Reflections on the 39th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre

By Dr Swee Chai Ang

The steadfastness and courage of Sabra and Shatila are in all of our hearts. Today, we commemorate the cruel injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in the massacre of 1982, knowing that this is just one of the continuous assaults on Palestinians since 1948. We resolve to continue to be with you all in your difficult journey in solidarity, hope and love, knowing that one day, the freedom and peace stolen from the Palestinian people for all these years will be won back through your struggle. We commemorate with tears, but pledge our commitment to this struggle with all our strength and lives. We know that the day will come when our children’s laughter will be the reward of years of sacrifice and endurance.

In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. It bombed Lebanon by land, air and sea, and laid siege to Beirut. Israel killed and wounded thousands of innocent people and made at least 100,000 homeless within a few weeks. Beirut city was denied electricity, medicine, food and water.

I resigned from my job at a hospital in London to help the victims in Lebanon. At that time, my sympathies were with Israel, and I had not known that Palestinians existed. But I could no longer stand by and watch the wounding and killings of women, children and unarmed civilians – or watch them being made homeless as the bombs continuously fell on Lebanon.

Read More: Al-Aqsa Holocaust continues and Judaization and settlements will not change the cultural identity of Jerusalem

I arrived in Beirut in August 1982, and was seconded to Gaza Hospital in Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. It was one of nine hospitals and 13 clinics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the only one that was not flattened by the bombs.

The people of Sabra and Shatila told me about their suffering ever since they were driven out of Palestine to become refugees in 1948. Many of the residents of Sabra and Shatila were third and fourth-time refugees being driven from camp to camp when their families were killed and homes destroyed by Israeli planes. That was the first time I heard about their terrible suffering. That was also the first time I met Palestinians.

Read More: Prisoners in Israeli jails top agenda of political consultations between Palestine and Austria

After resisting the continuous bombardment for ten weeks, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) evacuated in exchange for peace. The US promised that it would protect the 300,000 Palestinian refugees left behind in Lebanon. They were encouraged to return from the shelters to the refugee camps to rebuild their homes and lives. But this did not happen.

Three weeks later, on 15 September, 1982, Israeli tanks were allowed to overrun Beirut. A large number surrounded and sealed Sabra and Shatila refugee camp so that no one could leave nor enter the camp.

Sniping started once the camp was sealed. Initially, the wounded and dead brought into the hospital were mainly women gathering water and food for their families. By the afternoon of the next day, men, women, children and babies were shot in their homes. Many were brought in dead and filled the mortuary.

More than 2,000 frightened people fled into our hospital with stories that the Haddads, Kataebs and Israelis were killing defenceless families in the camp. They feared for their lives.

They could not escape, and no one protected them.

The hospital ran out of blood, medication and food. Our medical and surgical team worked non-stop. I wanted the nurses to give the last packet of blood to a wounded mother, but she pleaded for it to be given to her child, and she died shortly afterwards.

At night, the skies of Sabra and Shatila were lit with Israeli military flares. We heard explosions and machine gun noises throughout, and the wounded continued to be brought into Gaza Hospital.

It was especially painful to operate on a little boy who was shot along with 27 members of his family. As the bodies fell on him, he passed out and was mistaken for dead by the murderers. When he awoke, he was in great pain. Years later, he told of how he heard women being rounded up and raped. His physical wounds may have healed, but his emotional scars are still with him today. It took my American colleagues four years to get him out of living in the house where his family was murdered. He was not the only child who suffered in this way.

At dawn on 18 September, 1982, soldiers with machine guns forced the entire international medical volunteer team out of the hospital.

When we were marched into Rue Sabra, we saw groups of old men, women and children rounded up by militia. A frightened, desperate young mother tried to give me her baby, but was forced to take it back. She begged them to spare her baby. They were all subsequently executed, including the mother and baby.

There were dead bodies piled up in the camp alleys and bulldozers destroying camp homes. We had struggled for 72 hours non-stop without food and sleep to save dozens of lives. But within the same 72 hours, at least 3,000 were killed.

I was 33 years old then. I grew up a Zionist Christian and never knew Palestinians existed until I stepped foot in Sabra and Shatila. I knew then that it was my human responsibility never to walk away from this horrendous injustice. I also realised that I must speak up on behalf of the victims. The dead could not speak up, and the survivors needed my voice.

After testifying to five Commissions of Inquiry on Sabra and Shatila, including travelling to Israel with Ellen Siegel to give evidence to the Israeli Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the Israeli Army in Sabra and Shatila, I returned to the UK. The Palestinians in Lebanon continued to be destitute, homeless and hungry. Justice seemed not to be in sight. The situation was dire for them, and indeed, they continued to suffer and become more desperate. Children were born and grew up in the long, dark shadow of the massacre, and there was no hope of returning to Palestine. Could we make their lives just a little bit easier?

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) was founded in the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, under those circumstances. We wanted to support the Palestinians in any small way that we could. The founders of MAP formed the organisation so that the horrors of the massacre could be turned into a bridge – a positive channel of friendship and solidarity between people in the UK and the Palestinians – not only in Lebanon, but also in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and in the diaspora.

Since then, MAP has not only worked with the Palestinians in Lebanon, but also in Gaza and the West Bank. The existence of MAP is also our way to let them know we will never forsake or forget them. What MAP is doing is minuscule, a drop in the ocean, but we are part of the tide moving towards justice for the Palestinians.

As for me, I count myself privileged and honoured to be able to journey alongside the Palestinians, to be accepted as their family. Whether in Shatila, in Gaza, onboard the Freedom Flotilla Al-Awda to Gaza, in Israeli prison or being deported, I want my life to be an acceptable tribute to the Palestinians. They welcomed me into their broken lives and homes and made me one of their own, offering me Arabic coffee in the midst of the rubble they call home. For this, I will thank God every day of my life, until death do us part.

(Source / 18.09.2021)

Effects of the Israeli blockade on the economic and humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip

By Dr Belal Yasin

Fifteen years ago, the Israeli authorities imposed a severe blockade on the Gaza Strip’s population of more than 2, 200,000 people in a geographical area of just 360 km.

Despite the demands of the international community and legal institutions for Israel to lift its comprehensive siege on the Gaza Strip, the former continues its collective punishment against the residents of Gaza. This has led to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, whose repercussions have affected various sectors including the economic, agricultural, water, electricity, health care and education.

