Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Operation Pillar of Cloud

Just Gaza

(First published here)

22 November marked the first anniversary of the 2012 Israeli Operation Pillar of Cloud offensive against Gaza. It would be good to be able to say that it marked the END of that offensive, but as events over past days have clearly shown, it did not. Why not?

Maybe if we look to the body charged with ensuring international peace – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – it might hold some clues.

Assassinations
The Operation Pillar of Cloud offensive began on 14 November 2012 with the assassination of Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. What did the UNSC have to say about this extra-judicial killing?

Nothing. The assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari by the state of Israel did not attract a single statement, let alone a UNSC Resolution condemning it – unlike the assassination by Zionist terrorists on 17 September 1948 of the UN Mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, which was denounced in UNSC Resolution 57 the very next day, or even the assassination in Tunisia on 16 April 1988 of the founder of Fatah, Khalil Al-Wazir, denounced over a week later in UNSC Res. 611.

Both of these gentlemen’s murders were roundly condemned by the international community, yet the UNSC remained as silent on the political assassination of Al-Jabiri as it did on the assassinations of at least another 24 Palestinian political leaders killed by Israel between 1972 and 2012. (See appendix)

However, in 2011 the UNSC managed to condemn the assassination of Chairman of the Afghanistan High Peace Council and former president Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani in Afghanistan, in the 2000’s it condemned all targeted assassinations of Lebanese leaders, and in the 1990’s it condemned the assassination of officials of the legitimate Government in Haiti and the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubrak in Ethiopia.

The only straw Palestinians have to clutch at is that in the 1980’s the UNSC did manage to condemn the attempted assassinations of the mayors of Nablus, Ramallah and Al Bireh.

That was when Jimmy Carter was president of the United States. No US president since has had the courage or moral fibre to not only apprise themselves of the ‘facts on the ground’, but also to publicly disseminate them, as Carter has belatedly done.

On the contrary, every US president since has used their power of veto in the UNSC to block almost every resolution condemning Israeli actions against Palestinian interests.

Civilian Targets and Excessive Force
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that during Operation Pillar of Cloud, over 100 of the 171 Palestinians killed were civilians, including 20 elderly people, and 35 children. 625 of the 648 wounded were civilians, including 214 children, 93 women, and 16 people with disabilities.

Entire families were wiped out by direct targeting of residential properties by missiles with warheads weighing hundreds of kilograms – the al-Dalu and Hijazi family homes, and Bassel al-Shawa’s apartment between them accounting for 19 deaths including seven children, and 32 injured.

196 residential units housing 1,229 people were destroyed, and another 243 were severely damaged. 233 public facilities, including religious, educational, health, sports, industrial, commercial and agricultural facilities, four media institutions and four banks were also struck.

Deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian targets and use of excessive force constitute war crimes, and breach a number of UN instruments, particularly the Geneva Convention. What did the UNSC do? Held an emergency meeting on 14-15 November 2012, and came to no decision.

In the 1970’s the UNSC strongly condemned Portugal for the invasion of Guinea territory, and grieved at the loss of life and extensive damage caused by Portugal’s invasion, and in the years since has managed to make similar statements defending the self-determination and territorial integrity of Namibia, East Timor, and several other countries under threat – but seemingly cannot muster the same moral fibre when it comes to Gaza.

Would another UNSC Resolution have made any difference? After all, since 1955 the UNSC has made 43 Resolutions condemning, deploring, noting concern, calling on or making demands of Israel in relation to Palestinian rights – sometimes merely just to comply with prior UN decisions – but all to no avail.

Israel apparently enjoys total impunity, routinely thumbing its nose at the international community – and at the UN itself.

Add the US power of veto in the UNSC and the situation is even more daunting. As Stephen Lendman noted in 2006, over the last 50 years the US has used its Security Council veto dozens of times to prevent resolutions condemning Israel for its abusive or hostile actions.

“By its actions and with 6% of the world’s population, the US has thus arrogantly ignored the will of nearly all the other 94% to support its client state even when Israel had committed war crimes or crimes against humanity the rest of the world demanded it be held to account for,” he wrote.

Ceasefire
In the first three months after the so-called Pillar of Cloud ceasefire agreement, there were over 800 violations of the truce by Israel and just two by Palestinians, according to data collected by the United Nations, the Israeli Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement (GISHA), the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and Israeli and Palestinian media outlets.

Who has investigated these breaches? Enforced this agreement? The answer is obvious – no-one, least of all the UNSC.

When has Israel ever kept its word, which ceasefire agreement has it ever observed? What agreement has it ever honoured? Oslo? Camp David?

Without minimising the situation in the rest of Palestine, where territorial integrity and rights are trampled by occupation, settlements, excessive use of force, deportations, house demolitions, arbitrary detention, extra-judicial killings and particularly gross abuses of the rights of children, the current situation in Gaza a year after the so-called truce is dire.

Even such Geneva Convention basics as ensuring the living conditions of the civilian population following hostilities by the maintenance of essential public utility services, for example water and sanitation, electricity supply, are patently absent in Gaza one year after Operation Pillar of Cloud.

Not content with destroying housing and infrastructure, Israel in collusion with post-coup Egypt, now prevents all building materials from entering the Gaza Strip, meaning that essential reconstruction of buildings and services destroyed or damaged in the offensive cannot proceed.

Israeli Blockade
The UN reports the humanitarian situation in Gaza today is at crisis point, with sewage flowing in the streets and power cuts of 16 hours a day, while other humanitarian organisations report lack of essential medicines, water, employment and other necessities of life.

