Israel ban on Gaza importing medical equipment condemned by rights group

A Palestinian patient undergoes kidney dialysis at al-Shifa hospital during the continuing crisis of power outages, in Gaza city on 28 August, 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
A Palestinian patient receives medical care at a hospital in Gaza city on 28 August 2018 

Israel’s ban on Gaza importing urgently-needed medical equipment has been condemned by Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights. The group said on Wednesday that most of the medical equipment banned lately is needed for diagnostic purposes, including testing for Covid-19 and other illnesses.

This is nothing new. “The Israeli occupation authorities have been blocking the entry of urgent medical equipment to Gaza hospitals for ten years,” Al-Mezan pointed out. “However, the ongoing ban on such equipment complicates the deteriorating health sector in Gaza and undermines the work of medical staff.”

In the latest case, said Al-Mezan, Israel has blocked the import of 14 X-ray machines which are needed urgently by Gaza’s hospitals. Of the 22 machines in Gaza already, it added, eight no longer work because regular maintenance has not been possible due to the ban on spare parts imposed by Israel.

The health sector in Gaza has deteriorated throughout the Israeli-led siege in place since 2007. Al-Mezan called on the international community to bear its legal responsibility and move immediately to push Israel to end the siege before it is too late.

OPINION: The Gaza phoenix is rising, giving hope to Palestinian burns patients

(Source / 27.10.2021)

Israel navy confiscate, destroy Gaza fishing boat

Palestinians’ fishing boats are docked after Israeli army implemented maritime blockade over Gaza Strip claiming helium filled balloon thrown by Gaza Strip side in Gaza City, Gaza on 13 June, 2019 

The Israeli occupation’s navy this morning confiscated two fishing boats off the Gaza coast and destroyed a third.

According to the Head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate, Nizar Ayyash, the two fishing boats were owned by fishermen Abdullah Al-Bardaweel.

While the one that was destroyed was owned by Mohammad Al-Bardaweel, Ayyash said, noting that the Israeli navy also destroyed lights and other equipment used for fishing.

Ayyash noted that the Israeli navy’s attacks on Palestinian fishermen do not stop, noting that the attack was carried out at about seven nautical miles from the coast.

OPINION: Gaza fishermen are caught between a rock and a hard place

According to the Palestinian Fishermen’s Association in Gaza, there are some 4,000 fishermen working in Gaza’s fishing sector, who are looking after about 50,000 dependents.

The profession has been deemed dangerous by rights organisations due to Israel’s harassment of fishermen at sea.

Last year alone, Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip on at least 320 occasions, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) reported, 63 more attacks than the previous year. Israel also closed the fishing area altogether for 16 days in August.

Israel naval forces ‘escalate’ attacks on Palestinian fishermen
MEMO #Infographic by The White Canvas

(Source / 27.10.2021)

Hamas involved in negotiations to release Palestine, Arab prisoners

Gazans gather in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross building to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in Gaza City, Gaza on October 20, 2021 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]
Gazans gather in front of the International Committee of the Red Cross building to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails in Gaza City, Gaza on October 20, 2021

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas is engaged in a multifield negotiation to release Palestinian and Arab prisoners from Israeli occupation prisons, a top Hamas leader has disclosed.

In response to a call by a Jordanian MP, Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh shared in a statement: “We are involved in a multifield battle to release Palestinian, Arab and Jordanian prisoners from the Israeli occupation prisons.”

Haniyeh added: “The agenda of the conflict with the enemy is open to achieve this goal sooner or later. We will not hesitate to bear the responsibility for this issue.”

Haniyeh pointed out that the negotiations team for the prisoner swap consists of “the best members” of his movement who “know how to reach an honourable deal.”

On Wednesday, Jordanian MP Khalil Atiyyeh called for Hamas leaders to include Jordanian prisoners in the potential prisoner swap with Israel.

