Thursday, April 30, 2009

In case you missed it....

Long Live Palestine - LowKey

I Love that song!!!
Tafakji: Zionist scheme to settle one million Jews in Jerusalem, WB

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Khalil Tafakji, an expert on Israeli settlements and the director of the maps center for Arab studies, said that Israel was strenuously working on creating greater Jerusalem that would eat up 10% of the entire West Bank area.

Tafakji in a press statement on Wednesday said that Israel was trying to introduce a new demographic balance by which Israelis would constitute a big majority in Jerusalem.

He added that Israel also plans to separate northern West Bank from its southern areas and works against the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The settlements' expert explained that the Kidar and Maaleh Adumim settlement bloc east and north of occupied Jerusalem over an area of 191 square kilometers would absolutely prevent establishment of a Palestinian state geographically connected with Jerusalem as its capital.

Tafakji said that the Israeli settlement drive never stopped in any of the West Bank settlements, noting that Israel plans to construct 73,000 new housing units within five years to accommodate one million Jews in Jerusalem and West Bank.

UNICEF: Gaza children continue to suffer physically and psychologically
[ 30/04/2009 - 10:14 AM ]

NEW YORK, (PIC)-- The UN children's fund (UNICEF) reported Tuesday that children in Gaza continue to suffer both physically and psychologically despite the Israeli war which ended 100 days ago, stressing the need for allowing in supplies and materials needed for recovery and rehabilitation.

The UNICEF said that five children have died while at least 14 others were injured in unexploded ordnance-related incidents since the end of the 22-day Israeli war.

The UNICEF underlined that the Israeli war on Gaza took a heavy toll on children’s psychological wellbeing, adding that a recent UN study reaffirmed that mental health, anxiety and stress are the main health problems in Gaza.

According to the latest figures, 65 essential drugs were out of stock at Gaza’s central store, the UNICEF noted.

In another context, defense for children international (DCI) said that the number of children arrested and detained by Israel has risen by about 40 percent compared to the number for the same period last year.

DCI explained that the Israeli occupation authority intensified arrest of Palestinian children during the last two months, whereby the end of February 2009, the number of Palestinian children in detention had reached a peak of 423, one of the highest since the start of the second Intifada.

DCI added that it noted in early 2009 a worrying increase in arrests of children between the ages of 12 and 13 years old when it documented the arrest of 10 children compared to three children for the whole year of 2008.

Since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, the IOA has arrested about 6,700 Palestinian children, currently 423 of them are being held in Israeli prisons in the occupied Palestinian lands and inside Israel in contravention of international law. Six of these children are girls and an additional six are being held in administrative detention without charge or trial, DCI elaborated.

Palestinian child prisoners are exposed to different types of torture, abuse and degrading treatment at the hands of Israeli soldiers and policemen during their arrest and interrogation, DCI said.

DCI highlighted that these Israeli violations aim to break the Palestinian child prisoners psychologically and extract quick confessions to indict them before Israeli military courts which do not provide fair trials to them.

It noted that once Palestinian children are sent to Israeli prisons, they are deprived of their rights guaranteed in the UN convention on the rights of children and the fourth Geneva convention, adding that they are deprived of proper medical care, and are often blackmailed if they seek medical treatment.

Soldiers Confirm Israel's War Crimes in Gaza
'Anyone who’s in there is a terrorist', said the commander.

By Kim Bullimore

Testimony given by Israeli soldiers involved in Israel’s 22-day December-January assault on Gaza to a pre-military preparatory program at the Oranim Academic College in Israel on February 13, and which the March 18 Haaretz daily began printing daily excerpts of, revealed that they repeatedly committed crimes with impunity in Gaza.

One soldier, a squad commander, revealed that his unit was instructed to open fire in densely populated areas without warning. “We were supposed to go in with an armoured personnel carrier called an Achzarit [literally meaning “cruel”] to burst through the lower door [of Palestinian houses], to start shooting inside and then ... I call this murder ... in effect, we were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified — we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself: Where is the logic in this?” He said his commanding officers “said this was permissible, because anyone who remained in the sector and inside Gaza City was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn’t fled. I didn’t really understand: On the one hand they don’t really have anywhere to flee to, but on the other hand they’re telling us they hadn’t fled so it’s their fault.”

The squad commander said that Palestinian civilians were suppose to be given five minutes’ warning to leave their houses. However, many soldiers under his command challenged this, one soldier saying, “Anyone who’s in there is a terrorist”. According to the squad commander, that sentiment was backed up by other soldiers under his command who said, “We need to murder any person who’s in there ... any person who’s in Gaza is a terrorist”.

