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Egypt builds trench along Gaza border

Ma’an – June 22, 2015

CAIRO – The Egyptian military has constructed a trench along the border of Rafah to prevent smugglers from operating in the area, the army said.

The trench is 20 meters deep and 10 meters wide and is located two kilometers from the border with Gaza outside of Rafah city.

The new infrastructure — part of a larger buffer zone being constructed in the area — is intended to prevent smugglers from driving their vehicles to the opening of tunnels along the border.

A military official said that the army plans to expand the trench and install watchtowers along its length.

Work on the buffer zone on the Egyptian side began in February 2014, but was at the time slated to extend only about 300 meters in urban areas and 500 meters in rural areas.

After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October 2014, however, the military stepped up a campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack.

Hamas, which denies Egyptian accusations, has suffered poor relations with the Egyptian government ever since the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood, with whom they were closely allied, was thrown out of power in July 2013.

Deteriorating relations between Egypt and Hamas come at a high price to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents for whom the smuggling tunnels have served as a lifeline to the outside world since Israel imposed a crippling siege on the coastal enclave in 2007.

June 22, 2015 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Will the flowers of Gaza break Israel’s siege this Valentine’s Day?

By Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper |  Corporate Watch |  February 12, 2014

Flowers from Gaza being prepared for export (Photo by Corporate Watch)

Flowers from Gaza being prepared for export (Photo by Corporate Watch)

Gaza, Occupied Palestine – Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and for supermarkets and florists that means a massive increase in the sale of flowers. But how many romantic couples consider where the flowers they exchange are grown?

Farmers in Gaza have long been encouraged by Israeli export companies to focus their production on high risk ‘cash crops’ such as flowers and strawberries, and the arrival of carnations from Rafah to European markets for Christmas or Valentine’s day is often cheered on by the Israeli Government who uses it as a PR exercise to show how it ‘facilitates’ Palestinian exports. Unsurprisingly, this is not the full story.

According to the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) there used to be over 500 dunams of carnations planted in the Gaza Strip, but since the beginning of the siege in 2007 flower exports have plummeted year on year and there are only around 60 dunams left. The planted land used to produce over forty million stems for export, but now the few carnation farmers who are left are struggling to sell 5-10 million.

“The Israeli occupation allows us to export a small quantity of produce, just to show the world that they are nice to the Palestinians, but they are using us. Everything we do is controlled by them”, said Saad Ziada from UAWC when we met him in his Gaza City office in November last year, just before what was supposed to be the start of the flower exporting season. This statement is true of all produce in Gaza but flower exporters are particularly susceptible to the control Israel holds over exports, as their produce relies on hitting the market at exactly the right time for popular flower buying holidays. If the border is closed for a week and the flowers miss the export window for Valentine’s Day, for instance, their profit for the whole year can be lost.

We visited Rafah to talk to one of the few flower growers still in business and hear about the situation for farmers under the siege.

“The problem is the border and the siege”

Hassan Gazi al Hijazi has been in the flower business for over 25 years and has seen many changes in the flower export industry. When he started out he had to be registered as an Israeli grower, despite growing his flowers in Gaza, and he gave classes in the art of flower growing to new farmers. “There used to be 53 flower farmers in the Rafah area and now there are only 4 of us left” he told us. “I personally used to have 40 dunams and now I only have 4”. He said that he needs assistance from outside to even operate them now, his flower packing house displays signs showing that he receives financial support from Spain.

(Photo by Corporate Watch)

(Photo by Corporate Watch)

Just as with all produce from Gaza, his flowers have to be exported via Israel, through an Israeli company. In the past this used to be Carmel Agrexco, which used the name Coral for Palestinian produce, but after its liquidation he now works with a Palestinian Co-operative which exports under the brand name Palestine Crops using the slogan ‘From Palestine Land to Global Markets’. Palestine Crops is a Gaza initiative which works with agricultural co-ops in the strip and aims to create a market for Palestinian labelled goods and, eventually, independent exports. For now, however, this is impossible and although some exports from Gaza come with Palestine Crops branding, they are dependent on their Israeli distributor. In the case of flowers, this is primarily the Flower Board of Israel. Once transported out of Gaza, the flowers are taken to the big flower auction houses in Holland, where they are sold by grower name. By the time the bouquets reach our shops they will have been mixed with other flowers and it is unlikely the the buyer will be aware of their origin.

