Hamas Urges its Lebanon and Syria Branches to Launch Attacks on Israel


Published Thursday, February 5, 2015

A senior Hamas leader called Wednesday for the formation of Palestinian militant groups loyal to the Gaza-based resistance movement in refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria in order to attack Israeli-occupied territories.

Mahmoud Zahar told reporters in the Gaza Strip that Lebanese and Syrian branches of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, should launch attacks on Israel “to help us liberate Palestine.”

Hamas has a significant political influence among Palestinians in Lebanon, especially in refugee camps where the resistance movement has an armed presence.

Due to tensions amongst different Palestinian groups, the movement in the past years has been busy protecting itself from rival factions, while also maintaining stability within the crowded and arms-loaded refugee camps.

The failure of the Lebanese government to meet the humanitarian and social needs of Palestinian refugees has forced Hamas and other Palestinian parties to become mainly concerned with underlying social injustices, meeting Palestinians’ basic needs, and countering stereotypes regarding the camps being a security threat or a hub for terrorists, while also struggling to assert the centrality of the fight against Israel.

For many armed Palestinians within the camps, the right of return, a political principle asserting that Palestinians have a right to return to pre-1948 Palestine, has become marginalized, with many getting engaged in conflicts both in Lebanon and neighbouring Syria.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese resistance movement, has asserted itself as the leading and most prominent movement against Israel in Lebanon, especially after liberating South Lebanon in 2000 after 22 years of Israeli-occupation.

The 2006 Israeli summer aggression on Lebanon killed some 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 160 Israelis, most of them soldiers killed by Hezbollah fighters.

Meanwhile in Syria, a number of Palestinians have found themselves, either voluntarily or involuntarily, caught up in the four-year-old conflict that has affected Palestinian refugee camps all over the country. Many decided to join armed groups seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has intervened militarily in support of Assad, describing the fight in Syria as “existential” and arguing that the conflict in the country targets the resistance as a whole.

Hezbollah’s Iran-supplied weapons pass through Damascus, Syria’s capital, hence making Syria crucial for the group’s weapons buildup.

Despite differences in Syria, both Hamas and Hezbollah say the alliance between the resistance movements remains motivated first and foremost by the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said in an in-depth three-hour interview with Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen television last month that Hezbollah was seeking to build a strategic alliance with Hamas and other resistance groups in Palestine, saying that Hamas demonstrated a will to strengthen relations again with Iran and Hezbollah despite differences regarding the Syrian conflict.

“Even if Hamas chooses to mend its relationship with the Syrian regime, Syria might have some difficulty accepting this due to past events and developments,” he said, adding that Palestinians in Syria have joined oppositions groups but there was “no proof” that Hamas was working with a certain group.

Moreover, Zahar on Wednesday denied “any interference” by Hamas in Egypt, which last month declared the Brigades a terrorist group and accused it of aiding a spate of militant attacks on security personnel in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

“Our guns are always trained on the enemy,” Zahar said, referring to Israel.

For 51 days this summer, Israel pounded the Gaza Strip — by air, land and sea — killing more than 2,310 Gazans, 70 percent of them civilians, and injuring 10,626.

The Israeli offensive ended on August 26 with an Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal.

On Monday, hundreds of Hamas supporters marched in the Gaza Strip to protest the Egyptian court decision.

In a speech to the crowd, senior Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said that Saturday’s ruling against the militant group’s Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades was “political” and meant to “conceal failure and the lack of security in Egypt at this time.”

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian authorities have also declared a terrorist group and have repressed systematically since the army ousted one of its leaders, Mohammed Mursi, from the presidency in 2013.

The Palestinian faction has repeatedly denied accusations that it has carried out attacks in the North African state, saying it cannot act against Egypt’s national security.

In November, Egypt decided to create a one kilometer-deep buffer zone in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with Gaza by clearing more than 800 houses, displacing more than 1,100 families, and destroying and neutralizing hundreds of subterranean tunnels.

Under Israeli blockade by air, land and sea since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh — the Rafah crossing — is controlled by Egypt.

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.

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

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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صوت الناس – أسامة الدليل: ماذا لو كان أستمر الإخوان بالحكم ؟

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

UN predictions fall short: Gaza uninhabitable today

The coastal road bridge linking central Gaza to Gaza City, targeted again in Nov 2012. Photo by Eva Bartlett ingaza.wordpress.com
Dec 21, 2014, RT Op-Edge
By Eva Bartlett
Five months ago the world watched in horror as the bully of the Middle East, Israel, launched the most brutal massacre on the Palestinians of Gaza since the Nakba (perhaps more brutal, Palestinian friends in Gaza have said).
Lasting over twice as long as the 2008-09 war on Gaza (formerly the most-brutal massacre since the Nakba), and killing over 800 more Palestinians than in the attack six years ago, the July-August 51-day offensive killed 2,131 Palestinians and injured over 11,000, and destroyed tens of thousands of homes, buildings, businesses, hospitals, Gaza’s only power plant and other key components of Gaza’s infrastructure.
Palestinian and foreign activists and journalists within the 40 kilometer-long strip of open-air prison tweeted and live-streamed images more horrific than the best Hollywood productions. Weathered journalists broke down sobbing at the sight of Palestinian civilians, especially childrenbeing targeted like prey by one of the world’s most wickedly powerful armies and navies. Doctors who have seen the mutilated corpses and scarcely-living bodies of Palestinian elderly, men, women and children many times before were yet still appalled by the brutality of these latest attacks.
Worldwide, protesters, journalists of integrity called the bombardment of Gaza genocidal(asIsraeli officials and politicians called for genocide). One of the most shocking of many images was that of 4-year-old Saher Abu Namous‘s half blown-off head, his father cradling him and wailing.Entire families were murdered in this latest Israeli offensive. Not for the first time, the Israeli army bombed schools hosting internally displacedhospitals (includinga rehabilitation hospital for disabled and invalid), and entire neighborhoods.
As with prior military operations, the Israelis in 2014 targeted water and sewage lines, electricity networks, hospitals, primary health centersambulances and medics, bridges and major roads, key governmental buildings, schools and universities.They went further and attacked water, electricity and sanitation personnel, killing at least 14, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted. The resulting electricity, water and sanitation crises are such that until November, power was out 18 hours a day, and just 10 percent of the 1.8 million Palestinians get water once a day (for a matter of hours). As of mid-November, Oxfam reported, power cuts were 12 hours per day in some areas.
While the bombs rained down, some Israelis pulled up seats to watch the bloodshed, as21st Century Wire noted“Old sofas, garden chairs, battered car seats and upturned crates provide seating for the spectators. …Some bring bottles of beer or soft drinks and snacks. …Nearly all hold up smartphones to record the explosions or to pose grinning, perhaps with thumbs up, for selfies against a backdrop of black smoke.”
The Israeli army used the same banned weapons on Palestinians this summer that they’ve used in the past two massacres, as well as “armour piercing bombs” which have “high explosive capabilities” and were used on Palestinian homes. Weapons-seekers flocked to Israel after seeing the effects of its weaponry and technology. Israel’s weapons industry thrives with each massacre of the Gaza testing ground.

Strangling and starving Gaza

In September 2005, the 8,500 Israeli colonists finally, unwillingly leave their homes on stolen land. With no Jewish colonists in Gaza, Israel has since been free to lock-down all of Gaza and bomb whenever the whim occurs, with no fear of any Israeli loss of life. The Israelis have waged wars against Gaza every year or two since pulling their colonists out.
Since the June 28, 2006 Israeli repeating bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant—destroying all six transformers – Palestinians in Gaza have neither been allowed to import the transformers and materials needed to rehabilitate the plant, nor offered an alternative solution. Through the now-destroyed tunnels, Palestinians did import smaller transformers and got the power plant hobbling again, but never to full capacity.
In a 2006 report on Israel’s bombing of Gaza’s power plant, B’Tselem called for Israel to:
Cover the expenses needed to return the power plant to full capacity; Finance the upgrading of the infrastructure to transfer electricity from Israel to the Gaza Strip; Permit the entry of the equipment needed to rehabilitate the power plant, without delay.
However, Israel did none of the obliged, nor has it ever paid (in any sense of the word) for the reconstruction of buildings and infrastructure it has repeatedly targeted over the years.
The supply of electricity bought from Israel and Egypt doesn’t suffice for Gaza’s now 1.8 million Palestinians. The crisis impacts on every facet of life: hospital functions, sanitation, water supply, refrigerators and appliances, and education.

Palestinian fishing boat machine-gunned then shelled by Israeli navy. The boat was destroyed. Photo by Eva Bartlett ingaza.wordpress.com
In 2006, B’Tselem noted: “The sewage system is on the verge of collapse.” Mohammed Omer’s photos of the village of Um al-Nasser, flooded with overflown sewage in 2007, should have been a wakeup-call if official institutional and NGO warnings are not. At least five drowned in their own sewage, including an infant. A year ago, reports from Gaza showed the misery of Palestinians’ homes flooded with a combination of that same overflown sewage compounded by heavy rains. Kids waded through sewage to get to school; elderly were, if lucky, paddled by small fishing boats. This, save the rains, was entirely preventable…if the UN and influential world bodies and leaders truly cared and dared to face up to the Israeli lobby.
In 2010, it was revealed that the Israeli authorities were implementing a plan to starve Palestinians. “The security establishment had calculated the number of calories consumed by Gaza residents and used it to establish a ‘humanitarian minimum’, a bottom line to which it was possible to reduce food supply to Gaza without causing hunger or malnutrition….These procedures included mathematical formulas for calculating the quantities of food and the basic products Israel would allow into the Gaza Strip.” The idea was mentioned back in 2006, when Dov Weissglass said, “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.
Power outages, 95 percent undrinkable water, constant fuel and cooking gas shortages, sewage andsanitation crises, a shattered economy (unemployment at 45 percent) and manufactured poverty rendering 80 percent of the population dependent on inadequate and dignity-shattering food aid hand-outs (no vegetables or fruit, high carb, almost no protein); food insecurity (72 percent insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity), stunting (31.4 percent) and anemia (72.8 percent) among children. This is Gaza, and with each passing month, even each day, life is less and less tolerable. In August, 2012, UNRWA questioned if by 2020 Gaza would be a livable place. We don’t have to wait till 2020 for Gaza to be declared unlivable: it already is unlivable by any standards.

No crossing them

Since 2008, Israel has incrementally closed down three of Gaza’s four commercial crossings, depriving Palestinians of adequate means for import and export. At present, the only operating (I use that term lightly) crossings are: Karem Abu Salem (commercial), Erez (transit), and Rafah (transit). The closure of Karni crossing, closed in March 2011, dramatically impacted on Gaza’s economy. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) noted that Karni “is the biggest crossing in the Gaza Strip, in terms of its capacity to absorb the flow of imports and exports.Gisha noted that Karni, the “main transit point (via truck) for goods” was “partially closed in 2007 save for the movement of grain and animal feed via conveyer belt. The conveyer belt was shut down in 2011.”
Nahal Oz crossing, closed in 2010, was the primary point for entry of gas and other fuel. And the closed Sufa crossing was notably the main point of entry of construction materials. The sole remaining commercial crossing, Karem Abu Salem, does not have the capacity to allow in the amount of goods needed, assuming the Israelis were to allow them entrance in the first place.
Al Akhbar reported: “Karm Abu Salem crossing has a maximum capacity to receive 450 trucks a day while the Gaza Strip needs a total of 1,000 trucks every day of the year without any interruptions. Today, the crossing is not working in full capacity, allowing only about 320 trucks to pass through each day. …According to the Gaza Chamber of Commerce, the crossing closed down for 130 days in 2014, which means it was not operational for 35 per cent of the year.”
PCHR noted that closure of Karem Abu Salem has meant a cooking gas crisis. “Israeli authorities only allow an average of 98 tons of cooking gas into Gaza per day. This limited quantity is less than half of the daily needs, which is 200 tons per day of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip during winter. The crisis has unprecedentedly aggravated for around six weeks due to cold weather and overconsumption in addition to the power outage and using gas as an alternative in many instances of electricity. The lack of diesel and benzene led to the aggravation of the crisis as a result of using the gas cylinder for cars or as an alternative for benzene to run generators.
Before ever visiting Gaza, I recall reading on how Palestinians overcame these fuel crises. At one point, they used cooking oil as fuel for their vehicles (“Gaza smelled like one big falafel shop,” I was told). They also used their kerosene lanterns (baboor) to cook over, that one I saw. The Israelis learned of their ingenuity and added kerosene to the banned items list.
Palestinian farmland, bulldozed endlessly by Israeli military bulldozers, destroying crops and livelihoods. Photo by Eva Bartlett
ingaza.wordpress.com
Israel has shattered Gaza’s economy in a variety of clever ways: firing on farmers and bulldozing and burning their land; firing on fishers and stealing their fishing boats and equipment; bombing businesses and factories and preventing the materials needed to rebuild; drastically restricting imports. And banning exports save a token few trucks when Israelis need palm leaves for Jewish holidays. Oxfam in December 2014 noted: “Under the blockade, exports from Gaza have fallen to around 2 percent of pre-blockade levels, with devastating impact on the economy. While some extremely limited exports to international markets have been approved, the transfer of produce to Palestinian markets in the West Bank – and markets in Israel – has been banned since 2007. These were traditionally the most important markets for producers in Gaza.” And it isn’t only produce. Furniture, clothing, and a surprising number of other goods which once flowed from Gaza’s borders are banned from being exported.

Art of war

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert has shared the last three major wars with the Palestinians in Gaza. Recently, Israeli authorities banned him from entering Gaza, in spite of him maintaining a professional neutrality. Gilbert said: “I think the truth is the security risk because when I, as a white medical doctor with blue eyes and white hair, tell the real story of the realities in the sharp end of the Israeli attacks, the Palestinians change from being terrorists to being humans, the numbers change from being numbers to being people, and the children appear as yours and my children. …this is actually a danger to the Israeli narrative and, in a way, the global reputation of Israel, which is partially falling apart now.
Aside from Gilbert’s heart-breaking observations on the slaughter of Palestinians, he notes poignantly, “The average age is 17.6 years, …a child ghetto of 1.2 million children and young people are being denied the right to escape the bombs, to fly, because they cannot get out.” This, incidentally, was the third major massacre for Palestinians six years or older in Gaza since December 2008.

Omar Mukthar police station, bombed in first minutes of Israeli bombings at mid-day Dec 27, 2008.  Photo by Eva Bartlett ingaza.wordpress.com
Six years ago, I was a month into what would be a year and a half stay in Gaza (followed by another cumulative year and a half over the years). In December 2008, the situation in Gaza was already desperate. Back then, Palestinians in Gaza were already feeling the choke of closed borders, no exports, sadistically-limited imports (between 30-40 items), and the beginning of cold winter months during which they would suffer in darkness without the means to even heat water.
The 23-day in 2008-09 offensive killed over 1,400 Palestinians. I shared the three plus weeks of hell, losing my own fiends to Israeli bombs and bullets, meeting tortured parents and families whose children had been shot dead point blank by Israeli soldiers. Like Amer al Helu’s infant daughter Farah; like 4-year-old Ahmed al-Samouni with two bullets to his chest; like KhaledAbed Rabbo’s 2 and 7 year old children, shot dead by soldiers casually snacking on junk food.
Canada’s CBC interviewed then-frantic me some days after my medic friend Arafa was murdered by an Israeli dart-bomb shot directly at his ambulance, after the media building I was in was bombed, and after I had seen more mutilated bodies and white-phosphorous-charred skin than I could have imagined. My interview-balancing counterpart, a Canadian volunteering at an Israeli base, gushed about the weather and what a relaxed time he was having… and, oh yes (to the prompting of the CBC host), he did have to run down to the bomb shelter the other day. I’d just finished saying there were no bomb shelters in Gaza, everything was a target, the Israelis were even bombing schools, kindergartens, hospitals.