Read More: Israeli forces shoot killed Palestinian, injured 15 others during Gaza blockade protest

On the ground, the Israeli occupation absolutely controls the Gaza Strip’s crossings, especially the Karim Abu Salim commercial crossing, which is the only crossing specialised in importing and exporting. Accordingly, the occupation carries out inhumane extortion and restrictions against the citizens, as it prevents entry to many of the life necessities on the pretext that they have dual use, in addition to its impulsive closures and openings of the crossing.

In recent months, the Israeli occupation closed the Karim Abu Salim crossing completely during its recent aggression on the Gaza Strip, from 10 – 21 May of this year. After the aggression, the Israeli authorities deliberately reduced the volume of imports, as statistics indicated. The relevant authorities indicated that more than 650 trucks used to arrive daily at the Gaza Strip before the last aggression.

Read More: Israeli warplanes attack Gaza Strip

On the other hand, no more than 130 trucks per day are allowed to enter after the aggression. This has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip to the highest levels, especially since the occupation had deliberately caused complete damage to more than 200 industrial and commercial facilities during the onslaught.

Thousands of Palestinian families lost their homes as a result of the direct Israeli bombing of safe houses, and since the occupation prevents building materials from entering and obstructs reconstruction, the crisis lies not only in sheltering thousands of displaced families but also in directly prohibiting more than 30 professions that can stimulate the economy and alleviate the poverty and unemployment crises.

Additionally, the Israeli occupation intended in its recent aggression to target agricultural lands, hence the sector incurred heavy losses, as the statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture confirmed. More than 36,000 dunums of agricultural lands and greenhouses were directly damaged, in addition to extensive damage caused to dozens of poultry, animal and fish farms.

Although the figure of $200 million announced by the Ministry of Agriculture as direct losses as a result of the recent aggression is indeed of huge financial value, the policy of collective punishment pursued by the Israeli authorities towards the residents of Gaza is actually the most devastating.

After the last aggression ended, the Israeli occupation prevented exporting through the Karim Abu Salim crossing for more than 111 days, thus depriving citizens of promoting household furniture and clothing products as well as the export of their agricultural products, which constitute 90 per cent of exports from the Gaza Strip.

All told, Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip has exacerbated the economic and humanitarian crisis in the enclave and created countless problems. The unemployment rate, according to official statistics has reached 67 per cent while the poverty rate has exceeded 70 per cent. Food insecurity has hit 68.2 per cent of the total population, according to United Nations reports.

The continued suffering of the Palestinians in this way compels the international community to play its mandated role, to act urgently and effectively, in order to stop the escalating Israeli violations against the Palestinian people. Immediate and unconditional action is needed to end the oppressive siege as it constitutes a form of collective punishment of the civilian population and only further exacerbates Gaza’s economic and humanitarian crises.

(Source /12.09.2021)

Who is the Escaped Prisoner from “Gilboa”, Zakaria Al-Zubaidi?

Al-Aqsa Brigades commander, the captive Fatah leader Zakaria al-Zubaidi, appears again after he successfully escaped from maximum-security Gilboa prison with five other prisoners. This break is the first of its kind in the history of the Israeli occupation.

Before his arrest in 2019, Al-Zubaidi was among the most powerful figures in Jenin and was a prominent advocate for the continuation of the uprising. He is considered one of the most notable leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs of the Fatah movement. He is a former member of the movement’s revolutionary council, elected on December 4, 2016. 

Al-Zubaidi returned to armed resistance in late 2001, after the martyrdom of a friend. Some months later his mother was martyred just before the invasion of Jenin on March 3, 2002. The occupation forces targeted her while she was standing at the window of a house. His brother Taha was martyred later as well, and their house was demolished 3 times.

Read More: Palestinian prisoner marks 18 years behind Israeli bars

The occupation forces accused Al-Zubaidi of being responsible for several operations, including a bombing attack in Tel Aviv that killed an Israeli settler and injured 30 others in June 2004.

Al-Zubaidi survived four assassination attempts

Al-Zubaidi survived four assassination attempts by the Israeli occupation forces and sustained multiple injuries in the process.

Read More: Detainees Commission submit an appeal for release of prisoner on hunger strike for 39 days

In one of the attempts in 2004, the occupation forces assassinated five Palestinians, including a 14-year-old child, after targeting a vehicle suspected of carrying Al-Zubaidi. 

In another attempt, the occupation forces stormed the Jenin refugee camp, martyring 9 Palestinians, as  Al-Zubaidi escaped. In 2006, the occupation forces tried to arrest Al-Zubaidi and ailed after being caught in a firefight.

On July 15, 2007, “Israel” announced the release of an amnesty for Al-Aqsa Brigades militants, including Al-Zubaidi. In an interview on April 4, 2008, Al-Zubaidi said that general amnesty did not include him, so he continued to reside inside one of the security services headquarters in Jenin.

On December 29, 2011, the occupation officially canceled the amnesty for Al-Zubaidi, despite his assertion that he had not violated any of its conditions. Palestinian security officials then asked him to surrender himself for fear of an Israeli arrest.

On January 27, 2019, occupation forces arrested Al-Zubaidi and lawyer Tariq Barghouth after storming the city of Ramallah, claiming that they were involved in new incitement activities. The occupation court sentenced Al-Zubaidi to life in prison.

Former Shin Bet officer: We always tried to arrest Al-Zubaidi

Former Shin Bet officer Yitzhak Ilan described him as “A street cat… We have always tried to catch him, but he escaped our grasp. Now he has been re-arrested for his involvement in terrorist activities.”

In an interview with Maariv about Al-Zubaidi, Ilan divulged that “Israel sought to lay its hands on Al-Zubaidi when he was wanted by its security services, but it did not succeed.” He added, “He was arrested in the recent days because of his involvement in planning to carry out armed attacks against Israel.”

It is noteworthy that Al-Zubaidi was born in the Jenin refugee camp in 1976. He was an orphan with seven siblings after his father died of an illness. He speaks Hebrew fluently.

(Source / 08.09.2021)

Who are Palestinian escapees from Israel’s Gilboa prison?

Six Palestinian detainees dug a tunnel and made it out of the high-security Israeli prison

Who are Palestinian escapees from Israel’s Gilboa prison?

By Awad Al-Rujoub

In the early hours of this morning, six Palestinians escaped from Israel’s Gilboa Prison after they dug a tunnel out of the high-security prison.

Five of the prisoners were members of the Islamic Jihad movement, and one was a former commander of Fatah. They are all from the city of Jenin and were all serving life terms. Israeli media said that three of the escapees had previously attempted to escape from Israeli jails.

But who are they?

