Occupied: Headlines From Palestine

Blogging From Gaza, Palestine

Leave a comment

Hamas Police Beat, Arrest Protesters At Gaza Rally


Police in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip beat and arrested protesters on Wednesday at a youth rally in the north of the besieged Palestinian territory, an AFP correspondent said.

More than 400 demonstrators gathered in Shejaiya, a neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City that was razed during a July-August war between Hamas and Israel, urging reconstruction and calling for an end to intra-Palestinian division.

Plainclothes police officers entered the crowd, beating a number of protesters without causing serious injury, the AFP correspondent said.

They then arrested at least seven people, according to witnesses.

The Hamas-run interior ministry said in a statement that the crowd had grown violent, forcing police to intervene “to protect the lives of those participating, after which calm prevailed”.

The Gaza war, which killed 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side, has left 100,000 people homeless in the tiny coastal territory, home to 1.8 million people.

Reconstruction of homes has barely begun.

Hamas and their West Bank-based rivals Fatah have failed to implement a unity deal they signed in April last year.

The deal was meant to hand over control of Gaza to the Western-supported Palestinian Authority, which Fatah dominates.

With Hamas continuing to control Gaza, Israel has left in place its eight-year blockade, which has largely banned the import of building materials, fearing they could be used by militants to make weapons.


1 Comment

UN: Israeli Occupation Responsible For Attacks On 7 Civilian Shelters In Gaza

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — A United Nations inquiry on Monday blamed the Israeli military for seven attacks on UN schools in Gaza that were used as shelters during the 2014 war.”I deplore the fact that at least 44 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli actions and at least 227 injured at United Nations premises being used as emergency shelters,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a letter to the Security Council.”It is a matter of the utmost gravity that those who looked to them for protection and who sought and were granted shelter there had their hopes and trust denied,” Ban added.The UN chief vowed to “spare no effort to ensure that such incidents will never be repeated.”The board of inquiry investigated the attacks on the schools run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA from July 8 to Aug. 26 last year, but it also shed light on the discovery of weaponry at three schools.The schools were vacant at the time but Ban noted that “the fact that they were used by those involved in the fighting to store their weaponry and, in two cases, probably to fire from, is unacceptable.”Israel has repeatedly maintained that Hamas militants were using civilians as human shields and UN premises as storage sites for weapons during the 50-day war.In response to the report, Israel’s foreign ministry said criminal investigations have been launched against those linked to the attacks on shelters.”Israel makes every effort to avoid harm to sensitive sites, in the face of terrorist groups who are committed not only to targeting Israeli civilians but also to using Palestinian civilians and UN facilities as shields for their terrorist activities,” said foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.The Gaza war ended with a Egyptian-brokered truce after about 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 Israelis, mostly soldiers, were killed.

1 Comment

Despite Previous Claims, Hamas Leader Now Reveals Indirect ‘Chats’ With Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Hamas leader Ahmad Yousef said Sunday that there were “chats” taking place between the Islamist movement and Israel under European mediation.

Yousef told Ma’an that “we await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats.”
For instance, he said, there are talks on the issues of the ceasefire and the seaport that aim to “find a way out on the issue of the siege by opening a seaport to connect to the outside world.”

Yousef denied that there were direct talks between Hamas and Israel taking place.
In regard to former US president Jimmy Carter’s visit to Gaza Strip, Yousef said he would meet Hamas leaders including Ismail Haniyeh to discuss national reconciliation.
He added that since Egypt has no role in mediation now, Carter would come accompanied by international officials to meet Hamas leaders and then President Mahmoud Abbas.
Carter will also meet faction leaders in Gaza and ministers, and he will discuss a ceasefire with Israel and Palestinian elections.
Yousef revealed that international parties were mediating in the issue of the remains of Israeli soldiers said to be in Gaza.
“Hamas has a lot of important cards to play, and surprises on the topic of the missing soldiers,” he added.
The official said that Hamas informed all parties that no new deal would be made before Israel commits to earlier agreements and releases all those who were re-arrested after the abduction of three Israeli settlers last year.
He explained that the file will be discussed after the formation of a new Israeli government, concluding that Israel would be forced to deal with “Hamas’ surprise.”