Arafa Abd el-Dayem, murdered by Israeli dart-bomb targeting his ambulance. Photo by Eva Bartlett ingaza.wordpress.com
The white phosphorus was a first for Gaza. The flechette bombs (shells packed with thousands of razor-sharp dart-nails) were old news. Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana was martyred by such a shell while filming victims of Israeli shelling in Johr ad-Dik in April 2008. Shana, like other Palestinian journalist maimed and martyred by Israeli attacks, wore the markings of a journalist when targeted.
Post-massacre, as I’d walked through the ruins of Ezbet Abed Rabbo to the east of Jabaliya, my friend from the neighborhood (whose mother was killed in the very first minutes of bombings as she walked to buy bread), joked in the way oppressed people do when getting on with life, “they make like art here,” gesturing to the graveyard of houses surrounding us.
In November 2012, the Israelis “mowed the law” again, murdering over 170 Palestinians. During the 8 days of slaughter, Israeli figures called to “blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water,” and to “Flatten all of Gaza. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing,” said the deputy Israeli Prime Minister Eli Yishai and Gilad Sharon respectively.
But these massacres haven’t been without a fight. In spite of the massive power imbalance, Palestinian resistance have fought back by any means possible, as is their right, as noted in the UN General Assembly. For those who call for Palestinians to be non-violent (they are, the media just doesn’t speak of the murdered, Bassem Abu Rahmes of Palestine), I quote political analyst Sukant Chandan:
What we have is a largely defenseless population who has been usurped historically, who have been boxed into a ghetto of nearly 2 million people, in a tiny strip of land… and these people haven’t got the right to resist? Absolutely Palestinians have the right to resist, and they should have more rockets, they should have better rockets, and they should have a Resistance that can match conventionally one of the biggest genocidal entities on the planet, which is the white, colonial state of ‘Israel’.”

Status Quo and 2015?

There are daily mini-massacres that go largely unnoticed, whether on the sea, in the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone” or by denying Palestinians the right to exit for health care unattainable within the confines of Gaza.
On December 6, Israeli gunboats machine-gunned Palestinian fishers 2-3 miles off the coast, surrounded and abducted 12 fishers, and stole their boats. A few days prior On Dec 3, a Palestinian fisherman was critically injured by shrapnel to his head after Israeli navy shelling, Maan News reported.
On November 22, an Israeli soldier shot and killed a Palestinian bird hunter 500 metres from the border, east of Jabaliya, shooting him in the back. The same day, in southeastern Gaza, an Israeli soldier shot a 17-year-old Palestinian in the chest. He was 1500 meters from the border. The combination of Israeli jeeps present at the border and the remotely-controlled machine gun towers make Gaza’s border region – the most fertile area of Gaza – a killing field.
Naturally, these incidents, daily realities for Palestinians, didn’t make the headlines.
Now, nearing the end of 2014, the reports coming out of Gaza are even more dismal than one could imagine. After lofty 5.4 billion pledges of rebuilding Gaza, virtually none of the 20, 000 homes destroyed or badly damaged, including entire neighborhoods like Sheyjaiyee, have been rebuilt. Palestinians stand blinking, wondering when and if that promise will materialize. At the end of October, the NY Times reported, “Officials say they have yet to collect a dime of the $5.4 billion that international donors have pledged to the effort.
Photo by Eva Bartlett

Third time the Israeli army has destroyed Jaber Rjila’s chicken farm and land. 2010. Photo by Eva Bartlett ingaza.wordpress.com
The 106,000 Palestinians rendered homeless (40,000 of whom are staying in emergency shelters; many others living in the shells of their homes or in ramshackle tents) face cold rains and flooding. In its latest situation report, UNRWA noted extreme weather in Gaza and said a state of emergency was declared on November 27 “in Gaza City after severe flooding over a 48 hour period,” noting the evacuation of hundreds in flooded areas in Sheikh Radwan district.
Sara Roy notes the insidious nature of what rebuilding plans there are: Israel gets to decide who (if any) receive cement and building materials, and a “permanent and complex permit and planning system similar to the one Israel uses in Area C of the West Bank, which is under total Israeli control,” is being planned for Gaza.
Oxfam’s December 2014 report notes that Gaza needs “at least 89,000 new homes, 226 new schools, as well as massive repairs to other infrastructure.” Even prior to the summer IDF military operation, Gaza faced a deficit of 71,000 housing units, OCHA notedGisha reported that “around 5 million tons of construction materials are required just for the most immediate needs. With 52,351 tons – or 1% – entering since the ceasefire, at this rate it would take more than 23 years to meet “immediate” needs alone.” According to PCHR, “For almost 8 consecutive years, Israeli forces have continued to prevent the delivery of construction materials to the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing closed since October 25, justifying this after a suicide bomb killed 33 Egyptian soldiers, even though there is no evidence linking the bombing and Gaza. Only as of November 26 was the crossing briefly opened (for 2 days), allowing just 300 Palestinians in Egypt to return to Gaza, and briefly again from November 30 to December 2. A reported 6,000 more Palestinians remain stranded in Egypt or third countries. In early December, OCHA reportedthat 10,000 Palestinians wait to exit Gaza, including over 1,000 medical patients.
Photo by Eva Bartlett

Aftermath of Israeli massacre of Gaza 2008/9. Ezbet Abed Rabbo. Photo by Eva Bartlett ingaza.wordpress.com
Egypt has also long-since destroyed the network of tunnels which were known as Gaza’s “lifeline” for a very good reason: they imported the goods, including building materials, that Palestinians needed and Israel bans. They also served as an alternative conduit to the normally closed Rafah crossing, and having seen them I can attest they were far more efficient than the bureaucracy of the Egyptians’ border crossing terminal. But they are largely extinct, and reports have Egypt creating a buffer zone extending 1 km to ensure the tunnels don’t re-manifest, and to tighten the already strangling noose on Palestinians in Gaza.
During the summer Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, protests raged around the world. Indian peace activist and journalist, Feroze Mithiborwali, noted at a recent Beirut conference in solidarity with Palestine, “In practically every town and city across India, there were pro-Gaza, pro-Palestine demonstrations. There was a continuous spate of protests across India.”South African delegate Firoz Osman, of Media Review Networksaid, “Two hundred thousand people came out to demonstrations to support Gaza. That’s even more than when Mandela was released.”
So there is an increased awareness of the unjust plight of Palestinians in Gaza and throughout occupied Palestine. But as we approach the end of the year, a time when much of the West will be preoccupied by holiday shopping and celebrations, will this awareness be enough to sustain pressure on Israel and prevent a new massacre of Gaza? Will it be enough to pressure both Israel and Egypt into allowing building materials into Gaza and opening the Rafah crossing to Palestinians needing to re-enter or to exit Gaza? Will it be enough for American citizens to call for an end to the billions of dollars of aid given to Israel, let alone munitions, including a reported 3,000 more precision-guided munitions of the type used over the summer? Or for British citizens to demand Britain endarms export to Israel?
Mads Gilbert said it spot on: “As a doctor, I say don’t send more bandages, don’t send more drugs, and don’t send equipment. Stop the bombing, lift the siege, treat the Palestinians as humans, include them in the human family, protect them by international law and find a peaceful political solution to the occupation of Palestine. That’s the preventative medicine of this mayhem that is going on.”
The status quo of Palestinian suffering in Gaza cannot continue as it has these past 8 years.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Reshaping the city of Rafah in Sinai: Expulsion threatens war with the tribes

 

Smoke rises after a house was blown up during a military operation by Egyptian security forces in the Egyptian city of Rafah near the border with southern Gaza Strip on November 2, 2014, as Egypt began setting up a buffer zone along the border with the Hamas-run territory to prevent militant infiltration and arms smuggling following a wave of deadly attacks. AFP/Said Khatib
Published Wednesday, November 5, 2014
Along the border with the Gaza Strip, the Engineer Corps of the Egyptian Armed Forces is carrying out ground clearing operations following the demolition of hastily evacuated citizens’ homes, in preparation for creating a buffer zone with the Strip.
Sinai – A multitude of machines, including excavators, bulldozers, and transport vehicles, have been active on the border area from 5 am to 5 pm every day. After the homes are blown up, the bulldozers fill the trucks with the debris. Other machines level the ground, erasing all sign of human life, under the supervision of senior officials from the armed forces in the North Sinai governorate.
The head of the army command in Rafah, Major General Mohammed al-Saadani, told Al-Akhbar that the committee formed to catalogue the houses and evaluate their actual worth is still receiving requests from citizens and is finalizing procedures for receiving compensation. He added that some of the payments had been cashed, in addition to 900 Egyptian pounds ($128) urgently provided to each family. He explained that most families had left their homes.
According to a security source in Rafah, military committees are sweeping and leveling the area and work on the creation of the buffer zone has already begun.
In the meantime, dozens of families are still waiting in a big courtyard inside Rafah after evacuating their homes and being unable to find alternative residences. They remain in the open, living in difficult conditions. This led several local associations to collect blankets and some tents to send to them, but the army has banned tents in the Rafah region.

“But today, after two revolutions, we have been displaced from the homes we built with our own sweat and blood.” – Riad Saleh al-Qunbuz, displaced resident

Riad Saleh al-Qunbuz, who was displaced from the border part of the town, saw his house being demolished as part of the army’s plan to confront terrorism in northern Sinai. “Since 1986, we had been dreaming of the development of North Sinai and particularly Rafah,” he told Al-Akhbar. “But today, after two revolutions, we have been displaced from the homes we built with our own sweat and blood.”

“We endured what no human on this earth could handle. We endured the mistakes of all the regimes and presidents. We patiently waited for the promises made by all the governments. But none of them came to fruition. Yet we pay the highest price [for the war on] terrorism. We pay with the land of our forefathers. We leave the homes we dreamt of owning for years, in return for LE300 ($43) in compensation to rent an apartment.”

Qunbuz points to a pile of furniture.

 “This is the furniture of my two-storey home, strewn on its rubble. I don’t know how or where to take it or my family. I want to stress that we still haven’t received any compensation, although we were promised that the compensation will be paid on the same night of evacuating the homes and leveling them to the ground,” he said.

Ahmed Suleiman stood next to the rubble of his own home in Rafah.

“They demolished my home. Everybody is selling their furniture for cheap. The areas of the demolished homes were vast, since our tribal character and culture requires it. And God awarded many of us a large number of children,” he explained. “But we do not know where to go or what is the real reason for evicting us from our land. None of us were implicated in acts of sabotage.”

“Our children are suffering here. Although we live without schools, education, or minimum care, we are satisfied with this and holding on to our ancestors’ lands. Actually, we have suffered the most from the operations carried out by the takfiri groups here. And now we are paying the price of their actions,” he added.

The decision to evacuate a 500-meter wide strip adjacent to Egypt’s border with Gaza towards the center of the city was implemented without taking any measures to protect the residents or transfer them to a safe location after being forced to evacuate their homes. Egyptian authorities are using this plan to gauge the feasibility of the decision, in preparation for similar measures to empty Rafah in North Sinai from its residents.
A few days following the implementation of the 500-meter evacuation decision, Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahleb issued decree 1957/2014. It called for isolating Rafah, based on the defense minister’s recommendations for the strategic direction in the northeastern sector of the North Sinai governorate.
The area cordoned off by the decree was: “Abu Shanar – al-Rasm north of Sadat Square for a distance of 880 meters, southeast of Sadat Square for 500 meters, southeast of Sadat Square for 1.5 kilometers, north of Goz Abou Raad for 400 meters, Goz Abou Raad, East of Goz Abou Raad for 2 kilometers, west of al-Madfouna for 1 kilometer, and northeast Atlet al-Tayyara for 2 kilometers at the intersection of the political border line.”
The second article of the decree called for the evacuation of the area mentioned above and the provision of alternative residences for the evacuees. In the event of refusal to evacuate amicably, the decree called for the seizure of property.
Article 3 of the decision stated that compensation would be estimated based on the Public Mobilization Law and the two Presidential decisions, 2152 of the year 1960 and 540 of 1987, related to the creation of committees to estimate and compensate seized property.
The decree puts into force the sixth item of Article 3 of the Emergency Law, allowing the president or a delegated authority to evacuate areas where a state of emergency is declared. This is in addition to item four of the same article that allows the confiscation of real estate and movable property.
The people of North Sinai reacted with fury and resentment towards the prime minister’s decision. They considered this to be an extension of the cleansing Rafah region, from the center to the peripheries, following the expulsion of its residents to different areas. This would lead to the dispersion and breakup of families and the elimination of community and family bonds.
According to activist Mona al-Zamlout, the media “brainwashed the Egyptians into believing the evacuation in the Egyptian-side of Rafah serves the war on terror. However, Rafah does not have terrorists and did not partake in any violence against the army. Citizens of North Sinai are not going to believe that displacing the people of Rafah is intended to fight terrorism.”

”Citizens of North Sinai are not going to believe that displacing the people of Rafah is intended to fight terrorism.” – Mona al-Zamlout, activist

“The problem with Rafah is the tunnels [with Gaza]. If the state’s aim was national security, it would have created a free zone and commercial port after destroying the tunnels, which would have employed all of Sinai’s young people. But Egypt took the easy road, expulsion under the pretext of eradicating terrorism coming through the tunnels with the Gaza Strip, which kept functioning until the moment of evacuation and with the knowledge of officials in the armed forces.”

