Gaza revived: how an Irishman is giving hope to Palestinian amputees

Amputee Football Championships in Gaza on 13 April 2019 [Moahammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Amputee Football Championships in Gaza on 13 April 2019

By Muhammad Hussein

Gaza. The very name evokes images of Israeli bombardment, crumbling infrastructure, keffiyeh-clad protestors standing defiantly with Palestinian flags and slingshots, and screaming children shot by snipers in a fog of tear gas and smoke from burning tyres. All of these images are the unfortunate reality of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but there remains an untapped sporting potential within the population, and one man has dared to dig it out from among the most unlikely of people: the growing number of amputees.

Over the past few years, the number of amputees in the Gaza Strip has risen exponentially, particularly since the beginning of the Great March of Return protests at the nominal border between Gaza and Israel since 30 March last year. The brutality of the Israeli response to the peaceful protesters includes the use of live ammunition and tear gas, killing almost 300 Palestinian men, women and children, and wounding more than 25,000 others. In May this year, the UN stated that in the current crisis with its serious healthcare shortages, around 1,700 Palestinians face the possibility of having lower limbs amputated. All is not lost, though.

Speaking exclusively to Middle East Monitor from his office in Dublin where he works full-time as an accounts manager for a housing company, Simon Baker stressed his status as a football coach rather than someone who is trying to change the politics in occupied Palestine.

READ: Israel has killed 16 Palestinian children in Gaza this year 

“I was there to try and create a good image,” he told me, “and the one thing I said to the players is ‘I’m not telling you to forgive, I’m not telling you to forget, but if you don’t start focusing on tomorrow and you only focus on yesterday, you’re never going to move forward’.”

His mission in Gaza began with losing his own leg after an accident at a building site in 2004. The incident left him depressed and traumatised. He overcame this by getting back into sports, football in particular, where he discovered that being an amputee was no real barrier to his value as an active member of society. Since then, he has dedicated his free time and energy to teaching and helping other amputees to realise their potential as the head of the European Amputee Football Federation (EAFF) since 2015.

Amputee Football Championships in Gaza on 13 April 2019 [Moahammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

When he first began training Gaza’s amputee football team, his intention was clear. “I don’t understand the situation, I only knew what I saw on the news, but I wasn’t there to be a politician.” He outlined to the players the many benefits that sporting activities can bring when separated from politics, namely that “you turn your life around” and that you “can become a valuable member of society… you’re representing your community. But the long-term goal is that you’re actually going to represent your country.”

When Baker arrived in Gaza in April this year with a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the amputee football team had already been together since the start of the Great March protests, but did not have the resources and opportunity to develop to any meaningful extent. “It was really just a few lads having a kick around with a ball,” Baker recalled, “and it was more them just chasing the ball. It looked good, though, and they were impressive, and it was great that they had taken this initiative.”

What the players really lacked was a solid structure which could help them move from being a local to an international team. “There’s a lot of work before they start playing football: we’re working on the structure, delivery, dominance; everyone has a role to play. It has to become sustainable.”

READ: Sohaib and Naziha lost their limbs, but did not lose their hope 

This sustainability, Baker pointed out, is the primary end goal of his time in Gaza. “When I go to a country, the first thing to do make sure that there’s good governance and that they’re registered. It’s not a case of get off a plane, here’s some crutches, take some photos, goodbye, because six months later it’s all collapsed.”

With the objectives and structures set up for the team back in Gaza and maintained during his absence, Baker plans to return to the coastal territory in September to continue his mission; he has ambitious plans for the team. He wants to create “a festival of sports in Gaza”, a two-day programme of events for other disabled sportsmen and women, including blind karate and wheelchair basketball, in one of the Strip’s stadiums, bringing people together to celebrate sporting achievements with plenty of food and music. “The head of the ICRC delegation said that this sounds really good, because it’s a long time since the people of Gaza had something to celebrate.” Baker also aims to lead a marathon along the coast of the territory.

Moreover, the Irishman does not simply aim to coach the team to play in Gaza; his sights are set far beyond the Strip towards an international horizon. His long-term goal is to establish a junior amputee football team, drawing players from the growing legion of child amputees, which would make the project both regulated and recognised as one with the capability to play internationally. “We created it in Europe and the reason we did so is because that’s the future of the sport… You create a proper league so there’s regular football, and from the league we hope in six months to have a proper international team, because you get the best of the best.”