Zakaria Zubeidi

Zakaria Zubeidi

Zubeidi, 49, from Jenin refugee camp, was a former commander of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. In 2006, Zubeidi was elected a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council. He was detained by Israeli forces in Ramallah on 27 February 2019 and accused of being affiliated with the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He has not been sentenced to any crime.

Munadil Nafaya

Munadil Nafaya

Nafaya, from Ya’bad town near Jenin city, was detained by Israeli forces in 2006 before being released in 2015. He was rearrested in 2016 and again in 2020 and accused of membership in Islamic Jihad’s armed wing and involvement in staging attacks against Israeli occupation forces.

Nafaya has not yet received a final sentence.

Yaqoub Qadiri

Yaqoub Qadiri

Yaqoub Qadiri, 39, from Bir Al-Basha village northwest of Jenin city, was wanted by Israeli occupation forces since 2000.

Qadiri stood against the occupation’s massacre in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. On 18 October 2003, he was detained and handed two life sentences.

In 2014, he along with other detainees attempted to escape from Shatta prison but were unsuccessful.

Iham Kahamji

Iham Kahamji

Kahmaji, 35, from Kafr Dan village near Jenin city, was wanted by Israeli occupation forces since 2003. He was detained on 4 July 2006 and handed two life terms.

Mahmoud  Al-Arida

Mahmoud Al-Arida

Mahmoud Al-Arida, 46, from Arraba town southwest of Jenin city, was first detained in 1992 before being released in 1996.

He was detained again in September 1996 and handed a life sentence after being accused of being a member of Islamic Jihad’s military wing and carrying out attacks against Israeli occupation forces.

Mohammad Al-Arida

Mohammad Al-Arida

Mohammad Al-Arida, 39, from Arraba town, was arrested on 7 January 2002, before being released in March of the same year.

He was rearrested on 16 May 2002 in Ramallah city and handed three life terms.

READ: 3 Palestine workers found dead in Gaza-Egypt border tunnel

(Source / 06.09.2021)

Amnesty: The Occupation of Water

Palestinian women fill bottles of water in the West Bank village of Qarawah Bani Zeid. © ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images
Palestinian women fill bottles of water in the West Bank village of Qarawah Bani Zeid

The legacy of Israel’s 50-year occupation of the Palestinian territories has been systematic human rights violations on a mass scale. One of its most devastating consequences is the impact of Israel’s discriminatory policies on Palestinians’ access to adequate supplies of clean and safe water.

Soon after Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, in June 1967, the Israeli military authorities consolidated complete power over all water resources and water-related infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). 50 years on, Israel continues to control and restrict Palestinian access to water in the OPT to a level which neither meets their needs nor constitutes a fair distribution of shared water resources.

In November 1967 the Israeli authorities issued Military Order 158, which stated that Palestinians could not construct any new water installation without first obtaining a permit from the Israeli army. Since then, the extraction of water from any new source or the development of any new water infrastructure would require permits from Israel, which are near impossible to obtain. Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation continue to suffer the devastating consequences of this order until today. They are unable to drill new water wells, install pumps or deepen existing wells, in addition to being denied access to the Jordan River and fresh water springs. Israel even controls the collection of rain water throughout most of the West Bank, and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army. As a result, some 180 Palestinian communities in rural areas in the occupied West Bank have no access to running water, according to OCHA. Even in towns and villages which are connected to the water network, the taps often run dry.

Read More: Hamas: Our people will not stop resisting Israeli occupation

While restricting Palestinian access to water, Israel has effectively developed its own water infrastructure and water network in the West Bank for the use of its own citizens in Israel and in the settlements – that are illegal under international law. The Israeli state-owned water company Mekorot has systematically sunk wells and tapped springs in the occupied West Bank to supply its population, including those living in illegal settlements with water for domestic, agricultural and industrial purposes. While Mekorot sells some water to Palestinian water utilities, the amount is determined by the Israeli authorities. As a result of continuous restrictions, many Palestinian communities in the West Bank have no choice but to purchase water brought in by trucks at a much high prices ranging from 4 to 10 USD per cubic metre. In some of the poorest communities, water expenses can, at times, make up half of a family’s monthly income.

The Israeli authorities also restrict Palestinians’ access to water by denying or restricting their access to large parts of the West Bank. Many parts of the West Bank have been declared “closed military areas”, which Palestinians may not enter, because they are close to Israeli settlements, close to roads used by Israeli settlers, used for Israeli military training or protected nature reserves.

Read More: Israeli occupation demolishes house under construction in Silwan

Israeli settlers living alongside Palestinians in the West Bank – in some cases just a few hundred meters away – face no such restrictions and water shortages, and can enjoy and capitalize on well-irrigated farmlands and swimming pools.

In Gaza, some 90-95 per cent of the water supply is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Israel does not allow water to be transferred from the West Bank to Gaza, and Gaza’s only fresh water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is insufficient for the needs of the population and is being increasingly depleted by over-extraction and contaminated by sewage and seawater infiltration.

The resulting disparity in access to water between Israelis and Palestinians is truly staggering. Water consumption by Israelis is at least four times that of Palestinians living in the OPT. Palestinians consume on average 73 litres of water a day per person, which is well below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended daily minimum of 100 litres per capita. In many herding communities in the West Bank, the water consumption for thousands of Palestinians is as low as 20 litres per person a day, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). By contrast, an average Israeli consumes approximately 300 litres of water a day.

50 years on, it is time for the Israeli authorities to put an end to policies and practices which discriminate against Palestinians in the OPT and to address their desperate need for water security. The Israeli authorities must lift the restrictions currently in place which deny millions of Palestinians access to sufficient water to meet their personal and domestic needs as well as to enjoy their rights to water, food, health, work and an adequate standard of living.

Devastating toll on communities in the Jordan valley

In September 2017 Amnesty International researchers met with residents of the Jordan Valley and witnessed first-hand the catastrophic impact the water restrictions have had on people’s daily lives.

Ihab Saleh, a squash and cucumber farmer living in Ein al-Beida, a Palestinian village of about 1,600 people located in the northern part of the West Bank, is one of hundreds of thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by Israeli water restrictions. Over the past 25 years he has seen the local spring gradually dry up after the Israeli company Mekorot drilled two wells near the neighbouring Palestinian community of Bardala, to serve Mehola, an Israeli settlement. The amount of water the Israeli authorities allocate to the village has been decreasing over the years, he says, and has been fully cut off on numerous occasions. Despite an agreement to compensate the Palestinian villages of Bardala and Ein al-Beida, since the mid-1970s, Israel has significantly reduced the amount of water available to both communities. 