Political activist Said Aatiq, from the town of Sheikh Zuweid, indicated that “the people of Sinai are not happy with the situation in Rafah, since the citizens of Sinai will be the first to be harmed. For many years, they suffered from marginalization and exclusion, feeling as if they were third class citizens. Some of them feel the state treats them as foreigners and not as one of its own.”
He added that several Sinai residents who collaborated with the army had been targeted by “terrorist organizations” in the peninsula. But the military command did not recognize them. “The state treats the people of Sinai as security informers and not as real partners for the stability of the Sinai territories. Everyone in Sinai is under suspicion. Officials did not involve the people of Sinai in a real partnership to confront terrorism.”
Masad Abu Fajr, an expert on tribal affairs from Sinai and a former member of the Committee of Fifty to Amend the Constitution, considered the expulsion of the residents to be a declaration of war by the Egyptian state against the tribes of Sinai. It declared war against the three biggest and most brutal tribes in Sinai, which are, “from the south to the north: al-Tarabin, al-Sawarka, and al-Armilat.”
“It is a real shame to even propose the idea of expulsion for discussion,” he continued. “Expulsion is a crime the moment it is discussed.”
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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Israel detains seven Palestinians over “stone” attacks

A Palestinian protester uses a sling to throw stones towards Israeli soldiers during a demonstration against the decision by Israel to expropriate 400 hectares (988 acres) of land near the West Bank village of Wadi Fukin on September 26, 2014. (Picture: AFP- Musa Al Shaer)
Published Sunday, September 28, 2014
Israeli forces have detained seven Palestinians in the occupied West Bank overnight under the pretext they had been involved in attacks against Israeli troops.
In a Sunday statement carried by the army radio, the military said the seven Palestinians were wanted over their suspected involvement in attacks against Israeli troops with stones and petrol bombs.
Three of the detainees were apprehended in Hebron, two in Husan and one in Bethlehem, the release said, without stating where the seventh was detained.
Israeli forces routinely conduct detention campaigns against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on claims that they are “wanted” by Israeli authorities.
Some 7,000 Palestinians are currently languishing in prisons throughout Israel, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs.
Opening Gaza’s border after four-day closure
Israel on Sunday reopened the Gaza Strip’s only functioning commercial crossing – the Kerem Shalom border terminal – after four days of closure due to Jewish holidays, a Palestinian official has said.
“Israeli authorities reopened the border crossing following a four-day closure,” Mounir al-Ghalban, administrator for the Palestinian side of the crossing, told Anadolu Agency.
At least 380 trucks were allowed into the Gaza Strip, including 70 ones loaded with aid supplies, he added.
The remaining trucks carried commercial and industrial goods as well as limited amounts of cooking gas and fuel.
Al-Ghalban asserted that Israel had not yet taken any steps to lift the crippling blockade, under which the Gaza Strip has groaned since 2007.
A cease-fire deal, signed by Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Cairo on August 26, calls for Israel to reopen its crossings with Gaza to commercial traffic.
The cease-fire ended Israel’s 51-day onslaught on the densely-populated Gaza Strip, which left over 2,150 Palestinians dead – the vast majority of them civilians – and more than 11,000 injured.
However, the official said the crossing continued to operate at its pre-cease-fire capacity, being used mostly for the entry of foodstuff and humanitarian assistance into Gaza.
Blockaded by Israel – by air, land and sea – since 2007, the Gaza Strip has seven border crossings linking it to the outside world. Six of these are controlled by Israel, while the seventh – the Rafah crossing – is controlled by Egypt, which keeps it tightly sealed for the most part.
Israel sealed four of its commercial crossings with Gaza in June 2007 after Palestinian resistance movement Hamas wrested control of the strip from the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.
As it currently stands, Israeli authorities allow the Kerem Shalom crossing – which links Gaza to both Israel and Egypt – to operate for commercial purposes.
The Gaza-Israel Erez crossing, meanwhile, is generally devoted to the movement of individuals between Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
(Anadolu)

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Interview with former Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar

Mahmoud al-Zahar. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Mohammed Fouad

Published Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On the ruins of his home destroyed in the last war on Gaza, we sat with Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar to discuss a variety of issues after the war. We talked about direct negotiations with the occupation; Hamas’ position regarding the reconciliation with Fatah; participating in the upcoming elections and last but not least, Hamas’ position on the conflicting regional axes.

Mahmoud al-Zahar is a leading figure in Hamas even though he was left out in the last internal election for the movement’s political bureau. His son Houssam was martyred during the second Intifada. Those close to him describe him as the head of the hawkish wing and a champion of Hamas’ policy of armed struggle. He was foreign minister in Ismail Haniya’s 2006 government.

Al-Akhbar: What is your position regarding what was said by a member of the movement’s political bureau about direct negotiations with Israel and the possibility of Hamas engaging in them in the future?

Mahmoud al-Zahar: This is a hoax that the media used and it is not true. We do not negotiate directly with Israel even though there is no religious or political deterrent that would prevent us from doing so. But we are opposed to the idea. The person who did that is Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas). He helped us negotiate indirectly with the Israeli occupation during the ceasefire talks in Cairo but we did not authorize him to negotiate with Israel on a political program or the 1967 borders or anything else. Abbas was negotiating to lift the siege and for humanitarian issues such as bringing goods and products into Gaza.

To be clear, we told Abbas negotiate as you like, so that no one would accuse us of putting a spoke in the wheel of his project. But he does not speak in our name and we have not agreed to his project.

AA: Then what did Mousa Abu Marzouk mean by talking about direct negotiations?

MZ: He meant that if Abu Mazen does not play his role to the fullest in the negotiations around humanitarian issues, we will look for another mediator to negotiate with Israel directly. We could ask an Arab or international party such as the United Nations to negotiate with Israel on humanitarian and not political issues.

The proof is that during the Gilad Shalit deal, the Irish negotiated with Israel directly and Egypt and Germany interfered too and negotiated with Israel directly but we do not sit with Israel. We, however, insist on our right to choose certain parties rather than others to negotiate.

Fatah’s leadership was angry with Abu Marzouk’s statement because they believe that their organization is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people even though Fatah lost its electoral and popular legitimacy.

AA: How do you respond to the fact that Abu Mazen accuses you of monopolizing the war and peace decision and of having a shadow government in Gaza?

MZ: Fatah took the decision to make peace in 1992 without consulting anyone. In the latest war, Israel was the one that decided to go to war. Are we supposed to consult him on the decision to defend ourselves? Before him Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat) also did not consult anyone about peace. This means that we are not the ones making the war and peace decision.

Regarding the shadow government, Abbas makes up terms to cover up for the failure of the current government. He should tell us who are the shadow ministers and who is heading it? We gave him the reconciliation government and he insisted on making most of its members from Fatah, not to mention that he wanted Hamas to pay the salaries in Gaza and this is the result.

AA: What are the alternatives?

MZ: If the failure of the government continues then we must have an alternative. The Palestinian factions should sit together and discuss their options. The Popular and the Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine called for a national unity government and recognized the weakness of this government. Until then, we shall study this option.

AA: But you agreed that Abbas would be a consensus president of the people?

MZ: Mahmoud Abbas is neither a consensus nor a legitimate president, he is a de facto president. We dealt with him as a president who was elected a year before us and we gave him half of the government in the Mecca Agreement in 2006. But he turned against us and called for our killing. That is why he has lost his legitimacy since 2005 and why he does not represent us politically. It is enough that his 22-year-old project has failed and his political “bazaar” is bankrupt so he is attacking others. Hamas, on the other hand, succeeded in confronting Israeli aggression in the years since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and achieved victories in these confrontations.

They might say that we (Hamas) lost our legitimacy too that is why we are always ready for elections and we do not fear them. An election is supposed to take place six months after establishing the government but Abbas is refusing. Our information indicates that he does not want to have the election because he is afraid of its outcome.

AA: In light of the crisis of legitimacy, why has the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) not been strengthened and activated to become a frame of reference for all political forces?

MZ: The PLO’s agenda is not our agenda. We want to preserve it as a political framework but if we join it then we will change the agenda. The issue for us is not joining the PLO but changing its program because of the Oslo Accords which the organization adopted as a “political free-for-all.” Hamas turned into a resistance project.

AA: What has become of the quintet committee that Fatah established to meet with you and what are you going to agree on?

MZ: We have no information about the date or the place yet but discussions will focus on how to implement lifting the siege on Gaza.

AA: You had talked about a national committee to follow up on the issue of reconstruction.

MZ: We have not formed it yet because if we do, they will say that we are trying to circumvent the reconciliation government which should take responsibility, pay the salaries and implement the reconstruction projects.

AA: Does Hamas fear that there will be a trade-off between its arms and reconstruction?

MZ: We don’t fear that at all. The weapons of the Resistance are off the table in talks and on the ground. This is the position of all Palestinians and they all refuse any talk of disarming the Resistance.

AA: Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed said that not a dime will go in and the Rafah Crossing will not open unless the legitimate authority enters Gaza. What do you think of this condition?

MZ: The problem is that Fatah considers itself legitimate because international parties, mostly the US and Israel, want to give it this legitimacy and a free position instead of the government that resisted the Israeli project. Regarding the Rafah crossing, there are two decisions, one Arab from the Arab League and the other Islamic from the Organization of the Islamic Conference, that were taken in 2006, calling for lifting the siege on Gaza and opening the crossings. But political changes in Egypt at the end of 2013 led to the closing of the Rafah Crossing in violation of the law.

We said earlier, we are not against the presidential guard coming but there is some sort of political confusion. The presidential guard should guard the president and the border guard is charged with the crossings that have civil bodies like agriculture, health and others. I believe that their goal is to make money as was the case with the security forces that worked at the crossings under the late president Yasser Arafat. The problem is that they don’t know what to do with these crossings or how to deal with people who work there.

AA: What happened with the date of resuming indirect talks in Cairo?

MZ: Until now, we haven’t been told anything. But the agreement stated that we should return to Cairo in a month to consolidate the truce and discuss outstanding issues such as borders, nautical miles and reconstruction. By the way, the ceasefire has lasted and it hasn’t been a month but if the Israelis attack we will retaliate. As for the port and the airport, in my opinion, we should not take the permission of the Israelis to build them. According to Oslo, there was an airport that Israel destroyed in 2000. If we decide internally to build an airport and Israel attacks it, we will attack its airport.

Also, there is a decision to build a port, the dispute is over where to build it. It can be built anywhere in the Gaza Strip as part of a Palestinian decision. Also here, Israeli approval is of no concern to us because we paid for the airport and the port in the Oslo Accords when the PLO recognized Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people.

AAWhat is the significance of the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in supporting the Resistance in Gaza and why did Hamas bashfully thank it?

MZ: We did not thank anyone and we did not distribute medals to anyone after the war. The people know who stood with us and who supported our agenda. Some people thanked Qatar and Turkey for their positions in the last war. But if we want to talk about the agenda of the Resistance, there are many parties that we ought to thank, first among them is Iran which provided military, political and financial support throughout the last period. I will not respond to claims that Iranian funding of Hamas stopped after the crisis in Syria because Israel will benefit. It is true there’s been a mild divergence after the events in Syria, where we maintained our neutrality. But after leaving Damascus, we should’ve went to Beirut. We could have lived in the midst of the Palestinian people there and created a framework for a real program in coordination with the parties present there.

As to why we did not go to Beirut? You should ask those who went to Doha instead of Lebanon.

Nevertheless, whoever thinks that going to Qatar means that Hamas is against Iran is mistaken. Playing the axes game is destructive. That is why we should have good relations with Syria, Iran and all the countries.

AADoes this mean that you are with restoring the relationship with Damascus?

MZ: There is no enmity between us and the different components of Syria. We were guests there as part of a Resistance program sponsored by the host country. We left because we were shoved in the middle of the problems. I stress that we are opposed to any activities by Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp or anywhere else because our battle is against Israel only.

AA: What about your relationship with Cairo?

MZ: We are not interested in engaging in a political or military dispute with Egypt and everything that was claimed about us is baseless. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support claims about killing Egyptian soldiers in Rafah. All the charges against us were meant to link us to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and describe them as terrorists. That is why we welcome restoring our relationship with Egypt.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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Islamic Jihad Chief: Gaza Battle Prepares for Mother of Battles, No Bet on Talks

Local Editor

ShallahThe leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, asserted that the Zionist enemy started Gaza war and that the resistance surprised it with displaying its military readiness to encounter the aggression.

“We must not bet on the path of the negotiations,” Shallah stressed, “Israeli warplanes buried Oslo agreement under the debris of Gaza buildings.”

Shallah noted that Gaza battle is not the last, adding that it will prepare for the mother of the battles.

The leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement greeted the steadfastness of the Gazans and the resistance, highlighting the importance of the Palestinians to encounter the upcoming challenges.

Source: Al-Manar Website

26-08-2014 – 22:17

 

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Egypt and Gaza: The tale of two Rafahs

A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli air strike, on July 11, 2014 in Rafah, in the southern of Gaza Strip. Israeli warplanes kept up deadly raids on Gaza but failed to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets across the border, as the United States offered to help negotiate a truce. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)
Published Thursday, August 7, 2014
Om Mohammed Zaarab is an Egyptian woman of Palestinian descent. She has been living in the Salahuddin neighborhood in Sinai’s Rafah since before the division of the town into an Egyptian side and a Palestinian side.
Sinai – It was shortly after 2 pm when Om Mohammed Zaarab, a woman in her fifties, was seen standing on the balcony of her house located on the border of the Salahuddin neighborhood in Sinai’s Rafah. She prayed to God to ease the suffering of people in Gaza and her relatives living on the Palestinian side of Rafah.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar Om Mohammed said, “We did not sleep at all during the night, we kept hearing the sounds of Israeli jets bombing the region that separated the two Rafahs. They targeted the houses of my relatives and my cousins on the Palestinian side.”
“I could see their homes from my balcony, I saw it with my own two eyes as the planes bombarded their houses and turned them into piles of rubble,” she recounted.
“I saw the dead bodies of children and adults of the Zaarab family on TV, but all I could do was to pray to God to bring destruction upon the Israelis and all those supporting them… Here I am, standing a few steps away and I cannot join them, or even attend the funerals of the deceased,” she sighed.
Om Mohammed was not the only one hit by the tragedy. It was a feeling she shared with many Egyptian families of Palestinian origin who are today living on the Egyptian side of Rafah.
This town and its famous crossing were at the heart of the peace initiative launched by late Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat who visited Israel and signed a “peace accord” that involved redrawing the borders and dividing Rafah, hence separating families that lived on both sides of the borders.

“I could see their homes from my balcony, I saw it with my own two eyes as the planes bombarded their houses and turned them into piles of rubble,” – Om Mohammed

 

In his shop located on the corner of a Salahuddin’s side street, Hajj Moussa Qashta sat with a friend watching the news of the Israeli aggressions on Gaza.
 “We are sad about the massacres we see on TV that are being committed against our cousins and our relatives in Gaza, and targeting neighborhoods in Palestinian Rafah where our families are living,” he said.
Mahmoud al-Akhrassi, an Egyptian man from Rafah explained that “there are family ties linking people from the Palestinian side to those on the Egyptian side, my sister-in-law is Palestinian and her nephew was killed in the recent Israeli aggression.”
“We received condolences at our house, from both our relatives and from the relatives of the martyr, who are members of Egyptian families of Palestinian origin,” he said.
Meanwhile, an emotional Ibrahim al-Qomboz said, “We wished that Egypt would open the Rafah crossing so we can visit Gaza, especially Rafah, but there is nothing we can do.”
“We see them crying and yelling for help and we cannot even go bury them or participate in the funerals of our loved ones,” he added.
Om Khaled, who has been living in Rafah for over 30 years, is a Palestinian woman married to an Egyptian man.
She says she will never stop mourning her relatives. Constantly worried because of the Israeli war on Gaza, she said, “May God [take our revenge on] the Israelis, they do not distinguish between anyone, they kill children, mothers and old men, may God deprive them of everything they cherish.”
As we walked through the town, we reached a house in the Ahrash neighborhood. Iman Zaareb, 27, was covered in black as she sat at her parents’ house, holding the picture of a man in his thirties.
When asked about the man in the picture, she broke down in tears. She calmed down a few minutes later as her mother comforted her, and she was finally able to share her pain with us.
“This is my husband Iyad Zaarab, he visited us in Rafah when the borders were opened, we got married and I went with him to the Palestinian side where we lived what I thought was the most beautiful life,” she said.
She described her husband as “a compassionate man, who did his best to make me and our three children happy.”
“Two weeks after the Israeli aggression, some shells and missiles fell near our house and some of our neighbors were martyred,” she said, recounting her story. “My husband asked me to travel with my children to Rafah and to stay at my parents’ house until the end of the war, when the situation stabilizes. I insisted on staying there and told him we either live together or die together, but he refused and demanded that I leave.”
“In the end, I did as he wished and I came to my parents’ house,” she said with deep sorrow.
“He used to call us every day to check on me and on the kids but four days ago, Rafah was targeted with intense Israeli shelling, and dozens were martyred, including my husband,” she continued.
“He did not answer when I called him on his phone and I found out from his brother that he was martyred in the shelling,” she sighed.
“I headed to the Rafah crossing on the same day, trying to enter Gaza to see my husband before he was buried, I wept and did everything I could but the Egyptian security refused to let me in. But God is sufficient for us, for he is the best disposer of [our] affairs. He will deal with those who killed him and those who prevented me from seeing him as a martyr before he was buried,” she lamented.
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Family of Dr. Mona El-Farra Slain By Israeli Artillery Fire

elfarra1

I will stand by Israel for a lot of personal reasons but certainly for political reasons. And I have no hesitation in declaring to the world that’s how I feel.