For this, the project requires more media recognition, funding and help from both local and international actors. One possible stakeholder that Baker intends to bring on board is the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), the governing body for the sport in Palestine, which has yet to recognise amputee football. “The PFA has a responsibility to participate in something like this,” he insisted. “We’re not asking it for money, we’re just there to create the foundations – the governance, the structure, the right public image – and we register with a sporting organisation. But then we grow the teams.”

The PFA, if it decides to back the team, could arrange for it to have the use of football pitches free of charge, facilitate training and governance, and provide other support which would boost Gaza’s amputee football team towards an international level.

Although Baker admitted that he had seen the obvious effects of the suffocating siege imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 by Israel and its allies, he confessed that he did not experience any serious personal shortages during his stay. He did, however, say that he forgot to bring sunscreen lotion with him and, on the first day of training, the heat got to him. After the training session, he asked the security guard assigned to him to stop somewhere to buy some lotion; he was told that only absolute necessities are generally available in Gaza, due to the siege.

Amputee Football Championships in Gaza on 13 April 2019 [Moahammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

The Israeli authorities did not allow him to bring any kit and crutches with him into Gaza because “they could be used as weapons”. Baker’s sunburnt face brought it home to him that the Palestinians in Gaza are affected even more seriously by the daily shortages of basic items. “I know all these things,” he said in dismay, “but I can’t change it.”

While some might criticise Baker and other outsiders for not openly condemning the Israeli blockade on Gaza and the atrocities committed against participants in the Great March protests, the reality is that to pick a side is to jeopardise the ability to help the team and other needy Palestinians. Visas to enter Gaza are a fact of life and can be withheld by the occupation authorities, as could visas for players and the team to go abroad for international matches. This is constantly on Baker’s mind.

WHO: 3 children a month in Gaza left disabled for life 

While the Strip is blockaded and its people languish in suffocating circumstances, the Palestinians in Gaza have made a lasting impression on the football coach. Baker not only underwent his own personal trauma, but has also travelled to various countries to train those in poverty, and has gained an insight into the challenges facing amputees in less developed parts of the world. He has also discovered a trait in the Palestinians which he did not find in such abundance anywhere else: resilience.

“One thing I did notice is that not one person came and said, ‘We have it so bad, I hate Israel, I don’t want this.’ They just said, ‘No more training, let’s play football.’ I was really amazed by it.” Unlike other countries in which he has trained amputees, he was shocked by the restraint and pride which with the Palestinians hold themselves. “I have never seen such resilient people… not one player said, ‘Give me something, give me money.’ They were very proud people.”

Simon Baker’s overall message is to separate sport from politics. “Sport is about fair play,” he explained. “If only for one hour a week the players can forget the problems in Gaza and only focus on the football, then I’m doing my job.” This, he said, is how anyone who is not a politician can truly help people, as the sport will help to develop them back into being core members of society; the politics can follow. “I’m not a politician; the only thing I can say is what I think sport will do, and that is that it can make a person feel a sense of worth, a sense of being; feel like a valued member of the community.”

He admitted that he doesn’t know how the situation in the Gaza Strip will end. “You know, I just hope that there’s no more damage and no more amputees… One thing I can say, though, is that in the future, if I can, I will take my wife to Palestine, for sure. It’s a beautiful country. And the beaches!”

This Irish football coach, himself an amputee, is giving hope to Palestinians in the same situation. In that sense alone, Gaza has been revived.

(Source / 21.07.2019) 

Israel committed 628 violations in Gaza during first half of 2019

Israeli forces shower Palestinians with tear gas during a demonstration within the "Great March of Return" at Israel-Gaza barrier fence near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on July 12, 2019 [Hassan Jedi / Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces shower Palestinians with tear gas during a demonstration within the “Great March of Return” at Israel-Gaza barrier fence near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on July 12, 2019 

Israel committed 628 violations against Palestinians in the buffer zone east of the Gaza Strip during the first half of 2019, Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights announced on Thursday.