Leave a comment

UNRWA Commences $40M Gaza Refugee Camp Improvement Project

Donia Al-Watan
UNRWA Thursday highlighted its recently-commenced $40-million camp improvement pilot project aimed at improving ‘the quality of life for Palestinian refugees in Deir El Balah camp.

“We recognize these are very tough days for all Palestine refugees, which is why projects such as this one offer a glimmer of hope and a chance to look to the future,” commented Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza Robert Turner on the vitality of the project for the refugees.

“As with all of Gaza, we don’t yet know the details of what that future looks like in Deir El Balah. But we do know that standards of living and socioeconomic development cannot be separated from the living conditions of Palestine refugees – the quality of a camp’s physical environment has a direct bearing on the quality of everyday life,” he added.

Commenting on the lack of progress on Gaza reconstruction, the UN agency said that almost eight months after the announcement of the ceasefire, not a single totally destroyed home has been rebuilt in Gaza.

It affirmed that it didn’t receive any additional funds and had no resources available to issue additional repair payments in this reporting week.

“Due to the Agency’s lack of funding, 685 families still haven’t received the transitional rental subsidy for the period from September to December 2014; 9,000 refugee families are waiting for the first quarter of 2015 payment and 7,400 families have not received their $500 reintegration grant. Over 62,500 families are awaiting assistance to commence with minor repairs to their damaged shelter,” UNRWA reported.

As part of its efforts to address the situation, UNRWA reported that as of 20 April 2015, its engineers have completed the technical assessment of 143,094 houses as part of its efforts to determine assistance eligibility.

It also reported that to date 9,161 Palestine refugee houses have been considered totally destroyed and 5,066 have suffered severe, 4,085 major and 124,782 minor damages.

Highlighting the efforts of reconstruction funding distribution, the agency reported that to date it has only received funding to reconstruct 200 of the 9,161 houses totally destroyed, that over the damaged houses of 60,000 Palestine refugee families have been completely repaired and that approximately 11,500 families whose homes were totally or severely destroyed have received a one-time rental subsidy payment.

The UN agency reported that during the onslaught, a total of 548 Palestinian children lost their lives and about 1,000 children were injured – some so badly that they will have to live the rest of their lives with disabilities. Thousands more were displaced.

Acting to provide children with psycho-social support, UNRWA highlighted its Summer Fun Weeks aimed to support refugee children’s psychosocial needs by providing them with a safe and fun place to play and the possibility to develop new friendships. The SFWs include sports activities such as football and basketball as well as popular games like trampolines, slides or sack races. It reported that Turner is scheduled to travel to Berlin in order to brief relevant German Ministries on the situation in Gaza. The report highlighted its Gaza 5K annual awareness and fundraising walk/ run in support of the UN agency’s Community Mental Health Program , as the previous walk in New York raised over US $116,000.

The report reiterated UN agencies’ warning that by 2016 the Gaza aquifer may become unusable and by 2020 damage will be irreversible and Gaza may no longer be a livable place.

Speaking about the insufficient sanitation infrastructure which is linked to the chronic electricity and fuel shortages that in turn result from the ongoing blockade on the enclave, the UN agency reported that between 24 and 32 million gallons of raw or partially treated sewage is released into the sea on a daily basis, annihilating the algae and thus the presence of small fishes as a source of income.

It also reported that thirty per cent of Gaza residents are not connected to a sewage plant and their waste water flows into sewage ponds or private septic tanks, sometimes overflowing Gaza’s roads or seeping into its groundwater. Gaza’s groundwater shows levels of chloride and nitrate well above the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).

It referred to a WHO 2014 report stating that heavy metals from war remnants contaminate Gaza’s soil and water and lead to possible radiation.

It reiterated that recently appointed United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov was “encouraged” by the Palestinian government’s commitment to assume its rightful responsibilities in Gaza, including the control of the crossings as well as civil service reform and integration.

Maldenov expressed the UN commitment to support the reconstruction of Gaza, called on the acceleration of the entry of construction material and encouraged Israel to fully release the withheld tax revenues, in line with the Protocol on Economic Relations (also known as the Paris Protocol).

Leave a comment

Child Labour Increases In Gaza

Donia Al-Watan
Midnight approaches, and the small feet of Imad Awadallah feel heavy but manage to carry him and his bag across the street to a dark alley. Whoever he meets, he has only two options: sell his boxes of tissues or try to collect a few gifted coins, so he can go home to eat and sleep.