–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

By Richard Edmondson

Well might it be worthwhile to keep those words of the Nevada senator in mind as you contemplate what follows. Reid’s comment was made yesterday as the Senate voted another $225 million for Israel–Reid was one of the main backers of the bill.

I posted an article about the Senate action late yesterday evening entitled, “More Money for Israel–Less Money for Americans–And They All Shook Hands Afterwards”. You can go here and read it. It includes the quote you see above.

Today I opened up my box and found these photos–the ones above along with this additional one below:

elfarra2

They are family members of Dr. Mona El-Farra, a physician who practices in Gaza and who also works with the US-based organization Middle East Children’s Alliance. Here is the press release sent out by MECA accompanying the photos:

Condolences to Dr. Mona El-Farra and all who have lost their loved ones

The staff and board of the Middle East Children’s Alliance would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to our colleague Dr. Mona El-Farra, her family, and all of the Palestinian families who have lost their relatives and loved ones.

Early this morning, Israeli tanks shelled a home in Khan Younis and killed nine members of Dr. Mona’s family including 5 children. Ten more relatives are injured and five of them are in critical condition.

We are saddened by the very personal loss of our friend and colleague, Dr. Mona El-Farra, and by the knowledge that her relatives were killed with the full support of our government.

Rest in peace:
Abed Almalek Abed Al Salam El-Farra, 54 years
Osamah Abed Almalek El-Farra, 34 years
Awatef  A’ez Eldeen El-Farra, 29 years
Emad El-Farra, 28 years
Mohamad Mahmoud El-Farra, 12 years
Nadeen Mahmoud El-Farra, 9 years
Yara Abed Al Salam El-Farra, 8 years (pictured above)
Abed Al Rahaman El-Farra, 8 years
Lujain Basem El-Farra, 4 years

We spoke to Dr. Mona by phone today and she told us: “It was shocking to find out that my cousins were killed with their children and grandchildren. But my family is not different from any other family living in the Gaza Strip. This is the brutality of the Israeli occupation and we are expecting bad news all the time. Whenever there is bad news here, we ask ourselves who is next? Still, no matter how much you are prepared for this kind of bad news, it’s shocking and it hit me very hard.”

As always, we are impressed by Dr. Mona’s huge heart and dedication to help children and families. After taking a short break to process the shock of this news, Dr. Mona went to the emergency room at the Red Crescent Society to treat patients today.

This is Dr. El-Farra:

 photo drelfarra_zpsb86a3085.jpg

As you may imagine, doctors in Gaza are not having a particularly easy time of it just now. On Saturday, July 27, one week ago, Dr. El-Farra delivered milk, food, and hygiene kits to UN schools in the Gaza Strip. Below are some photos of the humanitarian effort, along with Dr. El-Farra’s written account, as posted at MECA’s website:

 photo unschool3_zpsb11b93c2.jpg

“MECA team with help of Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip visited and distributed milk, food and hygenic kits to 678 familes at UN schools during the humanitarian ceasefire on Saturday. Here are a few photos from our visits. We have added hygiene kits after treating many children and famlies at the Red Crescent and hearing about the health risks at the schools and finding so many children with diarrhea and severe dehydration.”

 photo unschool2_zpsa43a2f64.jpg

 photo unschool1_zps5e1425d9.jpg

That was on July 27. On Wednesday, July 30, one of the schools where the supplies were delivered–the UN school in the Jabalya refugee camp, near Gaza City–was hit by Israeli artillery fire, killing at least 20. In the photo below we see two Palestinian men inside the school gathering up human remains after the shelling subsided:

unschool4

The school at the time was housing 3,300 people. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN agency which operated the facility, said a visit to the scene, including an examination of the bomb fragments, showed that the school had been hit by three Israeli artillery shells.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms this serious violation of international law by Israeli forces,” said Pierre Krähenbühl, the UNRWA commissioner-general. “This is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced.”

That same day, Dr. El-Farra discussed conditions in Gaza during an interview with the Electronic Intifada:

“We Are Surrounded with Death…We Are Surrounded with Horror”

Transcript: Dr. Mona El-Farra

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Dr. Mona, can you tell us about the situation in Gaza right now, especially after the latest Israeli missile strikes overnight and the massacre at the Shujaiya open market earlier today?

Dr. Mona El-Farra: Yes, actually, this day in the morning, the first massacre happened when the Israelis attacked one of the schools in the Jabaliya refugee camp, where twenty at least were killed and tens were injured. I lost track of numbers, but for sure the killed were twenty.

And before that, there was heavy, heavy shelling for two or three hours, then this massacre happened. Then, in the middle of the day, at the Shujaiya market, when people felt safe that there was a humanitarian ceasefire, people went to shop for a few things. And then they were attacked again by missiles, by the Israeli army, and seventeen at least were killed, maybe 200 were injured, and a big, big fire stayed for maybe one hour, you could see the smoke from the other end of town. Two of the health workers, emergency health workers, died in that attack too, as well as one journalist.

The situation is really very, very bad. And we have a big problem at the moment at the hospitals and medical facilities, which are in shortage of medications because the burden is high. The main hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa hospital, is receiving immediately 200 cases, the injured with different sorts of injuries. It is a big burden, it was mass casualities with a lack of essential medication and supplies, that’s why there was an appeal on the radio when this happened asking people to go to the hospital to donate blood.

And we don’t have power at the moment. We don’t have water. And when we don’t have power, the generators at the hospitals will start to not function well. So an imminent humanitarian health problem is coming soon if this continues. For us, for me, working at the Red Crescent Society in the Gaza Strip, which is partnered with the Middle East Children’s Alliance, we receive every day an increasing number of patients coming from the schools, people who took shelter in the schools or with their relatives. There are very bad health conditions, and increasing numbers of infectious diseases like gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infections and skin diseases.

We are not used to this great number of patients daily, we receive between 200-250 patients coming and asking for health consultation at our center. Again, we have a diagnostic center, and the hospital, al-Shifa hospital, their equipment like the CT [scanner] has stopped working, so we receive cases at our center. Every day we receive an increasing number of injured who are in need for diagnostic procedure like the CT.

Today, I came across three cases coming for a CT. Three cases with head injuries. The first one, her name is Buthaina el-Izraia, she came to our diagnostic center with a head injury and many shrapnels all over her body besides the head injury.

And her son was next to her, this patient. She was accompanied by her son, who is a newly-graduated nurse. His name is Yousef el-Izraia, and he was crying and telling me, “My mother was watering her plants when the shrapnel hit her, and we have never ever been members of any political party or militant [group]. We are just normal people, ordinary civilians.”

This was the first case. The second story — a child, three years old, and the name of this child is “Anonymous number six.” He came with a head injury as well. And you understand why he was “anonymous” — that means the child left the whole family and they don’t recognize who is the child.

Another case, her name is Reem Ahmad, again with a head injury, from Nuseirat refugee camp, six years old. And again, she lost all the members of her family.

These stories are common already in Gaza, but it attracted my attention — a human being called “Anonymous number six.” Or a woman, a peaceful woman trying to plant her flowers, trying to normalize an abnormal life, and then the result is to be hit with a head injury. And I don’t know if they will make it or not. After they come to our center, they go back to the hospital to resume their treatment.

Another story — one of our staff, she is a nurse, her name is Afaf Hussein, and this morning I heard that her daughter was killed with her three grandchildren and two of her children. I tried to call her phone several times and she couldn’t answer the phone. Her daughter was one of our volunteers a few months ago in our center.

We are surrounded with death. We are surrounded with horror. We are surrounded with a lack of facilities and we try hard to help people, we try hard to help each other, but the burden is heavy and the attack is very serious, and this should stop now.

NBF: What does it mean for Palestinians in Gaza to be cut off from the outside world because of the electricity crisis, as well as being cut off from family members and loved ones and neighbors as the phone networks are going down?

ME: This is another disaster, because this is our lifeline to the outside world. For me, on a personal level, by the end of the day when I come home, I start writing. I feel that I am still alive. I still can convey the message. And not only that, we feel that maybe something worse is happening and Israel wants to hide this, to keep us isolated from the world, so nobody knows what crimes are going to happen next in Gaza.

It is frightening. It is frightening.

You’ll note in the transcript above that Dr. El-Farra mentions not only the attack upon the school, but also the missile strike upon a crowded market in Shujayya later that same day. That attack killed at least 16 people, including Gaza journalist Rami Rayan. Follow this link and you will see a story about the attack I posted at the time, but be advised it contains some gruesome images.

Yesterday, when Reid was expressing his loyalty to Israel in the Senate, the Gaza death toll had already exceeded that of Operation Cast Lead, five years ago, when more than 1,400 died. According to RT–posted on August 2–the death toll now tops 1,550.

The psychopathic killer responsible for the deaths of Dr. El-Farra’s family and so many others  issued an order yesterday to the president of the United States. Here is how AP reports it:

Sources familiar with conversations between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, say the Israeli leader advised the Obama administration “not to ever second guess me again” on the matter. The officials also said Netanyahu said he should be “trusted” on the issue and about the unwillingness of Hamas to enter into and follow through on cease-fire talks.

Don’t ever second guess me again–or else, says the psychopathic killer. And how did the president of the United States respond to this not-so-subtle threat? The next paragraph of the story pretty much gives us our answer:

The Obama administration on Friday condemned “outrageous” violations of an internationally brokered Gaza cease-fire by Palestinian militants and called the apparent abduction of an Israeli soldier a “barbaric” action.

Got that? The abduction of an Israeli soldier (an abduction which Hamas denies even carrying out) is “barbaric,” but attacks upon crowded markets and UN schools–and the murder of Dr. El-Farra’s family–such things as these are, well, “troubling” perhaps, or “regrettable,” but they’re not barbaric.

I wonder if it isn’t time now to start calling for the BDS movement to be expanded to include American products. Appealing to the ‘humanity’ of people in whom no such humanity exists–and that’s a characterization I think could apply to virtually all of America’s top leaders at this point–clearly is pointless. Urging people who are owned by AIPAC to feel compassion for Palestinians really does not make any sense when you think about it. We have been trying it for a number of years now and have gotten nowhere with it. So maybe the next step is for Americans of conscience to start calling for a boycott of US products until America ends its support for the barbaric state of Israel.

Expanding the boycott to include American goods won’t necessarily end the occupation or stop the slaughter of innocents, but perhaps more modest goals could be well within reach–such as, say, giving creatures like Harry Reid reason to start experiencing “hesitation” about declaring to the world how they feel about Israel.

There is no darkness but ignorance

kenny’s sideshow

MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

Israel supporter in LA all “dolled up in war paint.”

It’s the demolition derby
It’s the sport of the hunt
Proud tribe in full war-dance
It’s the slow smile that the bully gives the runt
It’s the force of inertia
It’s the lack of constraint
It’s the children out playing in the rock garden
All dolled-up in black hats and war paint

Hamas truce conditions?

Those include the lifting of Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners Israel has rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Sounds fair enough but the Israeli blood thirst hasn’t yet been quenched. Nor the other goals.

Israeli Interior Minister: “The Goal of the Operation Is to Send Gaza Back to the Middle Ages”, “Destroying All the Infrastructure Including Roads and Water”

Israel shoots down Hamas drone with a US supplied Patriot missile? Still looking for wreckage?  More propaganda along the same lines as the fabulous Iron Dome system I’m thinking. US contractors smile as they anticipate restocking the Israelis at our expense.

What’s frustrating in all this, at least where I live, is that very very few people know enough about the Israeli/Palestinian situation to even carry on a decent conversation about it. They don’t know the history of zionism or Israel. They don’t even know the physical size of Gaza or its population. So many only carry around the buzz words of ‘chosen ones’ and ‘promised land’ in a weird belief system that defies logic and common sense.

I’m ignorant too so many times but I’m trying to learn. And I’m oh so thankful for all of you out there who are trying also and willing to share knowledge and maybe…just maybe help us come out of the darkness.

There is no darkness but ignorance.

           William Shakespeare

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

Egypt Denies Entry for Medical Delegation into Gaza


Local Editor

Egypt-Palestine borders: Rafah crossingEgyptian authorities deny entry to a delegation of European doctors, who have arrived to offer help to the residents of Gaza, into the Palestinian strip, a coordinator of Palestinian doctors in Europe said Saturday.

“The delegation consists of anesthetists, surgeons and disaster specialists,” Abdeen Fayez added in a statement.

However, he did not mention the reasons for preventing the members of the medical delegation from entering the Gaza Strip from Rafah crossing on the border between Egypt and the coastal Palestinian enclave, which has been under a Zionist blockade since 2006.

Fayez called on Egyptian authorities to let the members of the delegation to enter Gaza to offer help to its residents, while the Zionist military continues to pound the strip since Monday.

At least 165 Gazans, mostly civilians, have been killed and hundreds injured since Monday in a series of Zionist airstrikes.

Egypt has been tightening its control on the border crossing with Gaza for several months now.

Source: Websites

13-07-2014 – 13:26 Last updated 13-07-2014 – 13:26

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River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

 

Twenty-four hours at Rafah

Palestinians wait for relatives coming from Egypt at the Rafah border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip on March 9, 2014. (Photo: AFP-Said Khatib)
Published Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Palestinians are unwelcome in Egypt. Their living conditions have further deteriorated following accusations by the new Egyptian regime that Gaza residents, mainly affiliated with Hamas, are launching “terrorist attacks” inside the country. This situation is reflected by the humiliating treatment Palestinians are being subjected to on both sides of the Rafah crossing.
Standing at the junction between the world’s two largest continents Asia and Africa, many Palestinians were denied access at an Egyptian army checkpoint. Soon after, Egyptian intelligence services closed the Rafah crossing, blocking them from returning to besieged Gaza.
Sixty-four Palestinians, who had decided to leave Gaza for various reasons such as receiving healthcare, studying, or renewing a residence permit abroad, were informed by the coordinator of the state of Palestine in Egypt, who spoke to them on board of a “deportation bus,” that they would not be returning to Gaza.

Yet again Palestinians are left stranded. The story begins in February when the Egyptian government announced that it would open the crossing for three days, giving a small window of reprieve for Palestinians living in Gaza.