In addition to the farming villages, many Bedouin communities in the Jordan Valley face severe restrictions as a consequence of Israel’s control of Palestinian natural water resources. Often the land they live on is designated by Israel as a “closed military area”. Not only is their access to water limited, they also live under the constant threat of forced evictions through demolition orders on their homes and properties.

Two families living beside highway 90 near the village of Ein Al-Beida have had their houses and property destroyed twice in the last two years. Most recently, in December 2016, the Israeli army destroyed two home structures and all of the water tanks belonging to the families. 

In al-Auja, a village of about 5,200 people, 10 kilometres north of Jericho in the Jordan Valley, the situation is much the same. In 1972, Mekorot sunk a well and established a pumping station, close to the Wadi Auja spring. According to residents, the spring used to provide a plentiful supply of water to the village and surrounding agricultural land via a series of irrigation channels. 

Even the Palestinian Authority does not realize that this used to be a centre for agriculture… People are left with no options. In 1967, when they [the Israeli authorities] started taking the water it was like a sickness in a body… slowly the land dried up.

Issa Nijoum speaking to Amnesty International, Al-Auja.

Due to water shortages, farmers in Al-Auja were forced to diversify from their traditional livelihoods, and now grow crops that are less water-intensive and also less profitable. While in the past they grew mainly citrus fruit and were capable of exporting them, they rely now on less water intensive vegetable crops such as zucchini, cucumber and squash, which can sustain a cultivation period of three to four months through the winter season. Many residents of Al-Auja have also been forced to find work in farms located in three neighbouring Israeli settlements, which have unrestricted access to water.

Israeli settlements’ access to water

Qais Nasaran a store owner from Al-Jiftlik, a village with an estimated population of approximately 4,700, located in the northern Jordan Valley, used to farm a small plot of land. After his well dried up, he has been forced to find a new way to make a living. He now runs a grocery store.

The store is located in an old pump house for a well which was sunk in 1966 with permission from the Jordanian authorities who controlled the West Bank at the time. A year later, after Israel occupied the Palestinian territories, the Israeli authorities stopped Qais Nasaran’s family from using it. There was water in the well until 2014 when it finally dried up. Qais explained how, each year, when the well was full, the Israeli military would check to see no one was using it. 

Qais still owns a cistern on his land, but cannot always afford to fill it as it costs around 8,000 NIS (approximately 2,278 USD). He buys his water from a landowner in the Jordan Valley.

For Mustafa Al-Farawi, a date farmer from Al-Jiftlik, the situation is similar. The amount of water available from the well on his land has been decreasing steadily over the years.

He explains that, in the 1980’s, the well would provide enough water to irrigate an area of 1,000 acres, and provide water for the animals, as well as supporting the family. Now the majority of water used for his date farm has to be bought and transported with a water tank from a spring 7km away, which is the only spring that can still be accessed by Palestinians.

We have not enough water and no control of it. The Israeli authorities’ tactic is to slowly decrease the water so we have to leave the land.

Mustafa Al-Farawi, Al-Jiftlik

In recent years, Mustafa wanted to sink a new well at a different location that would guarantee more water. He says that an engineer came to check and there was water closer to ground level on another part of the farm’s land. He applied for drilling rights but the Israeli authorities denied the application. Eventually he decided to sink the well anyway without permission, but the Israeli army came and prevented him from doing so. He was told that sinking the well was against Israeli military orders and the construction was halted.

The village of Furush Beit Dajan, in the northern West Bank with a population of about 930, used to be a producer of citrus fruit. From the mid 1990’s, farmers have had to diversify their crops due to insufficient water supplies.

The villagers say that they used to have an abundance of water but in recent years the wells have been supplying less and less. Residents of the village mentioned that the aquifer is being exhausted by Israeli wells used to supply the neighbouring Israeli settlements of Hamra and Mehora. According to Azim Mifleh, a farmer from the village, Israeli wells started pumping in the vicinity of the village in the 1970’s and slowly the local wells lost their efficiency. Since the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1995, Israel has extracted far in excess of the agreed quantity of water from the Eastern Aquifer.

Azim Mifleh, a farmer and coordinator for the Agricultural Development Association (PARC) from Furush Bei Dajan, says he used to have 800 trees on his land; mostly lemon and grapefruit. Now he only has two trees left next to the house.

The land is occupied and the [Israeli] occupiers should be looking after the people…Israel should be doing what they are supposed to; they have to pay the price for occupying, and act in the best interest of the occupied people.

Azim Mifleh, Furush Beit Dajan

There are five water wells in the vicinity of Furush Beit Dajan village- all are privately owned by Palestinians. According to residents from the village, they have suffered drastic decreases in their output of water due to Israeli wells being sunk in the area to supply the settlement of Hamra, which farms an extensive area of land. The settlement of Hamra has a 100 acre date farm and also harvests water-intensive crops such as bananas and citrus fruits.

The right to water

The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity.

UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 15, para 1

The right to water has been recognized as being derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, and therefore implicitly contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other instruments. The right to water includes availability of sufficient water for personal and domestic uses, physical access within or in the immediate vicinity of each household, affordability, and adequate quality of water. States must prioritize, as part of their immediate obligations, access for everyone to the minimum essential amount of water that is sufficient and safe for personal and domestic uses to prevent disease. States have to adopt the necessary measures directed towards the full realization of the right to water, including by taking positive measures to assist individuals and communities to enjoy the right.

Under international law, Israel, as the occupying power in the OPT, has well defined responsibilities to respect the Palestinians’ human right to water. It must not only refrain from taking actions that violate this right or undermine the Palestinian population’s opportunity to realize the right, but also protect the Palestinian population from interference by third parties in their enjoyment of the right to water, and it must take deliberate, concrete and targeted steps to ensure that this right is fulfilled and fully realized.

(Source / 06.09.2021)

Opinion: Racism is at the very heart of Israel

By: Dr. Belal Yasin

Many international organisations and human rights groups have confirmed that Israel imposes a racist — “apartheid” — regime which oppresses the Palestinians. This regime denies them basic rights and exposes them to repeated attacks by illegal Jewish settlers, which increases the tension in the occupied Palestinian territories and within Israeli itself. The Palestinians continue to be beaten, killed and forcibly displaced.

