Although a few days have passed, the ripples of the weekend are still roughing the surface of our lives, the effects still sifting down into the depths.
You can hear it in the manic laughter of the children as they set off their Ramadan fireworks each evening, feel it in the fright that follows every bang and burst of sparks.
You can almost touch the tension in the public cars on the way to work, the endless overheard conversations about when it will resume – not if.
You can see it in the wearied faces of the hospital workers, whose bloodied weekend still stares from their eyes while they carry on keeping on, and on, and on…
You can smell it in the way everything is heightened; the sharpness of the onions cooking for the Ramadan falafel filling, the must of the natural gas that is propelling the car, the fragrant oil on the man returning from the Mosque, the strawberries fresh from the fields of Beit Lahia, the stench of the garbage.
You can taste it in every mouthful at Iftar; the sweet relief of that first date, the soothing of those first sips of water, the comfort of the bread dipped in hummous, the tang of the rocket leaves, the crunch of the sambousek, the qatayef finale.
It does not consume us – we consume it.
Palestinian victims today urged the Prosecutor of the ICC to move her preliminary examination of Palestine into a full investigation, with a complaint drafted by 40 lawyers from the Gaza Bar representing some 50 Palestinian trade unions, associations and civil society organizations plus 448 individual victims. The action was filed with the ICC by Maître Gilles Devers.
The procedure concerns three crimes:
– the blockade of Gaza
– the Israeli aggression in the summer of 2014
– the Israeli settlement of Palestine.
At a press conference in The Hague prior to submitting the complaint to the ICC, Mr Devers said that it was time for prosecutor to move the case forward.
“It is two years since Palestine has been under preliminary examination,” he said. “In Gaza, we think two years is too long.”
At a simultaneous press conference in Gaza attended by the lawyers and complainants, Basman AlAshi, Chief Executive of Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital said there is a wealth of evidence available to the Prosecutor.
“All the prosecutor of the ICC needs to open a full investigation is that there is a reasonable basis for believing that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed. The destruction of Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, a protected place under the Geneva Convention, provides that basis. So do the attacks on Al Aqsa, Durrah and Beit Hanoun Hospitals.”
Dr Mariam Abu Daqqa described the treatment of women prisoners in Israeli detention, from being arbitrarily detained to torture, being deprived of contact with their children, and appalling living conditions. She also noted the huge number of child prisoners, and the failure of Israeli authorities to accord them even the most minimum standards of treatment demanded by international conventions.
Lawyer Mahmoud Afana emphasised the illegality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which breaches several aspects of international law, such as the right to self-determination, as well as many of the rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Afana described the ten-year siege of Gaza as collective punishment which constitutes “… a genocidal humanitarian crisis happening in full view of the world.”
Rana Shubeir, speaking on behalf of civil society and young people, said that they are sick of living a life of fear:
fear of being denied travel for study or medical treatment, fear of another aggression, fear of never finding a job in “this black hole of deprivation and suffering.”
“We only want to enjoy the basic human rights which are guaranteed under international and humanitarian law. We want to live knowing that the future of our children will be as bright as their innocent smiles. The only way this can be achieved is through the application of justice – and that is all we ask from the ICC – apply the rules, and open a full investigation into Palestine,” she said.
Gilles Devers emphasised that this action is just the beginning of a long struggle, noting they are well-organized and determined.
He said the group was also hoping to persuade the ICC to open a full investigation “as a matter of urgency” into the situation in East Jerusalem, where Israeli authorities are imposing severe restrictions on and around Al Aqsa Mosque, and violently attacking Palestinians protesting their repressive actions against the third most holy site in islam.
“Justice is the response to violence. We call for the strengthening of this legal action. This action must be intensified. Our strength is the determination of the Palestinian people to defend their rights.”
War or not, daily life must go on. Ramadan or not, mouths must be fed. Destroyed home or not, families must eat, sleep, bathe, survive. Israeli atrocities or not, children must be cared for, the sick tended to, the dead buried.
But how, when the air above sends a hail of missiles every five minutes, the sea and land around you explode with mortar fire and worse? When a trip to the corner shop becomes a death-defying exercise in what you need more – a pound of rice or a pound of flesh? (more…)
As the situation in Gaza deteriorates due to snow and freezing temperatures on top of electricity cuts, the Minister of Health Dr Mufiz al-Makhalalati has declared a state of emergency, and called on all his personnel to assist the Civil Defence crews and municipalities in alleviating the distress.
Already 146 households accounting for 734 people have been forced to take emergency shelter in nearby schools and police stations, while 500 families, or more than 3200 people, have received assistance such as food, clothing and blankets.