Meanwhile, Rai Al-Youm reported sources stating that the parties negotiating a deal had achieved a breakthrough, noting that “good news will be delivered very soon.”

This was confirmed by a source from Hamas on Saturday morning to MEMO. “A breakthrough was reached relating to a prisoner swap, and prisoners will be released soon,” the source informed MEMO.

(Source / 24.10.2021)

Qatar envoy: ‘Gaza heading towards a better future’

Photos of children, who lost their lives in Israel's attacks on Gaza, are exhibited at debris of Es-Sekka family's house in Khan Yunis, Gaza on June 19, 2021 [Ashraf Amra / Anadolu Agency]
Photos of children, who lost their lives in Israel’s attacks on Gaza, are exhibited at debris of Es-Sekka family’s house in Khan Yunis, Gaza on June 19, 2021

Chairman of Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee Mohammed Al-Emadi announced on Friday that Gaza is heading towards a better future, news agencies reported.

Speaking to journalists at an event in Gaza, he expressed: “Gaza is heading for the best this year and in the coming years.”

He stated that the reconstruction of the homes and facilities destroyed during the Israeli offensive will commence soon.

“The reconstruction will be faster than it was following the previous wars,” he said, referring to rebuilding Gaza following the Israeli offensives in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014.

When asked about the Qatari grant for government employees in Gaza, he responded: “You have noticed the progress and this ushers in a better future.”

(Source / 24.10.2021)

ICRC calls to end Palestine hunger striker crisis in Israel jails

Protesters gather in support of hunger striker Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails on May 22, 2017 [Salah Malkawi/Anadolu Agency]
Protesters gather in support of hunger striker Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails on May 22, 2017

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Friday renewed its call to end the crisis of the Palestinian hunger strikers inside Israeli jails, as their health conditions seriously deteriorate.

Head of the ICRC Mission in Jerusalem Els Debuf posted on Twitter: “We reiterate our urgent call about Mr Miqdad Al-Qawasmeh and Mr Kayed Nammoura (Fasfous).” Both Al-Qawasmeh and Nammoura have been on hunger strike inside Israeli jails for nearly 100 days.

Debuf added: “The ICRC urges authorities, the detainees and their representatives to find a solution that will avoid loss of life.”

Debuf continued: “We continue to visit and closely follow their situation, as we do for the six detainees currently on hunger strike, including Mr Al Araj.”

The head of the ICRC mission stressed: “Every detainee must be treated humanely and with dignity.”

Read: Hamas involved in negotiations to release Palestine, Arab prisoners

(Source / 24.10.2021)

Israel closes roads near Gaza Strip fearing sudden escalation

Roads are closed to reinforce lockdown in Gaza, 28 August 2020 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Roads are closed in Gaza, 28 August 2020 

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has ordered a number of sites and roads near the Gaza Strip to be closed, fearing a sudden escalation of tension and attacks from the besieged enclave, local media reported on Tuesday.

“The entrances to the Black Arrow Monument, Givat HaPa’amon, Giv’at Nizmit, the Garden of the Fallen, and the Lone Rider Hill are all blocked,” said the IDF.

According to Ynet News, the decision was made after a “situational assessment” but, at this stage, no special guidelines have been issued for Israeli settlers living near the nominal border fence with Gaza. However, travel restrictions have been put in place.

The reason for these measures, explained the news website, is the Israeli government’s decision not to abide by the demands of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, during indirect, Egyptian-brokered, talks.

READ: Israel FM says ‘impossible’ to reach an agreement with PA president

Israel carried out a 10-day military offensive against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip in May that left more than 260 people dead, including 67 children and 40 women. Hundreds more were wounded, and homes and basic infrastructure facilities were destroyed.

When the offensive ended, the Palestinians in Gaza suspended their legitimate resistance activities after being advised by the Egyptian, Qatari, and UN brokers that Israel was going to ease its 15-year siege and allow a humanitarian grant from Doha into the territory. However, Israel did not fulfil its promise, although, under pressure from the Palestinian resistance, it eased the siege partially and allowed some of the Qatari financial support into Gaza.

