in Edku city in the Beheira governorate. The second is located in the Domyat region and belongs to the Spanish-Italian Union Fenosa Gas Company. Experts said that the construction of the two plants cost 3.2 billion dollars and they are now worth some $16 billion.

Dr. Jalal Othman of the International Renewable Energy Agency told Asharq Al-Awsat that Cairo is set to make major economic gains from its deal with Israel, noting that only 634 gas liquefaction plants exist in the world and two are located in Egypt.

The eastern Mediterranean enjoys 13 gas fields. Israel has five offshore fields and Lebanon, Syria, Cyprus and the Palestinian territories enjoy two each. Egypt has the Zohr field, which was discovered by Italy’s Eni company. It estimated that it holds 30 trillion cubic feet of gas over a surface of 100 square kilometers. Egypt is currently seeking to speed up gas production in its fields in order to become self-sufficient by 2019.

Regional energy hub

Recalling Sisi’s statements that Egypt has transformed into a regional energy hub, petroleum expert George Eyad said: “This strategy started years ago and the country is now reaping the rewards of this dream.”

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that it would be difficult for Israel, Greece and Cyprus to construct gas liquefaction plants because they have become too expensive. In addition, he explained that gas is not stored like petroleum, but it is pumped in pipes from the source to the receiver or it is liquefied. Israel cannot currently do that and the plan to establish a pipeline to each of Cyprus and Turkey has come to halt, much to its dismay, he said.

The Egypt-Israel gas deal allows Cairo to earn $2 billion on an annual basis in exchange for gas liquefaction. It will also allow it to connect Greek Cypriot gas to liquefaction plants and later export them to Europe. Eyad revealed that Lebanon will soon begin drilling oil wells and it will rely on liquefying it in Egypt.

The deal was deemed by Israel as “historic”, while international sides said it was the most significant agreement between Egypt and Israel since their 1979 peace deal.

Turkey, meanwhile, has looked on with disappointment.

At a time when Egypt spoke about becoming a regional energy hub, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades stressed his country’s right to drill for oil and gas in its territorial waters, in spite of the opposition of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.

Ankara deemed the 2013 marine border demarcation signed by Egypt and Cyprus as a violation of Turkey and Turkish Cypriot rights.

“I don’t think Turkey is willing to spark a confrontation, but I think it cannot be fully dismissed,” said analyst Andrew Neff from IHS Markit according to Agence France-Presse.

“If one of these drillships wanders too far into disputed waters then I think we’ll see Turkey engage in some additional ‘gunboat diplomacy’ in defense of its interests.”

Losers from the deal

Eyad said that the Egypt-Israeli deal has harmed Qatar and Turkey. The latter will be forced to impost liquefied gas from Egypt, while the former will lose part of its European market despite its major liquefaction capabilities.

Turkey will have to buy gas from Egypt in the future, as will Europe, due to cheaper costs he predicted.

Qatar will likely lose 70 percent of its European market and it will only have the Latin American market to turn to. “This deal dealt a heavy blow to both Ankara and Doha,” he stressed.

“Turkey has been provoking Cyprus through all possible means to deter it from drilling for gas. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to have eternal control over Cyprus’ wealth and the deal struck between Cairo and Nicosia has definitely made him worried about the future,” said Eyad.

Ankara has however been operating on the Israeli front by striking energy deals there, including setting up a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Turkey and from there to Europe.

(Source / 24.02.2018)

Rural Damascus Provincial Council Sends Letter to Turkish President Urging a Halt to Onslaught on Eastern Ghouta

The humanitarian tragedy in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta continues to worsen as bombardment on populated areas by the Assad regime and its allies continues unabated. The UN Security Council on Friday failed once again to take action to put an end to the carnage in the besieged Damascus suburb.

Rural Damascus Provincial Council, which is part of the Syrian Interim Government’s Ministry of Local Administration, sent a letter to the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan via the Syrian Coalition calling for urgent action to protect women and children in eastern Ghouta and prevent a ground assault by Assad regime forces and the Iranian militias on the area. The Council warned of possible atrocities should regime forces and their allied foreign militias storm the area.

The letter also urged the Turkish President to work to ensure the siege is completely lifted given the big impact such move will have at the international and Islamic levels.

A video showing a grieving Syrian family in eastern Ghouta whose son was killed in the Assad regime’s aerial bombardment went viral on social media sites on Friday. Grandfather of the slain child, who was on the verge of nervous breakdown, said he wanted the kid to die so that he suffers no more agony. The video exemplified the tragic humanitarian conditions and the plight of civilians trapped in eastern Ghouta.

Eastern Ghouta has been under tightened siege for five years. The siege has been accompanied by constant bombing by regime forces claiming the levies of thousands of civilians and causing massive destruction in the Damascus suburb. Moreover, dozens have died of hunger, disease, and injury as the blockade has caused severe shortages of food and medical supplies.

According to the UN, more than 400 people were killed and around 1,000 others in the relentless bombardment on eastern Ghouta in the past four days. Local activists confirmed that the Assad regime and its allies are using internationally banned weapons, such as the white phosphorus, in the attacks on eastern Ghouta.

In a press conference held on Friday, Vice-President of the Syrian Coalition Salwa Aksoy called for preventing Russia from voting on any draft resolution related to Syria as Russia is a main party to the war against the Syrian people.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department / 24.02.2018)

Abbas Downplays Health Concerns after Medical Checks in US

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations Security Council on February 20, 2018 in New York

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas appeared on local television Friday to downplay concerns over his health, saying the results of his medical checks at a hospital in the United States were “positive.”

In an interview with Palestine TV while in the US, 82-year-old Abbas rejected reports he had been rushed to hospital during his visit.

“It was a suitable opportunity to be here to conduct some medical tests, and these tests have been conducted and now we left,” he said after leaving hospital.

“All the results are positive and reassuring.”

Palestinian officials said Abbas would be returning to the West Bank on Friday.

He flew to the United States to address the UN Security Council in New York on Feb. 20. He was also in the US to meet with political allies amid a breakdown of communication with the US administration following President Donald Trump’s controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Palestinians, who see the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state, have said the US has disqualified itself as a mediator in talks with Israel and cut political ties with the administration.

Trump is expected to propose a peace plan in the coming months.

(Source / 24.02.2018)

BREAKING: Gaza declares state of emergency

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (12:00 A.M)- Gaza officials have just declared a state of emergency as the economy reaches the brink of complete collapse.

Residents of the Gaza Strip now face the unprecedented consequences of Israel’s – eleven year – ongoing Seige. Despite the fact that the Israeli state is obliged by international law, to maintain a sound liveable condition for the residents it besieges, it has acted to purposefully strangle the civilian population of Gaza.

The Mayor of Gaza, Nizar Hejazi, said at a news conference; “Much of the financial aid has been cut, which has halted basic services linked to fuel and sanitation…”

Nizar Hejazi was referring to the recent cuts from ‘UNRWA’, a department of the United Nations set up for specifically dealing with Palestinian refugees.

Gaza now faces an unemployment rate above 50%, whilst more than 80% of the population are identified as living in poverty.

Gaza’s sewerage system has now become completely over-run and has forced officials to announce that raw untreated sewerage will all now be, directly, pumped into the sea.

Crime has also increased in Gaza due to the abject poverty, 97% of the water is undrinkable, the sole power plant in Gaza cannot operate due to lack of fuel and electricity is also only available between 2-6 hours per day.

The United Nations Security Council yesterday addressed the humanitarian crisis, but there is yet to be any action taken for the desperate population of the Gaza Strip.
(Source / 24.02.2018)