On 9 May, the Israeli authorities tried to prevent thousands of Palestinians living in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories — they are Israeli citizens — from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem to commemorate the twenty-seventh night of the holy month Ramadan, which is a sacred night for all Muslims. Mass protests followed, and Zionist settlers did not hesitate to attack the Palestinians with live ammunition and hand grenades. The Israeli government encourages a policy of divide and rule, pitting one ethnic group against another, but in this case the Israeli police arrested more than 500 Palestinians rather than the fully armed and dangerous settlers, not one of whom was detained. If nothing else, this was an indication of the institutionalised racism of the Israeli authorities against its own Palestinian citizens.

Who are the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel?

Although Zionist terrorists displaced more than 800,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, a number of Palestinians remained in the occupied cities of what is now called Israel. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), in 2019, the number of Palestinians who reside in the territory occupied in 1948 was estimated at about 2 million, one-fifth of the population of the occupation state. They live mainly in the Galilee, the Negev and the “Triangle”, Arab towns and villages adjacent to the Green (1949 Armistice) Line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Forms of racism

Although Palestinians in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories have Israeli citizenship, they are faced with institutional racism. They are not regarded or treated as equals in any aspect of life. Dozens of laws have been enacted to reinforce this racism, most notably:

  • The Jewish Nation-State Law, which limits the right to self-determination to Jews alone within the
    self-styled Jewish state. Muslim and Christian citizens have no such right.
  • The Israeli Citizenship Law, which states that every Jew becomes an Israeli citizen the instant she or he steps on Israeli soil, no matter where in the world they are from. This law excludes Palestinians from their legitimate right to return to their homeland. Palestinian citizens do not have the same rights as Jewish citizens.

Not only have the Israeli authorities enacted racist laws against the Palestinians, but state officials also issue statements that directly affect the Arab Palestinians and their lives, and incite settlers against them. The number of attacks on Palestinians has increased accordingly.

More than 1,700 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed between 2000 and 2020. The Israel occupation authorities have refrained from conducting any investigations, which leads us to ask how the Israeli police can arrest the perpetrators of crimes against Jewish settlers often within 24 hours, while refusing to investigate or even care about crimes committed against the Palestinians, the perpetrators of which are subsequently usually registered as “persons unknown”?

In its report dated 15 March 2017, the UN Social and Economic Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) answered this question, stressing that the Israeli authorities have established an apartheid regime that dominates the entire Palestinian people. The facts and evidence prove beyond reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid as defined by international law.

Human Rights Watch also accused Israel of apartheid in its report dated 27 April this year. Indeed, it accused the state of committing two crimes against humanity, by pursuing a policy of apartheid and persecution against the Arab citizens of Israel as well as the inhabitants of the 1967-occupied Palestinian territories.

According to the facts backed up by the UN and other reports, the Israeli authorities practice the ugliest forms of racism against the Palestinian people residing in the 1948-occupied Palestinian territories. This reinforces the continuous tension and increases the chance of violence. The UN and its member states are legally obligated to take urgent action to end all forms of apartheid and take appropriate steps against the guilty party. Racism is at the very heart of Israel; its impunity must end.

(Source / 27.08.2021)

Israel must be brought to account for its crimes against Palestinian children

By Motasem A Dalloul

More than 1.2 million Palestinian children in the occupied territories returned to their schools for the new academic year on 15 August. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), most of them have been counting down the days and looking forward to schools reopening. “Because for many young people in Palestine, 2021 has truly been a long, hot year to date.”

Explaining why, the UN OCHA pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic, throughout which keeping up with classes remotely was a challenge. In the Gaza Strip, nearly 180,000 Palestinian children will be returning to schools that are still damaged after the Israeli military offensive in May, which killed 255 people, including 67 children; more than 41,000 homes were totally or partially destroyed.

The pandemic is still affecting Gaza badly, and Israel has been blocking medical equipment and hygiene disposables at the nominal border. The children are particularly affected by Covid-19 when their parents are infected or have to isolate. It is a traumatic experience, especially for the youngsters. Indeed, many thousands of children in Gaza also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder; every time they hear a drone or other Israeli aircraft they expect bombs to follow.

Read More: Save the Children condemns violence against children after three deaths in one week

“Children not only have a right to a safe education but are afforded special protections under international human rights law in view of their specific vulnerability,” explained UN OCHA. “Since the beginning of 2021 [though], a total of 79 Palestinian children have been reported killed and 1,269 injured.” Eleven of those killed lived in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, where 19 boys and five girls have been wounded in attacks by illegal settlers.

Furthermore, Israel is holding 170 children aged between 12 and 17 in prison, Military Court Watch has reported. That was the number as of the end of June, and the organisation pointed out that this was a six per cent increase on the previous month. A number of children are being held in administrative detention, with neither charge nor trial.

Read More: Hamas: Israel’s new confessions reflect its military failure

“According to the Israeli Prison Service,” said Military Court Watch, “69 per cent of child detainees were forcibly transferred and/or unlawfully detained in Israel in June. This is in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

Palestinian children under Israeli occupation do not enjoy a safe and secure life as there is always a possibility that they will be attacked by Israeli security forces or illegal settlers. Even the US, Israel’s main supporter in the international community, says that the occupation state “has a responsibility to protect children and teachers from harassment and violence by settlers on their way to and from school – and in any event.”

It is worth noting that Israel is not only targeting Palestinian children, but is also targeting the organisations which defend them or expose Israeli crimes against them. On 29 July, for example, Israeli occupation forces raided the offices of Defence for Children International – Palestine and confiscated equipment, including computers and hard drives. Among the items stolen by the Israeli occupation forces were the legal aid files of the children facing charges in military courts.

Military Court Watch has reported the case of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from the West Bank who had a painful back injury which prevented him from sleeping in April. About 30 Israeli soldiers banged on the door of his house one night and told his father that he had “five seconds” to open it. Fifteen soldiers entered the family home and arrested the boy. After a harsh interrogation, during which he said that he was insulted repeatedly, the child was placed in solitary confinement for 18 days during which he made 20 or so appearances in a military court. After three months in prison he was released with an eight month suspended sentence.

14-year-old child from Nablus told Military Court Watch that he was walking to his friend’s house when an Israeli military jeep drove towards him and stopped. It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. “A soldier stepped out and asked me what I was doing,” the boy explained. He was handcuffed — “very tight and painful” — and taken to the jeep where he was hit with a rifle butt by a soldier.

“The jeep drove to Huwwara military base where I was taken to a shipping container. The soldiers then turned the air conditioner on very cold and I was freezing.” After several questions, an Israeli soldier who claimed that he was a Muslim “asked me if I wanted to collaborate with them… and I told him I would never collaborate even if he stuck his gun to my head. Then he asked me if I wanted a cigarette and I told him I did not smoke. Then he asked to see my Facebook page. Then the commander came and told the soldier to leave me alone.”

