Israel Aids Nepalese Victims, Blocks Gaza Reconstruction

by Stephen Lendman

Israel and America give double standard hypocrisy new meaning. Washington wages endless direct and proxy wars of aggression claiming humanitarian intervention.
Israeli occupation harshness is nearly seven decades old. Besieged Gazans suffer most – preemptively attacked by land, sea and air at Israel’s discretion, isolated in the world’s largest open-air prison.
Last summer’s genocidal war left large parts of Gaza in ruins – besides committing mass murder, including willfully massacring mostly noncombatant men, women, children, infants and the elderly.
According to UNRWA, “(n)ot a single home has been rebuilt” – eight months after Israel’s genocidal war ended.
UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness reports “(t)o date, 9,161 Palestinian refugee houses have been considered totally destroyed and 5,066 have suffered severe (damage), 4,085 major (damage), an 124,792 minor damages.”
To date, UNWRA received “funding to reconstruct (only) 200 of the 9,161 houses totally destroyed.”
According to Metal and Engineering Industries Union vice president Muhammad Hamad, Israel blocks 85% of needed construction equipment and metal materials from entering Gaza.
In early March, Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement executive director Eitan Diamond said:
“Six months after the fighting, not a single house destroyed during the last round of hostilities has been rebuilt.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless and living in tents. Entire neighborhoods were destroyed.”
Gaza’s economy is in ruins. Its 1.8 million people are suffering hugely – ruthless Israeli collective punishment according to unenforced international law.
Gisha spokesperson Shai Grunberg said “Gaza’s population needs an economic future.” Israel’s illegal siege must end.
“Merchants and business people must be allowed to exit Gaza in order to revive business connections and make new ones, sign deals, reconnect with the markets, and rebuild factories.”
“Young people must be allowed to get an education and reunite with family. The restrictions on the passage of goods must be lifted” straightaway.
Israel systematically refuses – even after pledging during last year’s Cairo peace talks to do so.
Following Nepal’s devastating April 25 earthquake, the region’s worst in 80 years, Israel sent 260 IDF medical and military personnel to Kathmandu – double standard hypocrisy and then some.
Its team set up a field hospital with 60 beds. On Wednesday, it began operations in coordination with Kathmandu’s army hospital.
Around 2,000 Israelis were in Nepal when disaster struck. Dozens of backpackers were stranded. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said only one of its nationals remains unaccounted for. Four planes and helicopters airlifted Israelis out.
No Israeli relief money was sent. Washington sent a paltry $10 million. Israel sent a large rescue team over 3,000 miles allegedly to help its nationals and Nepalese victims in need.
Israeli media touted its mission irresponsibly. A Hebrew University study “rank(ed) (Israel) near the bottom among leading free-market economies in providing foreign aid to developing nations.”
Washington fares no better. It’s so-called foreign aid is largely military-related benefitting its own agenda.
Israel’s so-called disaster relief combines self-promotion propaganda with exploiting local populations.
Its aid mission to Haiti following its January 2010 devastating earthquake was accused of organ trafficking.
In November 2009, Alison Weir reported on Israeli organ trafficking and theft from Moldova to Palestine.
She cited an earlier Donald Bostrom’s article in Sweden’s Ftonbladet suggesting Israel’s military illicitly removes removes body parts – including from Palestinians. According to Weir:
“…Israeli organ harvesting – sometimes with Israeli governmental funding and the participation of high Israeli officials, prominent Israeli physicians, and Israeli ministries – has been documented for many years. Among the victims have been Palestinians.”
Medical anthropology/Organ Watch founder Nancy Scheper-Hughes says “Israel is at the top” among nations engaging in organ trafficking.
“It has tentacles reaching out worldwide,” she said. It has a pyramid system at work that’s awesome.”
“They have brokers everywhere, bank accounts everywhere. They’ve got recruiters. They’ve got translators. They’ve got travel agents who set up the visas.”
They pay “the poor and the hungry to slowly dismantle their bodies” or simply take what they want from fresh corpses.”
Body parts are commodities, to be harvested and sold to the rich, even though organ sales are prohibited in most countries, but not under international law.
Is Israel’s Nepal mission more about “rescuing” organs and body parts than helping stranded Israelis and Nepalese victims? It has nothing to do with providing humanitarian aid.
At the same time, it continues ruthlessly persecuting Palestinians – besieged Gazans most of all.
Nepalese victims make daily headlines. Long-suffering Gazans are totally ignored – including Israel’s willful reconstruction blockade.
It’s just a matter of time before its forces smash up more of Gaza – along with murdering and maiming thousands more Palestinians defenseless against its onslaught.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.

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WHO ARE THE STARVING AND BESIEGED RESIDENTS OF YARMOUK AND WHY ARE THEY THERE?

by Paul Larudee, Dissident Voice

There are many illusions about what is happening to the Yarmouk district of Damascus and its Palestinian refugee population. The district was originally set aside in 1957 for Palestinian refugees already living there, whom Israel had expelled from their homes in 1948, with periodic additional populations thereafter. Today it is home to around one million Syrians and Palestinians, of whom the Palestinians number roughly 170,000. Palestinians in Syria have all the rights of Syrian citizens except voting, and in Yarmouk their homes are indistinguishable from those of the Syrian residents.

Starting in 2012, armed elements trying to overthrow the Assad government gained a foothold in Yarmouk. Most Palestinians disapproved, since this violated the traditional exchange of Syrian hospitality for Palestinian neutrality. However, there was no consensus among Palestinians to forcibly expel the intruders.

By June, 2013, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) had established a siege on the camp in order to prevent further encroachment toward the center of Damascus, which already receives a daily dose of random mortar attacks. (Three landed just outside my hotel in April, 2014, one killing three people.) Most of the population fled, until only 18,000 remained by October, 2013, according to Fateh leader Abbas Zaki, as reported to Ma’an News. Many thousands are now living outside the camp, in shelter provided by the Syrian government and Syrian humanitarian aid organizations.

In April, 2014 I visited a school that had been converted to living quarters for Yarmouk refugees. The accommodations were immensely crowded and by no means comfortable, a consequence of having to provide for nearly 8 million displaced people in government areas, doubling the normal population for those areas. Nevertheless, food is being provided, as well as education and health services.

Until Daesh (ISIS or the Islamic State) entered the camp on April 1, 2015, the figure of 18,000 residents continued to be reported consistently for the next year and a half despite a siege that cut off electricity and water and reduced the availability of essential food and medical supplies. More than a hundred civilians are reported to have died of starvation or lack of medical treatment during those eighteen months. Who are the remaining civilians and why are they refusing to evacuate to outside shelter like so many others?

Local humanitarian relief supervisors report (personal communication) that some of them are not from Yarmouk and some are not Palestinian. They include the families of Syrian and foreign fighters that are trying to overthrow the Syrian government by force of arms, and some of them came from districts adjacent to Yarmouk, such as the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad. It is hard to know how many are being forcibly prevented from leaving by the armed groups in the camp and how many choose not to leave because they are afraid of the potential consequences.

Some might be considered “human shields”, used by the fighters to deter attacks against them. But they might equally be concerned about becoming “human hostages” if they leave, i.e. of being used to pressure fighters to surrender. The motivations can be complex, but no evidence has been presented to show that the Syrian government is preventing civilians from leaving the camp. In fact, 90% of the population has already left.

Is the Syrian government preventing the distribution of food and medicine in the camp?

Siege is one of the most common military strategies of the SAA. Typically, the army lays siege to an area and prevents food, medicine and of course arms from entering, to the extent possible. On the other hand it welcomes evacuation of civilians, and provides humanitarian aid to those who leave.

The objective is to remove the civilians from the area as much as possible and then attack the enemy or provoke surrender, sometimes with amnesty as an inducement. This is classic military strategy, though hard on the civilians, as usual.

In the case of Yarmouk, there is another dimension to the siege. The Syrian government has a long-standing agreement with the Palestinian governing council of the camp that it will not enterwithout their request. However, the council has never made such a request and the Syrian authorities have never asked for permission. This agreement still holds, although Palestinian forces defending the camp against Daesh have recently formed a joint command and are coordinating their efforts with the Syrian military, which has been providing artillery and aerial support. In addition, the army has been attacking areas adjacent to Yarmouk that are Daesh strongholds, in order to impede their access to Yarmouk and prevent resupply to Daesh forces in the camp.

There is no indication that the SAA is preventing humanitarian aid from being distributed in Yarmouk. Despite the siege, it has allowed the stockpiling of supplies on the edge of the camp and it has permitted civilians from inside to collect and distribute the aid. However, the government wants the civilians to leave, not to introduce additional persons into the camp, so it is reluctant to allow outsiders to enter, especially in consideration of the fact that they have no means of assuring their safety. Nevertheless, it has permitted humanitarian NGOs, including UNRWA, to distribute aid roughly half the time.

The result has been a modest but insufficient flow of aid to camp residents until Daesh captured much of the area. In the fighting to defend the camp and retake the Daesh-occuped areas, it has been much too dangerous for anyone to undertake aid distribution, with horrific consequences on the remaining civilians. As a result, the number of civilian residents has probably dropped to less than half of the 18,000 initial estimate, despite their qualms about evacuating.

Has the Syrian military been using barrel bombs on Yarmouk?

There is no recorded use of barrel bombs in Yarmouk before the entry of Daesh in late March, 2015. Their use in April, 2015 is confirmed, although the number of casualties due to such ordnance is astonishingly small. One or possibly two barrel bombs appear to have been dropped on the street outside the Palestine Hospital in the camp, but with no reported casualties. Higher numbers have been mentioned, but without evidence.

During the heaviest fighting, the Syrian Air Force (SAAF) has used both conventional bombs delivered by jet aircraft and “barrel” bombs in the Daesh stronghold of Hajar al-Aswad and the adjacent part of Yarmouk. Residents report hearing dozens of explosions, but it is unclear how many were in Yarmouk, how many casualties there may have been and how many were civilians. A total of 18 civilian casualties were counted in all of Yarmouk during a week of intensive fighting at the beginning of April, but none have been attributed to the barrel bombs and it is uncertain who is responsible for the killings.

Does the Syrian army massacre civilians?

One of the main complaints against barrel bombs and the tactics of the SAA is that they cause massive civilian casualties. There is no doubt that disproportionate numbers of civilian casualties have occurred on specific occasions. Overall, however, the number of civilians killed by government forces and loyalists is less than the number of casualties in the fighting forces themselves, possibly as low as two combatants for each civilian. Not since World War One has this been the case for US forces.

As for the “barrel bombs”, the claims of their use against civilians and their exaggerated savagery do not hold up. Like any bomb, they are made of high explosives, sometimes with projectiles added. In this respect they are no different from many types of explosive ordnance used in military forces throughout the world. They are designed for destruction, including destruction of life.

The complaints against them are that a) they are by nature indiscriminate and hit unintended targets and b) they are almost invariably used against civilians. The first is patently untrue. Conventional bombs are usually delivered by fighter-bombers at high speed and often in proximity to the target. In Syrian and other engagements, the speed of delivery offers protection from ground fire. Such speed also reduces accuracy, but the relative proximity to the target compensates substantially for this disadvantage.

Barrel bombs are usually deployed from relatively a greater height that is out of range of ground fire. However, they are dropped from stationary helicopters, which provides greater accuracy that compensates for the height disadvantage. There are few if any reports of barrel bombs failing to hit their intended target (although occasionally the selected target might be the result of poor intelligence).