Five thousand Palestinians rushed to register, knowing that only 800 of them would be given access. Those who register first would be able to exit Gaza while others will have to undergo return procedures.
A return procedures gives its recipient priority status when the crossing opens again, which would be in about two weeks. Meanwhile, other Palestinians may have a higher chance to leave Gaza if they join “coordination campaigns” that pay large amounts of money to Egyptian intelligence officers as a bribe. The officers would send the registered names to the Palestinian side, represented by Hamas, and would insist that those individuals cross before or at the same time as passengers buses as a precondition to allow other buses to pass. Otherwise, the crossing would be closed down. Sometimes, people affiliated with the committee groups cross in private cars.
A person would have to pay approximately US$ 1500 to the coordination officers to travel. Before the ousting of Mohammed Mursi, it was US$ 500. Hence, on a single day, coordination officers would make at least US$ 70 thousand.
Palestinians stranded on the Rafah crossing, and who belong to neither the coordination committees nor the returned groups, are left with two choices: they are either given a permit to enter Egypt for residency or transit within 72 hours, or they’ll have to wait for eight hours for their turn to be deported to Cairo airport.
These two choices, entrance or deportation, are reached following the refusal of a travel permit for security reasons or to avoid imprisoning a person because it is too hard to transport him inside Egypt. This tragedy is in fact the outcome of the new Egyptian policy toward Palestinians, designating them as “unwelcomed guests due to their involvement in terrorist attacks, alongside the banned Muslim Brotherhood.”
Palestinians are now paying the price for a policy chosen by the Islamist rulers in Gaza who consider themselves part of the extension of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. Unfortunately, this same movement helped create media platforms that enjoy demonizing others.
Even on the Palestinian side, travelers often face difficulties, such as being stopped for about half an hour to recount your life story if you’re heading to Beirut. The Lebanese capital is still part of the ‘difficult axis:’ Tehran – Damascus – Beirut, and Hamas wouldn’t be very pleased if a Palestinian visits Beirut for anything other than tourism, or getting an education.
After a person is cleared on the Palestinian side, they must test their running capabilities. For instance, the bus carrying their belongings might be departing, so they have to run a mile a minute to reach the first Egyptian gate. Here, time does not matter, because for Egyptians, Palestinian time and dignity is worthless, regardless of their humanitarian conditions.
Crossing the checkpoint
As an Egyptian officer yells “remove your belt quickly, put your money and cell phone on the table and pass through the scanner,” you cannot help but remember a similar situation you must have had gone through on an Israeli checkpoint. Of course, when you packed your suitcases, you made sure not to forget anything, but maybe you didn’t know back then that you would need a pen at the Egyptian border, because officers here still adopt a manual registration system. Anyway, maybe the manual system is better than computers that might break down for no reason, meaning that many travelers would be rejected.
In any case, you better train your feet to stand for long hours, not due to the lack of chairs but because the places where travelers’ names are called are too far apart: the first one is at the intelligence room and the other is at the departure window. Of course, microphones are a waste of time, because what’s better than an officer’s loud voice to show you that he means business?
As you go between the two locations, make sure to keep an eye on your baggage because theft is an issue here. Meanwhile, listen carefully to the officers until you hear your name, but pay attention, Egyptians tend to call out names in their own accent.
Usually, people waiting at the checkpoint hesitate to confirm their ticket reservations or to buy Egyptian SIM cards because they don’t know their destination yet. Will they be deported? Returned home? Given access? Many travelers hugged their families and said their goodbyes at the crossing, but were later rejected by the intelligence services, a fear everyone shares.
As if that’s not enough, the Egyptian government blocks the Palestinian cell phone network coverage inside the hall, making people even more anxious. And as you nervously listen to names being called, you lose track of time since there are no clocks on the wall.
It is been seven long hours, hearts are beating fast, people are worried. They are waiting for the final verdict if they can cross. Finally some news comes in: only six buses were allowed to enter then the crossing will close.
You hear some travelers mentioning Palestinian officers belonging to Hamas working at the Egyptian side, so you try to observe well. You see an elegant man in civilian clothes talking with a Gazan accent, yes, that’s him, that’s the officer.
“Are you Abu Hassan? Abu Ibrahim ? Abu Oussama? Are you a Palestinian?” “Yes” he answers in a soft tone. The officer is then asked about passports and following some negotiations with Egyptian officers, he comes back to assure travelers that their names are on the deportation list.
As Palestinians patiently share their stories and get to know each other, they discuss the reasons pushing them to travel or to immigrate, and of course they pray for the situation to get better soon.
It’s now the turn of the deportees, “You, why are you going to Beirut? To study? Are there any universities there? Ah yes, go sit down.” You stand a little, waiting for him to ask you “why don’t you sit down?” “Thank you,” you answer. He remains silent. Maybe it’s confusing for an officer so used to being mean to Palestinians to hear the word “thank you.”

A bus provided by the Palestinian embassy, and paid for by its citizens, is now ready to depart with the cheering passengers on board. However, it is stopped by an Egyptian army checkpoint. After 30 minutes of negotiations, the officer insists on not allowing the bus to pass by due to a curfew in Sinai, while the Palestinian side stresses on proceeding and to take full responsibility of its own welfare. Then, gunfire erupts and the bus is compelled to return carrying its passengers and their disappointment. However, the gate doesn’t open because the crossing authorities already stamped the passports so there is no way to return except after receiving permission from the intelligence services.

“They held me at the border,” said a young man on a bus carrying terrified women and children. Fortunately, it seems that the gun battle accelerated the coordination process by allowing the bus to return. Now, people on board have to spend a terrifying, cold night at the waiting hall with no water or food available, in a place that lacks cell phone coverage, sleeping quarters and even restrooms.
The next morning seemed so far away, but all of a sudden, the officers’ table was transformed into a canteen, selling water and food at five times the market price. Indeed, these officers know quite well how to play this game, acting serious in the morning and in the evening they get ready to make a living. They hold the upper hand because they hold the passports and the “return” stamps.
Soon after, they bring in some heaters and then they start asking travelers questions like what they think about General al-Sisi, about Hamas, about Egyptians before opening the officers’ restroom to allow stranded Palestinians to use it, in exchange for money of course.
The rising sun ends a long and cold sleepless night. Travelers arrive to the airport in the afternoon, and are held in deportation rooms until it’s time for their flights. And in case you need to leave quickly, don’t forget to tip the officer.
After getting through
It is nice to get your passport back after it’s been with an Egyptian officer for two whole days. When you receive the exit stamp, you board the plane and the mission of the Egyptian officer and the Palestinian coordinator are over. Neither of them are now interested in delaying you any longer, actually they cannot wait to get rid of you.
Arriving to Beirut airport, you notice employees slightly smiling despite the gloomy situation in Lebanon. Their smiles remind you that you, too, were once a traveler who flew coach for an hour.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Hamas in Severe Economic Crisis – With Political Solution

Um Bushra, an 80-year-old Palestinian woman, repairs clothes on her sewing machine in her home in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City on 25 September 2013. (Photo: AFP – Mohammed Abed)
Published Thursday, September 26, 2013
It appears that the “Arab Spring” uprisings have left Hamas in a bind. Hamas now faces a sharp political and economic predicament and is currently engaged in efforts to end its isolation, possibly by returning once more to either the Iranian or Egyptian bosom. Gaza – Since the blockade first came into effect seven years ago, the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip succeeded repeatedly in overcoming its economic crises. However, the Palestinian Islamist movement, whose budget heavily depended on Iranian and Syrian support – and then the Muslim Brotherhood – has all but lost its erstwhile allies.When Hamas endorsed the armed opposition in Syria, Iran suspended aid to the Islamist group. Then, when the Egyptian army toppled president Mohamed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood-led administration in Egypt, Hamas’ problems deepened, with 90 percent of tunnels destroyed and the blockade on Gaza tightened. But despite its weakness and despair, Hamas has refused to surrender to its fate. Ziad al-Zaza, Hamas’ deputy prime minister, said, “Hamas has faced many crises since the beginning of the blockade on the Strip, but was able to overcome them. I am confident we will be able to overcome the current crisis as well.” According to the Ministry of Finance in Gaza, Hamas has to pay up to $37 million each month in salaries for more than 50,000 civil servants and security officers. Monthly revenues from the tunnels had previously accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Hamas government’s budget, shortly before Mursi’s ouster. Palestinian analysts believe that time alone is not enough to resolve the crisis and that Hamas must look for alternative allies before the situation gets worse. Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Adnan Abu Amer, political analyst, said, “Hamas does not live alone in the Strip, and is now in a real crisis. For this reason, it must mend its relations with Iran.” However, political analyst Talal Okal, who also spoke to Al-Akhbar, believes that Hamas must reassess its relationship with Egypt first and foremost. The relationship was damaged on account of Hamas’ support for Mursi, he said, and as a result, Egypt has stepped up restrictions on Hamas. Okal then reckoned that the time was too late for Hamas to search for comfortable solutions. Political analyst Akram Atallah agrees with Okal. Atallah told Al-Akhbar that Hamas must completely refrain from any escalation against Egypt, including in the media. Atallah said that the last thing Hamas needs is a new confrontation with the Egyptian army, the only party that controls Gaza’s – and Hamas’ – lifeline by virtue of its geographical location. Atallah said, “No sane person believes that the people of Gaza would look for animosity with Egypt, their only connection to the outside world.” Recently, and for the first time since the start of the blockade, Israel agreed to let around 70 truckloads of construction materials daily into the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing. However, this is not nearly enough to offset the losses from the closed tunnels. According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, there is a large shortage in building materials, pushing prices up and overall construction activity down. The Ministry of Economy in Gaza estimates the Strip’s daily building material needs at about 6,000 tons of gravel; 4,000 tons of cement; and 1,500 tons of corrugated iron. Abu Naji al-Shaer, owner of a tunnel dedicated to hauling building materials, could not conceal his anger against the ruling government in Gaza. He said, “At all times, Egypt and Israel would threaten to destroy the tunnels, but only a small part of the tunnel network would end up being affected. Now thanks to Hamas, my children’s livelihood and mine has been destroyed because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas’ meddling in Egyptian affairs.”Now that we lost the tunnels, let’s see how Hamas will solve the problem,” he added. How will Hamas do that? This is a question that many in Gaza are asking. After all, Hamas is not just an Islamist group with a military wing resisting the occupation – it is also a government controlling an area inhabited by 1.8 million people who depend on Hamas for their welfare.

Egypt destroyed 80 percent of Gaza smuggling tunnels: UN

A picture taken on 7 July 2013 shows tents covering entrances to smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, near the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah. (Photo: AFP – Said Khatib)
Published Wednesday, July 24, 2013
About 80 percent of tunnels used to smuggle goods and arms into the Gaza Strip from Egypt are “no longer functioning” due to a crackdown by the Egyptian military after it ousted President Mohammed Mursi this month, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.U.N. Middle East peace envoy Robert Serry told the U.N. Security Council that the Gaza Strip was experiencing “some serious shortages of fuel and basic building materials for which the tunnels had become the primary entry point due to severe restrictions on imports via the official crossings and the higher cost of fuel available from the West Bank and Israel.”

Cairo moved to close the tunnels after militants in the Egyptian Sinai desert killed 16 of its soldiers a year ago. Egypt said some of the gunmen had slipped into Sinai from nearby Gaza, an accusation denied by the Islamist Hamas authorities.

The tunnel crackdown has gathered pace since the Egyptian military removed Mursi from power earlier this month. Mursi’s short-lived rule had already disappointed Hamas, since despite their shared ideology he appeared to be in no rush to open the Gaza border.

“As a result of these actions against illegal activity, according to some estimates, 80 percent of the tunnels are no longer functioning,” Serry said.

Hamas, which taxes much of the traffic through the underground passages, has been hit hard by the losses. Ordinary Palestinians, many of them dependent on U.N. aid handouts, have seen prices for staple goods skyrocket.

“While the only Israeli crossing for goods … has remained open and is handling increased quantities of consumers’ goods, we are concerned that already difficult economic and humanitarian conditions in Gaza will further deteriorate, if access into Gaza through legal crossings of basic commodities like building materials is not liberalized,” Serry said.

The aim for Egypt is to destroy the majority of the tunnels, but leave 50 that will be under the supervision of Hamas and only permit the passage of foodstuff and construction supplies.
Egyptian authorities have flooded the tunnels with waste water as part of the crackdown.

An Egyptian source early this year had told Al-Akhbar that the Egyptian-mediated agreements between Hamas and Israel following the November 2012 war on Gaza dictated the destruction of most tunnels.

Israel still maintains strict control of all imports into Gaza to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which refuses to recognize the Jewish state and has often clashed with it. Under international accords, merchandise cannot be imported via Egypt.

Ala al-Rafati, the Hamas economy minister, said on Sunday that tunnel closures since June had cost Gaza around $230 million – around one-tenth of the gross domestic product of the territory, where the unemployment rate among its 1.7 million resid
ents is more than 30 percent.
(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

What is the future of Hamas after Morsi dislocation? ما هو مستقبل حماس بعد عزل مرسي ؟

