Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Society

Gaza civilians demand action from the ICC

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.

Palestinians file lawsuit against Israel at ICC

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.”

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How do you shop in a war?

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…)


Gaza Minister of Health declares state of emergency

Photo by Wafaa H. Aburahma

Photo by Wafaa H. Aburahma

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 adds to Gaza’s woes

Gaza under snow (Photo: Maysam Yusef)

Gaza under snow (Photo: Maysam Yusef)

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 paralyzed as cold weather hits besieged enclave

from http://alray.ps/en/index.php?act=post&id=2677

Gaza flood

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 Gaza drowns in sewage, UN rapporteur announces first UN World Toilet Day

Gaza streets awash with sewage. Photo: Majed Abusalama

Gaza streets awash with sewage. Photo: Majed Abusalama

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.


Palestinian Refugees rock UNRWA

by Julie Webb-Pullman

Palestinian refugees from two of the most impoverished refugee camps in Gaza, Jabaliya and Shatti camps, today launched their own siege – of the UNRWA field office in Gaza City. Hundreds and men, women and children arrived around noon to protest at the cutting of ‘services.’

DSC04463

In reality, such ‘services’ are the bare essentials for survival – cooking oil, sugar, flour, rice, milk, clothing – in fact, just about everything.

As one woman pointed out, there are no jobs and they are trapped in Gaza by the siege so where else can they go to earn a living?

These are the people who were driven from their homes by Israel in 1948, and yet more in 1967. They have been living in some of the most overcrowded and unsanitary conditions on the planet ever since, in an artificially-created dependency on UNRWA handouts which are almost as difficult for them to swallow as the fact of their forced displacement.

Now, even those crumbs are being taken from them.

“We just can not survive on what they are now giving us,” one man told me. “There are 13 people living in our household. What are we to do? Where else can we get food? We can’t get jobs because there are none, we can’t leave, we can’t even grow food because Israel forces Gazans off the agricultural land to create buffer zones, and shoots us if we try to fish. They are just slowly killing us.”

As their frustration grew, some began banging on the doors and shaking the gates, using whatever was at hand – rocks, Palestinian flags – one woman even took to the door with her umbrella.

Suddenly a cheer went up – some men had climbed the gate, pulled the barbed wire away, and hoisted a Palestinian flag on the UNRWA roof, accompanied by loud applause from the crowd.

The Palestinian flag is hoist above UNRWA

The Palestinian flag is hoist above UNRWA

Palestinian security then arrived and asked the men to get down, which they did peacefully.

They may have left, but their problems haven’t.

The United Nations cannot just divvy up a country and give it away to someone else, without shouldering the responsibility for the effects on the original indigenous inhabitants – threat to their very survival.

As Maslow identified, warmth, food and shelter are the very basics in the hierarchy of human needs.

The United Nations has the responsibility to ensure these needs are met for every Palestinian refugee and their descendants, and in accordance with its own instruments, to ensure that they live with dignity, and self-determination, until such time as the UN meets its other pressing obligations – the right of return for every single Palestinian refugee that wants to, to their own independent state – without occupation, without a siege.

Then, and only then, can UNRWA cut its services, and this time, permanently.