It has been reported that thousands of barrel bombs have been used by the SAAF since 2012, when they were first deployed, and that there have been thousands of casualties from such weapons. Unfortunately, little more is known except for anecdotal cases. Although some bombs have resulted in only material destruction, others have caused two dozen or more casualties. The available data do not provide much statistical help, such as the average number of casualties per use. Is it more or less than for convention bombs or for US drone weapons, for example? How many of the casualties are civilians and how many combatants? We do not know, but the overall civilian casualty rate remains unusually low compared to most other conflicts in the past century.

What seems clear is that the western press, governments and NGOs have treated barrel bombs as the devil’s weapon. The reason seems to be that while conventional bombs are capable of inflicting just as much damage and loss of life (and are being used extensively by the Ukrainian government), western arsenals do not contain barrel bombs. If these weapons can be sufficiently vilified as a weapon type rather than by their manner of use, Syrian military forces can be blamed for inhumane weaponry without the taint falling upon nations that use different weapons, even ones that are equally or more destructive. Oddly enough, the inhumane DIME and white phosphorous weapons used in Gaza did not provoke equal condemnation, even though the ratio of Israeli military to civilian casualties has been as much as 100 times higher than for the Syrian military.

Why, then, are Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Chris Gunness of UNRWA, and most western press agencies condemning the Syrian government for the use of barrel bombs, for starving camp residents, and for preventing residents from leaving? Palestinians and their supporters are accustomed to false and biased reporting on the subject of Palestine. They know that the western media work overtime to protect Israel. That is their agenda. Do they think that these agencies are unbiased with respect to Syria?

The west, Israel, the Gulf monarchies, Turkey and many sycophants and puppets of western powers have made abundantly clear that they intend to overthrow the Syrian government, in violation of the UN Charter and other international law prohibiting wars of aggression, and against Syrian national sovereignty. AI, HRW, and other human rights imperialists have never once recognized these facts vis-à-vis Syria. In fact, they have supported the west’s illegal push for regime change.

Is it not also clear that western institutions and media are distorting their coverage of Syria in order to promote this goal? Apparently not, even to persons who should know better and are accustomed to seeing such distortions in the reporting on Palestine.

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YARMOUK CAMP: AMERICAN AND SAUDI TERRORISM KILLS PALESTINIANS: EXPOSED BY RADIOYARAN

Ziad Fadel

By: Radioyaran

Why is the Yarmouk camp suffering? The true reasons, not western propaganda

April 11, 2015 radioyaran Syria

Reading through western (and probably Gulf states) media these days one could think that Syrian President Assad and “his” army (otherwise known as the Syrian Arab Army) from one day to the next simply decided to destroy the Yarmouk refugee camp and kill its Palestinian inhabitants through a siege and bombardment.
The same sources go as far as claiming that the recent take over of the mostly abandoned camp through the IS militia even serves Assads interests.
The silly and easily refutable fairy tale of Assad secretly collaborating with IS is achieving sort of an “evergreen” status among many of the above mentioned media:
http://radioyaran.com/2015/03/07/supported-by-no-evidence-the-telegraph-revives-the-assad-isil-cooperation-myth/

It´s time to shed some light on what has been going on in the Yarmouk camp since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

Whenever western media reports of any places being shelled in Syria the impression is created that this can only have been the work of the Syrian Army. This is an early case of such shelling hitting the Yarmouk camp:
“Two mortar shells struck the camp in the early hours of Thursday from the nearby Tadamun distinct. The Syrian government said armed “terrorists” were behind the carnage…An alleged opposition battalion, Saif Al-Islam, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that the Palestinians in Yarmouk camp are in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.”
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-08/03/c_131759789.htm

So, at first the rebels attacked the camp claiming that it´s Palestinians are “guilty” by being supporters of Assad. Then they infiltrated the camp and began “arming sympathetic Palestinians to fight a pro-Assad faction in a Palestinian enclave in Damascus“.
It is clear that the rebels, the so called “moderates” of the FSA brought trouble to the camp:
“Residents at Yarmouk…said gunmen had been seen in the streets and some people kidnapped in recent days, eight of whom had been killed. It was not clear who was responsible.

A bomb exploded on Wednesday under the car of a Syrian army colonel in Yarmouk, although he was not in the vehicle, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. A Syrian rebel commander claimed responsibility, calling it a “gift to Jibril’s people which will be followed by others”.”
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/31/us-syria-crisis-palestinians-idUSBRE89U1I320121031

Another resident confirms the assertion regarding the FSA being the harbinger of problems, devastation and suffering:
“Muhammad Tamim and Iptisam and their two adult children fled their home not far from the Palestinian Yarmouk camp in Damascus four months ago. Their parents and three elder children are still there.

“As soon as the FSA enters an area, the combat units follow and engage in action.  There’s no way we can live in the middle of a battlefield. Syria is headed towards a catastrophe,” said Muhammad”
http://rt.com/news/syria-people-home-rima-831/

As early as January 2013, foreign fighters were seen in the camp hiding among civilians in order to attack the Syrian forces:
“Foreign nationals are using the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus as a base to fight the Syrian government, a former adviser to late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said Saturday.

“We’re calling committees in the camp and people there told us that foreigners are shooting at anyone that moves,” Bassam Abu Sharif told Palestine’s Ma’an news agency.

“They’re using the camp and the people of the camp as shields to attack government forces.””
http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/foreign-fighters-using-damascus-refugee-camp-base-ex-arafat-aide

Another report from the same time (and more than 2 years ago from now) mentions the presence of Al Qaedas Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra (Nusra Front):
“Some fleeing Palestinians refugees at the Maznaa crossing mention that they fear that al-Qeada affiliates are taking over Yarmouk camp and want to establish an Islamic emirate…But there are sections where the Al Nusra Front is very much in control and are actively setting up social service centers and training bases for arriving recruits from a number of countries as well as, regrettably, some Palestinians…”
http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/01/04/notes-from-damascus/

A further confirmation from January 2013: “Nusra was at the forefront of fighting in that city’s Yarmouk district.”

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/01/10/179548/al-qaida-linked-nusra-rebels-about.html

Accusing the Syrian Army of systematically starving the Yarmouk camp people are misleading. Due to its vicinity to the center of Damascus and the heavy presence of Al Nusra and other radical groups the Syrian Army has cordoned off the northern entrance to the camp, while the rebels control the southern entrance and the adjacent districts such as Tadamon or Hajar al Aswad. Yarmouk is thus a huge risk factor for the government. Under such circumstances every army has to take strict measures to minimize the danger of attacks, infiltration and weapons smuggling into the capitals inner ring.
Nevertheless the Syrian Army has on several occasions evacuated people from Yarmouk to safe areas and attempted to bring in aid convois which was prevented and sabotaged by the REBELs:
“The convoy was cleared to proceed beyond the checkpoint and the Syrian authorities provided a bulldozer to go ahead to clear the road of debris, earth mounds and other obstructions.

The bulldozer was fired upon, hit by direct gunfire and forced to withdraw, though with no casualties. Thereafter, bursts of gunfire, including machine-gun fire, erupted close to the trucks and UNRWA vehicles, suggesting a firefight.

Also, one mortar exploded very close to the convoy. The convoy withdrew at this point following the advice of the security escort and returned safely to Damascus.”
http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/amid-gunfire-relief-convoy-turns-back-syrias-besieged-yarmouk-camp

The strategic geographic position of the camp is highlighted again here:
“The Islamist armed groups of the opposition saw the camp as the Syrian government’s Achilles’ heel and nothing else, a prize-catch in their desperate quest to “conquer” Damascus; the perfect springboard for their intended “jihad” against the regime’s main stronghold, practically putting a target on the camp’s back and turning its entire refugee population into a huge block of human shields held hostage to the flick of these groups’ military whims…The armed opposition’s all-guns-blazing infiltration into, and subsequent control over Yarmouk in late 2012 has plunged its Palestinian refugees headfirst into the throes of the Syrian war; transforming the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria into a “hostile territory” for the Syrian Army…For the Al-Nusra front and other Islamist fighting militias; taking control over the camp was primarily a matter of scoring territorial advances against the “infidel” regime, it constituted the closest front they’ll ever manage to get to Damascus, only this “pyrrhic victory” has had the camp caught in a tight militaristic death-grip where foreign backed insurgents are wreaking doomed havoc inside the camp (including looting, arbitrary seizure of properties and taking on human shields), and the Syrian army is giving the area the full “military-zone” treatment; imposing a full-fledged siege on most parts of the camp, particularly its northern entrance which connects directly to Damascus. ”
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MID-01-300114.html

The same article raises a valid question: Why are the militants inside the camp well-armed and well-fed and apparently not suffering from hunger and thirst while the civilians have been dying?
“the curious fact remains that while the civilian population is suffering the lashes of hunger, thirst and dwindling medical supplies, militants inside the camp appear to be largely unaffected by the siege. On the contrary these groups seem to be well-armed, fully weaponized (at least to the extent that

enables them to retain full military control over the majority of the camp despite the ongoing siege) and on multiple occasions have even instigated clashes and firefights with the Syrian army.

This begs the question: what prevents these militants from using their own supply routes and active ammunition channels to soften the impact of the regime-imposed siege on the civilian population inside the camp, keeping in mind that areas bordering Yarmouk from its southern entrance are controlled by the “rebels” themselves? “

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UN Agency Demand End to Yarmouk Fighting

The United Nations has expressed concerns over the deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk near the Syrian capital, Damascus, as intense clashes continue between Palestinian armed factions and the ISIL Takfiri terrorists.

Yarmouk

“Never has the hour been more desperate in the Palestine refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus,” read a press release circulated by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on Sunday. “We demand that all parties exercise maximum restraint and abide by their obligations under international law to protect civilians.”

UNRWA called on concerned States to urgently exercise their authority and influence in order to end the fighting in Yarmouk for the sake of civilian lives and to alleviate human suffering. Meanwhile,

humanitarian access had to be increased and secure conditions established under which the agency would be able to deliver life-saving humanitarian assistance and civilians could be evacuated.

The agency said that the international community, including UN bodies, should be seized of the “critical situation” without delay and should ensure that all civilians are protected in accordance with the UN charter and international law.

The ISIL militants stormed the camp on April 1, apparently in tandem with rivals from the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, even though the two groups have fought bloody battles against each other in other parts of Syria.

The UN says nearly 18,000 civilians, including a large number of children, are caught in Yarmouk. Over 90 percent of the camp is now under ISIL control.

“Men, women and children – Syrians and Palestinians alike – are cowering in their battered homes in profound fear, desperate for security, food and water, deeply concerned by the grave perils that may yet come, as hostilities continue,” said UNRWA’s press release.

Source: Agencies

06-04-2015 – 12:00 Last updated 06-04-2015 – 12:00

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Yet another reason for Scottish independence, Hammond blocks Yousaf’s visit to Gaza

Anger as Foreign Office ‘blocks’ Scottish Minister’s visit to Gaza

Yousaf has written to his Westminster counterpart, foreign secretary Philip Hammond, in protest after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) withdrew its support for the trip to the Palestinian territory.

Humza Yousaf (Photo:Hhuffingtonpost)

He said that foreign office officials, who had previously been happy to facilitate the trip, made a u-turn after deciding that security could not be guaranteed and that the foreign policy agenda towards Gaza was reserved to Westminster.