About two hours later, he was taken outside and left in the sun. “I asked for some water but the soldiers did not respond. One of them spat at me and I started to shout. Soldiers heard my shouts and came to see what was going on. One of them slapped me and then made fun of me.”

Many rights groups around the world, including Israeli organisations have reported that Israel abuses Palestinian children systematically, but their reports are largely ignored. The UN’s own agencies conduct investigations and publish reports, but the international organisation simply expresses its “concern” and calls upon Israel to respect UN human rights guidelines and conventions.

Israel ignores such concerns, of course, and is allowed to act with impunity. This was confirmed by Amnesty International in a report last year. Such impunity, said Amnesty, allows Israel to get away with “torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children… Palestinian civilians, including children, from the Occupied Palestinian Territories were prosecuted in military courts that did not meet international fair trial standards.”

How long is the world going to allow such abuses to continue? It is clear for all to see that Israel is not the haven of democracy that it claims to be. The reality is that it is an apartheid state which treats international laws and conventions with contempt, and the world lets it get away with doing so, to the detriment of the people of occupied Palestine, including children. If we are to believe that the UN, the US, Britain and countries in the West generally really do care about human rights (as we have heard all week about the situation in Afghanistan), then Israel’s impunity must be brought to an end, and the colonial occupation state must be held to account for its crimes, not least those against children.

(Source / 23.08.2021)

Analysis: The Murder of the ‘Menacing’ Water Technician: On the Shadow Wars in the West Bank

By Ramzy Baroud 

There is an ongoing, but hidden, Israeli war on the Palestinians which is rarely highlighted or even known. It is a water war, which has been in the making for decades.

On July 26 and 27, two separate but intrinsically linked events took place in the Ein al-Hilweh area in the occupied Jordan Valley, and near the town of Beita, south of Nablus.

In the first incident, Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Maskiyot began construction in the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, which has been a source of freshwater for villages and hundreds of Palestinian families in that area. The seizure of the spring has been developing for months, all under the watchful eye of the Israeli occupation army.

Now, the Ein al-Hilweh Spring, like most of the Jordan Valley’s land and water resources, is annexed by Israel.

Less than 24 hours later, Shadi Omar Salim, a Palestinian municipal employee, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the town of Beita. The Israeli army quickly issued a statement which, expectedly, blamed the Palestinian for his own death.

The Palestinian victim approached the soldiers in a “menacing manner”, while holding “what appeared to be an iron bar,” before he was gunned down, the Israeli army claimed.

If the “iron bar” claim was true, it might be related to the fact that Salim was a water technician. Indeed, the Palestinian worker was on his way to open the pipes that supply water to Beita and other adjacent areas.

Beita, which has witnessed much violence in recent weeks, is facing an existential threat. An illegal Jewish settlement, called Givat Eviatar, is being built atop the Palestinian Sabih Mountain, in Arabic, Jabal Sabih. As usual, whenever a Jewish settlement is constructed, Palestinian life and livelihood are threatened. Thus, the ongoing Palestinian protests in the area.

The struggle of Beita is a representation of the wider Palestinian struggle: unarmed civilians fighting against a settler-colonial state that ultimately wishes to replace a Palestinian village or town with a Jewish settlement.

There is another facet to what may seem a typical story, where the Israeli army and Jewish settlers work together to ethnically cleanse Palestinians: Mekorot. The latter is a state-owned Israeli water company that literally steals Palestinian water and sells it back to the Palestinians at an exorbitant price.

Unsurprisingly, Mekorot operates near Beita as well. The Palestinian worker, Salim, was killed because his job of supplying water to the people of Beita was a direct threat to Israeli colonial designs in this region.

Let us put this in a larger context. Israel does not just occupy Palestinian land, it also systematically usurps all of its resources, including water, in flagrant violation of international law which guarantees the fundamental rights of an occupied nation.

The occupied West Bank obtains most of its water from the Mountain Aquifer, which is divided into three smaller aquifers: the Western Aquifer, the Eastern Aquifer and the North-Eastern Aquifer. In theory, Palestinians have plenty of water, at least enough to meet the minimally-required water allotment of 102-120 liters per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In practice, however, this is hardly the case. Sadly, most of the water in these aquifers is appropriated directly by Israel. Some call it “water capture”; Palestinians call it, more accurately, “theft”.

While in Israel the daily per capita water consumption is estimated at 300 liters, illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank consume over 800 liters per day. The latter number becomes even more outrageous if compared to the meager amount enjoyed by a Palestinian, that of 70 liters per day.

This problem is accentuated in the so-called ‘Area C’ in the West Bank, for a reason. ‘Area C’ consists of nearly 60 percent of the total size of the West Bank and, unlike ‘Areas A’ and ‘B’, it is the least populated. It is mostly fertile land and it includes the Jordan Valley, known as the ‘breadbasket of Palestine’.

Despite the fact that the Israeli government had, in 2019, decided to postpone its formal annexation of that area, a de facto annexation has been in effect for years. The illegal appropriation of the Ein al-Hilweh Spring by illegal Jewish settlers is part of a larger stratagem that aims at appropriating the Jordan Valley, one dunum, one spring, and one mountain at a time.

Of the more than 150,000 Palestinians living in ‘Area C’, nearly 40 percent – over 200 communities – suffer from “severe shortage of clean water”. That shortage can be remedied if Palestinians are allowed to drill new wells, expand current ones or to use modern technologies to allocate other sources of freshwater. Not only does the Israeli army prohibit them from doing so, even rainwater is off-limits to Palestinians.

“Israel even controls the collection of rainwater throughout most of the West Bank and rainwater harvesting cisterns owned by Palestinian communities are often destroyed by the Israeli army,” an Amnesty International report, published in 2017, concluded.

Since then, the situation became even worse, especially since the idea of officially annexing a third of the West Bank obtained widespread support in the Israeli Knesset and society. Now, every move made by the Israeli army and Jewish settlers in the West Bank is directed towards that end, controlling the land and its resources, denying Palestinians access to their means of survival and, ultimately, ethnically cleansing them altogether.

The Beita protests continue, despite the heavy price being paid. Last June, a 15-year-old boy, Ahmad Bani-Shamsa, was killed when an Israeli army bullet struck him in the head. At the time, Defense for Children International-Palestine issued a statement asserting that Bani-Shamsa did not pose any threat to the Israeli army.