ما هو مستقبل حماس بعد عزل مرسي ؟

د.نسيب حطيط

الأربعاء‏، 17‏ تموز‏، 2013
اعتقدت قيادة “حماس” أن العصر الذهبي للحركة قد بدأ مع استلام “الإخوان” للحكم في مصر وتونس، وتقدّمهم في سورية وليبيا، فسارعت إلى إعلان انفصالها عن المحور الثلاثي للمقاومة (سورية وإيران وحزب الله)، وغادرت دمشق للإقامة في قطر، بجوار قاعدة “العيديد” الأميركية والسفارة “الإسرائيلية” في الدوحة!
تصرّفت “حماس” بتسرّع وانفعالية بناءً على حسابات خاطئة ومعلومات نقلتها قيادة “الإخوان” عن اتفاق أميركي – إخواني بضمانة قطرية – تركية، يوحي بأن العصر السياسي للعالم العربي هو عصر “الإخوان” والعداء لإيران وسقوط سورية وحصار حزب الله في لبنان، وعصر معاهدات السلام والعرب والمتحالفين مع “إسرائيل”..
غرقت “حماس” في سكرة الأحلام والأمنيات، وتركت خنادقها وتوجهت نحو فنادقها.. خلعت بدلاتها المرقطة وارتدت بدلاتها الرسمية، وأخذت تتصرف كدولة “عظمى” بإصدار البيانات والمواقف من النظام السوري وحزب الله وإيران، وحتى من روسيا، فارتكبت خطيئة استعجال النتائج والخطط الأميركية، بانية مواقفها على هذا الأساس، مُحرقة كل مراكبها، ومتنكّرة لمن حضنها ودرّبها وموّلها وهرّب إليها السلاح!
بعد سقوط “الإخوان” في مصر وتداعياته على الساحات العربية الأخرى، بما ينذر بسقوط المشروع السياسي لـ”الإخوان”، مترافقاً مع عرقلة المشروع الأميركي وفشله، باتت “حماس” تعيش لحظة مفصلية مأزومة، ومأزقاً سياسياً كبيراً ينذر بعواقب سيئة على مستقبل الحركة والقضية الفلسطينية، خصوصاً أن “الحركة” خسرت من أصدقائها وأكثرت من أعدائها وخصومها، ومن ربحتهم تم عزلهم وسقطوا مع المشروع الأميركي والعربي على أعتاب محور المقاومة،
تصرّفت “حماس” بتسرّع وانفعالية بناءً على حسابات خاطئة ومعلومات نقلتها قيادة “الإخوان” عن اتفاق أميركي – إخواني بضمانة قطرية – تركية، يوحي بأن العصر السياسي للعالم العربي هو عصر “الإخوان” والعداء لإيران وسقوط سورية وحصار حزب الله في لبنان، وعصر معاهدات السلام والعرب “إسرائيل”..
غرقت “حماس” في سكرة الأحلام والأمنيات، وتركت خنادقها وتوجهت نحو فنادقها..
خلعت بدلاتها المرقطة وارتدت بدلاتها الرسمية، وأخذت تتصرف كدولة “عظمى” بإصدار البيانات والمواقف من النظام السوري وحزب الله وإيران، وحتى من روسيا، فارتكبت خطيئة استعجال النتائج والخطط الأميركية، بانية مواقفها على هذا الأساس، مُحرقة كل مراكبها، ومتنكّرة لمن حضنها ودرّبها وموّلها وهرّب إليها السلاح!
بعد سقوط “الإخوان” في مصر وتداعياته على الساحات العربية الأخرى، بما ينذر بسقوط المشروع السياسي لـ”الإخوان”، مترافقاً مع عرقلة المشروع الأميركي وفشله، باتت “حماس” تعيش لحظة مفصلية مأزومة، ومأزقاً سياسياً كبيراً ينذر بعواقب سيئة على مستقبل الحركة والقضية الفلسطينية، خصوصاً أن “الحركة” خسرت من أصدقائها وأكثرت من أعدائها وخصومها، ومن ربحتهم تم عزلهم وسقطوا مع المشروع الأميركي والعربي على أعتاب محور المقاومة، ومن ذلك:
– لم تربح “حماس” الراعي الذهبي لها الممثَّل بالثنائي القطري حمد بن خليفة وحمد بن جاسم، اللذين تم عزلهما بشكل سريع وغير لائق.
– خسرت الشعب المصري بأطيافه المعارضة لانحيازها إلى “الإخوان”، وخسرت الجيش المصري والشرطة، وبادلتهم بـ”الإخوان” والشيخ القرضاوي، الذي لم يهنأ بزيارة غزة، بل ربما كان فأل شؤم عليه عندما قلّم أظافره الرئيس إسماعيل هنية، فتم تقليم أظافره سياسياً ودينياً، بعد أن أُخرج من قطر، فحاصره الأزهر الشريف والشعب المصري.
– لم ينفع “حماس” الثنائي التركي أردوغان – أوغلو، اللذان يهيمان على وجهيهما في ساحات “تقسيم” والساحات التركية الأخرى بحجة قطع شجرتين {ولا تقربا هذه الشجرة..}، وانكشفت سوءاتهما وخداعهما حول الديمقراطية المزيفة، وتراجعا خلف الأسوار التركية، علهما ينجوان من السقوط، وازدادا رعباً بعد سقوط حليفهما الرئيس مرسي.
خسرت “حماس” حلفاءها الصادقين والميدانيين في سورية ولبنان وإيران وروسيا، وتنازلت عن مستودع السلاح، الذي “ليست بحاجة إليه بعد الآن في فلسطين”، وفق ما صرح به أحد قيادييها عبد العزيز الدويك، الذي قال إن “أولوية إسقاط الرئيس الأسد تتجاوز قضية الجهاد في فلسطين”، ما يعبّر عن إعاقة سياسية وضلال جهادي لم يسبقه إليه أحد،
ومع الأسف لم تستنكر قيادة “حماس”.. فهل هذا يعبّر عن نهج حمساوي جديد؟
نداؤنا إلى الإخوة في “حماس”، الذين لم تسرقهم الفضائيات، والذين يعيشون تحت الحصار والجوع.. نناشدكم أن تعودوا إلى أحضان بنادقكم وتفرّوا من أحضان قطر وتركيا، وأحضان الأحزاب والحركات التي تلتزم باتفاقية كامب ديفيد، والتي تعتبر شيمون بيريز صديقها العزيز والعظيم، ففلسطين لا تحررها الأنظمة المتحالفة مع أميركا، ولا مفكّر مزيّف ومخادع تخرّج من الكنيست “الإسرائيلي”، ولا شيخ موظف عند الأمير، ولا تركي يتحالف “استراتيجياً” مع “إسرائيل”.
حركة “حماس” أمام مفترق تاريخي وفق الخيارات الآتية :
– أن تمعن قياداتها بقراراتها الخاطئة وتنحاز إلى محور الاستسلام العربي لإنهاء القضية الفلسطينية على أعتاب سلطة حكم ذاتي فارغة المضمون والدور.
– العودة إلى خنادقها وحلفائها في محور المقاومة لإكمال المسيرة حتى تحرير فلسطين.
– الانقسام والتشظّي تنظيمياً عبر الانشقاقات بين “حماس” المغتربة في الخارج و”حماس” الجهادية في الداخل والخارج.
مصلحة “حماس” والفلسطينيين الانسحاب من الساحات العربية، وعدم تكرار تجربة تأييد العراق لغزو الكويت، والتي دفع الفلسطينيون ثمنها، وكذلك في لبنان والأردن، والآن تكرر “حماس” تجربة دعم “الإخوان” في مواجهة الشعب المصري، وتواجه السعودية ودول الخليج، التي ستمنع العمالة الفلسطينية بعد تورطهم في سورية ومصر، وخوف الخليجيين من الدور الفلسطيني مستقبلاً.
ماذا لو أمر الأميركيون القيادة القطرية الجديدة بوقف الدعم المالي عن “حماس”؟
ماذا لو ثبت تورّط “حماس” في مصر على المستوى الأمني، خصوصاً في سيناء، وضد الجيش المصري، بعدما تحوّل الرأي العام المصري إلى حاقد وخصم مع “حماس”، وبالتالي مع غزة؟
ماذا لو هُدمت الأنفاق وتشدد المصريون على معبر رفح وعلى إقامة الفلسطينيين في مصر؟ فماذا ستفعل “حماس”؟
حركة “حماس” على أبواب “نكسة” جديدة، فإما أن تضحي بقيادتها التي أخطأت، أو تضيع دماء الشهداء والقضية الفلسطينية، فالأشخاص ليسوا أكبر من القضية، بل في خدمتها، فلتسارع قيادة “حماس” في الخارج للاستقالة أو الاعتزال قبل طردها ومحاكمتها من المقاومين في خنادق غزة.
ويبقى السؤال: أي بلد سيستضيف “حماس” بعد الآن؟ ومن سيأمّن للتحالف مع أي فصيل فلسطيني؟
الثبات

Najah Wakim : Arab scene – Egypt, Syria, Lebanon

المشهد العربي | نجاح واكيم 8-7-2013

The Struggle for Egypt

Mubarakism Without Mubarak

The Struggle for Egypt

Ever since Muhammad Mursi was elected president of Egypt in democratic elections marred by his Mubarakist opponent Ahmad Shafiq’s electoral corruption and bribes, a coalition of Egyptian liberals, Nasserists, leftists — including socialists and communists of varying stripes –and even Salafist and repentant Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members began to form slowly but steadily, establishing an alliance with Mubarak’s ruling bourgeoisie and holdover politicians from his regime to oust him from power, fearing that he and his party were preparing a “Nazi-like” takeover of the country and destroying its fledgling democracy.The scenario they fear is the one that brought the Nazis to establish a totalitarian state in 1933. In July 1932, in the German Reichstag (parliamentary) elections, the Nazi party received over 37 percent of the vote, becoming the largest party in parliament. On 30 January 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler Reich Chancellor, wherein Hitler headed a cabinet with a minority of Nazi ministers.  A month later, on 27 February 1933, arsonists burned down the Reichstag building in Berlin. Hitler blamed the communists and accused them of a plot to overthrow the democratically elected parliament and asked the President of the Weimar Republic to grant him emergency powers to suspend civil liberties so that he could chase the communists, imprison them, dissolve political parties and close down the press. This came to be known as the Reichstag Fire Decree. On March 23, the Reichstag conferred on Hitler dictatorial powers, establishing the Nazi totalitarian regime and state.

The anti-Mursi alliance, which began to form in earnest in August 2012, started out bashfully but would become proud and assertive by November 2012, after Mursi’s infamous Constitutional Decree, which centralized political power in the hands of the President. With the aid of Mubarak’s judges, the Mubarakist bourgeoisie and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which had ruled Egypt for a year and four months after Mubarak’s ouster, had already dissolved the post-uprising democratically-elected parliament, which was composed of a majority of Islamists, on technical grounds, before Mursi’s election. They did so to the cheers of liberals and leftists who claimed that they were the real leaders of the 25 January uprising that overthrew Mubarak and who feared the elected Islamists whom they depicted not as part of the uprising but as encroachers on their “revolution.” A few days before the elections, the military also issued a constitutional decree constricting the powers of the elected president and concentrating it in the hands of the military.

The liberals’ and the leftists’ fear was that the MB was Egypt’s Nazi party –they pretend to be democrats until they get elected and then they will refuse to leave power and will eliminate the democratic process and establish an Islamist dictatorship. That the Mubarak-appointed judges were the ones who dissolved the democratically elected parliament seemed not to bother the liberals and the leftists much, but they were horrified when Mursi issued his Constitutional Decree, which aimed to take away the power of Mubarak’s judges whom he had tried to depose unsuccessfully. Indeed the Constitutional Decree was seen as a sort of Reichstag Fire Decree, which it could very well have been. Mursi would soon reverse himself and would cancel the Decree in response to popular uproar. He would more recently express regret for having issued it.

Mursi’s Record

The Mursi government seemed surprisingly pliant and friendly to Western interests, including towards Israel, whose president Shimon Peres was addressed by Mursi as “my dear friend” in an official presidential letter. Contrary to expectations of a burgeoning friendship with Hamas, under Mursi’s government, the Gaza border in Rafah was closed more times than under Mubarak, security coordination with Israel became more intimate than under Mubarak, and to make matters worse, Mursi, with the Egyptian army and the help of the Americans, destroyed the majority of the underground tunnels between Gaza and Sinai which the Palestinians had dug out to smuggle in food and goods during their interminable siege since 2005 and which Mubarak had not dared demolish. Mursi even went further by mediating between Israel and Hamas during the latest Israeli attack on Gaza, vouching that he would guarantee that Hamas would not launch rockets against Israel but not the other way around. It is true that Mursi refused to meet with Israeli leaders but even Mubarak had refused to visit Israel for years before his ouster and had recalled his ambassador in protest against Israeli policies. One of Mursi’s more major acts before his recent ouster was not the closure of the Israeli embassy, as friends and enemies of the Islamists threatened he would do, but closed down instead the Syrian embassy in support of the ongoing rightwing Islamist insurrection in that country.

While in power, Mursi and his government continued Mubarak’s policies of contracting the public sector and social spending in a continuing war against the poor and downtrodden of Egypt, who are the majority of the population, and pushed forth neoliberal economic policies that favored the rich and powerful, including an IMF deal (which was never finalized for no fault of Mursi’s), which would increase the already existing austerity measures against the poor. Indeed, he did nothing to change the existing labor and tax laws that favor the rich and oppress workers, middle class employees, and the poor. Mursi neither prosecuted army generals for crimes of which they stood accused (he rather bestowed on them major state honors and awards and made those whom he retired into advisors to the President), nor tried the Mubarakist thieving bourgeoisie in the courts for its pillage of the country for three and a half decades, let alone the security apparatus that continued to repress Egyptians under his rule.

On the contrary, as a president who came out of the rightist and neoliberal wing of the MB (compared to the more centrist ‘Abd al-Mun’im Abu al-Futuh who also ran for the presidency and lost), he was interested in an alliance between the Islamist neoliberal bourgeoisie, whose most visible member is Khayrat al-Shatir (who was barred from running for the presidency by the Mubarakist courts), and the Mubarakist bourgeoisie. Unlike al-Shatir who is the son of a rich merchant and who made his own fortune in Egypt, many among the Islamist rich, though not all, made their money in the Gulf. They were mostly kept out of a share in the pillaging of Egypt, restricted to the close businessmen friends of Mubarak, now wanted a place at the table to partake of the ongoing pillage of the country. While Mursi won the favor of the military with the US vouching for his good behavior, at least until last week, hard as he tried to convince the Mubarakist bourgeoisie to allow the Islamists to partake of pillaging Egypt, the Mubarakist bourgeoisie would not budge.

The Response of the Mubarakists

The Mubarakist bourgeoisie’s response was that Egypt was theirs to pillage alone (though they have always been happy to include the Americans, the Saudis, the Emiratis, and of course the Israelis) and that they would not allow some Islamist upstarts to move in on their territory. Having shunned Egypt’s poor, its peasants and workers, its low income middle classes, while courting the rank and file of the MB, the Islamist and Mubarakist bourgeoisies, and the military, Mursi had no one but the MB to fall back on when the army abandoned him and the Mubarakists and the coalition plotting with them intensified their attacks on him.

Mubarak’s bourgeoisie set their media empires loose on Mursi and the MB. Week after week, hour after hour, on television, in the press, on social media, especially Facebook but also twitter, a campaign of vilification, exaggerations, and outright lies would ensue. Television anchors would go as far as calling for the violent overthrow of Mursi. Members of the opposition, like millionaire engineer Mamdouh Hamzah, openly called on the army to stage a coup.

Campaigns, which were also supported by the Saudis and the Emiratis, would target Qatar, the sponsor of the MB around the Arab world, as a financial monster trying to buy out everything in Egypt, including allegedly the Suez Canal and the pyramids! The comedian Bassem Youssef (very popular among the Cairo and Alexandria bourgeoisie and middle classes but virtually unknown to the majority of poor and lower class Egyptians in the cities and the countryside who cannot understand the majority of his Western and upper middle class references) went after Qatar with a clever parody of a late 1950s Arab nationalist song which designated Qatar rather than “the Arab homeland” as its object of adulation, on account of the latter’s increasing financial investments in Egypt (both real and imagined). That the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Americans are larger financial monsters and have investments and property in the country that far exceed what the voracious Qataris had been rumored to acquire did not merit any of them a parody song like the Qataris. The irony is that while the Qataris have been the sponsors and engineers of MB takeovers across Arab countries which experienced uprisings, including Egypt, or were sometimes made to experience them by the Qataris, as in Libya and even in Syria, the Saudis and the Emiratis have been the active sponsors of the counterrevolutions and of the anciens regimes.

In the meantime, the media and the pundits kept speaking about Mursi as the new “Hitler” and the MB as the “Nazi Party.” The highly westernized Bassem Youssef even unfurled the Nazi flag to his audience in one episode as a reference to the MB flag, thinking that the Nazi flag would be so familiar to most Egyptians that it would produce gasps of horror. Judging from the reaction of his choreographed studio audience, which reacted nonchalantly to the flag, which is not recognizable to most Egyptians (who are, unlike their western counterparts, not avid consumers of Hollywood films about WWII) outside political and intellectual circles, the impact seemed limited. But the Nazi and Hitler analogies would be made also by academics in their op-ed columns, time and again. Indeed, the recently appointed minister of culture was even likened to Goebbels by one columnist, which is not a problem unto itself, but what about the endless and repetitious barrage of propaganda and lies by the anti-Mursi media conglomerates? Does it deserve a comparison with Goebbels?