Talking to Hassan, it becomes obvious just how much the farmers of Gaza are at the mercy of the Israeli occupation forces. Palestine’s flower export season lasts from December until May. The most important sales periods are Christmas and Valentine’s Day. According to Hassan, these are often the seasons when the border is closed. Our interview took place on 5 December, a time which should be busy in Rafah. “I should be exporting my flowers around the 15th of December to be in time for the Christmas market, but I do not know how much I will be allowed to export yet”, Hassan told us. “if you are not able to export for those occasions the price for flowers drops and you lose”. Farmers in Gaza are not able to export flowers during the summer as this is the season when Holland grows the same crops.

“The problem is not the growing of the flowers, the problem is the border and the siege” Hassan said whilst showing us his beautiful dunams of ready to go flowers. As with most custom designed cash crops there is not enough of a local market for Hassan’s flowers if he fails to export them, they either just go to waste or become animal food. No one in Gaza can pay a price which would even make the enterprise break even.

In the past Hassan could get around $120 000 for exporting two million flowers if he had a good season, but for the last five years he has been paying the big upfront outlay necessary in flower growing from his own pocket, just dreaming that he will be able to get a return on his investment.

The statistics: The decline of Gaza’s flower exports

Recorded Gaza Flower Exports (according to Palestine Crops):

Date Carnations
Stems Trucks
End of 2004 44,000,000 200
2005 30,700,000 210
2006 21,500,000 205
2007 37,400,000 187
2008 2,100,000 10
2009 0 0
2010 10,668,520 74
2011 8,974,890 57
2012 0 0

The table above shows that flower exports have decreased to a fraction of what they were in 2004. During 2012 and 2009, the years of major Israeli attacks on the Strip, exports were prevented entirely.

Gaza’s flower growers see no light at the end of the tunnel with most not having the cash flow to continue their profession. Exports are declining and becoming even more unpredictable with increased border closures.

We asked Hassan for his opinion about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. We particularly wanted his opinion as his livelihood relies on exporting produce through Israeli companies. “You should continue these campaigns even if it damages our business” he said. “The problem for us is that there is no other way we can export, but people on the outside should continue to boycott and help us keep the borders open”.

This sentiment was one that was repeated over and over again across the Gaza Strip, and the challenge for the solidarity movement is clear: in order for Palestinians to be able to control their own exports we first need to break the siege -permanently.

We will publish some further articles on the problems faced by Palestinian exporters in the coming weeks.

February 12, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sources: Egyptian F16 jets fly over Gaza, army opens fire at Palestinians in Rafah

IMEMC & Agencies | October 17, 2013

The Palestine Now News Agency has reported that Egyptian soldiers opened fire at the Palestinian side near the border area in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

Palestinian security sources in Gaza told Palestine Now that the Egyptian army targeted a number of Palestinians in their lands close to the border, no injuries have been reported.

The incident took place while the Egyptian Air Force was flying over the border area with Gaza.

Also on Wednesday, the Egyptian army detonated a tunnel under a home on the Egyptian side, and said that the tunnels lead to the Rafah city.

In related news, Israel allowed Egyptian F16 fighter jets to fly over the border area in Sinai for the first time in 34 years.

Israeli sources said that for the first time since the peace agreement was signed between Cairo and Tel Aviv in 1979, Israel has authorized Egyptian F16 jets to fly over the border area as part of operations the Egyptian military is conducting against armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula.