“I have to work to earn extra money – my father is ill, and my mum has no food for us,” says the 7-year-old boy.

A few blocks away, a car stops in front of Imad’s older brother who tries to earn money cleaning cars and wiping tires on the street of Gaza between a baker’s shop and a shop fixing tires.

“I often come from school straight to work in this street,” says his brother Ibrahim Awadallah.

Nearing midnight, the night is not over yet for both children. It’s been a long day, with boxes of tissues still to sell and cars to clean, despite both children being hungry, exhausted and almost asleep on their feet.

“I want to sleep” cries Imad, but he knows that what he earned today is not enough for his family.

The dire conditions in the Gaza Strip have forced thousands of children into work. Child labour has increased despite families’ insistence that their children attend school for a good education.

Gazan economist, Dr. Maher al-Tabaa says “Child labour in Palestine has become an increasingly dangerous phenomenon, forcing children to leave their schooling for the sake of feeding their families.”

“Gaza has endured 8 years of Israeli economic siege, trade blockade, and border closures, and the resulting increasing poverty is forcing children to work, just in order to afford basic human necessities.”

The number of children forced, by blockade and poverty, into child-labour is increasing and includes not only those who lost one of their parents during the war, but those who have both parents but they may be unemployed, sick or disabled, and who are unable to provide for their children.

“The most painful part for any child is the feeling that their parents can no longer bring him, or her, the basic necessities of childhood growth,” adds Maher al-Tabaa.

Zuhair Marouf, a mechanic in the east of Gaza City, says that labour laws prevent children from working in extremely hazardous jobs. But every week he gets scores of children offering themselves for work.

“People have no other means of survival, Gaza is closed off, parents have no jobs and business people, like me, can no longer hire people,” he says.

Over 65,000 children between the ages of 7-14 work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in addition to 102,000 under the age of 18 who are also working, according to the Palestinian Statistics Bureau. Child labour starts at the sides of busy roads, walking the streets and ending up in factories, often involving hazardous jobs, and handling extremely dangerous machinery.

The social, every day trauma experienced by Gaza’s children within Israel’s siege and military blockade results in them being forced, by necessity, to seek out basic income and new methods of survival. Gaza doctors, say the majority of children in Gaza experience varying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder – some continuous, as the trauma has not ended, following last summer’s war.

Israel’s assault on Gaza – lasting 50 days – claimed the lives of 547 Palestinian children, 535 of them directly as a result of Israeli attacks, according to a new report by Defence for Children International Palestine. Almost 68 percent of the children killed by Israeli forces, were 12 years old or younger.

Mohammed Abed in Gaza, says that it has become the “norm” for people to send their children out for “civilised begging” on the streets.

“People have dignity, and do not like to beg, but life conditions have made them send their children out to sell simple things, in order to get a basic income.”

The other side of the coin can be seen any day of the week; during early morning, when neatly dressed, school-uniformed Palestinian children proudly attend their UN-run and governmental schools. For years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has played a big part in trying to help protect access to education for children in refugee families in Gaza — the quality of education provided by UNRWA has been highly praised by education experts in Gaza.

Long hours, meagre wages

Marouf says that he refuses to employ under-age children, but other people do continue to hire children to work.

“I know some people who offer 30 New Israeli Shekels (NIS) per week, and make them work from 7 am till 8 pm,” he says.

Marouf knows this is against labour laws – but sometimes business owners tend to make children stay on shift for too many hours without getting questions from local authorities.

“Employing children and offering them meagre wages are both illegal actions under Palestinian law,” says Marouf, “but when the government can’t support families, people have no other option.”

Marouf says that when there is insurance, all adults are covered, but children who work are not safe-guarded, should something go wrong.

One of those working children with no insurance, is Mahmoud Al-Seqqali, 12 years old. Sometimes he earns 10 NIS per day. “I work because I must eat and have clothes.”

Part of his job is to work on engines and remove the gears of the cars. He’s been doing this since he was 8 years old, and he feels this is the only way to get an income, but unlike many other children, he has failed to balance his needs for education and money, so his only option has been to work in the mechanics garage.

“If I had the chance to stay home, I would not do this. But, I had to start work as a child,” he says as his tiny face pokes out from underneath a dysfunctional car.

Meanwhile, al-Tabaa says, says there are very few options to counter child labour in Palestine, where the consensus government should be empowered on the ground to be able to fully function and impose new labour laws that prohibit child labour.