In a report – a copy of which sent to MEMO – Al-Mezan said that these Israeli violations included 261 attacks against workers and 183 against protesters.

The report also stated that the violations included the detention of 56 Palestinians, including 15 children, and 27 incursions into the besieged coastal enclave.

According to the report, the buffer zone includes 35 per cent of the Strip’s farmland.

Read: Gazans flock to fence for 67th week of protests

The violations also included the killing of 32 Palestinians, among them ten children and one woman.

Meanwhile, the rights group stated that the violations included wounding 3,610 Palestinian citizens, including 1,205 children and 168 women – most of them injured during the Great March of Return protests, which have been ongoing since March 2018.

The rights group said that Israel regularly opens tank and artillery fire at Palestinian farmers and people working in the construction and industrial sectors, as well as shepherds along the eastern edge of Gaza.

Those detained, the report said, are being attacked, as well as physically and verbally tortured, before being taken to detention centres for investigation. Some are released and some are kept in prison.

Read: Data refutes claims Israel easing Gaza blockade

(Source / 20.07.2019) 

Israel arrested 900 Palestinians in Jerusalem during first half of 2019

Israeli forces stand off against Palestinians as they enter the Al Aqsa Mosque following the removal of Israeli security measures near the entrances to Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem, on July 27, 2017 [Mostafa Alkharouf / Anadolu Agency]

Israeli forces stand off against Palestinians as they enter the Al Aqsa Mosque following the removal of Israeli security measures near the entrances to Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in Jerusalem, on July 27, 2017

The Palestinian Prisoners’ Centre for Studies (PCHR) confirmed that there has been a remarkable increase in the number of arrests Israel has carried out against Palestinians in Jerusalem since the beginning of this year, monitoring more than 900 cases of arrests around the Holy City.

Media spokesman for the centre, researcher Riyad Al-Ashqar, said that the arrests taking place only in Jerusalem constitute one-third of the total arrests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) during the first half of the year. The total amounted to 2,600 detention cases, indicating a clear targeting of Jerusalemites in order to deter them from protecting the holy sites and defending Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Al-Ashqar declared that the largest arrest campaign targeting Jerusalemites occurred in February, when the Golden Gate (Bab Al-Rahma) was opened to worshippers. Dozens of people were arrested including national leaders and clerics, namely Sheikh Abdul Azim Salhab, Head of the Jerusalem Awqaf Council and his deputy, Najeh Bkerat. Sheikh Raed Dana was removed from Al-Aqsa for six months and Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) director in Jerusalem, Nasser Qaws, was arrested.

Al-Ashqar also highlighted that the arrests targeted different groups of Jerusalemites in all the villages, towns and neighbourhoods of the city. Al-Issawiya was the most affected by these arrests – amounting to 295 – followed by 130 in Shu’afat, 120 in Silwan, 105 in the Old City and 65 in the Al-Aqsa compound.

Read: Israel injures, arrests Palestinians after demolishing martyr memorial

Child Arrests

Al-Ashqar also pointed out that arrests targeting children in Jerusalem amounted to 300 cases – one third of the arrests since early 2019 – among whom there were more than 17 children under the age of 12.

Among those arrested was Ali Taha, a 16-year-old who was shot by Israeli forces at a roadblock outside Shu’afat refugee camp. He was arrested, dragged to the ground and denied medical treatment. Fifteen-year-old Mohammed Issam Al-Qawasmi was shot in the back by Mista’arvim(undercover Israeli forces) in the same camp. He was seriously injured and is currently undergoing treatment while being handcuffed to the hospital bed.

Israel did not only order Jerusalemite children to be arrested but also subjected them to house arrest, which stipulates the child must stay inside the house for certain periods of time. Thus, the child is prohibited from leaving the house even for treatment or study. Other children had to be expelled from their homes and pay heavy fines after being brought before Israeli courts. They were sentenced to actual prison terms accompanied by a fine, or a fine in exchange for their release.

Read: Israel held Palestinian for 11 days while failing to determine if gun was real

Arresting Female Jerusalemites

Al-Ashqar added that Israel’s campaigns also targeted women, especially those staying at Al-Aqsa Mosque. The number of arrests among women and girls in Jerusalem amounted to 43, including minors. Most were released on condition of house arrest or expulsion from Al-Aqsa.