October 17, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian army planning eventual military intervention in Gaza Strip

Al-Akhbar | October 3, 2013

Egypt is preparing a plan for a possible military intervention in the Gaza Strip, security sources told Ma’an news agency on Wednesday.

Officials told Ma’an that Egyptian planes had entered Gazan airspace and examined a number of locations near the border in Rafah and Khan Younis to be targeted if military attacks against Egyptian troops intensify in Sinai.

Egyptian aircraft could also target vehicles traveling across the border with smuggled goods, the sources added, highlighting that “all options are open.”

Egyptian military sources claim that ongoing attacks in Sinai are carried out by organizations based both in Sinai Peninsula and in the Gaza Strip.

“The Egyptian army does not believe the population of Gaza is involved in the violence in Sinai, but certain factions strongly support Sinai groups. The tunnels play a major role in the communication between both sides,” a senior Egyptian official told Ma’an.

“In addition, Hamas, although its involvement is limited, is responsible for maintaining control of the smuggling tunnels as well as the factions operating in the coastal enclave,” he added.

Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 2,000 arrested across Egypt in the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood following the army’ ouster of President Mohammed Mursi in July.

The Egyptian military has stepped up a campaign against militant groups operating out of the Sinai Peninsula since, as attacks against the army have intensified.

The Egyptian military has accused Hamas, the current rulers of the Gaza Strip, of being connected to the violence and of having ties to Mursi.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Should The Birds Fly

Where Should The Birds Fly is the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living the reality of Israel’s siege and blockade of this tiny enclave. It is the story of two young women, survivors of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Mona Samouni, now 12 years old and the filmmaker, Fida Qishta, now 27, represent the spirit and future of Palestinians. The film is a visual documentation of the Goldstone Report. But it is so much more. It reveals the strength and hope, the humanity and humor that flourishes among the people of Gaza. Few films document so powerfully and personally the impact of modern warfare and sanctions on a civilian population.
The film itself breaks the blockade. Filmmakers in Gaza have never had the opportunity to make a full length, professional documentary of their reality. Fida Qishta, born and raised in Rafah, Gaza, began her filmmaking career as a wedding videographer, and soon moved on to working with international human rights observers in Gaza, documenting day to day life under siege. Her commentary on the siege was published in The International Herald Tribune. Her video reports of Operation Cast Lead were published widely including in the UK newspaper The Guardian and in their weekly news magazine, The Observer.

Fida founded The Life-Maker’s Centre, Rafah, Gaza. She was the manager and a teacher at this free facility for 300 children affected by war. The center continues to provide a safe place to play and offers counseling and English language tutoring.

Order full movie here

September 30, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sinai: Counter-Terrorism or Collective Punishment?

By Ismail Iskandarani | Al-Akhbar | September 16, 2013

On Saturday, September 7, the Egyptian army began a large-scale military campaign in the villages located south of the Sinai town of Sheikh Zoweid. Al-Akhbar toured the devastated area and found consistent reports of the Egyptian army indiscriminately targeting of civilians and their property.

Sinai – On Saturday morning, the Egyptian army took control of the central telecom building in al-Arish and cut off all landlines, mobile phones, and Internet communications in the governorate of North Sinai.

The telecom outage lasted nearly 10 hours, following which the residents of the governorate learned that the army had initiated a large-scale military operation in the border region, but could not obtain any further details. When communications were restored in the evening, a flood of phone calls ensued, complaining about the aftermath of the military operation.

A spokesperson for the Egyptian army took to Facebook to announce the results of the first day of the military campaign, writing that 107 homes were burned down along with a number of vehicles used by the terrorists in their operations. But the residents, while agreeing on some of these details, had a different version of events.

The operation lasted three days. During the communication blackout, tanks and heavy hardware were moved in under cover from Apache combat helicopters, while no media or relief personnel were allowed to enter the area of operations.