 

A number of UK officials have made the trip in recent months, including Baroness Morris of Bolton, the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to the Palestinian Territories, and Tobias Ellwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the FCO with special responsibility for the Middle East and North Africa.

 

Yousaf however has been unable to secure support for a visit to see first-hand the work being done with £500k of funding that the Scottish Government made to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Gaza Flash Appeal in July 2014.

 

Yousaf’s letter to the FCO, shown exclusively to the Sunday Herald, states:

“Although FCO officials initially said that they were in principle able to provide support for such a visit, I have since been informed that the FCO view has changed and that the FCO would not support a visit to Gaza for two reasons: firstly that the security situation in the region presents a greater than usual risk and that officials are advising against all ministerial travel; and secondly an assertion that the UK works exclusively to a reserved foreign affairs agenda in Gaza.”

It adds:

“Given the focus of UK Ministers’ visits, I must challenge the proposition that the UK Government works exclusively to a foreign affairs agenda in Gaza: clearly the UK Government is also, and quite rightly, concerned with humanitarian relief and economic development.

“A Scottish Ministerial visit to Gaza would be similarly concerned with humanitarian issues, and would serve to highlight the Scottish Government’s international development agenda and the support that it has given in this area.

“I note the FCO offer for the British Consul General in Jerusalem to provide an update on the use of the funding and would welcome this information.

“However, I find it disappointing and frustrating that the FCO is effectively blocking Scottish Ministers from visiting Humanitarian projects in Gaza.

“I would therefore seek your agreement that the FCO will support a visit by a Scottish minister to Gaza once the security situation allows for ministerial travel to Gaza to resume.”

 

Scottish Government funding was supplied to the UNRWA in July last year, following a flare up in the Israel- Gaza conflict during which the Israeli military launched an offensive involving extensive bombardment of the coastal strip.

 

This action, dubbed Operation Protective Edge by the Israelis, was they claimed aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. More than 2,100 Gazans and 66 Israeli soldiers died and there was widespread damage to civilian infrastructure.

 

Massive numbers of Palestinians were driven from their homes in Gaza during the fighting, with many seeking safety in UNRWA Designated Emergency Shelters (DES).

 

In response to the humanitarian crisis, UNRWA expanded its emergency response and launched an appeal for £36 million in addition to the original £40 million set aside.

 

The fighting came to an end in August with a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas.

 

Yousaf had previously called for an end to the blockade of Gaza, which the Scottish Government along with other bodies and human rights organisations have described as “collective punishment”.

 

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “The safety of British nationals is of paramount importance and the FCO’s travel advice for British nationals is clear; we advise against all travel to Gaza.”

This article was originally published in Herald Scotland and can be accessed here.

PFLP demands UNRWA restore assistance to Gaza families, rejects all attempts to pressure Palestinians into submission

SYRIA 360°

mizher

The action of UNRWA to stop providing financial assistance to the owners of destroyed home is a critical decision that is intensifying suffering in the Gaza Strip, said Comrade Jamil Mizher, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and leader of its branch in Gaza. Mizher noted that this act will only exacerbate catastrophic conditions, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the electricity crisis, as well as the lack of reconstruction and growing poverty and unemployment, and can lead to a real, serious explosion at any moment.

The Front held a protest outside the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City on February 3, urging immediate reconstruction and the delivery of funds to needy Palestinians, condemning the UN’s systematic involvement in policies that intensify the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Mizher said that UNRWA’s justifications for its decisions regarding lack of funding are untrue and insufficient; in fact, this action is putting pressure on the Palestinian masses in an attempt to undermine the resistance and force concessions upon the Palestinian people in return for limited assistance here or there and the entry of some goods.

Furthermore, Mizher said, the United Nations has demonstrated its willingness to collaborate with the occupation policy to perpetuate the siege and undermine reconstruction, as demonstrated particularly in the notorious plan of Robert Serry, with deliberate disregard for the suffering of the people.

This action threatens thousands of homeless and displaced Palestinians who remain in shelters throughout the Strip, Mizher noted.

Mizher emphasized the importance of building popular pressure to force the parties to prioritize the interests of the Palestinian people, including the UN and the Palestinian parties whose internal conflict continues to undermine reconstruction and the needed Palestinian united front to break the siege. He demanded UNRWA undo this decision and instead deliver the financial assistance to support the needs of the people, for rent and reconstruction.

For his part, Comrade Samir Baker spoke outside the UNRWA office in Gaza, saying “We stand here today…not to beg for our rights or wait for sympathy and charity, a bag of flower or a little amount of money that does not fill the mouth of a hungry child or rebuild his destroyed home, but instead to remind them of their tasks and responsibilities that must be implemented in the service of our people.”

Since the Nakba, Baker said, the UN has dealt with the issue of Palestine as a purely humanitarian issue and evading and ignoring the reality that it is a political issue of a colonized people under occupation. The establishment of the Zionist enemy announced from inside the UN, its engagement with the global colonial system and the cover it provides for the crimes and massacres of the occupation have posed a continuing obstacle to the liberation of our people, Baker said.

He noted that the slow, almost nonexistent reconstruction is intentional, taking place in collusion with the ocupation, noting that the infamous Serry plan attempted to bank reconstruction on acceptance of Zionist terms and conditions.

“We have information to indicate that UNRWA has the capacity to deal with this issue through alternate contingency plans, through the provision of an emergency budget or launching an international campaign that will highlight the responsibilities of the world – as happens every other time when there is a deficit in the UNRWA budget,” Baker said. Instead, however, the UN abandoned its legal and ethical responsibilities because it is playing a role in the international equation of pressure on our people in service of the occupation, and to turn the Palestinian people and their struggle for liberation into a struggle for a loaf of bread or an open crossing, Baker said. “Our people will fight for their rights and not auction them to states and international bodies.”

Baker pledged that the PFLP will continue its efforts to confront those who conspire against the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

PFLP: Those who recognize the “legitimacy” of Israel are not friends of the Palestinian people

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The Palestine For All Movement (MOP@T, Movimento Palestina Para Tod@s) in Sao Paulo Brazil, organized a political seminar in the headquarters of the postal workers’ union, focusing on the struggle of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails and current political developments in occupied Palestine and the region, as well as the struggles of prisoners in Brazil.

Comrade Khaled Barakat, coordinator of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, spoke at the event, providing an overview of the current political developments in the region, noting that “the Palestinian and Arab resistance is the only force in the region capable of defeating the settler-colonial racist state in occupied Palestine.”

“We are at a historic moment, one hundred years of Palestinian armed struggle.” Barakat said. “The Palestinian people have been confronting colonialism and occupation since 1917, through a collective historical experience that has enabled them to protect their cause against all attempts to dissolve or disperse them.”

Speaking on the political positions needed to liberate Palestine, Barakat noted that “the position of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was, and remains, to dismantle the Zionist entity in Palestine. The Front rejects the so-called ‘two state solution’ and considers it a major betrayal of the Palestinian people and their right to return to their homes from which they were forced. It calls for the establishment of a democratic state of Palestine on the entire land of Palestine and the exercise of the Palestinian people’s right to self determination over all of their homeland.”

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Barakat rejected the legitimacy of Israeli occupation anywhere on the land of Palestine, saying that any recognition of Israel’s so-called “right to exist” undermines the Palestinian people. “Those who recognize and defend Israel’s ‘right to exist’ on stolen Palestinian land cannot be true friends or part of the real solidarity movement with the Palestinian people. We must keep the flame of the struggle burning in confrontation with Israel and its supporters inside and outside Palestine, under the leadership of the Palestinian people and their resistance, and with the support of the Arab nation, the people of the region, and the progressive forces and people of the world. This is the only truly realistic and revolutionary option to change the balance of power locally and internationally and change the equation in the region to the benefit of the Palestinian people and their just struggle for liberation,” said Barakat.

He criticized the actions of the Brazilian government, which expresses verbal support for the Palestinian people while engaging in millions of dollars of economic agreements and deals with Israel, especially in the area of military cooperation and arms purchases. Barakat emphasized the need to enhance the role of trade unions and political parties in the boycott campaign to cut the relationship with Israel, noting positively the actions of Bolivia and Venezuela in cutting their relationships with the Zionist state as true models of friendship with the Palestinian people.

Barakat emphasized the legitimacy of Palestinian armed struggle despite false labelling of Palestinian resistance as “terrorism, extremism or violence,” saying that “these labels do not concern us and these descriptions hold no weight. Reality confirms the correctness of the path of armed struggle, and the Palestinian resistance will continue to develop its strength. This is borne out by the experience of the past 20 years, in which despite the Oslo agreements, the Palestinian resistance has a capacity dozens of times stronger than it has had in the past.”

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Charlotte Kates, lawyer and human rights activist and the coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, also spoke at the event, detailing the experiences of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and the ongoing repression directed against the prisoners in recent years. She addressed the system of mass incarceration used to oppress the Palestinian people, and described the military courts which try Palestinians as a mockery of justice, convicting over 99.5% of the Palestinians who appear before them.

She discussed the system of administrative detention and the imprisonment of Palestinians without charge or trial, at times for long years with no reason or evidence. In addition, she explained the case of imprisoned PFLP leader Ahmad Sa’adat and his comrades, and the involvement of multiple reactionary forces: Israel, the US, Britain and the collusion of the Palestinian Authority and its security services. In addition, she discussed the cases of imprisoned Palestinian student Lina Khattab and 14-year-old imprisoned girl Malaak al-Khatib.

In addition, the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) organized meetings between Brazilian political parties and popular movements and the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, where it was agreed to organize a series of joint events in 2015, building the movement to defend Palestinian prisoners and pressure the Brazilian government to boycott the Zionist state and end its cooperation with the occupation.

PFLP rejects appointment of biased Mladenov as UN envoy to the region

kayed-ghoul

The appointment of Nikolay Mladenov as United Nations envoy to the so-called “Middle East peace process” is the antithesis of any effort to lead to real peace with justice in the region, said Comrade Kayed al-Ghoul, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Mladenov is known for his statements in support of the Zionist state and justification of its crimes against the Palestinian people since he was foreign minister of Bulgaria. The United Nations’ claim to seek real peace in the region will be belied if it continues to provide cover for the crimes of the occupation, said al-Ghoul.

Al-Ghoul said that the appointment of Mladenov in this position is a further attempt by powerful parties in the international organization, particularly the United States, to strengthen the position of the occupation state in international institutions addressing the Palestinian cause and the “Arab-Israeli conflict.”

In this context, he denounced the attacks and pressures to which William Schabas, chair of the International Commission of Inquiry investigating the Israeli attack on Gaza and its war crimes against the Palestinian people, was subject by the Israeli state and its allies, forcing his resignation and leading to his replacement by a US judge on the panel. This was clearly an attempt by the Netanyahu government to cut the road in front of the findings of Schabas and the ICI on the crimes of the occupation in its war on Gaza, said al-Ghoul.

Al-Ghoul called on all Palestinian forces, including official representatives in international arenas, and PA President Abu Mazen to take action urgently to stop the appointment of Mladenov because of his clear history of positions and bias in support of the occupier, which is definitely in contradiction with the rights of the Palestinian people and incompatible with the growing international public demand to hold the Israeli state accountable for its crimes and siege, and to support the rights of the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom and justice.

PFLP salutes the heroic operation of the Lebanese resistance

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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine welcomed the heroic operation carried out by Hezbollah against the Israeli army patrol in southern Lebanon, which underscores its ability to respond to attacks, and salutes the will and the courage of the resistance forces in confronting the enemy and its presence in Palestine and anywhere in Arab lands.