Even the UN’s own agencies are not immune from the Israeli/Egyptian stranglehold. UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi told donor representatives last week that 19 of its 20 construction projects in Gaza had ground to a halt because since March the agency had not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, has been unable to import building materials.

“First and foremost, the Israeli blockade – which is illegal – must be lifted,” he said.

Based on the failed notion of trying to subdue an entire people by famine in all its forms, the Israeli blockade of Gaza is clearly an act which violates international law, contradicts the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter, and is a transgression of the right to peace, development, self-determination and safety.

Not only UNRWA’s Grandi, but also the UN Goldstone Report, the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent Experts, and other UN agencies all hold that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal.

So who will force Israel to lift it?

Is the international community, particularly its peace-making and peace-keeping instrument the veto-encumbered UNSC, up to the task?

UNSC
We have seen that when it wants to, the UNSC IS capable of condemning the type of political assassinations that launched Operation Pillar of Cloud, we have seen it IS capable of condemning war crimes and crimes against humanity similar to those perpetrated against Gaza during that Israeli offensive, and we have seen it IS capable of demanding and achieving access to the types of public utilities and humanitarian aid currently denied Gaza.

So why is it ignoring Gaza’s plight? Because they are ‘just Palestinians’?

Yes, they are just Palestinians – they are JUST Palestinians. And like every world citizen, they deserve justice.

Is it not time that the UNSC acted not only in accord with its own agencies, but also with the principles of the UN Charter, and delivered justice to Gaza?

Is it not possible that maybe, just maybe, the US will have another principled Carter-moment, and support a UNSC resolution in the interests of justice, not Israel, that resolves to lift the illegal blockade of Gaza, as a first step towards Palestinian peace?

Wouldn’t that be a change Obama could be remembered by!

The alternative is certain death for thousands more Palestinians.

APPENDIX

This is not an exhaustive list of all assassinations of Palestinians by Israel, merely of many Palestinian political leaders. Nor does it include the assassination of Yasser Arafat, as this has yet to be investigated to determine who was responsible.

In addition to actual killings, there have been several unsuccessful assassination attempts, most notably those of September 1997 on Khaled Meshaal, chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, in Amman, Jordan, and of August 2001 on senior Fatah member Marwan Bargouthi in the West Bank.

In the former, Israeli agents attempted to kill Meshaal by injecting poison into his ear. The latter saw Israeli forces launch at least two missiles at a convoy of cars carrying Bargouthi, which missed his vehicle.
Although Israel denies responsibility for some of the above killings, it does, however, admit to more than 200 targeted assassinations since 1956.

Assassinations of Palestinian political leaders by Israel 1972 – 2012

1970’s

8 July 8 1972 – Ghassan Kanafani, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Palestinian author, major international literary figure and intellectual, killed in Beirut by a Mossad car bomb.

16 October 1972 – Wael Zwaiter, Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) representative to Italy, renowned Palestinian intellectual and pacifist, shot and killed by Israeli agents in Rome.

28 March 1978 – Wadie Haddad, senior member of the PFLP, dies in East Germany from slow-acting poison ingested several months earlier. It is later revealed that Israeli agents were behind his murder.

1980’s

21 August 1983 – Mamoun Meraish, senior PLO official and top aid to Yasser Arafat, is shot and killed by Israeli agents in Athens, Greece. According to later Israeli press reports, future Foreign Minister (currently Minister of Justice) Tzipi Livni is involved in Meraish’s killing.

9 June 1986 – Khalid Nazzal, Secretary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), is shot dead by Israeli agents in Athens, Greece.

October 1986 – Munzer Abu Ghazala, member of the PLO’s Supreme Military Council, killed by an Israeli car bomb in Athens, Greece

16 April 1988 – Khalil al-Wazir, military chief of the PLO, and founder of Fatah, shot dead in Tunisia. The US State Department condemns the murder as an “act of political assassination.”

1990’s

26 October 1995 – Fathi Shiqaqi, a founder of Islamic Jihad, shot by Mossad agents in Malta, as he leaves his hotel.

5 January 1996 – Yahya Ayash, Hamas military commander, killed in Gaza by an Israeli explosive device planted in his cell phone.

2000’s

25 July 2001 – Salah Darwazeh, senior Hamas activist, killed by Israeli ground-to-ground anti-tank missiles fired at his car in the West Bank.

29 July 2001 – Jamal Mansour, a senior member of Hamas’ political wing, killed in an Israeli helicopter strike on his workplace.

5 August 2001 – Amer Mansour Habiri, member of Hamas, killed by Israeli helicopter strike on his car in Tulkarem.

15 August 2001 – Emad Abu Sneineh, a member of the Fatah Tanzim militia, killed in Hebron by undercover Israeli agents.

27 August 2001 – Abu Ali Mustafa, secretary general of the PFLP, killed by Israel using US-made Apache helicopter gunships to attack his office in Ramallah.

23 November 2001 – Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, senior Hamas military leader, killed by Israeli helicopter strike on his car near Nablus.

14 January 2002 – Raed Karmi, a leader in Fatah’s Al Aqsa Brigades, killed by an Israeli bomb planted outside his Tulkaram home following a ceasefire agreement

23 July 2002 – Salah Shehada, Hamas leader, killed when Israel bombed his Gaza apartment building, also killing 14 others including 9 children, and scuttling a ceasefire agreement.

8 March 2003 – Ibrahim Maqadma, one of the founders and top military commanders of Hamas, killed by four missiles from two Israeli helicopters fired at his car in Gaza.