Al-Akhbar only learned that the operations had ceased once it arrived in Sheikh Zoweid on Tuesday morning, September 10. Communications had returned, and the residents had not seen or heard the choppers that day. In a quick tour to examine the effects of the military campaign on the villages of al-Zuhair and al-Mokataa, two of several villages affected by the fighting, the extent of the devastation inflicted on civilian homes and vehicles soon became clear.

Al-Akhbar learned from its field guide that Hajj Salem Abu Draa was killed. Salem is a cousin of Sinai journalist Ahmad Abu Draa, who is being detained by the military. He was killed as he left the mosque following the dawn prayer, and his children could not reach his body until later that afternoon. We also learned that Umm Sulman Abu Draa, an elderly woman, was killed after a bullet pierced a wall in her home and settled in her chest.

In al-Mokataa, the Abu Munir mosque was turned to rubble after being hit by missiles, most likely from an Egyptian army Apache. Some locals explained why the mosque would be targeted, saying it was a meeting point for some militant groups. But no one could say for sure whether any militants had actually been holed up in the mosque during the operations.

Dozens of residents gave their testimonies to Al-Akhbar about the indiscriminate collective punishment, the attacks on bystanders and civilians inside homes, and the burning of civilian cars for no apparent reason. One of the residents claimed the army stopped and searched him before sending him away and burning his car.

Not far from the charred remains of the car, a number of adjacent houses met a similar fate. Residents were forcibly evicted and their homes were searched. When the army did not find any contraband inside, they used cooking gas bottles to burn furniture and appliances, and also burned any cars parked in their yards. A taxi driver whose car was burned said he begged the army to arrest him and leave the car to his children to be able to make a living and finish payments on the car, but that the army burned it anyway, as he watched.

Disaster also stuck the extremely impoverished residents of the area’s shanties. People were driven out before their shelters were set on fire although no contraband was found inside. Even the owners of expensive homes were not spared from aerial bombardment, destruction of property, and looting, despite the improbability that their lavish lifestyles were linked to radical Islamists.

According to consistent eyewitness accounts in the two villages, homes were looted of clothes, food, and even women’s jewelry. Olive trees were uprooted and cattle were slain. The army uprooted large areas of olive groves south of al-Arish, supposedly to better expose the area and secure it against infiltration. But these measures have resulted in losses to the tunes of millions of Egyptian pounds, with many families losing their only source of livelihood.

Impact on the Armed Groups

Official army statements claimed that the military operations succeeded in eliminating dens of terrorism and criminal hideouts. However, these claims were shattered on Wednesday morning, when the military intelligence building in Rafah was destroyed in a double suicide attack. On Thursday, a takfiri group called Jund al-Islam claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group’s statement helped clarify the confusion that prevailed over whether Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a Salafi jihadi group, was otherwise responsible for the Rafah bombing, as the latter had issued another statement on Wednesday announcing figures on the army’s casualties during the three-day operation.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis’ statement was enclosed with a picture of a military Land Cruiser that the group claimed it had destroyed, in addition to a Hummer and three armored vehicles using explosive devices. The statement also confirmed that eight soldiers were killed, including six from Special Forces.

Accusing the Egyptian army of treason and collaboration with Israel is nothing new in the statements of Salafi jihadi groups in Sinai. What is new, however, is that the latest statement described the Egyptian military as “the infidel army.” The statement also boasted that the large-scale military campaign claimed the life of only one of the group’s members, something that a resident of al-Mokataa commented on by saying, “They destroyed our homes, burned our cars, and left us with the members of the [militant] groups sticking out their tongues and telling us they were left unharmed.”

The villages in the operation zone south of Sheikh Zoweid are at least 15 km away from the tunnels northeast of Rafah, which means that the recent bombing and burning of homes has nothing to do with these tunnels and the smuggling whatsoever.

Egyptian security forces confirmed that on Sunday, September 15, army attack helicopters bombed positions supposedly belonging to militant Islamists in villages south of Sheikh Zoweid. The sources added that the army started a new military operation against militant outposts in Sinai.