Among the women arrested was Ghadeer Al-Amouri, an employee of the Commission of Detainees Affairs. She was released in exchange for five days of house arrest and a heavy fine. Nineteen-year-old Fatma Suleiman was also arrested after Israeli forces stormed her family home; she was released hours later on condition of house arrest. Meanwhile 17-year-old Magda Ahmed Askar was arrested after Israeli forces also broke into her family’s home.

Females staying at Al-Aqsa Mosque were also subject to arrest and summoning, most notably Aya Abu Nab, Hanadi Halawani, Khadija Khois and Nazmiya Bkerat, an employee at the Manuscripts Section at Al-Aqsa. Hala Al-Sherif, from Damascus Gate, was arrested for raising the Palestinian flag during a march by Israeli settlers carrying Israeli flags.

Three of the prisoners’ mothers were arrested “immediately after they left Al-Aqsa Mosque and were subjected to investigation at Qishla police station in the Old City of Jerusalem”. These were Khouloud Al-A’war, mother of detainee Suhaib Al-A’war, Iman Al-A’war, mother of detainee Mohammed Al-A’war, and Najah Awda.

Read: Palestinian dies in solitary confinement in Israel prison

(Source / 20.07.2019) 

Hamas: Greenblatt’s comments prove US is hostile to Palestinians

US President Donald Trump's Assistant and Special Envoy for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt (2nd L) visits Nahal Oz military base near the Gaza and Israel border on 30 August 2017 [Stringer/Anadolu Agency]

US President Donald Trump’s Assistant and Special Envoy for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt (2nd L) visits Nahal Oz military base near the Gaza and Israel border on 30 August 2017

Senior Hamas leader Sami Abu-Zuhri has described comments made by Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, as “shameful” and “hostile.”

Abu-Zuhri wrote on Twitter: “Greenblatt’s remarks that the West Bank is not occupied and the settlements are Israeli neighbourhoods are shameful and proves that Trump’s administration is hostile to the Palestinians and the Umma [Muslim nation].”

This comes after Greenblatt earlier this week told PBS network that “Israel is a victim and does not bear the responsibility” for its 71-year-old conflict with the Palestinians.

Greenblatt also rejected labelling Israel’s some 500 illegal West Bank communities “settlements”, instead calling them “neighbourhoods” and claiming that the occupied West Bank is “disputed”.

This is not the first time Greenblatt has drawn sharp criticism from the Palestinian factions. He has previously came under fire for criticising the Palestinian Authority (PA) for failing to pay for a Palestinian child’s medical treatment while ignoring Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip, and for backing US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s comments that Israel has the “right” to annex the occupied West Bank.

Greenblatt: Peace plan ‘meaningless’ without political agreement

Abu-Zuhri also criticised the normalisation of relations between Israel and Bahrain, after Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifah and his Israeli counterpart, Yisrael Katz, held their first public meeting in the US on Wednesday.

The meeting took place on the side lines of the Advance Religious Freedom conference in Washington DC and, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, was coordinated behind the scenes by the US State Department.

“These meetings and pictures are treason for Jerusalem and Palestine,” Abu-Zuhri stressed, adding that they “will not push the Umma to forget or give up Palestine and turn to normalisation with the [Israeli] occupation”.

Read: Israel FM flies over Saudi to reach UAE

(Source /20.07.2019) 

The solution to Israel’s siege on Gaza is decolonisation

Hundreds of protesters gather in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London in solidarity with Palestinian people who are holding large "Great March of Return" and "Palestinian Land Day" rallies across Gaza border, in London, United Kingdom on March 30, 2019 [Hasan Esen / Anadolu Agency]

Hundreds of protesters gather in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London in solidarity with Palestinian people who are holding large “Great March of Return” and “Palestinian Land Day” rallies across Gaza border, in London, United Kingdom on March 30, 2019

By Asa Winstanley 

Unemployment in the Gaza Strip now stands at more than 50 per cent. Enforced joblessness is “as high as 69 per cent in the under-26 age bracket,” according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

These shocking statistics tell you a lot about the truly desperate state of affairs in the coastal enclave. Israel, in alliance with the Egyptian military dictatorship, has kept Gaza under full military siege for 12 years.