Beyond being a response to the assassination of six Hezbollah fighters by the Zionist military, the Front said, this operation is an expression of the commitment to continued resistance. The Front also renewed its call for a unified resistance force in Palestine and the Arab world to resist occupation and colonialism.

The National and Islamic forces in Palestine held a press conference in support of the Lebanese resistance and its operation on January 28, saying that this action demonstrates the strength of the resistance, and calling for a unified resistance fron to confront the Zionist occupation at all times.

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Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine

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Mustafa calls for uncovering practices of armed terrorist organizations in al-Yarmouk camp

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Damascus, SANA-Director- General of the General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees Ali Mustafa affirmed the need for uncovering the practices of armed terrorist organizations who prevent families in al-Yarmouk camp from reaching to al-Rama site where the relief material are distributed.

“Those terrorist practices aim to obstruct any effort to facilitate the processes of distributing the humanitarian aid to the families in need in order to hunger residents in the camp and prevent them from receiving medicines and treatment to politicize the issue,” Mustafa said in a message sent to director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Michael Kingsley-Nyinah.

He hailed cooperation of the Syrian government and leadership to offer aid to the Palestinian refugees and deliver the materials to them in the camps and gatherings they live in.

Mustafa called on sides which support the terrorist organizations to force them get out of the al-Yarmouk and Handarat camps in Damascus and Aleppo and end their unfair siege to the other camps.

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Germany donates funds to rebuild Gaza while financing Israeli warships

A Palestinian woman pauses amid buildings destroyed during the Israeli summer assault on in Gaza. AFP/ Mohammed Abed

Published Monday, December 15, 2014

Al Akhbar

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on Monday signed two agreements with the German Development Bank (GDB) worth a total of 25 million euros (approximately $31.3 million) to assist Palestinians in war-torn Gaza as well as struggling Palestinian refugees from Syria who are seeking refuge in Lebanon.

Germany also plans to finance part of the cost of four new corvette warships for the Israeli navy.

Twenty of the 25 million euros – provided by the GDB on behalf of the German government – will go towards “cash assistance for temporary shelter, as well as major repairs and the reconstruction of homes in Gaza,” the UNRWA said in a statement.

“This will help families who are still homeless following the summer 2014 hostilities [the Israeli assault on the Gaza strip] move into transitional shelter until their home repairs have been completed,” it said.

The remaining 5 million euros, the UNRWA added, would “provide vital assistance to the most vulnerable Palestine refugees from Syria in Lebanon through targeted cash assistance for food, shelter and winterization needs.”

“This donation will also fund essential improvements to UNRWA infrastructure and environmental health services,” the UN refugee agency added. “These improvements will help maintain healthy environments in refugee camps and provide emergency collective shelter rehabilitation.”

On Tuesday, the agency called on the international community to earmark $414 million to support Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The UNRWA provides assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestinian refugees.

Besides donating money for Gaza reconstruction, Germany also plans to finance part of the cost of four new corvette warships for the Israeli navy.

The government said Monday that it will help finance the four corvette warships, made by German firm Thyssen Krupp, under a deal struck with the Zionist state back in November.

Following approval by German parliament’s budget committee the contract could be finalized before the end of this year, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

The mass-circulation Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported on Sunday that Berlin had earmarked up to 115 million euros for the warships – which would cost around 1 billion euros in total.

Seibert declined comment on the size of the German contribution.

As part of its atonement for the Nazi Holocaust, Germany is committed to Israel’s security and has often helped pay for the cost of military equipment such as submarines.

These military equipment were used by Israel this summer during the 51-day aggression on Gaza.

According to the UN, more than 2,160 Gazans, mostly civilians, were killed and 11,000 injured.

Moreover, as many as 80,000 Palestinians homes were damaged or destroyed during the days of hostilities, a higher figure than was previously thought, and over 106,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced to UN shelters and host families.

The Palestinian Authority has estimated that rebuilding Gaza will cost $7.8 billion.

(Anadolu, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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US declares Israel ‘a major strategic partner’

A Palestinian child, wounded in an Israeli strike on a compound housing a UN school in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, is pictured at Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia early on July 30, 2014. AFP / Mohammed Abed

Published Thursday, December 4, 2014
Al Akhbar

US lawmakers voted unanimously Wednesday to pass legislation making Israel a “major strategic partner” of the United States, deepening a bilateral bond that has recently shown signs of strain.

In a voice vote, the House approved the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, which expands cooperation in defense and security, energy, research and development, business, agriculture, water management and academics.

The measure reflects “the sense of Congress that Israel is a major strategic partner of the United States,” and declares Washington’s “unwavering support” for Israel as “a Jewish state.”

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous Balfour Declaration, called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

The bill, which passed the Senate unanimously in September, now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The legislation would expand the US weapons stockpile in Israel by some $200 million in value, to a total of $1.8 billion, so that the Pentagon can be better prepared to conduct military operations in the volatile Middle East.

It also crucially allows Israel to use the weapons in the event of an emergency, as it did this summer during its operation “Protective Edge” in Gaza.

Earlier this year Congress dramatically increased US funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, to $351 million for the fiscal year 2015 up from $235 million the previous year.

Veteran Democrat Eliot Engel noted how the bill was aimed in part at helping Israel maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its adversaries.

“We must always be working to ensure that our support for Israel keeps pace with the threats proliferating against the country – from Iran to Hamas,” House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce added in a statement.

For 51 days this summer, during the so-called “Protective Edge” operation, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip – by air, land and sea – with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

According to UN figures, at least 505 Palestinian children were killed during the 50-day assault. The cumulative death toll among Palestinians is at least 2,180, at least 70 percent of whom were civilians. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians died during the conflict.

UNRWA said 138 of its students were killed during the Israeli aggression, and the organization’s spokesperson Christopher Gunness said an additional 814 UNRWA students were injured and 560 have become orphans due to the Israeli onslaught.

The agency also said over 241,000 children are in need of psychological support.

Moreover, according to the UN, as many as 80,000 Palestinians homes were damaged or destroyed during the days of hostilities, a higher figure than was previously thought, and over 106,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced to UN shelters and host families.

“Israel is a bright light in a very, very dark region,” Engel asserted on the House floor shortly before the vote.

Since September 2000, following the Second Intifada, at least 9,100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, including 2,053 Palestinian children, the equivalent of one Palestinian child being killed every three days for the past 14 years.

Since 1967, more than 850,000 Palestinians have been held in Israeli prisons and detention facilities.

In 2013, the UN children’s fund (UNICEF) reported that Israel was the only country in the world where children were “systematically tried” in military courts and gave evidence of practices it said were “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

Over the past decade, UNICEF noted that Israel has detained “an average of two children each day.”

About 6,500 Palestinians, including 300 children, are now being held in Israeli prisons, 1,500 of whom are suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

The legislation also requires the Obama administration to move toward allowing Israel to be included in the top-tier category for license-free exports of certain US technologies and products, and it places Israel on the US list of countries that participate in the visa waiver program.

Israel is widely believed to possess a substantial nuclear arsenal, which it does not officially acknowledge.

On Tuesday, a UN General Assembly committee responsible for global security passed on an Egypt-drafted resolution demanding that Israel give up its nuclear arsenal and put its nuclear facilities under international oversight.

Entitled “The risk of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East,” the non-binding draft resolution, obtained the support of 161 states against five others including the United States, while 18 countries abstained from the vote.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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UN setting the ground for Israel’s expanded siege on Gaza

A Palestinian man uses a hammer the break the rubble of houses, which were destroyed during the 51-day Gaza war between Israel and Hamas-led militants in the Gaza Strip, on November 14, 2014, in Khan Younis’ Khuzaa neighbourhood in the southern Gaza Strip near the Israeli border. AFP/Mohammed Abed
Published Saturday, November 15, 2014
Fifty-one days of war were not enough to erase the consequences of seven years of siege, which affected every facet of life in the Gaza Strip. After the havoc and devastation caused by the war, it now seems that the siege has been reproduced in different ways. Since before the end of the Israeli shelling, international conditions stipulated that no one was allowed to bring in reconstruction material to Gaza except the “legitimate authorities” [the Palestinian Authority], who only gave “formal” support to Gaza yet was quick to declare that it had reached a tripartite agreement with Israel and the United Nations.
Gaza – While Israel was the first to leak information about this agreement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not deny it later. But resistance factions in Gaza, particularly Hamas, officially rejected its terms after several of them were put into force. Hamas declared that it had not known the agreement would lead to an “electronic siege by Israel” in a plan under the name of [UN peace envoy in the Middle East] Robert Serry.
A lot has been written about the details of the agreement, including the fact that the Zionist state has been seeking guarantees to tightly monitor building materials so they don’t reach the Resistance.
To this end, Israel imposed “booby-trapped” conditions, including setting up monitoring cameras that work around the clock in storage locations in a territory where electricity is supplied barely six hours a day. This is in addition to deploying guards – who must have a “history of good conduct” – in these warehouses, surrounded by fences that must have a specific height, all in parallel with GPS trackers that the occupation forces wants installed on vehicles and heavy machinery.
At first glance, it seems that the PA’s approval of these conditions is normal and to be expected, given its commitment to Israel’s security and keenness on coordinating with Israelis on all matters. However, what is not understood is the silence of the other Palestinian factions. To be sure, Hamas had rejected the crossings agreement back in 2005, which contained conditions for opening the crossings, especially Rafah, because of “Israeli surveillance through cameras and international presence.” So why has Hamas changed its position now?
It is even worse for Hamas not to know than to know and be silent about the matter. Yet all that Hamas official and spokesperson Taher al-Nunu said in this regard was that his group “was not up to speed from the beginning about this plan.”
“With [the plan] coming into force and as its details came to light, it turned out to be perpetuating and reformulating the siege,” Nunu said.
According to him, Hamas realized that reconstruction following this mechanism will take four to 10 years.
“[This] is illogical and we refuse it,” he said.
Asked about his group’s silence, Nunu told Al-Akhbar,

“Hamas is no longer the government. It is the consensus government that is responsible for the Strip. We therefore cannot reject Serry’s plan like we had rejected the crossings plan.”

The alternative, Nunu continued, would be

“to demand that the consensus government reject the plan and search for another effective one.”

As soon as the UN got wind of a possible rejection, it made threats, saying that opposition to its envoy’s plan would disrupt the reconstruction process. The Hamas official reacted to this by saying,

“The Gaza Strip does not respond to blackmail. The UN is not in a position to threaten to halt reconstruction.”