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian navy attacks fishermen in Palestinian waters

Palestine Information Center – 15/09/2013

GAZA — The Egyptian naval forces opened fire on Saturday evening at Palestinian fishermen and physically assaulted two of them during an incursion into the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip.

Dean of the Gazan fishermen Nizar Ayyash told the Palestinian information center that Egyptian naval soldiers detained fisherman Omar Bardawil, 40, along with his son Ziyad, 13, and brutally beat him before confiscating the outboard motor of his boat.

Ayyash said this incident was the second of its kind after the Egyptian navy had wounded two weeks ago two Gazan fishermen and kidnapped five others during an armed attack on them in Gaza territorial waters.

He expressed his grave concern that the Egyptian army started to follow the steps of its Israeli counterpart and engage in hostile practices against the fishermen of Gaza.

The Gazan fishermen confirmed that two Egyptian gunboats entered the Gaza territorial waters and started to shoot them at close range during their presence near Rafah port before capturing and assaulting Ayyash and his son off the coast.

For its part, the Hamas Movement strongly denounced the Egyptian navy for violating the Palestinian maritime borders and launching a wanton attack on Gazan fishermen.

“The Hamas Movement deplores the opening of fire at Palestinian fishermen inside the Palestinian waters by Egyptian naval boats and the detention of some of them,” its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri stated in a press release.

September 15, 2013 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Egypt creates a buffer zone with Gaza

MEMO | September 2, 2013

The Egyptian army is working to create a buffer zone on the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip in a purported effort to undermine weapon smuggling and chaos caused by militants in the Sinai Peninsula.

The military envisions that the ten kilometres long and 500 metre wide buffer zone is to be a building free area without trees. The area stretches from the Rafah Crossing through to the Mediterranean Sea.

Witnesses said that the Egyptian military bulldozers had started uprooting trees in the area and that 13 Egyptian houses had been destroyed in the al-Sarsouriya neighbourhood on Saturday.

At the time of writing this report, Egyptian military bulldozers were working fast razing sand-hills and trees in the area.

A military source, speaking anonymously, told the AP that homes had been knocked down over the last 10 days as a test of the buffer zone idea.

The interim Egyptian government said that this was a part of its “war on terrorism” campaign. The government and Egyptian mass media have been claiming that the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have been used to smuggle weapons and Palestinian militants in to Egypt.

Egyptian residents in the neighbourhoods in the planned buffer zone took to the streets on Saturday, torching car tires and hurling stones at the Egyptian army in an effort to delay the demolition of their homes.

Witnesses said that the army called for residents to leave their houses through the loudspeakers of nearby mosques. The army bulldozers then immediately started damaging the houses.

“They did not give residents eviction notices and did not even give them enough time to collect their properties,” a tribal leader told AP.

In an interview with the Egyptian TV, CBC, Egyptian interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, claimed that the tunnels were the main cause of the uncertainty in Egypt. He insisted that prominent leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood had used the tunnels to enter and hide in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu-Zuhri, denied that the tunnels had been used to smuggle weapons and militants to Egypt or to smuggle Muslim Brotherhood leaders in to Gaza.

“Once they said that Osama Yassin was in Gaza, and two days later, they arrested him in Cairo,” Abu-Zuhri said in an example of the misinformation being reported on Gaza’s involvement in the Egyptian issue and the misuse of tunnels.

Since the end of the Israeli war on Gaza in 2008/2009, the tunnels have been used to smuggle goods, commodities and medicines. Numerous Palestinian, Egyptian and international journalists have observed the work of the tunnels.

They have reported that the tunnels have been used for humanitarian purposes in the light of the strict Israeli blockade on Gaza since 2006.

September 2, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian navy attacks Palestinian fishermen

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MEMO | September 1, 2013

Egyptian navy vessels have attacked Palestinian fishermen going about their work off the coast of Rafah. Five fishermen were arrested and two were shot when their boats were confiscated by the Egyptians.