(Source / 20.10.2021)

Poll: Promoting peace between Israel and Palestine the lowest priority

Israeli and foreigner peace activists stage a protest against Israeli authorities' decision on evacuating Palestinian families who live in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Eastern Jerusalem on 25 January 2019. [Faiz Abu Rmeleh - Anadolu Agency]
Israeli and foreigner peace activists stage a protest against Israeli authorities’ decision on evacuating Palestinian families who live in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Eastern Jerusalem on 25 January 2019

A slim majority, 53 per cent of Israelis, believe that Israel should seek assistance from the countries it has normalised relations with to advance peace with the Palestinians, a new survey has found.

However, Mitvim – the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies survey conducted in September, also revealed that promoting peace with the Palestinians came in last place out of the priorities of issues listed, at 5.64 out of ten. This score has been on a steady decline since 2019.

A year after the Abraham Accords were signed, out of the representative sample of 700 Israeli adults polled for the survey, 34 per cent think the agreements are a turning point for Israel’s acceptance in the Middle East, while 31 per cent think Israel’s status has not changed significantly.

The United Arab Emirates and Morocco are the Arab countries that Israelis are most interested in visiting, at 10 per cent each, followed by Lebanon at 7 per cent, Egypt at 6 per cent while Saudi Arabia and Jordan are both only of interest to 3 per cent.

About half – 48 per cent – of Israelis do not want to visit any Arab country, up from 42 per cent last year.

READ: Israeli policies aim to make two-state solution ‘impossible’

Moreover, about half of Israelis think that meetings between Israeli ministers and their Palestinian counterparts are not a positive development; 30 per cent think it is merely symbolic and 17 per cent think it is negative and harms Israeli interests. Only 32 per cent think the meetings are positive and will improve relations between Israel and the Palestinians.

When it comes to the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) economic and political crisis, 38 per cent of Israelis think Israel should not be involved, 28 per cent believe Israel should act to strengthen the PA and 13 per cent think Israel should weaken the PA.

Additionally, only 9 percent of Israelis think the government is handling Gaza well; 31 per cent think Israel should try to bring the PA back in control of the Gaza Strip while 22 per cent think the international community should be enlisted for Gaza’s economic rehabilitation and 13% favoured negotiations with Hamas for a long-term settlement.

The survey also found that almost half of Israelis, 47 per cent, view the EU as adversarial to Israel, which will improve its economic situation if they exclude the settlements. Meanwhile, 35 per cent believe the country should join the EU programmes.

The United States (US) is the most important country for the public in Israel. Russia ranked second, followed by Germany, Britain, China, Egypt, France and Jordan. The public gives US-Israel relations a score of 6.46 out of 10, with only 35 per cent rating the state of relations with the US as good—the lowest score since 2016 before Trump took office, and a steep decline from last year’s rating of 8.05 out of 10 and 67 per cent rating the relationship as good.

Dr Ilai Saltzman, a Mitvim board member, said that it is not surprising that the Israelis surveyed believe that US President, Joe Biden, is less beneficial for Israel than the former US President, Donald Trump, citing his association with the Obama administration, which was considered by many Israelis as hostile to the Jewish state.

READ: Bennett says ‘a Palestinian state would mean a terror state’

Also, Trump was perceived as being very favourable to Israel and the Democratic Party is seen as the ideological opposite of many right-leaning Israelis.

However, Saltzman added that Biden has not been in office for a full year and should be examined “based on his commitment to Israel’s security, his contribution to resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, advancement of the regional peace agreements, a solution to the conflict with Iran, and Israel’s renewed positioning as the subject of bipartisan American support.”

The poll was conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute, in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation.