22 March 2004 – Sheik Ahmed Yassin, 67-year-old wheelchair-bound spiritual leader and co-founder of Hamas, killed by Israeli rockets as he left morning prayers at a Gaza City mosque. Nine bystanders were also killed.

17 April 2004 – Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a co-founder of Hamas and its leader since the assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, killed by an Israeli helicopter strike on his car

8 June 2006 – Jamal Abu Samhadana, founder of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and Interior Minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, killed by Israeli rocket attack in Rafah.

1 January 2009 – Nizar Rayan, senior Hamas leader, killed in Israeli rocket attack on his home, which also killed 15 of his family members, including 11 children

15 January 2009 – Said Seyam, prominent Hamas leader and Interior Minister of the elected government of Ismail Haneyya, killed in an Israeli airstrike on his brother’s central Gaza City house. Seven others were also killed.

2010’s

19 January 2010 – Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, senior Hamas leader, killed by Israeli agents in Dubai

9 March 2012 – Zuhair al-Qaisi, head of the Gaza-based PRC, killed in an Israeli rocket attack on his car in Gaza City. His aide, Mohammed Hannani, was also killed.

14 November 2012 – Ahmed al-Jabari, head of Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, killed in an Israeli rocket attack on his car in Gaza City.


Gaza’s new Justice Minister hits the ground running

Gaza City

13 February 2013

Building new prisons is a leading priority of Dt Attallah Abu Elsebah, newly-appointed Minister for Justice in Gaza.

In an interview last week, Dr Abu Elsebah highlighted the problems facing his Ministry, including a lack of buildings, a lack of judges, lack of capacity to cope with more prisoners, and the obstacles to addressing these difficulties presented by the ongoing siege of Gaza.

“Unfortunately because of Israeli attacks on correctional facilities, such as last November on the Saraya complex which held a lot of prisoners, we have little capacity for additional prisoners, and we cannot build because of the crippling siege, and because there are few funds for this type of project, so we are facing a huge problem,” he said.

Later in the week, he was tragically proved correct. Mahrous Fathi Nassar, 37, who was being held in a Gaza police detention centre, died of meningitis on 08 February after being transferred to Al Shifa hospital.

Overcrowded living conditions is a factor that puts people at higher risk of developing meningococcal disease, as it is spread by coughing and sneezing and requires close and continued contact. Such are the conditions Gaza prisoners increasingly find themselves in – and it is not the fault of the government.

Ongoing Israeli offensives targeting Gaza security facilities, and the Israeli siege which prevents the entry of building materials to reconstruct damaged and destroyed correctional facilities in Gaza, contribute directly to creating the conditions responsible for deaths such as that of Mahrous Fathi Nassar.

The Gaza government is not sitting on its hands.

“With all of the support and prayers from Arab countries and from Islamic communities around the world, for sure Gaza will rise again – we will undertake an extensive building programme which will include these projects, under the supervision of the justice and police departments,” the new Minister of Justice concluded.

Some facts about meningitis
• Up to 15 percent of people carry the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease in their nose and throat without being sick. It is not yet fully understood why in some people these bacteria go on to cause disease.
• Sufferers often exhibit flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fever, joint pain, drowsiness or confusion. Additional symptoms that are suggestive of meningococcal infection are light sensitivity or a dislike of bright lights, stiff neck, vomiting, and the appearance of a rash.
• People infected with the bacteria can deteriorate very rapidly. For example, a 12-year-old girl died in New Zealand last September only two hours after breaking out in a rash. In 2011 13 people in NZ died from meningococcal disease.

Watch the interview here:


UN Special Rapporteur: Israel must deliver on cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip

PRESS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER OF HUMAN RIGHTS

CAIRO (5 December 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, Richard Falk, called today on Israel to abide by and fully implement the cease fire agreement that ended the recent crisis with Gaza.

The human rights expert has just concluded a week-long mission to the region, with the initial purpose assessing the overall impact of Israel’s prolonged occupation and blockade against the Gaza Strip, which is an integral part of Palestine. “However,” he explained, “there arose an urgent need to investigate Israel’s seemingly deliberate attacks against civilian targets during recent hostilities.”

“We visited the sites of attacks and spoke with surviving family members. It is clear that some attacks killed and harmed civilians in a grossly disproportionate manner and thus appear to violate international law,” Mr. Falk said. “There is a widespread feeling among Palestinians that Israel is above the law, and that it is likely to continue to have the benefits of impunity even when it flagrantly and repeatedly violates international human rights and humanitarian laws.”

“Experience has shown that Israel fails to meet its international obligation to promptly and impartially investigate its own actions,” he noted. “Experience has also shown that Israel is not likely to carry out its obligations under the cease fire agreement; indeed during our visit we heard Israeli warplanes flying directly overhead and received reports of Israeli military incursions into the Gaza Strip.”

The Special Rapporteur called for sustained pressure from the international community, including both Governments and civil society, to secure Israel’s full implementation of the cease fire agreement, noting that without such pressure it is extremely unlikely to hold. “Worldwide support for the recent General Assembly resolution that made Palestine a non-Member observer State should serve as a starting point for more concerted international protection of Palestinian rights,” he said.

Mr. Falk stressed that talks to clarify how certain aspects of the cease fire agreement will be implemented, in particular with regard to access to maritime and agricultural resources, must be swiftly concluded.