Local sources say that Ibrahim Abdullah al-Najjar, 19, and his colleague Ismail Wael al-Bardawil, 21, were both shot in the hands during the attack. The men were taken to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah for treatment. Shooting fishermen in the hands is a tactic used by the Israeli Navy as it makes it difficult for them to get back to work.

Following the overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi by the army, the coup authorities have warned the Palestinians that the navy will arrest anyone who crosses into Egypt’s territorial waters.

The fishermen expressed deep disappointment at the Egyptian move. It resembles the attacks on them by the Israeli navy, they said.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the Palestinian government in Gaza, Ihab Ghussein, said that he has asked for a formal explanation from Egypt about the attack on the unarmed fishermen.

September 1, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment

Will Gaza have a date with ‘lean’ years in the future?

By Sufian al-Shorbeiji | Alestqlal News* | August 22, 2013

A state of anxiety and confusion has taken over the residents of Gaza as the tunnels leading to the Egyptian border have been almost entirely closed off. Humanitarian crises are beginning to emerge as it becomes increasingly difficult to move consumer goods both into and within the Gaza Strip. Many fear that Gaza will once again be under siege as a result of the tensions occurring in the Egyptian arena. The current situation differs greatly from the sense of relief and mobility that Gazans experienced last year when the blockade was gradually lifted.

Hamas has recently called on regional and international forces to make every possible effort to break the siege on Gaza that occurred after the majority of tunnels were destroyed and the Rafah border was closed off entirely.

Political and economic analyst Mohsen Abu Ramadan believes that the situation in the Gaza Strip is regressing back to the initial stages of the 2007 siege. Ramadan anticipates that this time, the consequences will be more severe in terms of the ability to move both goods and people, which are restricted by Israel’s continued siege of the Strip. Conditions will be worsened by the decreasing amounts of supplies brought in through the tunnels as the chaos in the Egyptian arena continues. He pointed out that the commercial crossing linking Israel to the Gaza strip provides a mere thirty per cent of the needs of the people; whereas, the remaining seventy per cent of goods come through the Egyptian tunnels.

In a conversation with Alesteqlal, Abu Ramadan explained that Egyptian procedures and restrictions related to the tunnels and the closure of the Rafah border have pushed Hamas to call on convoys to break the siege. The group has also asked for the creation of a waterway that would link the Gaza Strip to the world. Abu Ramadan pointed out that while the proposal is legitimate and while Gazans do deserve to have a channel that links it to the international community, it is more important to remedy the lack of connections between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The divisions must first be solved by forming a national government as soon as possible, so that any passage that is built would be considered part of the Palestinian Territories and not just particular to Gaza.

Large implications

Abu Ramadan stressed that the return of a severe siege on Gaza would have seriously detrimental repercussions for the residents of the Strip. The humanitarian conditions will also be negatively impacted due to the various crises resulting from the Israeli blockade and the closure of the crossings. He noted that if the situation in Egypt continues in this vein, it would have a negative impact on the social and humanitarian quality of life for Gaza’s population.

Abu Ramadan pointed out that the best way to break the siege on Gaza is to achieve solidarity among the masses, in addition to working towards achieving national reconciliation and the formation of a unified national government. The new unified government would then work towards breaking the siege that has been imposed upon Gaza for years.

All tunnels found under the border of the Gaza Strip and Egypt previously provided residents with supplies, food, fuel and other daily necessities. However operations within the tunnels have been fully stopped in the wake of security threats following the coup against President Morsi.

‘Explosion’ in the South

Political analyst Hamza Abu Shanab confirmed that Gaza is currently living under extremely difficult conditions as a result of the lack of stability in the Sinai and the direct effect this is having on the Palestinian scene. In 2008, the Egyptian leadership broke the barrier that separated Egypt from the Gaza Strip. This resulted in mass migrations of Palestinians towards the city of Al-Arish in order to buy their necessities. Abu Shanab noted that the Egyptian leadership learned from this experience and realised from a humanitarian standpoint that any siege on Gaza leads to an ‘explosion’ of people moving towards the south. For that reason, although restrictions will be likely implemented, they will not reach the severity of a siege.