(Source / 20.10.2021)

PA financial crisis close to breaking point, warns UN official

Palestinian Authority officials can be seen taking control of Gaza crossings 

The Palestinian Authority is suffering from a financial crisis which is close to a “breaking point”, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has warned.

“Donor support, including direct budget support, continues its multi-year decline. Estimates suggest that the PA will have a 2021 budget deficit of around $800 million. This would nearly double the 2020 gap,” Tor Wennesland told the UN Security Council yesterday. “The PA’s borrowing capacity with the banks has been exhausted.”

The UN official drew the council’s attention to the financial situation that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) finds itself in. Although the agency is “indispensable for regional stability”, Wennesland said that it “must have the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate”. Instead, it has an ongoing budget shortfall.

UNRWA depends almost entirely on voluntary donations from UN member states. However, in 2018, the Trump administration cut aid to UNRWA and the PA. Donald Trump’s successor as US President, Joe Biden, restored aid to the tune of $200 million to the Palestinians when he took office earlier this year.

READ: UN says Palestine’s fiscal situation is reaching ‘breaking point’

The PA’s income has also been hit by Israel deducting some of the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the authority, which it says was used to pay stipends to the families of martyrs and prisoners who “committed terror attacks” against the occupation. This, said Wennesland, adds to the PA’s financial woes.

The UN Special Coordinator then took the opportunity in front of the Security Council to raise concerns regarding Israel’s E1 project, which includes the construction of thousands of illegal settlement units on large areas of Palestinian territory for the purpose of linking the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc to occupied Jerusalem. “This will sever the connection between the northern and southern West Bank, significantly undermining the chances for establishing a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as part of a negotiated two-state solution,” he pointed out.

The UN official reminded the council that all settlements are illegal under international law and “remain a substantial obstacle to peace.” Nevertheless, around 650,000 Israelis live in 164 settlements and 124 outposts scattered across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

(Source / 20.10.2021)

Palestinian hopes for freedom still alive 10 years after Shalit deal

Photo showing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 27, 2006 [David Silverman/Getty Images]
Photo showing Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 27, 2006 

To embrace freedom after being sentenced to life in prison is an unbelievable miracle. This is what happened to Palestinian ex-prisoner Ahmed Al-Falit, Anadolu Agency reports.

Having already served 20 years in Israeli prison as part of his life sentence, Al-Falit was released 10 years ago, following a prisoner swap deal between Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, and Israel.

On 18 October 2011, Israel freed 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in an Egypt-mediated deal, aiming to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006.

Upon his release, Al-Falit established Nafha Centre for Prisoners Studies and Israeli Affairs in the blockaded Gaza Strip, a dream he developed during his time in prison, which he was able to realise following his release.

Miracles happen

Al-Falit, 49, said he was sure of an imminent miracle that will see him and his fellow inmates released from prison.

“We kept clinging to our hopes despite being in prison,” the ex-prisoner told Anadolu Agency. “The evidence to that is that we were continuing with our bachelor’s and master’s degrees in preparation for life after prison even though we were sentenced to life.”

Al-Falit earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the Hebrew University, while he was serving his sentence.

READ: Israeli prisoners are the Qassam Brigades’ intelligence treasure

He said he started dreaming of freedom when news of the capture of Shalit on June 25, 2006, by Hamas fighters reached him.

“On that day, I woke up to the voice of my friend in prison calling me, saying: ‘The Gazans kidnapped an Israeli soldier’,” Al-Falit recalled vividly.

Alongside his fellow inmates, Al-Falit anxiously began following up on news, in the hope of a prisoner swap deal that was realised five years later.

Bittersweet moments

After a long-awaited list of to-be-released prisoners was out, Al-Falit experienced bittersweet feelings.

He was happy hundreds would see freedom, but was also sad for thousands of others who would remain behind bars as they were not included in the deal.

Palestinian prisoners escape from high-security prison - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Palestinian prisoners escape from high-security prison – Cartoon

Through a smuggled phone, Al-Falit was informed three days before the deal was implemented of those set to be released.