“Every day Palestinian fishermen and farmers risk being shot at or detained by Israeli forces. Already since the agreement was reached, Israel has detained 13 fishermen, confiscated 4 fishing boats and sank another fishing boat,” he said. “Such actions signal an Israeli intention to maintain its coercive style of occupation rather to explore whether implementing the ceasefire agreement might lead toward a more hopeful future.”

“Palestinians and the international community are confronted with huge challenges to address underlying problems that have been severely aggravated by Israel’s occupation and blockade,” the independent expert said, underscoring the urgent need for access to clean water and sanitation, productive agricultural land, and new infrastructure.

“We received extensive briefs on what could be done if sufficient resources and political will are made available,” he said. “One example is the construction of a desalinization plant to meet urgent water and agricultural needs, but in many such cases funding is not forthcoming as donors are reluctant to invest in infrastructure projects that Israel is likely to bomb in one of its periodic large-scale attacks against Gaza.”

According to the Special Rapporteur, “unless these underlying problems are addressed soon, it appears that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020, as predicted by a recent UN report. Some of the experts with whom we spoke actually believe that 2016 is a more reasonable assessment. This indicates the gravity of the human rights crisis in the Gaza Strip.”

During his visit to Cairo and the Gaza Strip, Mr. Falk met with governmental, inter-governmental and civil society representatives, as well as victims and witnesses. He received briefings from the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and other UN agencies, which provided an in-depth picture of the magnitude of the challenges in Gaza and the difficulties of addressing such challenges in a situation of occupation and blockade. He expressed his special appreciation to the people of Gaza and the international civil servants with whom he spoke for their support and engagement.

Mr. Falk’s next report to the Human Rights Council, which he intends to present in June 2013, will fully address the many concerns that were raised during the mission.

ENDS

In 2008, the UN Human Rights Council designated Richard Falk (United States of America) as the fifth Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights on Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/countries/ps/mandate/index.htm

UN Human Rights – Occupied Palestinian Territories: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/MENARegion/Pages/PSIndex.aspx
UN Human Rights – Israel: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/ILIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Kevin Turner (+41 79 201 0122 / kturner@ohchr.org) or write to sropt@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)


MOH final report on Gaza deaths, wounded 01-30 November 2012

In its November Monthly Report dated 02 December 2012 on Israeli aggressions against the Gaza Strip covering the period 01 – 30 November 2012, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported the following:

Total number of officially registered victims: 1683 (191 martyrs and 1492 wounded)

Martyrs:
The total number of martyrs 191 ( 167 male , 24 female )

DATE_________________________________DAILY TOTAL_________________CUMULATIVE TOTAL
1-13/11/2012______________________________9____________________________9
14/11_____________________________________8___________________________17
15/11____________________________________11___________________________28
16/11____________________________________12___________________________40
17/11____________________________________16___________________________56
18/11____________________________________24___________________________80
19/11____________________________________37__________________________117
20/11____________________________________29__________________________146
21-30/11_________________________________45*_________________________191
___________________________TOTAL______191

Note:
* Six martyrs died due to previous wounds, and four martyrs died from direct attacks after the ceasefire was declared on 21st of November.

Wounded:

Total number of wounded: 1492 ( 1076 male , 416 female )

DATE_________________________________DAILY TOTAL_________________CUMULATIVE TOTAL
1-13/11/2012_____________________________54_____________________________54
14/11___________________________________125____________________________179
15/11___________________________________118____________________________297
16/11____________________________________74____________________________371
17/11___________________________________188____________________________559
18/11___________________________________167____________________________726
19/11___________________________________220____________________________946
20/11___________________________________240___________________________1186
21-30/11________________________________306**_________________________1492
___________________________Total_______1492

Note:
**Fifty-four (54) civilians were wounded after the ceasefire.

Numbers of martyrs by special categories

Children – 48
Females aged 18+ – 12
Elderly – 20
Children aged less than 5 years – 16

Numbers of wounded by special categories

Children – 504
Females aged 18+ – 254
Elderly – 103
Children aged less than 5 years – 195

Distribution of martyrs by governorate

North Gaza – 16%
Gaza – 42%
Middle – 24%
Khan Younis – 7%
Rafah – 11%

Distribution of wounded by governorate

North Gaza – 29%
Gaza – 46%
Middle – 9%
Khan Younis – 9%
Rafah – 7%


Palestinian Government Press Statement

25 November 2012

In Gaza this morning, Taher Al Nono, spokesperson for the Palestinian Government in Gaza, held a Press Conference at the Government Media Office.

Taher Al Nono in Gaza City this morning

Al Nono told assembled media that a Palestinian Government meeting yesterday headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh discussed the consequences of the Israeli aggression on Gaza, and the following decisions were made:

1. Everyone who died in the aggression will be considered a martyr;
2. The Palestinian Government appreciates the ceasefire agreement that the Palestinian Resistance achieved, and the Egyptian role in reaching this agreement, and emphasised the historic nature of the unity between the factions as a result of the agreement;
3. The Palestinian Government will send a high official delegation to Cairo, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Al Zaza, to continue negotiating the ceasefire agreement relating to borders, the conditions of lifting the siege, and the distance at which fisherman may work;
4. The Palestinian Government reiterates their appreciation of the Egyptian role, which included supporting the decision of the Palestinian people, supporting the Palestinian Resistance, standing in solidarity with them, and helping the Palestinian people and the Resistance to achieve their demands;
5. The Palestinian Government welcomes any delegation that comes to Gaza in solidarity with the Palestinian people or to support them, either with humanitarian aid or political support. He called on Arab and Islamic leaders and high-level officials of international organisations to continue to support the Palestinian people;
6. Due to the victory that the Palestinian Resistance has achieved, and to emphasise the resulting unity, the Palestinian Government has decided to give amnesty to all of those facing legal action as a result of the Fatah-Hamas conflict of 2006. A committee will be formed to ensure the implementation of this decision in order to achieve national reconciliation, which is the demand of the Palestinian people;
7. The Palestinian Government asked the Ministry of Works to produce the final figures of numbers of buildings affected by the attacks as soon as possible, in order to compensate the sacrifices made by the population. He said that there were 200 homes completely destroyed and about 8000 partially damaged. About 46 government and security buildings were completely destroyed, plus one health centre and three mosques. The financial costs of the damage are estimated to be over 1 billion dollars. Direct damages are estimated at 545 million, with indirect damages at 700 million;
8. A committee will be formed to investigate the unlawful killing of people during the days of war.