While researching the controversial details of what is best described as a new “electronic siege,” Al-Akhbar came across new equally controversial information: The UN had asked people wishing to rebuild their destroyed homes to supply complete data about themselves, including not only their names and ID card numbers, but also recent personal photos, the locations of their previous homes, where exactly they intend to rebuild, and blueprints of both old and new homes.
In light of this, it was necessary to return to the Palestinian side authorized to deal with UNRWA, namely, the Ministry of Housing and Public Works. The ministry presently operates in Gaza under a minister from the consensus government. An official at the ministry said that they agreed to Serry’s plan, “but in a way that is compatible with Gaza’s security.” For this reason, he continued, the data they sent only had the names and ID cards of the citizens, in addition to data on the required quantities of building materials to restore their homes. However, the UN rejected this and returned the information, sparking off a new crisis that culminated with the suspension of all cooperation between the two sides. In other words, the process of reconstruction has now stopped.
For his part, Naji Sarhan, an official at the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, said that the ministry rejected Serry’s plan “because it is futile and will prolong the reconstruction process.”
Meanwhile, the consensus government in Ramallah has called on Gaza to implement the plan despite its reservations. For this reason, Sarhan said, “They [the government] will not take part in besieging the Strip.” “The damage survey was carried out by international agencies, so why are there concerns about bringing in building materials?” he asked.
Even in economic terms, Serry’s plan was nothing to be “happy” about. One company that received security approval to store and distribute building materials said that it was forced to install surveillance equipment, including cameras, at the UN’s request.
The director of Awad Shamali Sons, Hatem Shamali, said that he had to install eight cameras, as well as a generator and batteries to power them, adding that a UN inspector has been conducting surprise visits and “obtaining reports on every single gram that we sell.”
Shamali continued, “It is not worth it. We buy a ton of cement from them for 500 shekels ($133), and have to sell it for 520 shekels (a profit margin of $5). This is not enough to cover the cost of labor and transportation, not to mention the surveillance.” Shamali added that if he sells under different terms, all dealings with his company would be suspended.
It was not possible to reach the UNRWA spokesperson in Gaza, currently on leave, for this article. Since he is the only one authorized to comment on the issue, Al-Akhbar could not obtain a comment on the “electronic siege” that will shift the international agency’s role from the realm of humanitarianism to the political and security arena.
However, the foreign relations official in Islamic Jihad, Khaled al-Batsh, said his group views Serry’s plan as a means to formalize the illegal Israeli blockade under the guise of an international cover.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Batsh said that the UN plan agreed to by Israel and the PA not only prevents the entry of building materials to the resistance, “but also seeks to provide sensitive security information and details on the owners of all homes damaged in the war, in order to update Israeli databases on Gaza.”
“Israel will be able to re-engineer the homes in Gaza by controlling their location and the way they are built,” he added.
Batsh also revealed that part of the reconstruction funds “will go to the consensus government to cover the Palestinian Authority’s debts.”
“Twenty percent will be for wages and bonuses for international observers, and we also learned that the UN took $5 million as a fee for transferring funds. This is business, not humanitarian work,” he said.
Regarding the threat to freeze reconstruction, Batsh stressed that his group will not pay much attention to such threats and will continue to reject the plan.
“The UN has to make up its mind, is it a partner in reconstruction or a partner in the blockade?” he asked.
The Islamic Jihad official then promised to start working for an alternative plan that will not help internationalize the blockade.
(Al-Akhbar)
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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Over 1.7m Gazans isolated from the world after Israel, Egypt close crossings

UNRWA said 138 of its students were killed during the Israeli assault, and the organization’s spokesperson Christopher Gunness said an additional 814 UNRWA students were injured and 560 have become orphans due to the Israeli onslaught. (Photo: AFP)

Published Sunday, November 2, 2014

Al-Akhbar

Updated at 2:22 pm (GMT +2): Gaza has become an open-air prison after Israel decided to close two border crossings with Gaza, after a rocket allegedly fired from the Palestinian enclave struck its territory.

The Israeli blockade comes a week after Egypt closed its border with Gaza. With all borders closed, more than one and a half million people in Gaza are now isolated from the outside world. They are prisoners inside the 360 square kilometers that make up the coastal Strip.

“The crossing points for people and goods, Erez and Kerem Shalom, have been closed until further notice except for humanitarian aid,” an army spokeswoman said.

She said that the measure was taken after a rocket fired from Gaza hit Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory on Friday, without causing any casualties or damage.

There was no claim of responsibility from any armed faction in Gaza. A military spokeswoman said forces were still searching for debris.

Senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouq early Sunday condemned the Israeli decision to close crossings into Gaza, calling it “collective punishment.”

“The justifications given by the (Israeli) occupation to shut down crossings are unacceptable,” Abu Marzouq said in a statement, adding that Israel’s decision violated international laws and conventions.

Instead of closing the crossings, he said Israel should establish more crossings in order to allow for greater freedom of movement for people and goods in and out of Gaza.

Friday’s rocket struck harmlessly was the first to strike Israeli-occupied territory since September 16, and the second since the end of the Zionist state’s devastating 51-day assault on Gaza.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip – by air, land and sea – with the stated aim of ending rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

More than 2,160 Gazans, at least 505 of them children, were killed – and 11,000 injured – during seven weeks of unrelenting Israeli attacks in July and August.

The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with the an Egypt-brokered cease-fire agreement.

The ceasefire deal stipulated an end to hostilities, and Israel agreed to ease its devastating eight-year blockade on the Strip and expand the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast.

However, Palestinians accuse Israeli forces of regular ceasefire violations, with near-daily reports that navy soldiers have fired at fishermen off the coast of the enclave, and occasional reports of Israeli troops shooting and injuring Palestinians near the border.

The head of the Gaza fishermen syndicate accused Israel of constantly violating the terms of the agreement.

“Since signing the truce, the Israeli army has violated (the agreement) eight times, arresting fishermen and destroying a giant fishing boat, in addition to firing at fishermen on a daily basis,” he said.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces shot and injured a Palestinian man on the beach in the northern Gaza Strip.

Furthermore, Gaza is also littered with a large number of unexploded Israeli shells, one of which has recently killed 4-year-old Mohammed Sami Abu-Jrad from the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun.

Israel also agreed to allow construction material into Gaza. But two months after the war ended, no building material has entered Gaza due to Israel’s ongoing blockade.

Israel routinely bars the entry of building materials into the embattled coastal enclave on grounds that Palestinian resistance faction Hamas could use them to build underground tunnels or fortifications.

For years, the Gaza Strip has depended on construction materials smuggled into the territory through a network of tunnels linking it to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

A recent crackdown on the tunnels by the Egyptian army, however, has effectively neutralized hundreds of tunnels, severely affecting Gaza’s construction sector.

Egypt closes Gaza lifelines

On Wednesday, Egypt began setting up a buffer zone along its border with the Gaza strip in a move which will see about 800 homes demolished.

It comes in the wake of a suicide car bombing which killed 30 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai last week, the deadliest attack on the military since ousting Egypt’s former president Mohammed Mursi.

Following the bombing, Egypt immediately closed the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip, the principal connection between Gaza’s 1.7 million people and the outside world.

In August, Egypt’s authorities have used an attack on the Egyptian military in Sinai as a pretext to start a campaign to destroy Lifelines into Gaza. Over 120 tunnels were blown up or filled in.

More than just being the only way for some products to make it into the over 1.7 million Palestinians living in the strip, the Gaza tunnels have become a major source of income for the transporters of goods. Egypt has closed Gaza’s lifelines.

Since the beginning of 2014 until the end of May, Rafah crossing has been opened only 14 out of 120 days, limiting access to humanitarian cases and for other authorized travelers – including foreign nationals and visa holders.

Gaza without goods

Abu Marzouq also criticized the Palestinian Authority for what he called a failure to arrange the entry of goods into Gaza.

“Where does the PA come in regarding this Israeli closure? And where does it come in regarding its responsibilities, especially after PA employees have resumed work at Gaza crossings?”

With all crossings closed, water and food supplies in the besieged Gaza Strip are dangerously low.

On Sunday,the Palestinian embassy in Caracas said in a statement that Venezuela will send 10 tons of humanitarian aid and medical equipment for the war-torn Gaza Strip.

A plane will carry the aid from Caracas to the Amman airport on Sunday, and the same plane will bring 100 Palestinian students who have been granted scholarships to study in Venezuela to the country, the statement said.

Last week, Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro said his country would grant 1,000 Palestinians scholarships for Venezuelan universities.

Linda Subih, the ambassador of Palestine to Venezuela, said in the statement that she and 31 young Venezuelan men and women would accompany the aid to Amman, after which it would be sent to Gaza.

Meanwhile, companies in Gaza have stopped providing the al-Shifa hospital with food for meals in protest against not being paid for five months, a hospital official said Saturday.

Nasr al-Tatar, the general director of al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, told Ma’an the move was dangerous as it impacts both patients and medical workers.

The hospital owes 800,000 shekels (approximately $211,000) to the companies for food.

Al-Shifa hospital serves about 1,500 meals a day, and this number doubled during the Israeli offensive on Gaza in July and August.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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New Book on UNRWA Brings Palestinian Refugee Problem into Focus

Al-Manar

refugees camp

Edited by Sari Hanafi, Leila Hilal and Lex Takkenberg, American University of Beirut

Routledge, London and New York (ISBN 978-0-415-71504-1)

Reviewed by Franklin Lamb

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was established by a UN mandate on December 8, 1949—specifically to deal with the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees following the Nakba, or the establishment of the state of Israel.

In the absence of a solution to this ongoing problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed the UNRWA’s mandate, most recently until June 30, 1917, yet over the years the agency’s objectives and focus have evolved. This new volume, edited by Sari Hanafi, Leila Hilal, and Lex Takkenberg, provides a close up look at how the UNRWA functions while emphasizing the centrality of the Palestinian refugee issue in this region and beyond. Packed with a useful bibliography and numerous footnotes, the book provides a key analysis of the UNRWA’s fieldwork as well as a broad scope of relevant information that probably, one imagines, is unavailable elsewhere. In short, it is a book that is long overdue.

The UNRWA has of course been especially in the news of late following the latest nearly two-month aggression against Gaza, and there is perhaps now more than ever a thirst for greater understanding of this conflict that has dragged on for more than six decades and its impact on those most adversely affected—and from that standpoint, one of the most useful benefits of the volume is the context it provides to the non-specialist about the workings of this unique humanitarian agency, offering a dossier of essential information for researchers, diplomats, mainstream and activist media and, perhaps most importantly, the general public.

Ever since its creation, the UNRWA has been regularly attacked politically by vested interests—whether they be rightwing Zionists across Lebanon’s southern border who consider the agency’s very existence a threat to their continuing occupation of Palestine, or anti-Palestinian politicians in Lebanon itself, casuists and dissemblers still peddling the long-debunked claim that UNRWA promotes tawtin, or naturalization. Attacks of this nature seem to come with the territory. In any event, those of us who’ve advocated civil rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, including the right to work, will especially welcome Sergio Bianchi’s chapter on community participation and human rights campaigning, and also Terry Rempel’s overview of the UNRWA’s approach to refugee inclusion and involvement in community affairs. It has been four years since the enfeebled and highly politicized Lebanese parliamentary effort got off to a start with the supposed intention of remedying blatant discrimination against Palestinians—a group who face nearly 60 percent unemployment in Lebanon because they are blocked from working in more than 20 professions. Those of us left bewildered by the sham “reform” effort taken up by Parliament in August of 2010 will find Bianchi’s analysis invaluable for grasping what went wrong.

With regard to Palestinian refugee camps, the book breaks ground with four excellent chapters on camp improvement/reconstruction in relation to community development. One key subject area here is the UNRWA’s embarkation since the turn of the century in the launch of much needed projects entailing large-scale reconstruction (in Jenin, Neirab, and Nahr el-Bared Camps) and improvement (in Talbeyeh and Deheishe). A second crucial area involves the agency’s recognition of the failures of camp administration “from above,” resulting in initiatives to “consult the community” in camp improvement/reconstruction efforts. However, as Sari Hanafi demonstrates in Chapter 6, the UNRWA, as a “phantom sovereign,” has held consultations, but they have often been on an interim or ad hoc basis—and the author advances a strong and compelling analytical criticism of UNRWA for not playing a more significant role in camp governance, especially when the popular committees have obviously failed to do so efficiently. (The reasons for these failures are many, including the committees being appointed and not elected as well as bereft of financial resources and unrecognized by Lebanese authorities.) Still Hanafi illustrates some new, yet modest to date, signs of more substantial UNRWA involvement in camp governance.