In regards to the situation’s effect on communication between Gaza and Egypt, Abu Shanab said: “Regardless of how much communication increases or decreases, there will always be common interests between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Egypt’s national security remains tied to Gaza regardless of what government is in power and for that reason communication will ultimately not change.”

“The political situation differs from the economic situation. This blockade might be directed towards the political leadership affiliated with Hamas and based on the lack of mobility in Egypt. However, in the end, Egypt will cooperate with whoever is running the Gaza Strip because it benefits the country’s strategic interests,” Abu Shanab added. He explained that the government in the Gaza Strip will attempt to revive the issue of breaking the siege in order to relieve some of the pressure on the Rafah border and on working conditions. However, it is currently too early to speak of solidarity efforts due in large part to the conditions in the surrounding areas.

Abu Shanab believes that the Israeli occupation will not tighten the siege on Gaza in the near future due to a truce between Hamas and Israel. He added that the Israeli occupation does not want the situation in Gaza to escalate and that Israel is avoiding the Gaza Strip altogether until the end of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Abu Shanab also noted that Hamas’ attempts to break the siege are currently limited; however, the group can take advantage of one factor, which is to use pressure from the masses to break the siege. It helps that Hamas’ allies in the region, mainly Turkey and Qatar, currently do not have a stable relationship with Egypt. Furthermore, the security situation coupled with Hamas’ ability to control movement within its territory will force Egypt to deal with the government in Gaza.

Insistent force

According to Jamal Khudairi, the chairman of the People’s Committee against the siege, the Israeli occupation is the first force that is responsible for the severe siege imposed on the Gaza Strip over the last few years. They are also responsible for the difficulties that resulted from closing all border crossings with the exception of one, which is used at all times and under all conditions. Israel forces all travellers to travel through the Beit Hanoun crossing and prevents all goods and necessities from entering the Strip, in addition to prohibiting exports. Khudairi also pointed out that speaking about third parties diminishes Israel’s culpability in the matter.

In his conversation with Alesteqlal, Khudairi said that the door for solidarity campaigns with Gaza is open and that efforts that result from them must be put into effect in the coming months. All solidarity projects bring about legitimate results whether they come in the form of ships breaking the siege, or journalists, human rights groups, or parliamentary groups. Khudairi emphasized that all of the efforts are effective in creating a catalyst for breaking the siege. He also stressed the need to form a Palestinian, Arab, and international force that would raise more pressure for breaking the siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for many years.

Khudairi expects a wide international response to the calls for solidarity based on what happened during the last siege; however, he also stressed that each group must be given the ability to determine how much they can help and what means they ought to use based on their own particular capabilities. The most important thing is that these groups call for permanently and completely removing the blockade. He stressed that the occupying forces must be collectively punished and held accountable for the siege, which is in violation of international law.

* Translated by Middle East Monitor

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Egyptian army demolishes tunnels with Gaza

MEMO | July 4, 2013

Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have been the main life line to the 1.8million residents of Gaza since the Israeli siege was imposed in 2006.

Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have been the main life line to the 1.8million residents of Gaza since the Israeli siege was imposed in 2006.
On Thursday afternoon, Egyptian bulldozers began to demolish the tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip which have functioned as the life-line to the besieged Gaza Strip since the beginning of the Israeli siege in 2006.

Egyptian facebook news network RNN reported on its page that big Egyptian military bulldozers started the demolition of the tunnels. They were protected by military vehicles.

Eyewitnesses from Rafah, Gaza’s southern city which is adjacent to Egypt, said that they had seen the bulldozers at work; that they had seen them arrive several days ago, but that they had only started working today.

They said that heavy automatic guns are mounted on the military vehicles protecting the bulldozers there.