ends

Translation: Fatma Al Hasham


Gaza media professionals pay tribute to dead, wounded journalists

24 November 2012

In two separate press conferences in Gaza City today members of the media, the Journalists Union, and the Ministry of Information paid tribute to the three Gazan journalists killed, and the seventeen wounded during the 8-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

They noted that media offices were targeted because they were revealing the crimes of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and the lies of the Israeli media. The three dead were Mahmoud Al-Komi and Hossam Salama, photographers for Al Aqsa Channel, and Mohammad Abu Aisha, Manager of Education Al Quds Radio Station.

Mohammad Abu Aisha tribute outside Karmel Building, Gaza City

The offices of three media agencies were damaged – Al Quds TV, Al Aqsa Visual, and Al Jil Al-Kadim, while 24 media offices were partially damaged when the buildings in which they are housed were targeted. The buildings were Shawa Al-Hosari, Al-Shrouk, and Neama Building and some of the agencies affected were Al Jazeera, Sky News Arabia, German TV station ARD, Arab TV stations MBC and Abu Dhabi TV, Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Russia Today and the Ma’an news agency.

Radio stations and channels like Al Quds, Al Aqsa, and Palestine Today were hacked, and electronic attacks were also carried out on Safa, Sama, Palestine Today and The Independent newspaper.

At a wake at the home of Hassam Salama Director of the Government Media Office Ihab al-Ghussein praised the work of the media during the recent offensive, condemned the crimes against them and expressed his hope that those killed will rest in peace, and that their work will be continued by those left behind.

Yasser Abu Heen, Head of Gaza Journalists Union called on the International Journalists Federation and Reporters Without Borders to intervene immediately to fulfill their obligations towards Palestinian journalists and to take legal action against the head of the IOF to hold them accountable.

They also called upon the Federation of Journalists to send a delegation to see with their own eyes what has occurred in Gaza, and on Arabic and Islamic journalists’ associations to fund-raise for specialised training courses such as working safely in a time of war.

They concluded with a call for the Palestinain Government, particularly the Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, to provide help and support for local Palestinian media agencies who performed so well during the time of war.

At an event outside the Karmel Building, co-workers paid tribute to Mohammad Abu Aisha, who died when his house was bombed. “Killing the journalists of Gaza will not stop the media covering the crimes of the IOF,” they said, adding that they promise to honour Mohammad by completing his duty and doing his job as if he is still among them.

Translation: Fatma Al Hasham


Ceasefire and shocking defeat for the enemy

22 November 2012

Al-Ray Online

by Ismail Thawabta

Firstly, I would like to send warm condolences to families of the Palestinian martyrs and to the wounded. Nearly 160 Palestinian were killed including 42 children, 11 women and 18 elderly persons, and 1222 others were wounded including 431 children, 207 women and 88 elderly.

These statistics indicate that the occupation was brutal and ferocious, and its military intelligence was so deficient they didn’t know what to do. As a result they did whatever they could to inflict the maximum pain on the people of the Gaza Strip through the killing of women, children, and the elderly, journalists and other civilians.

Praise to our heroic people who presented a great example of survival, generosity and sacrifice.

Now, we are going to discuss something else.

In previous years, the Palestinian resistance was not capable of winning battles with the Israeli enemy in the manner we have witnessed today. The united Palestinian resistance have succeeded in achieving, to a considerable extent, a balance of power and deterrence that we never expected at all. Better still, the occupation forces, with all their military might including aircraft, tanks and warships failed to subdue the will of the resistance.

Today the enemy backed off, and announced that Israel is ready to implement a ceasefire in accordance with the conditions laid down by the valiant Palestinian Resistance. This time is different. Netanyahu and his ministers have raised the white flag and surrendered to the valiant Resistance. Israel contacted more than 10 regional states and Europe in order to intervene with Hamas, who convinced them to accept the truce.

Israel is asking for calm, and the Resistance is imposing the conditions in an advanced step sccoring more points in their favor. On the other hand, the Israeli Interior front is deteriorating.

The enemy (Israel) led by Netanyahu fell to its knees and bowed its head in front of the greatness and might of the Palestinian Resistance, which crossed what were considered Israel’s red lines.

This Israeli retreat establishes the methodology that Hamas seeks in the next battle of liberation.

Journalists and media professionals in this battle demonstrated heroism of the highest order. Their role in exposing the crimes of the occupation is well-known. This is what lead Israel to deliberately target and bomb media institutions, journalists and media workers. Journalists risked their lives for the truth. We highly appreciate and respect their dedication, and they deserve the highest accolades for all their work.