Muna Budeiri addresses the subject of perceptions of Palestinian refugee camps as temporary spaces. Many scholars and political commissars in the camps consider that this “temporariness” symbolizes the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland. Admittedly, the camps are politically exceptional spaces, but they should not be an exceptional urban space. Budeiri eloquently puts it that refugee camps should not exist as slums, nor as traditional refugee camps, but as a camp cities. Each one of these, in Budeiri’s view, would thus become in essence a “spatial archive” of the Nakba (catastrophe)—but I would add that while labeling cities (Yarmouk, Ain el-Hilweh, etc.) as “camp cities” does indeed preserve the memory of the Nakba, we should be careful not to keep camps in their slum form simply for the sake of memory.

Nell Gabian, in Chapter 11, points out the importance of the new version of UNRWA that insists on the “self-reliance” of the Palestinian refugee (as highlighted in UNRWA’s 2005-2010 and 2010-2015 Medium Term Plans”). However, Gabian demonstrates that refugees perceived the slogan as a “pull back,” and she warns of the danger of a purely technical understanding of self-reliance, one that leaves out the protection and rights of refugees.

In Chapter 13, entitled “Palestinian Refugees and a Durable Solution: A Role for UNRWA,” Rex Brynen offers readers a clear and succinct overview of the broader complexities faced today by the UNRWA as well as the problems confronting the Palestinian refugee community as a whole—both those still under direct occupation as well as those waiting in the diaspora for return. Brynen focuses on the challenges UNRWA faces not just from its political enemies, who blame it for any number of ‘the-sky-is-falling’ woes, but also from a generally under-informed public which views it in a variety of ways—as a link to the more powerful “international community,” or an idea more vague and aspirational, or even as a Trojan Horse, as it is viewed by some—all of which, of course, being popular views held by the public, become subject to interpretation and manipulation for political purposes.

Finally, Leila Hilal’s essay, “Business as Usual? The role of UNWRA in Resolving the Palestinian Refugee Issue,” presents to the reader a very informative and interesting analysis of the role of UNWRA, founded as a temporary emergency humanitarian agency in the late 1940’s, and how over time pressures have forced the expansion of the agency’s activities, while at the same time it has to date resisted engaging publicly in a campaign for durable solutions.

Each of these 14 very readable essays presented in this very remarkable volume—UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees: From Relief and Works to Human Development—is an important contribution that gives all of us a better understanding of the Question of Palestine as well as the  role and work of this vital, lifesaving, enormously successful UN agency. It is a book that will, one hopes and imagines, become an enduring and important resource in libraries internationally and a tool for those actively working to achieve justice for Palestine.

Source: Al-Manar Website

27-10-2014 – 14:05 Last updated 27-10-2014 – 4:0

 

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Gaza’s injured try to resume their lives with prosthetics

Palestinian men who lost their leg, play a sport exercises during a visit Head of the International committee for the Red Cross, for Artificial Limbs and Polio Center in Gaza City on July 2, 2013. (Photo: IBI-Mohammed Asad)
Published Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Injured young man Ahmed Abdullah leans against the wall as he waits his turn in a long queue to see a doctor. All these patients need to find out if the stump where their arm or leg used to be can be fitted with a prosthetic. Waiting is unbearable and painful, especially since thousands more have joined the list of injured Gazans as a result of the last Israeli war on the Gaza Strip.
Gaza – Amputations are not the only phenomenon that stands out. Some patients are suffering from other ailments besides loss of limbs. Abdullah had his only hand on his forehead in an attempt to ameliorate his headache.
The Artificial Limb Center in the Gaza Strip is the only place of its kind providing services for amputees and it has over 48 individuals in urgent need of prosthetic replacement. The most complicated cases are people who lost both legs. Ahmed, from the Shujayeh neighborhood in east Gaza, who is standing with the other patients preferred to remain silent, not to maintain the quiet in the center but because his doctor told him that the shrapnel wounds in his head might interfere with his ability to express himself verbally.
Standing next to Ahmed were other patients waiting to be examined. Some of them had amputated feet from the second war in 2012 while others came complaining of pain after the prosthetic replacement.
Mohammed Radwan came for maintenance on his artificial limb. He was injured in the first war in the winter of 2008 while he was at work at a police station. He is now trying to get rid of one of the two canes he uses by walking on two legs, one of which is artificial. He is hopeful that his prosthetic replacement will succeed so he can resume his life after his injury has long prevented him from getting back to work.
The number of patients who have benefited from the service of prosthetic replacement which the center provides for free is about 300 people who have been injured as a result of the Israeli bombardments in the past five years. However, a number of people injured in the last war – Operation Protective Edge – have not been able to come to the center yet because they are still bed-ridden due to several injuries whose treatment takes precedence over prosthetic replacement. Others are trying to get better medical services in other countries even though they all face difficulties traveling or getting prosthetic supplies not allowed to get into Gaza.

”Despite all the difficulties we face in funding and getting the materials necessary to manufacture the artificial limbs, we will continue in our work.” – Nivine al-Ghusain, Artificial Limb Center

Inside the examination ward of the Artificial Limb Center, a number of specialists are busy dealing with the different cases based on their needs. They gather the patients inside the training and physical therapy hall where they are trained on the use of their prosthesis, whether it’s an arm or a leg. The cases vary in terms of their response to the prosthetic limb. Dr. Nabil al-Shawa says that most of the cases that do not respond well are patients with upper amputations (above the knee). Another factor is the age of the patient and their ability to endure the training.
Shawa points out that in some cases, you can not tell that these people have an artificial limb because of how well they respond and the vitality with which they deal with it. He said that most of the cases they received after the war were below the knee amputations. Nevertheless, the center faces the same problems that all Gazans face, such as deteriorating economic conditions. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recently stopped supporting the center because of its financial woes. The Red Cross on the other hand has continued to provide it with raw materials needed to manufacture the limbs. The center, which was established in 1976, belongs to the Gaza municipality.
The technical coordinator at the center, Nivine al-Ghusain, said that “despite all the difficulties we face in funding and getting the materials necessary to manufacture the artificial limbs, we will continue in our work.” She told Al-Akhbar that the center takes upon itself the maintenance of the prosthesis from time to time “in addition to changing it based on the patients’ needs.”
Injured Gazans protest
A number of cancer patients and Gazans injured in the most recent Israeli war on the Gaza Strip asked the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and the health minister in the unity government, Jawad Awwad, to dismiss the head of the External Medical Treatment Department, Amira al-Hindi, because of what they described as the “negligence” faced by patients who need medical referrals.
Sick and injured people accused Hindi during a sit-in in front of the office of the External Medical Treatment Department in the city of Gaza of exacerbating the suffering of Gazans and delaying their medical referrals for more than 20 days before they get signed.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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Occupied Palestine: How the living became martyrs in UNRWA schools

 

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives at Abu Hussein United Nations school at the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on October 14, 2014. (Photo: APA Images-Mohammed Asad)
Published Wednesday, October 15, 2014
“These schools are for education, they are not houses… The UNRWA incurs huge losses every time because the refugees ruin the schools’ furniture.” Perhaps the statement issued by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesperson in Gaza during the last war was a bit hasty and ill-advised. These “saboteurs” as they were called have become victims in the schools, along with the broken furniture. Yesterday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon came to stand by the ruins of Gaza 50 days after the end of the war.
Ramallah – In the last Israeli war on Gaza, the role of the UNRWA was a double-edged sword which was clearly reflected in the speeches of its officials and its press statements that contributed to turning refugees into a group of people that ought to be managed. It created a new understanding of Palestinian refugees by classifying them under the category of people who do not have the right to self-defense.
A long time ago, modern democracies – in what is known as the age of citizenship – created a group called refugees. A group of people that does not have the right to have rights. Work was done to depoliticize this group (why are they here? And why can’t they go home?). Especially when it comes to Palestinian refugees, humanitarian organizations adopt a mechanism that makes them similar to entities with sovereignty and authority, such as the Israeli occupation authorities and Arab host states, stripping refugees of any political significance.
Just like the Israeli authorities transformed Palestinians from a people with historical significance and a role in society to something that can be controlled, so, too, did the UNRWA. This agency deals with Palestinian refugees everywhere as though they are a group that can be managed through a set of programs centered around humanitarian and relief work.

‘Let us through to help civilians in Syria’

As such, the UNRWA relies on its policy of using imagery as a means of communication that excludes and hides certain facts and effective actors in the event it is portraying while focusing on one side only. It is in this sense that one can view the image that the UNRWA used in its campaign, “Let us through to help civilians in Syria.” The agency can come up with a similar one for its campaigns calling for relief work and reconstruction of Gaza after the war.
The goal of the campaign, as the organizers claim, was to remind world public opinion of the plight of Palestinian refugees in Syria and the different circumstances that civilians face there. It also sought to generate 23 million tweets and to be circulated on social networking sites.
“It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. Through your support of the campaign, the horrifying image which shows thousands of residents of the Yarmouk refugee camp waiting for aid will appear on the electronic billboard in New York’s Times Square, not far from the United Nations Headquarters, sending a powerful message from humanitarian organizations working on the ground in Syria to the global diplomatic community that the continued suffering of the Yarmouk residents is unacceptable. We will then photograph the image on the Times Square billboard and tweet it out to the millions who followed us in the campaign.”
In the description accompanying the campaign and the picture there is no mention of the Palestinians or their suffering in the Yarmouk refugee camp, which represents another Nakba and a propagation of the first Nakba. Although the picture conveys the suffering experienced by the people, it overlooks daily developments and other elements surrounding the picture such as resistance for example.

That is why humanitarian organizations use pictures, because they serve as an effective tool in raising awareness and raising money, as though you are selling people’s pain and suffering.

That is why humanitarian organizations use pictures, because they serve as an effective tool in raising awareness and raising money, as though you are selling people’s pain and suffering. They also reinforce the stereotype of the helpless person from the Global South who is in constant and desperate need for help that they can only get from Western humanitarian organizations.
Press statements also play a role in the media policy that the UNRWA adopted vis-à-vis Palestinian refugees.
An example of this is the statements that were published during the last Israeli war on the Gaza Strip. Before the period between July 17 and 22, the UNRWA issued from its offices in Jerusalem and Gaza press statements about the presence of rockets in its schools. It said that
“in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA discovered rockets hidden in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip. As soon as the rockets were discovered, UNRWA staff were withdrawn from the premises, and therefore we are unable to confirm the precise number of rockets.”
The statement also said
“The school is situated between two other UNRWA schools that currently each accommodate 1,500 internally displaced persons,” adding: “UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law.” The statement also pointed out that: “
The agency immediately informed the relevant parties and is pursuing all possible measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. UNRWA will launch a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.”
These statements raise a number of questions.
For example, the UNRWA did not specify which relevant parties it informed of the presence of rockets. It could be the Palestinian government in Gaza or the one in Ramallah or perhaps the occupation authorities in Tel Aviv. It also did not mention the number of rockets discovered on July 22 while it specified in the statement it issued on July 17 from the Jerusalem office the number of rockets discovered (20 rockets).
In addition, it did not mention in which schools it found the rockets.
This makes all the UNRWA schools, which housed refugees, a legitimate target for the occupying Israeli forces under the pretext that there are rockets in these schools. In other words, these statements put the lives of more than 160,000 refugees within the range of Israeli bombs and missiles. 