The situation is dire and will get worse, with the current temperature at 3 degrees Celsius, and more bad weather predicted. The young and the old are particularly vulnerable, and desperately need electricity for warmth, and medications.
International governments and all people of good conscience must act quickly to ensure that Gaza’s suffering ends now, by forcing an end to the Israeli siege thus letting in the fuel required to run the power plants, essential medicines and medical supplies, and the equipment needed to provide emergency civil defence services – not only for this particular crisis, but on a permanent basis.
Snow is falling in Gaza, adding another layer of misery to the freezing and flooded conditions being experienced by its besieged population. Most homes have been without electricity for 24 of the last 36 hours, many streets are under water, and schools have been closed for the last two days.
In a press release on Thursday, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri warned of an unprecedented humanitarian disaster due to the siege-induced power crisis and the atrocious weather conditions, describing the situation as “collective punishment.”
Some 30 people have been injured in car accidents and building collapses since the onset of the current bad weather bringing flooding of roads and houses in its wake.
Yousef al-Zahar, Director General of Civil Defense, said that civil defense crews are doing what they can, but they are hampered by the lack of fuel due to the siege, and cannot pump flood-waters.
Interior Minister Fathi Hammad on Wednesday noted the lack of equipment necessary for civil defence activities, stressing the need for the international community to put pressure on Israel to allow the entry of heavy equipment and tools in order to enable the disaster emergency committees to do their work.
His calls so far seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
The simple solution to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza – lifting of the illegal Israeli siege, and opening the Rafah border for the legitimate passage of people and goods – is in the hands of the international community – along with the lives of all Gazans freezing in the dark tonight with no hope of real help reaching them.
Gaza, ALRAY – Rescue teams in the besieged Gaza Strip have been trying to help residents in need as a cold front has left the coastal enclave paralyzed.
Civil defense and medical crews have declared a state of high alert in Gaza as it has been hit with a wave of cold weather, heavy rains, and gusty winds.
Rescue teams are struggling to help Gazans despite a serious lack of necessary equipment and aid.
“We have a crisis here because our neighbor, our flesh and blood, the Egyptians, are not helping us in these hard times,” said Civil Defense Chief Yusuf al-Zahar, also slamming the Israeli blockade for the harsh situation.
“This cold front is very dangerous and we call on the international community to lend a helping hand.”
Severe weather temperatures and flooded streets have caused schools, universities, and roads to remain closed. Fallen power lines and trees have also left roads blocked off.
This comes days after school children in Gaza staged a rally in front of the house of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in protest against the ongoing power crisis in the coastal enclave.
For over a month, Gazans have been living on an average of six hours of electricity per day after its sole power generating plant was forced to close down as a result of fuel shortage.
The protesters demanded an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade. They also called on Egypt to provide Gaza with electricity.
Fuel and electricity shortages in Gaza have also worsened after the Egyptian government’s closure of Gaza tunnels. The tunnels were the only lifeline for Palestinians living under the Israeli siege.
Press TV contributed
As streets in Gaza flow with excrement, as families stay awake until 2am to take advantage of the two hours that water will flow through the taps – if they are lucky – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, celebrated the UN General Assembly’s decision declaring 19th of November as UN World Toilet Day with a Press Release on November 15.
The irony will not escape Palestinians in Gaza – they must be asking themselves “Is she for real?” Or is it just a very cynical preliminary to announcing Gaza’s latest distinction – from being the largest open air prison in the world, to being the largest open air toilet?
“I hope this declaration galvanises national and international action to reach the billions of people who still do not benefit from this basic human right,” the Special Rapporteur said in the statement released the day after the al-Sabra neighbourhood in al-Zaytoun, Gaza City, was flooded with sewage.
Perhaps she could make a special effort to contact Israel and Egypt directly, being the UN member states that are preventing the entry of fuel supplies into Gaza necessary to run the power plant that provides the electricity to run the sanitation and water pumps that would enable Gazans to enjoy this ‘basic human right.’
Perhaps she could make a special effort to remind the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take off their blinkers and ‘observe’ the conditions of their fellow statesmen and women in Gaza, and maybe even suggest the PA cease colluding with Israel in extorting exorbitant prices for fuel from the besieged Gazan authorities – fuel which the European Community has funded, but which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are seeking to profiteer from by imposing on Gaza excessive price hikes (Israel), and additional taxes (the PA).
And perhaps the United Nations and its member states could ‘put their money where their mouth is’ – they still have three days in which to clean up their act, and ensure that World Toilet Day is not the day that Gaza is officially accorded that questionable distinction.