There is an equation that never leaves our minds, nor the minds of the Israeli occupation. This equation can be translated as follows:
1. The resistance succeeded in targeting cities in the 1948-occupied Palestine such as Tel Aviv and Occupied Jerusalem.
2. The resistance dared to cross a red line that was never reported by the occupation, namely, targeting war-planes and successfully destroying more than one type of aircraft.
3. The resistance used mortar rockets, which form a severe blow to the Zionist military intelligence.
4. The resistance also targeted the navy and hit Israeli warships in the sea, forcing them to retreat from the coast.
5. The resistance succeeded in targeting jeeps and tanks more than three times, using Kornet and other types of missiles.
6. The resistance reported bombing cities in 1948-occupied Palestine using Fajr-5 model, resulting in confusion in occupation reporting.
7. The resistance struck a blow to the occupation when announced it was using M75 missile. M for Maqadmah, a Hamas leader who was assassinated by Israel, and 75 for the distance 75 Km.
8. The resistance repeatedly launched Grad rockets, which caused panic among the occupation and the settlers. As a result, they left their homes to live in underground shelters.
9. The resistance used missiles of the type 107, which raised the ire of the occupation, and turned the streets of Israel into ghost towns.
10. The final straw from the resistance on the last day, was a rearguard action, the bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv.

In addition to this, Israeli occupation forces failed once again to achieve the goals set by Israeli leader before the aggression on the Gaza Strip. The Israeli operation aims against the Gaza Strip were as follows:
1. to stop all types of rockets from the Gaza Strip. The Occupation failed and, on the contrary, they increased, surprising occupation forces.
2. to assassinate Hamas leaders, to overthrow its government, and to assassinate leaders of the resistance. Doomed to failure.
3. to eliminate weapons stores. The occupation forces failed, and rockets continued rain on them until the last minute.
4. to secure the buffer zone. Failure. The resistance continued to target border patrols using Kornet missiles.

Again, all praise to our proud steadfast Palestinian people. We wish the highest reward for our heroes and martyrs. We wish a speedy recovery for the brave wounded Palestinians. We pray to God to give strength our people.

ends

Translation: Mohammed Mustafa
Revision: Julie Webb-Pullman


Is Morsi next in the line of fire?

23 November 2012

Given his role in the Gaza-Israeli ceasefire, it was only a matter of time before Egypt’s President Morsi found himself in the sights.

Few expected it to be quite so fast.

Protests across Egypt are underway, both in support of, and against Morsi’s ‘surprise Constitutional Declaration’ on Thursday.

The inability of those screaming for democracy to actually accept its results is staggering. One of their major complaints was that the Constituent Assembly formed to draft the new Constitution was ‘unrepresentative’ – and despite a new agreement on its composition being reached in June 2012, non-Islamists continue to complain.

The Egyptain election results were clear – the Islamists won power, by a clear majority. Non-Islamists, especially those espousing democracy, should have no trouble in accepting this outcome, ie that they are in a minority, and are subject the decisions of the majority.

Most have withdrawn from the Constituent Assembly – but even then, they only constitute 25%, leaving a weighty 75% still in there. Which bit of ‘majority’ do they not understand?

That is what democracy is. That is what they have been, and continue, screaming for at the barricades.

The outcome of the Constituent Assembly, the proposed new Constitution, will go to referendum, and the people will get to vote for – or against – it. What is ‘undemocratic’ about this?

And the Constitutional Declaration – why should it concern them, for instance, that the Constituent Assembly and Shura Council (upper house of parliament) will be immune to dissolution by a judicial body? These bodies were elected by, or on behalf of, the people, not appointed by the judiciary, and in a real democracy, they should be dissolved by the people, not by any other authority, judicial or otherwise.

Does the US judiciary have the power to dissolve the Senate? Does the British judiciary have the power to dissolve the House of Lords? Why should the Egyptian judiciary have such powers?

Who appoints the Attorney General in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada? The Prime Minister! Who appoints the Attorney General in the United States? The President! Is this the type of ‘separation of powers’ they are calling for in Egypt?

The purpose of the Declaration is to speed up the transition to a new Constitution, and a newly-elected Parliament under the new Constitution – something the ‘revolutionaries’ all desired, but also something some in the current judiciary have been doing their best to prevent.

Morsi’s move has been praised by the spokesperson for the ‘Coalition of Judges for Egypt’, Justice Walid Sharabi, who particularly praised the dismissal of the Public Prosecutor, saying “Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud, the Public Prosecutor, has long defended the toppled regime, sought to corrupt the judiciary and to create a justice system rotten to the core.”

So is this latest round just a front for the massive destabilisation attempt we have been expecting since Morsi’s election, and more especially, since the ceasefire between Israel and Gaza brokered by Egypt this week?

As leading Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) member Essam El-Erian said in Al Ahram Online today when condemning reported attacks on FJP offices in several governates, “They are acts of thuggery hiding behind [opposition] political forces.”

With its role as mediator and guarantor of the ceasefire agreement, and Israel’s killing of at least one Palestinian and the injuring of nine more in a clear breach of the agreement before the ink has even dried, Egypt’s position is both pivotal, and vulnerable to destabilisation by those with the most to gain from distracting Egypt at best, and bringing down the Morsi regime at worst.

No prizes for guessing the identity of who is paying these ‘pipers’ of dissent in Egypt, and whose fingers will be as sticky with Egyptian blood as they already are with the blood of Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Libyans and Iranians, if they are allowed to prevail.