‘Do Anything You Want’

According to the squad commander, the soldiers believed that “inside Gaza you are allowed to do anything you want”. He went on to say that commanding officers did little to counter this attitude and that it was permissible “to write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can”.

The squad commander also related that soldiers under his command killed an old woman was who walking down the road. When asked why this happened, he responded, “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: you see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him. With us it was an old woman, on whom I didn’t see any weapon.”

According to another soldier, the descriptions of the squad commander were accurate. A third soldier said that lax rules of conduct within the attacking Israeli army also resulted in the death of many Palestinian civilians. In one incident, Israeli troops occupied a Palestinian house for several days, detaining the family who owned the house. According to the soldier, after a few days an order came through to release the family. However, not all the soldiers were informed “and they forgot to tell the sharpshooter on the roof they had let them go”. As a result, a mother and her two children were shot dead.

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The Palestinian Authority's authoritarian turn
Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 30 April 2009

Appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the opening ceremony of the Presidential Guards College in the West Bank city of Jericho, March 2009. (Mustafa Abu Dayeh/MaanImages)

Last week, less than two weeks after I had talked with him in his an-Najah University faculty office, Abdel Sattar Qassem was arrested by the Palestinian Preventive Security forces in Nablus, occupied West Bank.

Qassem is a 60-year-old professor of political science, and has been at an-Najah University since 1980. Imprisoned several times by the Israeli occupation, he is the author of dozens of books and papers, as well as hundreds of articles, on Palestinian politics and Islamic thought. But Qassem is also an eloquent and prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and he has been arrested, and targeted by politically-motivated attacks, on a number of previous occasions.

The most recent of these was in January of this year, when his car was set alight. According to a news report from the Palestinian news agency, Ma'an, claim of responsibility was circulated by an unknown group who accused Qassem of being a "mouthpiece for the Iranian and the Syrian regimes." As reported by Asharq al-Awsat, Qassem pointed out how the statement was a "hoax," and thus a cover for individuals who did not want to openly identify themselves. The attack was condemned by a variety of public figures "in the harshest possible words," according to Ma'an.

This time, the official line is that his arrest was a civil, criminal case, the result of litigation proceedings against Qassem by two figures within the PA's security forces. The Palestinian Information Center reports that Qassem, who according to his family was arrested hours after he gave an interview to al-Aqsa TV to discuss the shooting of West Bank Hamas leader Hamid al-Bitawi, insists that the charges are groundless and politically motivated. Speaking to me on the telephone after his release, Qassem noted:

"It was evident that they didn't want to arrest me on a political basis, so they decided to fabricate something against me. Last Thursday, in court, there were many lawyers trying to represent me, because they feel like this is a national issue. They see that this is intimidation, not a genuine civil case."

The attempts to intimidate a critic of the Palestinian Authority into silence is disturbing, but is only one incident in a growing trend. The Ramallah-based political leadership, dominated by Fatah, and the PA security forces, are becoming increasingly authoritarian, encouraging a culture of militarized policing and a lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law. Now, nonviolent resistance leaders against the Israeli occupation like Sami Awad, based in Bethlehem, are saying that they "have to be ready to face any injustice even if caused by our own people, within the PA."

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Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Continue to Impose a Total Siege on the Gaza Strip

A Palestinian child standing near the debris of her family's house, which was destroyed by Israeli Occupation Forces in East Jerusalem.

  • 20 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children, were wounded by IOF gunfire in the West Bank.

  • A number of these civilians were wounded by Israeli settlers during a joint attack with IOF.

  • IOF conducted 28 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

  • IOF arrested 32 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children.

  • IOF halted technical preparations related to a reception site intended for the Pope’s visit.

  • IOF have continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and have isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

  • IOF imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian Christians during Easter.

  • IOF troops positioned at military checkpoints in the West Bank arrested 5 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children.

  • IOF have continued measures aimed at the changing the demographic majority of east Jerusalem’s population.

  • IOF started to establish a new settlement neighborhood in the al-Sawahra area, southeast of Jerusalem.

  • Media reports disclosed a plan to connect "Kidar" settlement with "Ma'ale Adomim" settlement and annex 12,000 donums[1] of Palestinian land.

  • IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

  • IOF resumed the establishment of a settler road to the south of Hebron.

  • Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers in the north and south of the West Bank.