However, he says, “The children and their families must have a chance to earn an income. For this to happen, the blockade on Gaza should be lifted completely-and people given more freedom of movement.”

On average, a child of 12 years old like al-Seqqali has witnessed 3 major wars in Gaza.

Many homeless children, displaced by wars, are housed in public shelters, and don’t see this as a safe, long term home – forcing them to go out and work, while their parents continue to sleep in classrooms.

According to UNICEF, over 96,000 Palestinian refugee homes were badly damaged or totally destroyed during last summer’s conflict, and children continue to feel the impact of displacement.

Al-Tabaa says that for this to end, children need to feel secure in a family home, but with a dire lack of construction materials the new generation of Gaza’s children, may have to join the workforce to achieve any humane level of security. (Middle East Eye)

Leave a comment

Palestine Government Ministers: We Were Not Allowed To Leave Hotel In Gaza By Hamas

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Ministers in the Palestinian unity government have decried their treatment by Hamas during a visit to the Gaza Strip that ended in disarray on Monday, while Hamas officials have returned blame over the debacle. The ministers, who were visiting the coastal enclave in the hope of solving an employee dispute, allege that Hamas prevented them from meeting anyone by keeping them in the hotel and not allowing visitors in to see them.

Minister of Health Jawad Awwad told Ma’an: “Hamas hindered our work and prevented us from communicating with people and with our friends,” noting that the visiting delegation was kept under guard and no one was allowed into the hotel to meet with them.

He said: “We were not comfortable, and we felt a kind of offense,” adding, “We were put under pressure. We cannot work under pressure.”

The delegation of 40 government officials, including eight ministers, crossed into Gaza on Sunday in a bid to tackle a dispute over employees.The question of government employees has been a major point of dispute between the Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas, which is based in the West Bank, and the rival Hamas movement, whose power base is in Gaza.Since last year, when the two factions formed a unity government, Hamas has demanded that the government regulate the salaries of its 50,000 employees who have been on the books since the movement seized power in the enclave in 2007.

They took over from 70,000 employees of the Palestinian Authority who were forced out of their positions but have still been receiving their salaries.

However, the unity government has pledged to return the 70,000 former employees to their positions along with hiring Hamas workers after they have their employee files evaluated by a multi-faction committee, hired as needed and  promised settlement money and opportunities outside of government work.

“The delegation that arrived in Gaza on Sunday had intended to begin registering the former PA employees on Monday, with the registration period lasting until May 7.

However, Awwad says Hamas refused to allow the registration.Hamas denies ministers under ‘siege’. The delegation planned on visiting ministry headquarters in Gaza to register the employees, but Awwad claimed: “We could not go to the headquarters of ministries.”

Minister of Religious Affairs Yousif Idies said it was “unacceptable and unfathomable” that Hamas “did not allow us to get to the ministry headquarters.”

The Prime Minister, who did not take part in the delegation, denied on Monday that a stalemate had been reached between the Fatah-dominated PA and Hamas.Hamdallah told Ma’an by phone from Indonesia that he will be visiting the Gaza Strip upon his return, and that he was optimistic all issues could be resolved.He called on Palestinians not to lose hope in the unity government and said that he remained convinced of both the possibility and the urgency of solving all disputes with Hamas.PFLP leader Jamil Mizher said that efforts were being made to calm things down, and that the registration of former PA employees would be postponed until the Hamdallah’s visit.


Leave a comment

Palestinian Teen Injured In Gaza Explosion

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A Palestinian teenager was injured on Tuesday evening in an explosion caused by an unknown object in al-Shati refugee camp in western Gaza. Spokesman for the ministry of health in Gaza Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma’an that a 15-year-old was lightly injured in the explosion, and taken to al-Shifa hospital for treatment.

Leave a comment

Operation Protective Edge: A War Waged On Gaza’s Children

Ramallah, April 16, 2015Defense for Children International Palestine today released a report, Operation Protective Edge: A War Waged on Children, detailing the high price paid by children during Israel’s assault on Gaza last summer.