The truth is, it is Beita that is under constant Israeli threat, as well as the Jordan Valley, ‘Area C’, the West Bank and the whole of Palestine. The protest in Beita is a protest for land rights, water rights and basic human rights. Bani-Shamsa and, later, Salim, were killed in cold blood simply because their protests were mere irritants to the grand design of colonial Israel.

The irony of it all is that Israel seems to love everything about Palestine: the land, the resources, the food and even the fascinating history, but not the indigenous Palestinians themselves.

(Source / 18.08.2021)

Israel’s siege is halving Gaza patients’ survival rates, it’s time to act

Lacking in 60 per cent of appropriate medicine and treatment protocols as a result of the siege, Gaza’s already deficient cancer care is slipping further into chaos as restrictions grow harsher

Healthcare staff in Nasser Hospital in the city of Khan Yunis are seen working with overalls, masks, glasses to minimize the risk of contamination during work in Gaza, on 22 December 2020. [Abed Zagout -Anadolu Agency]
Healthcare staff in Gaza, on 22 December 2020

By Maya Abuali

Beyond dealing with the Gaza Strip’s already uninhabitable living conditions, Palestinian cancer patients in the enclave are unable to receive proper treatment due to numerous obstacles imposed by the Israeli occupation state. With a population of two million in only approximately 365 square kilometres of land, the Gaza Strip has seen around 1,800 new cancer cases each year, while lacking 60 per cent of the appropriate medicine and treatment protocols. Patients living in Gaza are therefore forced to seek treatment in hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem or within Israel. However, due to the restrictions placed on their movement by the Israeli occupation, they often fail to do so in time.

Shortages in adequate care

Data provided to Middle East Monitor by the Al-Rantissi Specialised Hospital in Gaza indicates a major absence of sufficient tools to allow for standard and safe multidisciplinary cancer care. This includes a shortage of trained staff, medical equipment and adequate protocol such as screening for colorectal cancer. There is no main cancer services centre in Gaza, and capacity in cancer facilities such as the Al-Rantissi hospital have been exceeded and are projected to continue to do so in the coming years. Due to the restrictions imposed on imports by the occupation’s siege of the enclave, there is a significant lack in new medicine for breast and colon cancer and chemotherapy, as well as no radiation therapy machines at all. There is also a pressing want for cancer specialists and training programmes for cancer doctors and nurses in the region. These shortages have resulted in severe ramifications; for instance, breast cancer patients — which constitute 15 per cent of all cancer patients in Palestine — have a five-year survival rate of 40 per cent in Gaza, compared to other countries, where the rate stands at approximately 90 per cent.

READ: Israel’s occupation is Gaza’s main medical problem, insist professionals

Dr. Zeena Selman, a pediatric oncologist who has treated children with cancer at Al-Rantissi, explained the dire nature of these issues. “The [challenging] thing in Gaza is because all access [to medicine] is controlled through two checkpoints […] there’s frequent shortages in terms of chemotherapy, there’s no access to radiation therapy, there’s [often] no access to different surgical sub-specialists…,” Selman says in an interview with Middle East Monitor. “You have a strict treatment protocol in Gaza — all of our treatment protocols are very strict in terms of dosing, type of medication, the timing […] things have to happen in such a tight period of time and it’s such a complex process that requires so many different disciplines of medicine.”

Dr. Selman is currently working on several projects including building a cancer registry for children across Palestine so that doctors are able to track every single child struggling with cancer to record their outcomes, place of treatment, specific medicinal needs/shortages, and how they can improve their survival rates.

The pediatric adds: “We know for adults that screening leads to earlier detection, it makes cancer more manageable, easier to treat, so certainly having good screening programs in place is a huge asset to being able to care for cancer patients and makes their cancer more treatable as they’re detected earlier.”

“Also, when you have access to care that doesn’t require crossing checkpoints, having access to [treatment] that’s available locally, having that multidisciplinary care locally, increases cure rates significantly… and the lack of that we know impacts mortality significantly.”

Dr. Zeena Selman, a pediatric oncologist
Dr. Zeena Selman, a pediatric oncologist

The detrimental impact of the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has only crippled matters further, with cancer sections in hospitals forced to close to accommodate more beds for patients suffering from the virus. There has also been a serious diversion of already scanty resources.

“When resources have to be diverted for patients in respiratory distress because of COVID-19, that leaves no access to ICU beds, or emergency rooms,” Selman explains. “[It has caused] those resources [to be channeled] away from patients with chronic diseases like cancer. There has been a huge impact on both morbidity and mortality for cancer patients, adults and children.”

To add to the challenges doctors and patients face in Gaza, three months ago, Israel launched a new bombing campaign against Gaza, killing at least 254 Palestinians including 66 children and two senior doctors in the space of 11 days. It also caused significant damage to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and Gaza’s only COVID-19 lab and other medical facilities, forcing patients to be moved to other treatment centres which were already at full capacity. Dr. Ayman Abu Alouf, head of Gaza’s coronavirus response operation, was killed in an Israeli attack on his home.

A view of Covid-19 service at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on 6 April 2021. [Ali Jadallah - Anadolu Agency]
A view of Covid-19 service at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on 6 April 2021

The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that nearly 30 hospitals and health clinics in the Strip were either flattened or significantly damaged by the Israeli air strikes. Approximately 46 per cent of essential drugs and 33 per cent of essential medicines were rendered unusable.

With the already meagre resources for cancer treatment in Gaza being rerouted due to the pandemic and depleted further by tightening restrictions on import, more patients have been forced to seek treatment outside of the enclave. According to Dr. Muhammad Abu Nada, head of the Al-Rantissi Oncology Department, between 50-60 per cent of cancer patients in Gaza require urgent treatment outside of Gaza, including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and atomic scanning, which are not available in the Strip. Although the occupation state opened the Erez-Beit Hanoun crossing on 3 June, individuals are forced to go through a complex and lengthy referral and permit system to obtain approval to leave Gaza. The referral may be issued within weeks, or in many cases they are rejected by the Israeli authorities, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

READ: Gaza’s students fight back after Israel tried to destroy their future

“They have to obtain a medical referral from the doctor, they have to go to the referral’s office after that, then they have to obtain an appointment from an outside hospital that’s willing to accept them for the treatment that’s not available, and they have to apply for a permit from Israel to be able to leave to get to that appointment, they have to have many weeks’ notice for the appointment…,” Dr. Selman explains. “So it can take weeks or longer to go out and leave Gaza if they’re missing some piece of their care, and this leads to huge delays in treatment, if they get the permit they requested. They’re not always approved.”