Almost 2 million people, mostly refugees, are kept caged there. They are not allowed to return to the homes from which they were expelled by the Zionist militias and later by Israel between 1947 and 1949 – purely and simply because they are not Jewish.

Any attempt by Palestinians to escape these prison walls and return to their ancestral homes is met by Israeli snipers, who gun down even children.

Non-violent resistance or violent resistance, it does not matter – the summary death penalty enacted by the Israeli army is the same. What Israel wants is for Palestinians to disappear from the face of the earth.

READ: Data refutes claims Israel easing Gaza blockade

Reporting on the issue of Palestine, and advocating for the human rights of Palestinians, often feels like you are drowning in statistics, numbers and factoids. The rate of poverty in Gaza. The vast disparity between Palestinian casualties compared to the number of Israeli casualties during each “round of fighting”.

While it’s important to inform people of about such facts, this data often misses the point; numbers are frequently divorced from the simple reality of the injustices done to the Palestinians.

The cause of Palestine is not a humanitarian issue alone. It is not a “conflict” between two “sides” which needs to be “resolved” by a “settlement”. It’s a massive historical injustice, in which the UK government played a primary role, and which has never ended.

Gaza Siege is a Crime

The Zionist project which led to the foundation of Israel, is, and always has been, a settler-colonial project in the classically imperialist mode. It has many similarities with South Africa, Australia and the United States.

It is not some unique, eternal, intractable conflict between “two tribes”. Such mythologies are often based on particular religious interpretations of Biblical texts – but there is no historical substance to them.

The causes of the systemic injustices against the Palestinians are political, historic and ideological, and have their origins in the rooting of the Zionist movement within Palestine by the British Empire.

READ: British MPs condemn killing of Palestinian medics by Israel forces in Gaza

This is the legacy which makes the continuation of violence in all of historic Palestine inevitable until decolonisation is achieved. The violence of Israeli colonisation means Palestinians will continue to resist it, by any means necessary.

This explains the continued resistance of the Palestinians within the Gaza Strip to Israeli occupation and why they continue to use all methods to fight. Since March last year, the population has heroically engaged in unarmed resistance, week after week, protesting against their dispossession by Israel since 1948 – even though it often means their deaths.

The sheer violence and oppression of the Israeli siege on Gaza means that Palestinian fighters continue to respond with armed resistance measures, including rockets.

The poverty, desperation and unemployment in Gaza is not some inevitable situation somehow endemic to Palestinians, as racists would have it. The conditions there are deliberately manufactured by Israel, with the help of the Egyptian dictatorship.

Palestinians protest outside the UNSCO building in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on 23 April 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

In a very calculated fashion, Gaza is purposely being kept forever on the brink of devastation and disaster. Medicines are in short supply. Cancer patients often cannot receive the treatments they so desperately need. Power cuts and electricity shortages are endemic. Emergency fuel supplies for hospitals are constantly threatened.

READ: Gaza health ministry warns of ‘unprecedented’ shortage of medicines, medical supplies

Israel keeps the Gaza Strip as its largest open air prison. It strictly controls the entrances and exits. Airspace and the coasts and seas are often limited, restricted or closed.

Collective punishment is forced upon the civilian population in revenge for armed resistance. Most recently, in June, Israel imposed a period of full maritime closure on Gaza, prohibiting fishermen from making a living entirely.

Even the unjust Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) 25 years ago permitted fishing access up to 20 nautical miles out from Gaza – but Israel has always violated this provision, having never allowed Palestinians beyond 15 nautical miles.

This is a violent, racist regime. If there is to be any hope of peace in historic Palestine, this regime must end. Decolonisation, equality and democracy are the logical solutions to Zionism.

READ: Israel’s Shin Bet refuses work permits for 5,000 Gazans

(Source / 20.07.2019) 

Israel to energy company: Palestinian homes to be demolished

The occupying forces are launching demolitions for 16 commercial shops in the Shuafat camp in occupied Jerusalem

Israeli occupation forces stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday and were stationed at the entrance to Bab Al-Rahma while settlers renewed their incursions into the Muslim holy site.