We should bear in mind that the Nazi accusations have been often used in world politics to justify all kinds of actions. In fact, Mursi is not the first Egyptian president accused of being a Hitler. In 1954, and in light of the Lavon Affair, Israel dubbed Nasser “Hitler on the Nile” for prosecuting Israel’s terrorist spies. The French and the British followed suit during their preparation for the 1956 invasion of Egypt

claiming that they were fighting a fascist Nasser and that their anti-fascism trumps his anti-imperialism.  Western liberals who supported the US invasion of the Arabian Peninsula in 1991 and Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam also argued that their anti-fascism trumps the anti-imperialism of opponents of the invasion. Husni Mubarak, in contrast, who served as tyrant for three decades was never called Hitler by the opposition press. Ironically, the only Egyptian president who ever flirted with Nazism was none other than Anwar Sadat who had been a pro-Nazi enthusiast in his youth.

In the case of Mursi, the media campaign against him and the MB, most prominently on CBC and ONTV satellite channels (both owned by members of the Mubarakist bourgeoisie), far outstripped anything that the CIA-financed El Mercurio could do in its anti-Salvador Allende campaign before the CIA-sponsored coup toppled him in 1973 Chile– which is not to say that Mursi is an Allende but rather that many of his powerful enemies are not unlike Allende’s (after all, middle class women carrying pots and pans, members of the truckers’ union, among other sectors, would march and strike against Allende’s rule).

Rumors had it also that the anti-Palestinian and increasingly anti-Hamas Mursi government was giving the poor and besieged Gaza Palestinians electricity (which it was not) that it was allegedly stealing from the Egyptian people and causing massive shortages in Cairo and around the country. Other rumors had it that Mursi was ceding the Sinai to Hamas and the Palestinians. More rumors would have it that Hamas elements were being brought in to harass Egyptian liberals and leftists who opposed Mursi’ policies. Just a week before his ouster, we were told without a shred of evidence that Mursi had imported 1500 Hamas elements to attack the anti-Mursi demonstrators set to stage their massive rallies on 30 June demanding that Mursi step down. The media-whipped hysteria gripping the country was of such magnitude that even usually levelheaded liberal and leftist academics abandoned their critical faculties altogether and immersed themselves exclusively in the world of Facebook rumors and yellow journalism, which became their primary source of information and education.

The Confrontation

The Mursi government was clearly adamant in its plans to push ahead, with blunders and all (and its stupid blunders let alone its neoliberal policies and its utter incompetence in running the country are sufficient on their own to discredit it), including its courting members of the MB and other Islamists for key positions in the government, in constitutional committees, and in the bureaucracy. It is true that Mursi invited many in the opposition throughout his year in power to join committees, the cabinet, the bureaucracy, and even his team of advisors (and some accepted for a while), but most of them rejected these offers, fearing, legitimately in many cases, that they would be used as fronts for what they expected would be a program of “Ikhwanization” (the MB in Arabic are truncated to “Ikhwan”) of the state, which has been astronomically exaggerated by the Mubarakist media. Others resigned advisory positions they had accepted because Mursi refused to heed their advice, something, according to reported MB sources, he also did with MB advisors.

But the incompetence of the MB presidency was not the only reason the country deteriorated in the last year. Everywhere Mursi turned, the Mubarakists put obstacles in his way. The government bureaucracy refused to cooperate with him, the judges fought him every step of the way, and the police refused to redeploy in the streets. The Mubarakist bourgeoisie, as is increasingly being revealed in the international press, fabricated an energy crisis causing massive shortages in fuel and electricity, which miraculously disappeared upon Mursi’s removal from power.

This set the scene for the massive mobilization that a new “movement” calling itself “Tamarrud” (which actually means “Mutiny” and in some contexts “Rebellion,” but not “Rebel” as its founders, supporters, and the western media erroneously translate it), which called for the demonstrations on June 30, the first year anniversary of Mursi’s assuming the presidency. The entire spectrum of the coalition, which had formed and consolidated itself since Mursi’s election, including the National Salvation Front, which was hastily put together following the issuance of Mursi’s Constitutional Decree, joined in demanding that Mursi leave office. They would be successful in mobilizing millions in the streets culminating in the 30 June demonstrations.

A deal was brokered with the army (and the Americans), by which the army declared a coup, ousted Mursi, and began a witch hunt, in which it is joined by enthusiastic members of the public eager for the chase, against the MB. MB office buildings were burned down around the country by the “peaceful” demonstrators, including its headquarters in Cairo. The coup was not called a coup, and members of the popular coalition that support it consider anyone who calls it a coup “an enemy of the Egyptian people,” as many have been posting on twitter and Facebook. While Islamist and MB television stations were closed down minutes after the coup was announced, Mursi was abducted by the military and placed under arrest in an undeclared military location, and top members of the MB were arrested or have become fugitives. Top member of the National Salvation Front and charisma-less Mohammed El-Baradei has defended the military repression unhesitatingly to Western leaders and politicians and is awaiting his appointment in the post-coup government in recognition of his efforts to sell the coup as a democratic revolution or even as a “recall election.”

One of the first acts of the coup leaders was to shut down indefinitely the Gaza border crossing, effectively strangling the Strip and its Palestinian population. They have also immediately resumed demolishing whatever underground tunnels have escaped destruction since the last campaign. Xenophobia in the country against Palestinians, and increasingly Syrians and Iraqis is taking on Fascist proportions. The coup leaders issued an announcement threatening members of these nationalities resident in the country with legal prosecution if they joined any of the demonstrations.

The current popular festive scene in Cairo is ironically reminiscent of triumphalist fascist festivities in the Europe of the 1930s rather than of democratic ones. But it is not the MB who declared the coup, as we have been prepared to expect for a whole year, nor was it they who put the opposition in jail and closed down their TV stations, burned down their headquarters, and are chasing them in the streets and calling on people to hand them over to the police and report on them.

Indeed, during the one-year rule of Mursi not one television station or newspaper was closed, even and especially as many of them would call for open rebellion and for the violent overthrow of the democratically elected government. True, some journalists were prosecuted for insulting the president (and no sitting president in Egypt or arguably in any other country has ever had to endure a small fraction of the daily if not hourly insults and ridicule Mursi endured during his tenure, let alone the type of media language used to humiliate him) by paying fines. Though he could not successfully interfere with the privately owned media, Mursi did take over all state-owned newspapers and replaced their editors, many of whom were Mubarakists, but a number of whom were elected editors, with his own appointments.

One feels the terror of the witch-hunt on the streets of Cairo, and the targets are not just card-carrying members of the MB. Pro-coup doormen of posh buildings in the upscale neighborhood of Zamalek, to take a small example, taunt and threaten other doormen who are accused of supporting the MB. The latter are staying indoors for fear of their lives after the coup was announced. What is happening in more divided middleclass and poor neighborhoods and in smaller cities and the countryside is far worse with fire exchanges, shootings and outright killings in which all sides are involved. The army itself shot and killed tens of pro-Mursi demonstrators who oppose the coup. As the fascist adulation for the army and police have been adopted popularly in full force, this could very well spell the beginning of a much-feared civil war and massive pogroms against those identified as “enemies” of Egypt and the Egyptian people.

The Liberals and The Leftists

How can one explain that liberals and leftists would support a coup against a democratic order for which they fought, would stage a “revolution” against “democracy,” in alliance with the Mubarakist bourgeoisie and with the very military they condemned so hard just a year earlier until it ceded power to an elected government? The military and the bourgeoisie and Mubarak’s judges have evidently not changed, but the liberals and the leftists have. Their rationale is one reminiscent of the futurist and dystopic Hollywood movie Minority Report wherein the authorities prosecute people for “pre-crimes” – i.e. crimes they would commit in the future if they were not caught before they committed them. They allege that the MB was going to stage an anti-democratic coup of sorts and begin to repress them, and for this future crime, which the MB and Mursi were expected to commit, the anti-Mursi coalition had to intervene and punish them now to prevent them from canceling democracy in the future!

But it is the liberals and the leftists who helped stage the coup, and who ended extant electoral democracy, and who are persecuting and prosecuting the MB for real and imagined crimes, not the other way around. That their coup was popular, they insist, means it is what the people want. But the people also wanted Fascism and they also wanted Nazism? How is this an argument for democracy, which they claim it is? They assert in response that workers and the poor joined in their marches. But workers and the poor also joined the Fascist and Nazi rallies. They are also part of MB rallies.
The leftists are claiming that their support for the coup and their alliance with the Mubarakist comprador bourgeoisie are actually anti-imperialist in nature and are railing against the Western media for its current “orientalist” coverage of their coup (as if the western media has ever been anything but orientalist in its coverage of our part of the world at all times), which they deem hostile, and for Obama’s possibly having to cut off military aid in keeping with US laws that prevent him from extending aid to coup leaders in the Third World (Carter and Reagan found a way around this in the 1970s and 1980s when they subcontracted Israel to aid America’s anti-democracy allies in Central and South America and in Apartheid South Africa, and Obama will find a way too). At any rate, US military aid to Egypt for 2013 was already disbursed and the 2014 aid is not scheduled for a Congressional vote until the fall. Not to worry though, top Israeli diplomats are lobbying the White House and the US Defense Department to continue military aid to Egypt.

Another legitimate argument that the liberals and leftists offer is that when they and others staged an uprising in January and February 2011 that led to the removal of Mubarak and the take-over by the army who ruled the country directly afterwards, few referred to what happened as a “coup” but called it a “revolution,” whereas now that there was another massive uprising and the army also intervened but without designating themselves as rulers, many are claiming this as a “coup.” This of course is correct though not accurate, as it sidesteps the central issue. In February 2011, the army refused to obey the orders of an unelected dictator by not shooting at civilians, thus helping to topple him, while in July 2013, they overthrew a president that more than half the Egyptian electorate voted for in democratic elections.

The coup-supporting liberals and leftists are mad at the Americans and crying imperialism for the alleged failure of the Americans to support their revolt against democracy unequivocally, oblivious, it seems, to how much the Americans had actually helped in brokering the coup behind the scenes. Publicly, Obama has been attempting all kinds of verbal acrobatics to accommodate the liberals and leftists by not calling the coup a coup. Their misplaced anger at the Americans, however, is not necessarily anti-imperialist, but is rather elicited by a narcissistic injury that the United States (like the Egyptian Army) had allied itself, if temporarily, with the MB and not with them, even though the US (like the Egyptian Army) had clearly abandoned the MB and given the green light to the coup. Their fulminations are their way of courting the Americans back to their camp where the Americans already are. The Wall Street Journal has already expressed its hope and expectation that General Sisi will be Egypt’s Pinochet.  Some amongst the liberals are complaining that had the Republicans been in power, they would not have given this “soft” response to their coup that the Democrats have allegedly shown. But the Americans have not tarried at all in this regard!

The Americans are allies of all parties in Egypt and they are willing to let Egyptians choose who will rule them so that the US can then give them their marching orders as they did with Mubarak and the MB. All the Americans care about is that their interests are protected, and no member of the current anti- or pro-Mursi coalitions has dared threaten those interests. They are all vying to serve American interests if the Americans would only support them. In the last two and a half years, the Americans have been floundering trying to determine who among those competing to serve them in Egypt will be most successful in stabilizing the country so that the US can continue its dominance as before.

Nazis, Islamists, Liberals, and Leftists
For a year, we have been told that Mursi is Hitler, the MB are Nazis, and that they are consolidating their power so that they could later crack down on everyone else. Perhaps they were planning to do so, but no shred of real evidence has been produced to prove this. What happened, however, was the exact opposite; it was the coalition of liberals, Nasserists, leftists, Salafists and the Mubarak bourgeoisie who called for, and cheered and supported the coup by Mubarak’s army.  Unlike the MB who never controlled the army or the police, the latter two continue to be fully answerable to the Mubarakist bourgeoisie with which the liberals and leftists are allied.

Egyptians have been flooded with images that the “Islamofascists” were going to destroy the culture of Egypt and its identity with their intolerance, narrow-mindedness, lack of inclusivity, and anti-democratic policies. But it has been the liberals and the leftists, perhaps some would call them the “secularofacsists,” who proved to be less open, less tolerant, and certainly less democratic than the “Islamofacsists.” In the United States, the saying goes that “a conservative is a liberal who got mugged,” indicating in a proper American classist manner that the mugging of a well-to-do liberal by the poor turns the liberal against them, thus becoming a conservative. In the case of Egypt, one could easily say that “a secularofascist is a liberal democrat who lost to the Islamists in democratic elections.”

The army coup, which the leftists, among others, support, was not a coup by middle rank socially conscious anti-imperialist army officers who were supported by progressive anti-capitalist forces to overthrow imperial and local capitalist control of the country and the dictator that runs it (when the Free Officers staged their coup in 1952, within a few weeks they enacted laws that undercut the feudal lords of Egypt and redistributed the land to the poor peasants), but rather by top army generals who receive a hefty sum of US imperial assistance annually, and who have always been the protectors of Mubarak and his bourgeoisie. It is this army leadership that overthrew a democratically elected president, his incompetence and services to local and international capital notwithstanding.
Some of the leftists who are cheering on the coup seem to feel that their mobilization was successful because people are now educated and aware of their rights which the MB was undercutting. But the education that the members of the anti-Mursi coalition have been subjected to, including the workers and the poor who joined its rallies, is an education imparted to them by the Mubarakist bourgeoisie through their media empires. It has not been an education emphasizing the MB’s neoliberal anti-poor policies, stressing workers rights, peasant rights, the right to a minimum wage, etc. The Mubarakist media empire’s imparted education is an education that is not for the liberation of the poor, the workers, the peasants, and the lower middle classes of Egypt from capitalist and imperial pillage of their country and livelihoods but rather one for the liberation of the “secular” Mubarakist bourgeoisie and its partners from the competition of the neoliberal MB bourgeoisie and its Qatari sponsors.
That the King of Saudi Arabia and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, the sponsors with the Americans of the Mubarakist bourgeoisie, were the first to send their congratulations to the coup leaders, minutes after the coup took place, clarifies who, they believe, was liberated from whom. Within hours of the coup, the Mubarakist bourgeoisie also celebrated. On Thursday, the 4th of July, Egyptian singer Muhammad Fu’ad, who had cried on TV two and a half years ago to express his sadness and despair over the toppling of his beloved Mubarak, was invited to open the Cairo stock market, which has been gaining billions of pounds since the coup. If the Qataris and the MB bourgeoisie won the first battle against the Saudis with the fall of Mubarak and then the second battle when the MB was elected, the Saudis and the Mubarakist bourgeoisie intend their latest battle, which they won by the removal of the MB, to be the final victory in the war for Egypt.