In other words, these [UNRWA] statements put the lives of more than 160,000 refugees within the range of Israeli bombs and missiles.

Sure enough, hours after issuing the second statement on July 22, Israeli forces bombed al-Maghazi’s girls school in al-Maghazi refugee camp where more than 300 internally displaced people sought refuge. In a statement issued after the bombing, the UNRWA said:
“UNRWA’s Maghazi Preparatory Girls School, in the Maghazi refugee camp … was struck by explosive ordnance believed to have been fired by Israeli forces.”
The last sentence indicates that the agency is not sure about the identity of the perpetrators which makes the statement ambiguous and open to interpretation. It could be interpreted as exonerating the Israeli forces of the blood of martyrs and suggesting indirectly that the Palestinian Resistance might be bombing people. The scene comes full circle when the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki Moon, issued a statement on July 24 in which he condemns the presence of rockets inside the schools before knowing the results of the investigation launched by the agency.
On the day of Ban’s statement, and in Beit Hanoun specifically, the remains of children were scattered everywhere in an UNRWA school sheltering refugees that was targeted by Israeli forces. Five shells were fired at the school that day from tanks deployed along the eastern border of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip killing 20 and injuring more than 200, most of them women, children and the elderly. Another school was targeted in Rafah in southern Gaza in broad daylight. The worst massacre took place in Abu Hussein School in the Jabalya refugee camp in the north killing and injuring dozens even after the agency said that it gave the school’s coordinates to the Israelis more than 17 times so they won’t hit it. Yesterday Ban came to visit Gaza and to express his sorrow and pain upon seeing with his own eyes the devastation of the Israeli war and of the UNRWA statement.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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Homeless in Gaza

By Stephen Lendman

Thursday, 04 September 2014 13:32

Homeless in Gaza

Source

UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east (UNWRA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl called for ending Gaza’s blockade. Otherwise, reconstruction will take over a decade, he said. Others estimate much longer. Shelter Cluster is an Inter-Agency Standing Committee involved in helping people affected by natural disasters or conflicts. Rebuilding Gaza will take 20 years under Israeli-imposed restrictions, it said. Palestinian officials estimate a cost of at least $6 billion to do so

Krahenbuhl estimates at least 20,000 homes destroyed as well as extensive infrastructure destruction. He called it “imperative for the international community and for the people of Gaza to reconstruct after the devastation.” Israeli aggression bears full responsibility.

“I visited Gaza three times during the recent conflict and the impact of the fighting on individual human lives, particularly the young, is palpable and profound,” he said.

“Hundreds of thousands of children are deep in trauma. We estimate that of the 3,000 children injured, 1,000 will have disabilities for life.” UNWRA will do all it can to restore human dignity to a (population) that has suffered enough.”

Krahenbuhl expressed concern for “more than 50,000 people” still living in UNWRA schools because Israel destroyed their homes. “We need to do all we can to find alternative accommodation for these people,” he said.

A new UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report covered the late August through September 4 period. It highlights the problem.

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge (OPE) created a humanitarian disaster. OCHA estimates around 108,000 Palestinians lost their homes or had them severely damaged. Only 10% of Gaza’s population gets water once a day . Electricity is spotty at best. Eighteen-hour outages continue in most areas. The scale of destruction and damage across Gaza is “unprecedented.” About 13% of its housing affected.

Pre-OPE, a 71,000 housing unit deficit existed. Providing temporary accommodations for Palestinians in need is one of the major challenges vital to address.Another is dealing with Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Palestinians returning home face serious hazards. ERW are strewn throughout Gaza. They include unexploded tank shells, missiles, bombs, and rockets, as well as bullets, shrapnel, fuses, gas canisters, and flechettes.

They contaminated homes, gardens, roads, fields, agricultural lands, shelters, schools and other structures. Before OPE, UNWRA estimated having to provide shelter for up to 50,000 Palestinians for a limited period. Currently it’s six times this number for an undetermined extended time. It’s “unprecedented in the Agency’s 64-year history in Gaza,” it said.

During the height of OPE’s onslaught, about 500,000 Palestinians were displaced. Currently, UNWRA’s 60 shelters accommodate 52,000 Palestinians.

Actual numbers of displaced persons aren’t known. At least 108,000 remain homeless longterm. According to OCHA:

Factors delaying the return of displaced persons include “the pervasive presence of ERW, lack of belief in a permanent ceasefire, lack of availability of basic services, and the destruction of livelihoods as a result of hostilities.” During more normal times, Gaza’s public services are inadequate to meet demand. OPE added “extreme strain” to their capabilities, said OCHA.

Water and electricity networks were destroyed or severely damaged. At least 14 electricity, water and waste water technicians employed by local utilities were killed. At least 10 others were injured. After the open-ended ceasefire agreement, Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (GEDCO) teams began repairing damage. So far little progress was achieved in hardest hit areas. Scheduled power cuts across Gaza continue for up to 18 hours daily on average.

For Gaza city, it’s 20 hours. The Strip’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) estimates around 75% of Gaza’s water network functions. Yet only 10% of the population has water availability for no more than eight hours daily. Around 80% of waste water services, 70% of waste water treatment plants, and 60% of desalination plants now function at less than full capacity. Damaged or destroyed schools prevented nearly half a million Gazan children from returning to primary and secondary classes this week.

The new academic year was delayed. Once begun, it’ll be severely overstretched. Schools used as shelters need rehabilitation. Destroyed schools are unavailable. Damaged ones require extensive repairs. Unexploded ordnance must be cleared. UNWRA is coordinating a three-phase plan with Gaza’s Ministry of Education. It includes psychosocial activities, enhancing learning skills, and returning children to available school buildings.

OCHA calls its key humanitarian priorities:

  • providing displaced Palestinians with “temporary shelter and housing solutions;
  • keeping border crossings open as well as removing restrictions on construction and other materials needed to rebuild;
  • removing ERWs as quickly as possible; and
  • providing fuel for power needs, potable water, improved sanitation, and other essentials of life and well-being.

Many thousands of Gazans need everything imaginable and then some. Since December 2008, Israel waged three wars of aggression against them.

The Goldstone report following Operation Cast Lead “conclude(d) that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population.”

“The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population.”

“Repeatedly, the Israel Defense Forces failed to adequately distinguish between combatants and civilians, as the laws of war strictly require. Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law.”

Failure to do so “will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy.”

“As a service to hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account.”

The post-Cast Lead UN Human Rights Council report called it “clear to the Committee that the IDF had not distinguished between civilians and civilian objects and military targets.”

“Both the loss of life and the damage to property were disproportionate to the harm suffered by Israel or any threatened harm. Israel’s actions could not be justified as self-defense.”

“The IDF was responsible for the crime of killing, wounding and terrorizing civilians (as well as) wonton(ly) destr(oying) property and that such destruction could not be justified on grounds of military necessity.”

The HRC called IDF crimes so grave, “it was compelled to consider whether (genocide) had been committed.” Its conclusion was that Israel “committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and, possibly genocide in the course of Operation Cast Lead.”

Cast Lead lasted 22 days. Operation Protective Edge continued for 51. It was Cast Lead on steroids. It’s just a matter of time before more Israeli aggression is launched. Palestinians are wrongfully blamed for its crimes.Israel remains unaccountable. Palestinians remain isolated on their own. Western leaders do nothing to help. Washington supports Israel’s killing machine. Both nations partner in crime. Palestinians are frequent victims. Gazans suffer most of all.

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights spoke for likeminded groups saying:

It “condemns Israel’s continuous violation of the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and Israel’s violent, unlawful enforcement of the prolonged occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory.”  “Ending this decades-long conflict and halting Israel’s serious violations of international law cannot be anticipated without first achieving a just settlement that guarantees the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people.”

The international community failed to protect Gaza’s population, property and infrastructure. Its support for Israel permits the highest of high crimes against peace. The Jewish state takes full advantage. Palestinians pay the highest price.

The late Edward Said called Palestine an isolated prison. An entire population is being suffocated out of existence, he said.

Israel impoverishes, starves and slaughters noncombatant men, women and children.. Artillery, tanks, F-16s, helicopter gunships, and banned terror weapons target them. Others are assaulted, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, humiliated, and/or otherwise abused.

For decades, Palestinians endured every imaginable indignity, degradation, and crime against humanity. A cycle of violence persists. Slow-motion genocide haunts them.

Their only defense is resistance. Liberation requires longterm struggle. It remains a distant dream.

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Saudi Arabia Remains on U.N. Human Rights Council despite 19 Beheadings, including One for “Sorcery”

http://www.allgov.com/news/us-and-the-world/saudi-arabia-remains-on-un-human-rights-council-despite-19-beheadings-including-one-for-sorcery-140826?news=854071

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Ask any human rights organization where they stand on chopping off people’s heads and they’ll probably say such actions constitute a violation of human rights.

And yet, one nation that does a lot of beheadings is on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council. Lately, in fact, Saudi Arabia can’t seem to get enough beheadings. Its government has executed at least 19 people using this method since August 4, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Of the 19, eight were found guilty of non-violent offenses; seven for drug smuggling and one for committing sorcery.

“Any execution is appalling, but executions for crimes such as drug smuggling or sorcery that result in no loss of life are particularly egregious,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s executive director of Middle East and North Africa division, told the International Business Times. “There is simply no excuse for Saudi Arabia’s continued use of the death penalty, especially for these types of crimes.”

The Saudi government executed more than 2,000 people between 1985 and 2013, about half of them foreign nationals. By comparison, the state of Texas executed 504 prisoners, none via beheading, over the same period.

Amnesty International reports that many people are executed after “confessing” to crimes during interrogations involving torture and no legal representation. “That people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom’s state-sanctioned brutality,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

The Saudi government is scheduled to keep a spot on the Human Rights Council for two more years.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley

To Learn More:

Saudi Arabia Sustains UN Human Rights Council Membership Despite Beheading 19 People in 17 Days (by Maria Khan, International Business Times)

Saudi Arabia: Scheduled Beheading Reflects Authorities’ Callous Disregard to Human Rights (Amnesty International)

State Dept. Blocks Publication of Study it Commissioned on Hate-Filled Saudi Textbooks (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Saudi Journalist Sentenced to Public Lashing for Writing about Electricity Cut Protests (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Gaza war leaves 250,000 Palestinians displaced

Thousands of Gaza residents lost their homes after Israeli attacks in recent weeks.
Thousands of Gaza residents lost their homes after Israeli attacks in recent weeks.
Around 250,000 of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents have been displaced, while some 65,000 have lost their home in the fighting, according to UN figures.

Some 80 families perished in the Israel war on Gaza, which began on July 8. The aggression has so far claimed the lives of some 1,940 Palestinians, including 470 children. Nearly 10,000 others have been injured in the military aggression.

The displaced Palestinians have accused international aid agencies operating in Gaza of playing into the hands of Israel.

“The UN has failed to address our most basic needs. We don’t have enough food or clean water and most of our children and pregnant women are sick. My wife and I have six kids and the UN has only provided us with one mattress. There is premeditated negligence on the part of the UN and the international community,” Rafat Ghasem, a displaced Palestinian, said.