Eyewitnesses told the Jordan-based newspaper Addustour that members of Israeli occupation’s intelligence were present at the stairs leading to Bab Al-Rahma.

Seven Jewish students and 36 settlers stormed the mosque’s courtyards through the Mughrabi Gate, they added.

Occupation forces also demolished two commercial facilities in occupied Beit Hanina and Sur Baher in Jerusalem, Addustour reported.

READ: Netanyahu vows never to dismantle illegal Israel settlements

Hamada Hamada, the head of Wadi Al-Homs district committee, said that the occupation army’s deadline for the residents of the Wadi Al-Homs neighbourhood to demolish their residential facilities ended yesterday, pointing out that the Israeli occupation authorities informed the electricity company of its intention to demolish the houses. No details were given as to when this would  take place.

There was a state of anxiety, tension and instability in the Wadi Al-Homs neighbourhood as the Israeli army’s deadline loomed. The neighbourhood’s residents expressed their refusal to demolish their homes under any circumstances despite the Israeli threat of imposing costly demolition fees on them.

The residents added that they built their houses after obtaining building permits from the Palestinian Ministry of Local Government, as their homes are located in “Area A” of the occupied West Bank, which is exclusively administered by the Palestinian Authority according to the Oslo Accords.

(Source / 19.07.2019) 

Israeli army wounds 40 Palestinian protestors

An injured Palestinian demonstrator is received medical treatment at the site after the intervention of Israeli forces during a demonstration within the “Great March of Return” at Israel-Gaza border near Al Bureij Refugee Camp in Gaza City, Gaza on July 12, 2019

Israeli army forces on Friday used rubber bullets and teargas shells to disperse Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank, injuring at least 40 protesters, a Palestinian official said, Anadolu Agency has reported.

“The Israeli army attacked the weekly march [in the Kafr Qaddum town], using rubber bullets and teargas shells,” Murad Shtewi, a protest organiser, told Anadolu Agency.

Shtewi said the injured persons are being treated in the field.

The Friday weekly protest has witnessed the participation of Palestinian leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), he added.

US’ Greenblatt: ‘Israel is victim in conflict with Palestinians’

Every Friday, Palestinians across the Israeli-occupied West Bank stage demonstrations to protest Israel’s decades-long policy of building Jewish-only settlements on the confiscated Palestinian land.

According to estimates, 640,000 Jewish settlers currently live on 196 different settlements built with the Israeli government’s approval and more than 200 settler “outposts”, built without Israeli approval, throughout the West Bank.

International law regards the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, an “occupied territory” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there to be illegal.

(Source / 19.07.2019) 

Israel held Palestinian for 11 days while failing to determine if gun was real

Palestinian boy with toy gun in Nazareth

A Palestinian was detained by Israeli authorities for 11 days while investigators failed to determine whether a weapon the man allegedly possessed was in fact real.

According to Haaretz, the Palestinian claimed the gun was a toy. During the entire time he was in prison, the man “was questioned only once, shortly after his arrest”.

“Although his detention was extended three times,” the paper reported, “police never obtained the results of tests that were supposed to determine whether the weapon was real.” In the end, the military court released the man on bail earlier this month.

The article describes how the Palestinian was detained by Israeli occupation forces on 23 June, after soldiers found what they described as a “dangerous weapon” in his home.

A military court extended his detention by six days, until 1 July, asking investigators to “carry out all the investigative actions necessary, including checking whether it was a proper weapon”.

READ: Israel detains 11 Palestinians in overnight raids 

Four days later, after the man had appealed to the court, a police investigator disclosed that because the detainee claimed the weapon was a toy, “the item had been passed along to an examination by a weapons expert, who also couldn’t determine whether this was a real weapon”.

On 1 July, “the military court held another hearing regarding the case but police could still not determine the authenticity of the weapon.”

The next day, the Palestinian was “brought before the court for the third time”, where it was revealed that Israeli police “still couldn’t verify the gun”, and “asked to extend the suspect’s detention by six more days”.

The court then “ordered police to free the suspect, noting that he is a resident of Area C [of the West Bank] and owns a car leasing service which was having difficulty functioning with him in jail.”

The police told Haaretz that it would “continue to investigate the case”.