The permit system creates bureaucratic barriers to timely access to health care for patients. As a result of the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza in 2007, about 60 per cent of patients have been denied access to the specialised hospitals required for their care this year, the ministry says. A report conducted by the WHO entitled ‘Right to Health‘ stated that in 2018 almost 39 per cent of patient permit applications were unsuccessful; they were either denied outright or delayed, with patients receiving no definitive response to their applications by the time of their hospital appointment. Research from the report details that in 2019, cancer patients requiring chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy who were initially denied or delayed permits between 2015 and 2017 were 1.5 times less likely to survive in the years after application compared to patients who were initially approved permits.

“We just know that there are so many barriers to reaching the 80% cure rate [which we see in the United States],” Dr. Selman says. “[…] We can always try and build capacity but because of this very complicated permit and referral system, so many things are out of our hands even as people who want to help build up services available locally.”

Calls for international support

At a press conference held last week, Dr. Abu Nada attributed the barriers faced by cancer patients in Gaza to the blockade. “The retention of the Israeli siege on Gaza, which is the reason for the lack of medicines and putting restrictions on the movement of the patients who need treatment in the West Bank, Jerusalem or Israel, has resulted in the deaths of many cancer patients.”

The conference, which was held by the Ministry of Health at the Al-Rantissi hospital, included the participation of many children with cancer. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness of their ongoing suffering, and to call on all international humanitarian bodies and institutions to support the right to treatment for patients in Gaza and provide them with sufficient medicine and equipment to recover. Dr. Abu Nada also requested the international community pressure Israel to lift the restrictions imposed on travelling for patients from Gaza to allow access to hospitals in the West Bank which can put them on a road to recuperation.

With a third of cancer patients in the Strip minors, the lack of access to the necessary medical care is not only increasing patient agony, it is another tool used by the occupation to destroy the lives and future of Palestinians. As an occupying power, Israel has a legal obligation to ensure Palestinians’ right to health, and that is the least Gaza’s population deserves.

(Source / 11.08.2021)

Gaza’s students fight back after Israel tried to destroy their future

Palestinian student Yehya Al-Saqqa from Khan Yunis stands in his destroyed bedroom after he attained 94% in the Tawjihi exams. Al-Saqqa's home was partially destroyed by the Israeli bombing campaign on Gaz in May 2021, just one month before he sat the exams.
Palestinian student Yehya Al-Saqqa from Khan Yunis stands in his destroyed bedroom after he attained 94% in the Tawjihi exams. Al-Saqqa’s home was partially destroyed by the Israeli bombing campaign on Gaz in May 2021, just one month before he sat the exams

By Wafa Aludaini

As Palestinian high school students celebrate their success in the Tawjihi exams and plan for the future, those in Gaza are still trying to rebuild their lives after Israel’s brutal bombing campaign in May.

The Tawjihi exams were held just one month after the ceasefire was announced, which brought 11 days of Israeli bombing to an end. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee from their homes during the assault, leaving all their belongings behind. Some have been able to return, while others found their belongings buried under the rubble.


However, emerging from the depths of this tragedy, we find impressive and inspiring stories of success.

Wafaa Amjad Musa Abu Al-Naga from Khan Younis was a student at Umm Salamah Secondary School for Girls in the southern Gaza Strip. This week she discovered that she attained 99.1 per cent in her Tawjihi exams.

Her description of the days before the exam make her feat ever more striking.

“Our house was threatened by Israeli bombing. When we left, I could not take my school books. Two days before it was bombed, I risked my life and went to the house despite the threat of the occupation and took all my books,” she explains.

The atmosphere of displacement from one house to another made me unable to study for nearly a month.

“After the trouble of the end of the war on Gaza, we were able to settle in a house a week before my exams. The time I had to study was very limited, so I relied on the summaries and questions from here and there,” she adds.

With God’s help, her family were able to create the appropriate conditions for her to study while they were in their new accomodation, she explains.

Some 82,924 students sat the Tawjihi exams this year, the Palestinian Ministry of Education has said, of whom 59,182 passed, a passing rate of 71.37 per cent.

READ: 71% of Palestinian students passed the Tawjihi high school exam

Amongst them was Abd Al-Rahman Ayman Muhareb Habib who found himself in the middle of the bombardment, breathing in smoke and dust. Despite this and the constant shelling and aggression by the occupation’s warplanes on Gaza City, he achieved a 99 per cent average in the exams.

Though he excelled at his studies, Abd Al-Rahman ‘s medical condition worsened with the rubble surrounding his building affecting his lung disease.

Palestinian student Yehya Al-Saqqa from Khan Yunis stands in his destroyed bedroom after he attained 94% in the Tawjihi exams. Al-Saqqa’s home was partially destroyed by the Israeli bombing campaign on Gaz in May 2021, just one month before he sat the exams.

Palestinian student Yehya Al-Saqqa from Khan Yunis stands in his destroyed bedroom after he attained 94% in the Tawjihi exams. Al-Saqqa's home was partially destroyed by the Israeli bombing campaign on Gaz in May 2021, just one month before he sat the exams.
Palestinian student Yehya Al-Saqqa from Khan Yunis stands in his destroyed bedroom after he attained 94% in the Tawjihi exams. Al-Saqqa’s home was partially destroyed by the Israeli bombing campaign on Gaz in May 2021, just one month before he sat the exams

For these students, they were the lucky ones, they survived the bombing, sat their exams and excelled. Tawfeeq Abu Alouf wasn’t so lucky, he and his entire family were murdered in an Israeli strike leaving only his brother Amjad behind. The family perished in what Palestinians refer to as the Al-Wehda Street Massacre, when more than 45 Palestinians were killed.

Amjad tells MEMO: “Tawfeeq was in his room studying science minutes before the house was hit.”

Students now face the challenge of enrolling in universities, this will not just be determined by their grades, but by their ability to afford the fees that come with this new phase.

Israel didn’t only target homes during its latest bombing campaign, it hit health centres and factories, leaving hundreds without jobs or an income.

Amna Khaled’s dreams of going to university were levelled as soon as the Israeli missile hit the factory where her father worked.

READ: UK education secretary faces legal action over calls to silence Palestine support in schools

that “My father worked in a factory in the industrial estate east of Gaza for many year, but the occupation warplanes bombed it … this means that I will not be able to get in in the university,” she tells MEMO.

Some 3,000 factory workers were laid off as a result of the strikes. The affects of the brutal air raids campaign have still not fully come to light.

(Source / 06.08.2021)