He became disheartened and unable to inform those not included in the deal.

But the message eventually reached all prisoners. A moment of silence engulfed the prison until a Jordanian prisoner sentenced to life broke it.

“The Jordanian prisoner congratulated the released prisoners, and comforted those remaining in prisons,” Al-Falit said.

Hope remains

Al-Falit is hopeful that a new swap deal will be reached soon that will see “the rest of the prisoners enjoy the taste of freedom.”

A good case for other prisoners to believe in this hope is the story of Imad Al-Din al-Saftawi.

Now 57-year-old, al-Saftawi was not among those included in the Shalit deal but was released in 2019 after completing his 20-year prison term.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, al-Saftawi said those still in detention “have a great conviction that the time for release is nearing.”

He said a prisoner “cannot afford to have his hope for release disappear or fade” as this will mean his “destruction”. “That is what the Israeli occupier wants,” he warned.

Recalling the moments when the Shalit deal was implemented, Al-Saftwai said he was heavy-hearted not to be on the list of those released.

OPINION: Ten years after the exchange deal, the Israeli shock has not allayed

“For those of us who remained jailed, we were happy for our brothers who were set to be released. While sadness grew in our hearts like a tree, we did not want to spoil their joy of freedom,” he said.

“The prisoners realise that there is no escape from prison except through a deal or the collapse of the entity (Israel).”

He noted that the prisoners are pinning their hopes on another swap deal to be struck between Hamas and Israel so that they embrace freedom.

Hamas has captured two Israeli soldiers following the 2014 Israeli offensive on Gaza. Two other Israelis are believed to have been held by the Palestinian group after they entered Gaza under unclear circumstances.

The group hopes to swap the Israeli captives for 4,500 Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisons.

Israeli concerns

The Shalit deal was a huge success for Palestinians. A number of those released went on to secure leadership, administrative or developmental positions, inside and outside Palestine.

Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, is one notable example.

Mustafa Ibrahim, a political analyst, told Anadolu Agency that Israel is worried about any prisoner swap deal with Hamas.

“The freed prisoners’ attaining of great leadership positions has become a source of concern for Israel,” Ibrahim said.

“Israel realises that prisons have turned into schools where the Palestinian captives play an important role in the struggle against the occupier.”

According to Ibrahim, Israel is now trying to avoid completing any new prisoner exchange deal so as not to repeat the Shalit deal mistake as well as for fear of angering its right-wing supporters.

Recently, Hamas revealed that its mediators are ready for talks with Israel on a prisoner swap but said it did not receive a positive response.

READ: ‘That’s not his voice’, mother of Israel prisoner of war held in Gaza say after recording released

(Source / 19.10.2021)

19 Palestinian journalists in Israel jails

Palestinian writer Ahmed Qatamesh [Al Mayadeen Channel/Youtube]
Palestinian writer Ahmed Qatamesh 

Israeli occupation forces yesterday detained Al Mayadeen Channel, 69, in the occupied West Bank, raising the number of Palestinian journalists and writers inside the occupation’s jails to 19, the Journalists Support Committee (JSC) said.

The JSC said in a statement that Israeli occupation forces raided Qatamesh’s house in the West Bank city of Al-Bireh and detained him.

There are currently 14 reporters, correspondents, producers, photographers and cameramen held in Israel’s jails in addition to five writers and thinkers, the JSC said.

Qatamesh, the JSC said, had been detained several times in the past and has spent a total of 14years inside the occupation’s jails.

“Israel continues hunting Palestinian journalists, writers, academics, thinkers and media teams on the grounds of the work they do in addition to their opinion posted on social media,” the JSC said.

It called on the international community and international rights groups to put pressure on the Israeli occupation in order to release the Palestinian journalists and respect Palestinians’freedom of speech and expression.

Report: 26 Israeli violations against journalists in September

(Source / 19.10.2021)