Israeli violations of international law and humanitarian law escalated in the OPT during the reporting period (23 – 28 April 2009):

Shooting: During the reporting period, 20 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children, were wounded by IOF and Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

On 24 April 2009, 12 Palestinian civilians, including two children, were wounded when Israeli settlers and IOF troops attacked 'Ourif village, south of Nablus. This joint attack was the second of its kind in the West Bank this April; IOF and Israeli settlers launched a similar attack on Safa village, north of Hebron, on 08 April, in which 9 Palestinian civilians were wounded.

On 26 April 2009, an Israeli settler fired at a Palestinian child in Madama village, south of Nablus. The child was seriously wounded by a gunshot that entered the back and exited the chest.

On the same day, a Palestinian civilian was wounded when IOF moved into Rantis village, northwest of Ramallah, and opened fire indiscriminately.

Also on the same day, IOF troops positioned at Tarqoumia crossing, southwest of Hebron, fired at an old Palestinian man, wounding him.

During the reporting period, 5 Palestinian civilians, including two children, were wounded when IOF used force against peaceful demonstrations organized to protest the construction of the Annexation Wall.

Incursions: During the reporting period, IOF conducted at least 28 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. IOF arrested 32 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children.

During the reporting period, IOF stormed the public yard opposite 'Aaida refugee camp, north of Bethlehem. The yard was being readied in advance of the Pope’s intended visit. IOF forced workers to stop technical and construction preparations.

On 24 April 2009, IOF conducted a joint operation with Israeli settlers against 'Ourif village, south of Nablus. Both forces fired at Palestinian civilians, wounding 12 of them.

Restrictions on Movement: IOF have continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPT and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

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Tunnels Become a Lifeline

Erin Cunningham


RAFAH, Apr 29, 2009 (IPS) - Pick-up trucks speed westward on the Barth highway that flanks the Israeli border in Egypt's North Sinai region, stacked high with cartons of petrol. They are headed "for Gaza", the Bedouin residents of Barth village say – through the tunnels that burrow under the Egypt-Gaza border and are filling Gaza's aid gap in the aftermath of Israel's deadly assault on the territory.

The hundreds of subterranean passages that have fuelled Gaza's economy since its borders were hermetically sealed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 were one of the primary targets of Israel's three-week Operation Cast Lead.

Now largely rebuilt in the wake of a war that destroyed much of the strip's infrastructure and agricultural land, the tunnels that provide Gaza with food, fuel, medicine and other consumer goods may have become even more crucial as an economic lifeline, the World Food Programme (WFP) says.

During the war, economic activity in the Gaza Strip came to a grinding halt. Over 20,000 buildings were destroyed, including many factories. Gaza's Private Sector Coordinating Council estimates the losses in the private sector as a result of the war to be 1.5 billion dollars.

Since the Jan. 18 ceasefire, Israel has continued to operate its commercial crossings at minimal capacity. Only 35 percent of the 613 million dollars in funding requested by the United Nations (UN) Flash Appeal for Gaza has been received for reconstruction efforts.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that on average 127 aid trucks a day are entering Gaza, compared to 475 per day prior to the Hamas takeover.

"If Israel opened the borders, the tunnel business would end in a second," says Abu Hussein, a Palestinian who manages a tunnel on the Gaza side of the border. "But what are we supposed to do? These tunnels feed the people, give them what they need and give us jobs."

Before the war smuggling through tunnels, which the UN said last year was so widespread that it amounted to an industry, was generating some 650 million dollars in cash each year.

Analysts estimate that at least two-thirds of the goods sold across the Gaza Strip come from the tunnels, and that they employ some 12,000 Palestinians from all over the territory. Gaza's unemployment rate, according to the UN, stood at 45 percent before the war. It is the highest in the world.

During the assault, Rafah's underground tunnels were pummelled by Israeli bombs for three weeks. Israel claimed its air force destroyed 80 percent of the tunnels, about 600 of them, used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip.

But Palestinians working the tunnels on the Gaza side say while the bombs did damage some of the underground network, they almost always targeted just the entrance of the tunnel and to a depth of just ten metres.

Since the tunnels can reach as deep as 25 metres, rebuilding was simply a matter of digging a new entry point a few metres from the original hole, smugglers say. And the reconstruction began the morning after the ceasefire was called Jan. 18.

"Before the war, the tunnel began there," says Abu Hussein, pointing to a hole 10 metres behind him. "It cost about 6,000 dollars to dig again here and reinforce the walls." The rest of the tunnel, all the way to Egypt, was unscathed.

After the war, food, medical supplies and other goods immediately began to pour in, picking up where the commercial crossings - that allow in only what Israel deems as "essential" - leave off.

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