Gaza: Five Degrees of Destruction

23 November 2012

This morning I accompanied an international delegation on a tour of some of the scenes of destruction in Gaza City. Here is a little of what we saw……

Interior Ministry – or what remains of it

This house was next door – it is a miracle that only one person was killed…

Next stop – Soraya, another crater, another scene of destruction

then on to what was Mitsubishi Motors….

and across the road to Abu Khadra, still smoking days after it was struck.

These are but a small taste of the bitter pill of Israeli criminality.


Every picture tells a story

22 November 2012

A victory lap of Gaza City the day after the ceasefire.

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Gaza Victory Celebrations

Gazans took to the streets in their thousands today to celebrate their victory. These three videos show just a little of their joy and defiance as all factions united, their flags all flying together above the crowds, as they danced, sang, and chanted in one voice for Palestine.


Full text: Ceasefire agreement between Israel and Gaza

Verbatim English text of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza brokered by Egypt.

The text was distributed by the Egyptian presidency.

Agreement of Understanding For a Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip

1: (no title given for this section)

A. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.

B. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.

C. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.

D. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.

2: Implementation mechanisms:

A. Setting up the zero hour for the ceasefire understanding to enter into effect.

B. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.

C. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding shall be informed to follow up.


Gaza: Press TV journalist injured

Akram Al-Satarri, a Palestinian from Gaza who has been working for Press TV, was injured in a strike on the hotel in which he was staying in Gaza City.

He has been taken to Shifa hospital.

I worked with Akram for several months over the past year, and am appalled at this attack on him as a member of the working media.

Updates on his condition will follow.


Gaza Update: 140 deaths, 1000 injured, 28 transfers to Egypt

21 November 2012

Overnight the toll in Gaza has risen to:
140 deaths
1000 injured

28 cases have been transferred to Egypt, which has opened the border 24/7 to receive the injured.

Al Shifa hospital reports that the Egyptian assistance is enabling them to cope, and they still have a few Intensive Care Unit beds available.


How Gaza children experience International Day of the Child

20 November 2012

Today is the United Nations International Day of the Child. This is how Israel ensures it is celebrated in Gaza. (Warning: some graphic content)

Running for their lives

or not knowing which way to turn

unless lucky enough to be rescued

While some are thankfully oblivious to their surroundings

others are not so fortunate

their fear and pain manifest.

This boy did not make it out alive,

nor did these siblings

or this baby.

From the mouths of babes

Happy International Day of the Child from Israel

Photos from the internet


Gaza: Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

20 November 2012

Press Release

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville

Location: Geneva

Subject: 1) Gaza

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is acutely concerned about Palestinian and Israeli civilians caught up in the ongoing crisis in Gaza and southern Israel.

She is dismayed by the marked surge in the number of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, killed and injured over the past 48 hours as a result of Israeli military action. According to information gathered by OHCHR monitors on the ground, the civilian death toll has more than doubled during this period. As of this morning, at least 57 civilians, including 18 children, have been killed and hundreds have been injured since 14 November.

The High Commissioner deplores attacks such as the bombing of a house in Gaza which killed at least eight members of the Al-Dalou family, including 4 young children on 18 November.

The High Commissioner appreciates statements made by Israeli officials about the precautions taken to avoid harm to civilians. However, attacks affecting schools and religious sites, as well as the reported targeting of homes and media outlets during the past 48 hours raise serious concerns about Israel’s commitment to its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. The High Commissioner therefore calls on Israel to scrupulously meet its legal obligations to distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants, and to take precautions and all possible measures to avoid the loss of civilian life and damage to civilian property.

The High Commissioner reiterates her condemnation of the continuing indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilians in Israel by militants in Gaza which have killed three civilians as well as causing civilian injuries and damage to civilian property.

High Commissioner Pillay strongly supports the Secretary-General’s efforts toward a cease fire agreement, and hopes that any such agreement contains commitments by both sides to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The High Commissioner recalls the need to ensure accountability for any violations of international law, including through prompt, impartial, independent and effective investigations into credible allegations of violations.

In response to a follow-up question on attacks on homes, schools and religious site,the spokesperson said that UN human rights staff had received reports that 31 residences had been hit directly as well as two buildings housing media. They had also received reports of damage to some 30 schools, but no direct hits that they were aware of, and reports of damage to ten religious sites, but again with no direct hits.

In response to a question as to whether any of these attacks constituted war crimes, the spokesperson said that would depend on the specific circumstances in each incident, and that the information to make that type of assessment was not yet available. He noted that in this type of situation, under international humanitarian law, three key principles apply: these are ‘distinction’ (making every effort to distinguish between combatants and civilians); ‘precaution’ (taking all possible precautions to avoid civilian casualties); and ‘proportionality’ (refraining from launching an attack when it is expected to cause excessive loss of civilian life in relation to the anticipated military advantage).


Gaza: The solution is simple

20 November 2012

The simple solution to the current carnage in Gaza is in Israel’s hands – OBEY INTERNATIONAL LAW.

Israel is currently breaching at least 30 United Nations Security Council Resolutions dating back to 1968, resolutions that require action by it and it alone, according to David Morrison in a 2010 Briefing Paper.

The consequence of Israel’s illegal occupation, their illegal settlements, their illegal wall, their illegal murderous attacks right now on civilians in both Gaza and the West Bank are Palestinian exercise of the RIGHT TO RESISTANCE imbued by the right to self-determination guaranteed in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, and in Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

All the hasbara in the world, all the PR in the world, all the spin in the world will not change these fundamental facts – Israel has, and continues to breach Palestinian rights, and Palestinians are resisting this illegal behaviour and legitimately defending their rights.