“Heavy bombing targeted our incomplete house at night so we took refuge in the lower floor of the building when the F16 jets joined the tanks in bombing our house. We decided to flee to the nearby town of Beit Hanoun. We saw refugees inside Beit Hanoun hospital, but it was shelled and people were killed,” Shadi Sahwheel, a displaced Gaza resident, said.

Gaza’s 25 hospitals have a total of 2,047 beds, or 1.3 beds per 1,000 people, among the lowest ratios in the world, according to United Nations figures. Nearly a third of the hospitals have been damaged in the fighting, according to UNRWA, the UN agency that looks after Palestinian refugees.

The thousands discharged patients — many with severe wounds patched together temporarily — are then left to the care of already devastated families who are grieving for dead loved ones and struggling to get by in the devastation of the war.

NTJ/MB

See more

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– See more at: http://en.alalam.ir/news/1622091#sthash.AQXiXlHJ.dpuf

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UNRWA breaks its silence: Abu Hussein school massacre exposes Israel

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl inspects the damage at an UNRWA school following an Israeli strike. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Abed)
Published Thursday, July 31, 2014
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) says it had sent 17 communiqués that included the coordinates of the Abu Hussein UN-run school in the Jabalia refugee camp to the Israelis to avoid bombing it. The last of these warnings was communicated a few hours before the massacre, according to UNRWA. The deadly Israeli air strike on the school prompted the UN agency to break its silence and challenge the Israeli account of what had happened.
Gaza – This the third time that UNRWA schools have been bombed during this war. The first attack did not lead to casualties, as the Israeli occupation army had sent warnings to the Maghazi School in the central Gaza Strip before shelling it.

“The strikes were sudden and random. People did not realize what was happening and they could not escape.” – Mohammed Awad, journalist

 

The second attack turned into a massacre in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, killing around 15 refugees. At the time, UNRWA was equivocal about the cause of the attack, and relied on the Israeli account that claimed there had been military activity there. But Wednesday’s massacre took place in a refugee camp that does not have enough room for even a single bullet to be fired. The shelling claimed the lives of 17 people and injured dozens, many critically.
When the worshippers had finished their prayers at dawn in the mosques of the northern part of the Jabalia refugee camp, and made their way to the shelters at the elementary Abu Hussein School, they did not know they were about to become the victims of a horrific massacre.
In the beginning, the shells were not directed toward the school, but were random and hit houses in the surrounding area. Suddenly, the Israeli artillery decided to target the school directly, destroying the outer gate, two classrooms at the front and center of the school and adjacent toilets, in addition to three homes near the school. It was a bloodbath with body parts everywhere. Injured people, whose arms or legs were blown off, were paralyzed from shock and could not even scream. Even some animals that were near the gate were killed, and their corpses mingled with those of people.
Mohammed Awad, a journalist who lives in the area, rushed to document the incident. He said what he had seen was probably the “worst massacre” he encountered since the start of the war. He told Al-Akhbar that he counted up to 15 shells that landed on the school and the street that separates it from surrounding homes, adding, “The strikes were sudden and random. People did not realize what was happening and they could not escape.”
Awad said that members from both the Najjar and Amoudi families were killed in the attack, in addition to the school’s janitor who was on UNRWA’s payroll, adding, “Eight people died in a single classroom.” The journalist also pointed out that fires broke out at the school as a result, and spread to a fuel tank and an electricity generator.
According to Awad, the majority of families that sought shelter in the school came from the farmlands in the north, “fleeing with their carts, horses, and donkeys, the source of their livelihoods.” Awad also stressed that there had been no prior warning issued to the school.
Mohammed Muhanna also witnessed the massacre. He said, “Those who know the area know that it is crowded, and that there is no room to fire rockets from it. The entire area is civilian and the occupation knows it.” Muhanna was among the first to arrive at the scene, and helped transport the injured. He also told Al-Akhbar that there were officials from UNRWA who were checking the schools and surrounding areas to verify whether there was any threat to people’s lives.
Fuad Abu Qleiq, who was sheltering in the school, said that he stayed behind to collect the body parts at the scene, and expressed his sorrow for the fate of the families that came seeking shelter under UNRWA’s roof. He said angrily, “UNRWA should have protected us, but it couldn’t, and Israel did not show any respect for it.”
Medical sources put the death toll at 17 and said 65 people were injured as a result of the massacre. The sources said that most injuries were critical, some requiring urgent surgery, including cases that cannot be treated in Gaza’s hospitals.
Faced with the third attack of its kind on its schools, UNRWA blamed Israel for killing women and children at the Abu Hussein School and called for holding Israel accountable, as an UNRWA delegation examined the scene and collected evidence. According to an UNRWA statement, the delegation analyzed shrapnel samples and examined craters from the shelling and other damage.
The UNRWA statement said, “Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a UN designated shelter in Gaza. Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”
The statement continued, “We have visited the site and gathered evidence…Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge…These are people who were instructed to leave their homes by the Israeli army.”

Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.” – UNRWA statement

 

UNRWA stressed that the Israeli army had been notified of the exact location of the school and its coordinates, saying, “The precise location of the Jabalia Elementary Girls School and the fact that it was housing thousands of internally displaced people was communicated to the Israeli army seventeen times, to ensure its protection; the last being at ten to nine last night, just hours before the fatal shelling.”
In the same vein, UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krähenbühl said, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces.” Krähenbühl added, “This is the sixth time that one of our schools has been struck. Our staff, the very people leading the humanitarian response are being killed. Our shelters are overflowing. Tens of thousands may soon be stranded in the streets of Gaza, without food, water and shelter if attacks on these areas continue.”
Krähenbühl concluded, “We have moved beyond the realm of humanitarian action alone. We are in the realm of accountability. I call on the international community to take deliberate international political action to put an immediate end to the continuing carnage.”
Meanwhile, UNRWA spokesperson Adnan Abu Hasna said that the agency held an emergency meeting, and came out with several decisions including measures to assist the family of the slain janitor, who he said “was the responsibility of the agency.” Abu Hasna said that UNRWA would need to provide for his nine children and offer them support and compensation.
It should be noted that UNRWA had claimed during the current conflict that it had found weapons in one of its schools. UNRWA rushed to announce this in a statement without investigating the incident following protocol, which helped the Israeli side justify its attacks in front of public opinion. However, the massacre at Abu Hussein was clearly unprovoked and unjustified even by UNRWA and Israeli standards.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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Gaza resist and hurt and shame on the cowards and collaborators and the silent غزة تقاوم وتوجع والخزي والعار على من تخاذل او تواطأ او سكت

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Gaza: Displaced Palestinians forced to leave UNRWA schools

Displaced Palestinian children from Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip gather on July 23, 2014 at a UN school in the refugee camp of Jabalia where families fleeing heavy fighting in the besieged Palestinian territory have taken refuge. (Photo: AFP-Mohammed Abed)
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) displaced Gazan refugees again when it asked them to leave its schools serving as shelters in al-Maghazi refugee camp to a nearby camp after informing them that their lives were at risk. The UNRWA has condemned the targeting of one of its schools by Israeli forces.
Gaza – Without prior notice, 50-something-year-old Ashraf Radwan was forced to evacuate with his family from the UNRWA’s al-Maghazi Preparatory Girls School, located in Deir al-Balah governorate in the central Gaza Strip. They had taken refuge in the school that became a shelter for residents of the area whose homes were demolished as a result of Israel’s aerial bombardment and limited land incursion along the border area.
Radwan and his family were displaced yet again as they left the school in a hurry to the sound of falling bombs. They walked on foot west towards al-Nusairat refugee camp after they were notified by the UNRWA of the need to evacuate the school without providing them with protection from the bombing. Radwan arrived at al-Nusairat about two hours before evening prayers. His mother, an elderly woman in her 80s, was moving very slowly and leaning against walls from time to time because she could not walk as fast as the others.
The residents of al-Maghazi refugee camp faced the dilemma of hiding from the barrage of rockets and shells while the UNRWA’s decision for evacuating them from the school was based on the fact that remaining there put their lives at risk. Some people started calling local radio stations, appealing for help to at least secure their exit.
The refugees found no excuse for pushing them out of the school doubling as shelter because they know of the level of coordination between the UNRWA, the Red Cross and the Israeli military. A number of them told Al-Akhbar that they were evacuated from four schools, two were intermediate schools and two were elementary schools. Right after their evacuation, the Israeli military targeted the first two schools directly.
Om Mohammed al-Nahawi, one of the women who left her home in the east of the camp, said she spent one night inside al-Maghazi school. The next day, two UNRWA employees told the 1,600 refugees that they must evacuate the school right away because the international agency cannot be held responsible if the lives of any of them were to be endangered.
Nahawi, who lives today in one of her relatives’ homes in al-Nusairat camp, said they learned from those staying in the shelter that the UNRWA coordinated with the Israeli side to avoid targeting the school where people sought shelter in order to protect their lives. They were shocked, however, when they were kicked out suddenly and without prior warning.
The woman in her 40s told Al-Akhbar: “The UN staff told us that our lives are in danger and we have to leave right away. We were shell-shocked because we were in the street again and did not know where to go.”
The UNRWA spokesperson in Gaza, Adnan Abu Hasna, said he has no accurate information about this issue but added: “I think the reason people were told to leave is because their lives were in danger.”
He surmised that al-Maghazi school’s proximity to the shelling might be “the reason for evacuating the people.” He recalled a similar story that happened at a school in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza and “the people living in it were in danger.”

 

Abu Hasna reiterated that currently, “there is no safe place in Gaza.” He said the UNRWA has about 72 buildings that have been damaged as a result of the Israeli assault. Nevertheless, he did not deny the ongoing coordination between them and the Israeli side and the fact that they notified the Israelis of the coordinates of the schools where civilians are taking shelter, which “number about 68 schools.”
Abu Hasna pointed out that 130,000 people sought shelter in UNRWA schools in different areas to escape the shelling.
He said, however: “These schools are for education, they are not houses… The UNRWA incurs huge losses every time because the refugees ruin the schools’ furniture.”
Heading north towards the Jabalya refugee camp, other crises emerge in the lives of refugees there. More than 400 families live in Jabalya’s Intermediate Boys School A.
These families had fled the bombing in Um al-Nasr village and do not have enough clothes or blankets. Abu Ahmad Alian is one of those people. He told Al-Akhbar that he sent his wife at night to the school’s neighbors looking for blankets for their children, stressing that they are living in tragic circumstances as they lack life’s basic necessities inside the the schools.
Alian also said that they suffer from a lack of drinking water and food and are currently dependent on philanthropists to provide them with food and water as the school’s water supply ran out.
Abu Hasna promised to provide blankets for the refugees within 24 hours, stressing that Dubai International Humanitarian City donated blankets, and efforts are being made to bring them in through Jordan “after the UNRWA’s supply of blankets ran out.”
He reissued his call to provide $120 million to support the agency in order to “continue supporting the refugees and providing relief to people displaced by the war.”
The strangest thing about UNRWA’s position is that if Israel is keen on protecting the lives of civilians living in UNRWA’s shelters and Israeli information that they were going to shell schools prompted the UNRWA to ask displaced Gazans to leave its schools, as happened in al-Maghazi school, then how did Israel, in its first war on Gaza in 2009, kill 43 Palestinians living in al-Fakhoora shelter in northern Gaza and burn three others with white phosphorous in Beit Lahiya school? Where was the coordination then?
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!
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