(Source / 18.07.2019) 

Islamic Jihad: We won’t allow Israel to evade understandings to ease Gaza siege

Members of Al-Quds Brigades, armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Movement break their fast as they keep guard at the Israeli border during the Muslims' holy fasting month of Ramadan in Khan Yunis, Gaza on 13 June, 2017 [Ali Jadallah /Anadolu Agency]

Members of Al-Quds Brigades, armed wing of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Movement break their fast as they keep guard at the Israeli border during the Muslims’ holy fasting month of Ramadan in Khan Yunis, Gaza on 13 June, 2017 

Tensions between Israel and Palestinian factions in the occupied Gaza Strip “continue to threaten the fragile truce” reached under UN and Egyptian mediation, reported Al-Monitoryesterday.

According to Musab al-Barim, a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, the situation remains unstable.

“The Palestinian resistance’s will to fight will prevail over Israel’s insolence and abuse,” he said.

“This is made clear in our political discourse as well as in the messages we sent to the Egyptians who are mediating to break the Israeli siege.”

“There is no turning back. We cannot allow the Israelis to enjoy calm at the expense of the Palestinians’ rights, and we cannot allow them to evade their commitments that were agreed upon to lift the siege on Gaza,” the Islamic Jihad official added.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said that reducing protests at the fence was a deliberate decision by the High Committee of the Great Return March and Breaking the Siege “to bring civilian casualties to zero and stop the Israeli forces from shedding the blood of Palestinians”.

Asked about the truce, Qassem told Al-Monitor: “The Palestinian factions are committed to the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement of 2014. They have never violated it.”

READ: British MPs condemn killing of Palestinian medics by Israel forces in Gaza 

“The Israeli forces are the ones who lag behind in fulfilling what is required of them, which puts all understandings in danger,” he added.

Noting that Hamas is not looking for war, Qassem said “if this battle happens to take place, it [Hamas] is ready to defend the Palestinians”.

Political analyst Talal Okal was quoted in the report as pointing out that the “Israelis have not complied with the terms of the truce, not even once”.

“The main problem preventing the expansion of these truce agreements is the issue of prisoners exchange,” Okal added.

“If that happens, I think it will lead to a preconditioned truce, meaning Israel will accept Hamas’ terms — and these include allowing the Qatari grant to be disbursed in Gaza to pay the civil servants’ salaries, allowing the entry of fuel and opening the crossings, among other things.”

(Source / 18.07.2019) 

Gaza health ministry warns of ‘unprecedented’ shortage of medicines, medical supplies

A child receives medical care in a hospital in Gaza [File photo]

A child receives medical care in a hospital in Gaza

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip said on Tuesday it was facing an “unprecedented” shortage of essential medicines and medical supplies.

“The medical crisis in hospitals and health centres is the most difficult during the years of the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip,” the ministry said in a statement.

The ministry’s annual requirement of medicines and medical supplies amounts to $40 million, however during the first half of this year, only $10 million was available for medicines and medical supplies.

The statement noted that the shortage deprived 50 per cent of patients in the Gaza Strip from treatment.

It called on all parties to take urgent and effective measures to provide essential medicines for patients with cancer, blood diseases, kidney failure, neurological and psychological illnesses as well as chronic diseases.

READ: Palestinians in Gaza, the deal of the century and dwindling living conditions 

The Gaza Strip has suffered under a more than 12-year siege at the hands of Israel, with support from Egypt and the international community. Goods, food, aid, construction materials and other essentials have not been allowed into the Strip and people have been left unable to leave even to access medical care.

The General Federation of Palestinian Labour Unions reported last year that as a result of the siege, unemployment in the enclave almost doubled to 50 per cent, rising from 27.2 per cent before 2007.

Due to the ban on the entry of fuel, Gaza’s sole electricity plant has been forced to shut down leaving civilians with only 4 hours of electricity a day; further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

A report released by the UN last month raised concerns that the Strip is “de-developing” faster than anticipated, such that the 2020 deadline by which it was said that Gaza would be “unliveable” may have already arrived.

Palestinians are regularly denied access to much needed medical attention, and unable to leave the Gaza strip to access it.

READ: goo.gl/UW1gMb

Infographic by The White Canvas

(Source / 18.07.2019)