All Israel has to do to ensure its ‘security’ is comply with United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and with International law in all respects – humanitarian, human rights, civil, political, economic, social, cultural – by withdrawing to behind its INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNISED BORDERS and peacefully staying there.

Posturing on the world stage with its coterie of fellow-imperialists cannot and will not change these fundamental requirements.

The lesson that Palestinians are paying for with their blood, their homes, their land and their future is that the United Nations is as weak as Israel is weak-minded, through failure to enforce its own resolutions.

Like a playground bully that no-one dares stand up to, Israel has become arrogant with its own sense of entitlement and impunity. And like the undisciplined child who grows first into delinquency then into outright criminality and a danger to the society in which it lives, Israel has grown into a criminal rogue state that threatens the stability and order of the world of which it is a member state.

Israel has shown no sign that it is prepared to moderate its behaviour, and the last six days have shown the extremes of depravity to which is prepared to go – openly killing women, children, journalists and targeting family homes, vegetable sellers in the street, in fact anyone at all, without compunction.

Four children killed by Israel when their house was destroyed by Israel

It is way past time for the international community to assert its authority, both moral and legal, and call Israel to account – immediately.

Sanctions are too good for it – eviction from the United Nations itself is the least that should be reasonably expected, along with its appearance before the International Criminal Court for the atrocities it has already committed, and continues to commit, in Gaza today.

(For UN Resolutions regarding Palestine, go here


Gaza Update

1pm to 7pm, 19th November

8 deaths, 16 injuries


BREAKING NEWS: TWO JOURNALISTS KILLED IN NEW STRIKE IN GAZA

Ramez Najeeb Harb, 39 years old, Journalist and Salem Swelam, a Palestinian christian cameraman were killed and another cameraman injured in an Israeli  strike on the Al-Shrouq Building in Gaza City at 14:05 Gaza time, 19-Nov-2012

Head of Gaza Journalists’ Union condemns Israeli attacks on media offices

Yasser Abu Heen, Head of Gaza Journalists Union, sent a strong message of resistance and defiance to Israel on behalf of journalists, at a Press Conference held outside the bombed Al Quds Satellite Channel in Gaza City yesterday morning.

Five Al Quds workers were injured in the explosion in the Shawa Al-Hosari Tower, and another three journalists were injured in a later attack on the al-Shorouq building housing several international media offices in addition to Al Aqsa Television studios.

In further criminal attacks on the media today, a car carrying journalists in Tal Al Hawa was hit by a rocket, killing the driver and injuring the other occupants.


Gaza Update

Yousef Al-Helou reports that the death toll has risen to 89, most of them being civilians including 21 children since November 14th, in addition to over 800 people injured, 98% of them are civilians.

Over 1200 Israeli air strikes have been carried out, many residential houses have been hit, hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties, and short of medial supplies.


Gaza: Israel targets journalists with US toxic weapons

As the death threats I wrote about yesterday were obviously not working, in the early hours of this morning Israel launched three missiles at the Gaza offices of the Al Quds Satellite channel in Al Shawa Hosari Tower, injuring five workers, one of whom lost a leg.

This attack on the media was followed several hours later by another on Al Aqsa television station, which completely destroyed its studios, as well as damaged the premises of Palestine Media Production on the floor below. In this attack, three journalists were injured.

The remnants of the guided surface missile that hit the Al Quds offices bear not only evidence of its origin (The United States) but also of its toxicity, adding to the growing evidence that Israel is using prohibited weapons in its latest Gaza atrocity.

No prizes for guessing where this originally came from…

or what it contains.

Meanwhile, western media and governments continue to hypocritically espouse the right of Israel to defend itself, while ignoring the right of Gazans to do the same.

The nonsense that this latest ‘exchange of fire’ is the fault of Hamas and justified by Israel’s right to security has been noted by many, including Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, who wrote today, referring to Gaza, that “no country would tolerate the periodic assassination of its leaders by missiles fired by a neighboring country, especially during a lull achieved by a mutually agreed truce.”

The source of the weaponry perhaps goes some way towards explaining why Barack Obama is such an apologist for Israel’s latest rampage of mass murder.

It does not, however, explain his blatant hypocrisy given the concluding remarks of his press statement delivered on World Press Freedom Day in May this year.

No matter the cause, when journalists are intimidated, attacked, imprisoned, or disappeared, individuals begin to self-censor, fear replaces truth, and all of our societies suffer. A culture of impunity for such actions must not be allowed to persist in any country.

This year, across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, the world witnessed not only these perils, but also the promise that a free press holds for fostering innovative, successful, and stable democracies. On this World Press Freedom Day, we call upon all governments to seize that promise by recognizing the vital role of a free press and taking the necessary steps to create societies in which independent journalists can operate freely and without fear.”

Perhaps he could begin in his own backyard, and stop supplying the weapons being used to silence the press – and follow up with ensuring his ‘client state’ does not enjoy impunity for this crass violation of press freedom.

And perhaps United States citizens could act to ensure their taxes are not used to stifle the First Amendment of the Constitution they so cherish – when it suits them.


Gaza Update: Deaths and Injuries

Updated 7:00 pm

Martyrs – 69 (20 children, 8 women, and 9 elderly persons)
Injured – 660 (224 children, 113 women and 50 elderly persons)


Spot the Difference: Gaza Council of Ministers

Look at the video filmed yesterday outside the Council of Ministers.

Now look at the photograph taken from a few metres further back today. Can you spot the differences? (Clue: the stairs Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh descended in the video are the same as the ones in the photo.

Gaza Council of Ministers today

)