The goals of the Egyptian uprising from the outset included social justice as primary. Both the Mubarakists and the MB have a unified policy against the social justice agenda of the uprising. But the anti-MB coup, which has driven and will drive many of their supporters to openly violent means now that peaceful ones have been thwarted, has transformed the uprising from one targeting the Mubarakist regime and its security and business apparatus to one that has joined Mubarak’s erstwhile war against the MB. If the goals of the liberals and the leftists are to bring about a real democracy with social security and decent standards of living for the majority of Egyptians who are poor, then the removal of the MB from power by military force will not only prevent

Whether the leftists’ and the liberals’ calculations, that their alliance with the Mubarakist bourgeoisie and the army is tactical and temporary and that they will be able to overcome them and take power away from them as they did with the MB, are a case of naïve triumphalism or of studied optimism will become clear in the near future. What is clear for now, however, with the massive increase of police and army repression with the participation of the public, is that what this coalition has done is strengthen the Mubarakists and the army and weakened calls for a future Egyptian democracy, real or just procedural.

Gripped by popular fascist love fests for the army, Egypt is now ruled by an army whose top leadership was appointed and served under Mubarak, and is presided over by a judge appointed by Mubarak, and is policed by the same police used by Mubarak. People are free to call it a coup or not, but what Egypt has now is Mubarakism without Mubarak.

Joseph Massad teaches Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University in New York. He is the author of The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians

بهدوء | لفلسطين … لا لحماس

الإثنين‏، 15‏ تموز‏، 2013

 أوقات الشام

ناهض حتر

منذ ربيع العام 2011، تورّطت «حماس»، حتى أذنيها، في الصراعات العربية والإقليمية والدولية، وتحولت، في النهاية، من حركة مقاومة فلسطينية، تحظى بتعاطف الأضداد، إلى طرف، بل، للدقة، إلى أداة سياسية في سياق مشروع غابت عنه فلسطين وقضيتها

.هل قاتلت حماس ضد حُماتها السوريين والمقاومين اللبنانيين؟ سؤال ما يزال من دون إجابة حاسمة، هي، في اعتقادي، غير مهمة؛ فالطعنة التي وجهتها حماس إلى محور المقاومة كله، بانقلابها السياسي على دمشق، كانت مبكرة وعلنية وواضحة و… مسمومة. وسمّها خطير، لأنه مذهبي.

ما يزال حزب الله ـــ نبيلا ومسؤولا ودؤوبا ـــ يسعى لتضميد الجرح، لكن هيهات الدواء؛ فالجرح غائر، والأذى الذي ألحقته حماس بخط المقاومة استراتيجي في آثاره المباشرة ومفاعيله المعنوية والثقافية والمجتمعية، بحيث تحتاج معالجته إلى ما هو أكثر من النبل والسُّترة، أي إلى المراجعة وتصحيح المسار.

راهنت حماس على سقوط نظام الرئيس بشار الأسد، القومي العلماني، لصالح نظام اسلامي يتربع الإخوان المسلمون على سدّته. وكان هذا الرهان، بالأساس، عبيطا؛ فأي نظام بديل، مهما كانت صفته، ما كان ليعطي «حماس»، ما أعطاه لها نظام البعث. وكان ذلك الرهان، في منطلقه واتجاهه، انتحاريا؛ فأي نظام بديل، ومهما كانت ايديولوجيته، ما كان لينشأ إلا في سياق التفاهم مع التحالف الأميركي الخليجي، أي في سياق السلام مع اسرائيل، وبالشروط الاسرائيلية.

لحسن حظ فلسطين، وما بقي من مقاومين في «حماس»، أن الأخيرة، خسرت رهانها العبيط الانتحاري ذاك، لكنها خسرت معه، لسوء الحظ، ثقة دمشق وتعاطف أغلبية السوريين الذين ما تزال صورة خالد مشعل ملتحفا بعلم الانتداب الفرنسي على سوريا، ماثلة في قلوبهم الجريحة، وما تزال كلماته المستخذية أمام المجرم الأول بحق سوريا وشعبها، «السلطان» رجب أردوغان، ترنّ في مسامعهم.حديث التيارات داخل «حماس»، مهم بالنسبة للمشتغلين في السياسة والبحث والإعلام، لكنه، بالنسبة للفضاء المجتمعي الثقافي، بلا قيمة؛ فالخطاب الحمساوي ظل معاديا لسوريا، يختزن من الحقد الدفين ما يدمي الأحضان السورية الدافئة التي أعطت بلا حدود لمن لا يعرف معنى الوفاء؛ فأي مكان وأي مستقبل لحماس في سوريا؟

ابتهج الحمساويون للصعود الإخواني في مصر. وهذا متوقع؛ فهؤلاء، بالأساس، «إخوان»، ثم أنهم يتوقعون من رئاسة إخوانية للشقيقة الكبرى ما يعوّضهم عن خسارة سوريا، خصوصا أن الإمارة الحمساوية تقع على حدود السلطة الاخوانية الجديدة.سأقصر السبب، وراء ذلك التوقع الخائب، على سذاجة الحمساويين، لئلا نقول أكثر؛ فهل كان منتظرا من رئاسة اخوانية، كان شرطها الدولي الاقليمي، الحفاظ على كامب ديفيد، أن تُحدث تغييرا في السياسات المصرية إزاء القضية الفلسطينية؟

ما حدث هو العكس تماما؛ فالسلطة الإخوانية في مصر، اضطرت حماس إلى الخضوع للمتطلبات الاسرائيلية في اتفاق دولي، ومنع المقاومة، وتحويل المقاومين إلى شرطة تتعقّب الفتيان الذين يسرّحون شعورهم على الموضة، وتراقب تحريم الاختلاط في المدارس الابتدائية.

بدلا من أن تستند «حماس» إلى السلطة الإخوانية في مشروعها الفلسطيني، انقلبت الآية، وتحولت إلى أداة للإخوان في مشروعهم المصري. وإذا كنا نتحفّظ على الكثير من الأفعال المنسوبة لـ «حماس» في نصرة هذا المشروع، فإن ما هو واضح تماما أن الحمساويين تورّطوا كليا في الصراع المصري ـــ المصري، بحيث أن ثورة 30 حزيران المضادة للإخوان المسلمين، أظهرت موجة واسعة من العداء لحماس، ما تزال دوائرها تتسع بالاتهامات من كل شكل ولون.
كم من شباب غزة وصباياها يحلمون اليوم بنسخة خاصة بهم وبهنّ، من ثورة 30 حزيران، للخلاص من الضغوط على خيارات الحياة الشخصية باسم الدين؟ وكم من القوى الاجتماعية والسياسية الغزيّة ترنو الى التحرر من الدكتاتورية الحمساوية الجاثمة على الأنفاس؟
وضعت حماس كل ما تملك من رصيد في سلّة قطر، متوهمةً أنها، بذلك، ستكون في قلب إدارة مشروع إقليمي، سرعان ما انحسر إلى عزلة متنامية تخنق الدوحة، خليجيا وعربيا. وسيكون على الحمساويين الآن أن يسددوا فواتير الصراع السعودي ـــ القَطري حتى آخر مليم.
الغزوة التكفيرية في سوريا تنهزم، والسلطان العثماني يصارع جثة أحلامه في تقسيم، ومرسي أمام النيابة، وحمد بن جاسم في معزل لندني، والتنظيم الدولي للإخوان المسلمين فرّ، ثانية، إلى بلجيكا، وفي أوراقه طلب انتساب «حماس»!
مَن بقي للحمساويين غير حزب الله؟ وسيسعى لإنقاذهم من أجل فلسطين والمقاومة، إلا أن نجاحه، هذه المرّة، ليس مضمونا؛ ذلك أنه ليس في بنية حماس الفكرية والسياسية، ما يدفعها لمراجعة جذرية.

الاخبار

أزمة كبيرة صامتة بين “حماس” والأمن العام اللبناني بعد ضبط كوادر من”حماس” بتزوير جوازات سفر لبنانية لإدخال إرهابيين!؟

 

PCHR Concerned for Deterioration of Humanitarian Conditions in the Gaza Strip

http://imemc.org/article/65791

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is deeply concerned for the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, especially in light of the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point, which has been the sole outlet for the movement of the population of the Gaza Strip to the outside world.

                   phcr.jpg

This situation reveals again the reality of the situation in the Gaza Strip under the policy of collective punishment and the closure of all border crossings by Israeli authorities for more than six years.
PCHR calls upon the Egyptian Government to reconsider the decision to close the crossing point in order to end the suffering of thousands of Palestinians who have been stuck in the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Cairo International Airport and other countries.
PCHR further calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to pressurize the Israeli authorities to reopen all border crossing, lift the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip and stop the policy of collective punishment they practice against the civilian population.
The current situation in the Gaza Strip brings to mind the hardest early years of the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip when Israel had closed all crossings of the Gaza Strip since June 2007, which had led to deterioration of living conditions of the civilian population.
That dire situation had continued for three successive years, and it was relatively eased by the Egyptian decision to open Rafah International Crossing Point in June 2010 to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, and to allow a limited number of people to move to and from the Gaza Strip.
This measure partially eased the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.
Additionally, entering basic needs into the Gaza Strip through tunnels established at the Palestinian-Egyptian border further eased the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip as Israeli authorities had banned the entry of goods.
Goods imported into the Gaza Strip through tunnels, especially foodstuffs, medicines, fuel, construction materials and cars, have spared the Gaza Strip the breakdown of all vital sectors.
In the latest development resulted from the internal Egyptian crisis and the deterioration of the security situation in North Sinai, the Egyptian authorities decided on 05 July 2013 to close Rafah International Crossing Point.
Before this closure, restrictions had been imposed on imports through tunnels. Such measures have proved that all Israeli claims concerning easing the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip are false.
According to PCHR’s observations, the Gaza Strip has suffered shortages in most basic goods, fuel and some construction materials. According to PCHR’s statistics, the goods allowed by Israel into the Gaza Strip do not meet the minimum of the Gaza Strip’s needs.
In June 2013, the Israeli authorities allowed 5,424 truckloads (181 truckloads daily) into the Gaza Strip. This number constitutes only 31.7% of the number of truckloads that had been allowed into the Gaza Strip daily before the closure was imposed, which was 570 truckloads daily.
PCHR has observed that most kinds of fuel have run out in the Gaza Strip. Cooking gas has run out in all gas stations in the Gaza Strip due to limited quantities allowed by the Israeli authorities into the Gaza Strip.
In June, 3,160 tons of cooking gas were allowed into the Gaza Strip (105.3 tons daily), which constitute 52.6% of the population’s actual daily needs, which is 200 tons.
It should be noted that cooking gas cylinders imported into the Gaza Strip through tunnels have partially met the population’s needs over the past years.
As a result of stopped supplies of diesel and benzene through tunnels, the quantities that were available in fuel stations have run out, so most fuel stations have been closed, excluding a few ones that have depended on fuel exported from Israel.
In June 2013, the Israeli authorities allowed 371,000 liters of diesel and 578,800 liters of benzene into the Gaza Strip.
These quantities are very limited in comparison with the Gaza Strip’s needs, which had amounted before the Israeli decision to reduce the quantities of fuel supplied to the Gaza Strip to about 350,000 liters of diesel and 120,000 liters of benzene daily.
Over the past two weeks, there has been a sharp increase in the prices of all construction materials, and some of them have disappeared from the markets as their supplies through tunnels have been stopped.
According to PCHR’s statistics, only 6,574 tons of cement and 504 tons of construction steel were entered into the Gaza, which constitute less than 0.8% and 0.9% respectively of the actual monthly needs.
Due to the continued ban imposed by Israel on imports of construction materials, the population of the Gaza Strip has depended for their construction projects over the past years on construction materials entered into the Gaza Strip from Egypt through tunnels.
As such supplies have been stopped, all construction projects, including housing ones, in the Gaza Strip are expected to be stopped.
As a result of the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point, which has been the sole outlet for the Gaza Strip to the outside world as Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing has been closed for more than six years, 1.7 million Palestinians have been denied their right to freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip.
According to PCHR’s observations, hundreds of Palestinians, including dozens of patients, Palestinian families living in other countries and university students who study abroad, have been stuck in Egypt waiting to be allowed to travel back to the Gaza Strip.
This human tragedy is doubled by the continuous detention of dozens of Palestinians by the Egyptian authorities at Cairo International Airport in the so-called “trander room” waiting for the Rafah International Crossing Point to be reopened in order to be transferred to the Gaza Strip.
These Palestinians are held under inhuman conditions and there are concerns that they may catch infections.
Additionally, hundreds of Palestinians in various countries around the world have been denied traveling to Egypt on their way to the Gaza Strip, including more than 900 ones who had traveled to Saudi Arabia for the Omra (the lesser pilgrimage).
In the Gaza Strip, thousands of Palestinians, including hundreds of patients who need advanced medical treatment that is not available in the Gaza Strip and persons who work in other countries, have not been able to travel abroad.
In light of these recent developments, which unequivocally prove that the Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip is still ongoing, PCHR:
• Calls upon the Egyptian Government to reopen Rafah International Crossing Point to end the suffering of thousands of Palestinians who have been stuck in the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Cairo International Airport and other countries.
• Calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, to remind Israel, as the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, of its obligation towards the civilian population under Article 55 of the Convention, which states: “To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate….”
• Calls upon the international community to pressurize the Israeli authorities to stop the policy of collective punishment against the population of the Gaza Strip and immediately open all border crossing to put an end to the serious deterioration of the humanitarian conditions of the civilian population.
• Calls upon the Israeli authorities to comply with the international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, including finding a prompt solution to ensure the freedom of movement of Palestinian civilians through Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing regularly and safely, and to establish a clear system ensuring the freedom of movement of the population of the Gaza Strip and safe passage and flow of the population’s needs through commercial crossings.

THE EGYPTIAN COUP AND THE PEOPLE OF THE GAZA STRIP

Source

As much as the Egyptian street generally sympathise with the plight of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, it seems the new Egyptian regime are falling over themselves to make themselves look good in the eyes of the US in order to ensure that the promised $1.5 billion of aid comes there way despite the coup. Unfortunately, one element of their approach to appeasing the US is by demonstrating that they are mindful of Israel’s concerns with regard to security about the Gaza Strip. And one way of showing they mean business is to close down the Gaza Strip’s supply line tunnels between the Strip and Egypt.

Yesterday the Egyptian army began bulldozing the tunnels. The immediate effect in the Gaza was panic buying and huge price hikes that most Palestinians can ill afford to pay. The cost of living was high enough as it was but now, if the supplies remain cut off for some time, life will steadily become even more unbearable.

Just to add to the turmoil, Fatah, the organisation that governs the West Bank under Abbas, is now calling on its supporters in the Gaza to rise up against Hamas. Hamas, one might recall, were rejected by the West after squarely and fairly winning the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The blame for all this turmoil – not just in Egypt but throughout the entire Middle East – can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of the US and Israel who has contrived to foment as much friction as they possibly can between secularists and Islamists in the Arab world, and between Sunni and Shia in the world of Islam. On the odd occasion that ‘democracy’ does give the people the opportunity to make their choices, it is the West that rejects those choices and then encourages turmoil that attempts to replace the people’s choices.

In the end it’s just ordinary people who are already struggling to survive that suffer most. The West must leave these people alone to make their own choices and, once the choices have been made, should not be interfered with simply because the West thinks the people made choices the West disagrees with.

Gaza, at the very least, must be allowed to freely trade with whoever they please and not be punished en masse simply because they didn’t vote for the people the West wanted them to vote for.

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