Operation Protective Edge, which lasted 50 days between July 8 and August 26, claimed the lives of 2,220 Palestinians, including at least 1,492 civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). DCIP independently verified the deaths of 547 Palestinian children among the killed in Gaza, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Nearly 68 percent of the children killed by Israeli forces were 12 years old or younger. Five Israeli civilians, including a child, and 67 Israeli soldiers also lost their lives. “Repeated Israeli military offensives and Israel’s complete disregard for international law have thwarted any meaningful efforts toward implementing comprehensive protections for Palestinian children,” said Khaled Quzmar, general director of DCIP. “The international community must demand an end to Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and challenge systemic impunity by investigating allegations of war crimes and holding the perpetrators accountable.” DCIP’s investigation into all Palestinian child fatalities during Operation Protective Edge found overwhelming and repeated evidence that Israeli forces committed grave violations against children amounting to war crimes. This included direct targeting of children by Israeli drone-fired missiles and attacks carried out against schools. Israel, the world’s largest exporter of aerial drones, killed 164 children in drone strikes during the conflict. No day more clearly demonstrated the indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks that characterized the Israeli offensive than July 20, when Israeli air and ground forces killed at least 27 children in Gaza City’s Shuja’iyya neighborhood. An Israeli fighter jet also destroyed the Abu Jami family home in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis on the same day, killing 18 children. In total, 59 children across the Gaza Strip lost their lives in one of the deadliest days of Operation Protective Edge. Evidence and testimonies collected by DCIP showed that there was no safe place for children in Gaza during the Israeli assault. Children were killed in their homes by Israeli missiles, while sheltering in schools by high-explosive Israeli artillery shells, and in the streets by Israeli drone-fired missiles and artillery shells as they attempted to escape the onslaught with their families. Those who survived these attacks will continue to pay the price for many years. More than 1,000 children suffered injuries that rendered them permanently disabled, according to OCHA. Amputees like Mohammad Baroud, 12, who lost both his feet in an explosion that killed 11 of his neighbors, will require lifelong medical care and support. For the children who managed to escape physical injury, the psychological effects of this latest operation have been severe and resounding. Many have lost one or both parents, or other family members. Some have lost their entire extended families. All have experienced violence, fear and instability at close quarters. The international community has persistently failed to hold Israeli forces or officials accountable for grave human rights violations against Palestinian children. In order to end impunity and increase protections for children, DCIP strongly urges the international community to immediately call on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to include Israel’s armed forces in the annex of his annual report on children and armed conflict, which lists armed forces and groups for committing grave violations against children. DCIP and other Palestinian human rights organizations previously called on UN Secretary-General to “list” Israel’s armed forces as part of the UN Security Council’s children and armed conflict agenda.

Full Report Here

Leave a comment

Two Explosions Set Off In Gaza City Center Saturday Night

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Two explosions went off in Gaza City centre late Saturday causing no injuries, witnesses reported.The first blast took place across from the Sousi building on al-Sanaa Street, while the second explosion was at the entrance of the Khalidi building opposite the Islamic University and next to the Attorney-General’s office.

The first blast was close to an office belonging to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, although it is unclear whether that was the intended target.

A spokesman for Gaza’s Interior Ministry said that security forces were investigating the explosion of two devices in central Gaza City, which caused some damage to buildings but no injuries.

The explosions come a day after another explosive device went off near the Palestinian Cabinet headquarters in western Gaza City on late Friday.

The headquarters are located in the former home of President Mahmoud Abbas, having been moved there following the April 2014 reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, intended to bring the parties together after nearly seven years of political division.

Gaza has seen a series of violent incidents in recent months, the majority involving attacks on the property of Fatah officials in the Hamas-dominated region.

Leave a comment

Gaza Building Collapses Months After Being Hit In War

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A five-story building that was targeted during the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip collapsed Tuesday afternoon in the central city of Deir al-Balah.

Officials at the Civil Defense told Ma’an that the building belongs to the Zeiter family and had been shelled during last summer’s offensive on Gaza.

The collapse caused damage to a three-story building next door, with no injuries reported.

Last summer’s war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups destroyed 12,400 houses and damaged over 160,000 homes.

Despite an outpouring of international support for the reconstruction of Gaza following the war, a coalition of international human rights groups reported Monday that six months after donors pledged billions of dollars for devastated Gaza most of the money remains blocked, and reconstruction efforts are painfully slow.

“Without economic, social and political stability, a return to conflict — and the cycles of damage and donor-funded reconstruction that accompany it — is inevitable,” the coalition warned in the report.