Egyptian sources said that new military forces arrived in the area between Egypt and Gaza yesterday [Wednesday].

The smuggling of commodities to the Gaza Strip was halted several days before the start of the unrest in Egypt.

Palestinian security forces raised the alert on the tunnels fearing chaos might occur during the unrest.

Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza have been the main life line to the 1.8million residents of Gaza since the Israeli siege was imposed in 2006.

The siege, which was imposed following Hamas’ shock victory in the Palestinian parliamentarian elections, is internationally agreed upon.

The ministry of health in Gaza announced that fuel for electricity generators and ambulances will run out within days. “We are facing an unknown future with the closure of the tunnels,” a statement said.

Israel does not allow enough fuel through its crossings with Gaza.


Egypt unrest slows down Gaza construction

Ma’an – 04/07/2013

GAZA CITY – Unrest in Egypt has slowed down construction in the Gaza Strip, which relies on building materials smuggled in through cross-border tunnels, a union official said Thursday.

Israel only allows construction material into Gaza through its border for internationally-funded and approved projects, and this is the only building material available in Gaza since the tunnel trade slowed down, said Nabil Abu Meiliq, head of the union of Palestinian contractors.

60754_345x230Abu Meiliq says no construction material is coming into Gaza from Egypt. Construction is down to 20% since tunnel traffic halted, ending a brief building boom in Gaza, Abu Meiliq told Ma’an.

Several projects funded by the Qatari government are on hold, including the Sheikh Hamad city, due to shortages of materials including cement, Abu Meiliq added.

Before smuggling tunnels closed, a ton of cement cost around 400 shekels ($110), but each ton is now selling for up to 1,000 shekels.

Abu Meiliq said the shortages were not a result of monopolies, but of high demand and very low supply.

Muhammad Abu Sido, a TV director from Gaza City, told Ma’an he had stopped work on his 3-storey home due to cement shortages.


Egyptian army reinforces presence on the borders with Gaza

Palestine Information Center – 05/07/2013

RAFAH — The Egyptian forces reinforced their presence on the borders with Gaza, where they brought more tanks.

Eyewitnesses said that the Egyptian army brought more tanks and troops along the Egypt-Gaza border which stretches 14 kilometers, and added they saw Egyptian armed forces on the roofs of a number of buildings.

For their part, Palestinian security forces in large numbers have been deployed along the border.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian security forces have closed the tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, used for the smuggling of essential goods and fuel to the besieged Strip.

Informed sources confirmed that the Egyptian army launched a campaign to demolish the tunnels built under the Egyptian-Palestinian border.

The sources told PIC’s correspondent that Egyptian tanks and armored vehicles have been intensively deployed on the borders, amid a campaign that included the destruction of many tunnels that have been closed for several days due to the recent developments in Egypt.

July 4, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Hope and Pain: Rachel Corrie’s Rafah Legacy

By Ramzy Baroud | Palestine Chronicle | March 19, 2013

‘Hi Papa .. Don’t worry about me too much, right now I am most concerned that we are not being effective. I still don’t feel particularly at risk. Rafah has seemed calmer lately,’ Rachel Corrie wrote to her father, Craig, from Rafah, a town located at the southern end of the Gaza Strip.

‘Rachel’s last email’ was not dated on the Rachel Corrie Foundation website. It must have been written soon after her last email to her mother, Cindy, on Feb 28. She was killed by an Israeli bulldozer on March 16, 2003.

Immediately after her painful death, crushed beneath an Israeli army bulldozer, Rafah embraced her legacy as another ‘martyr’ for Palestine. It was a befitting tribute to Rachel, who was born to a progressive family in the town of Olympia, itself a hub for anti-war and social justice activism. But Olympia is also the capital of Washington State. Politicians here can be as callous, morally flexible and pro-Israel as any other seats of government in the US, where sharply dressed men and women jockey for power and influence. Ten years after Rachel’s death, the US government is yet to hold Israel to account. Neither is justice expected anytime soon.

Bordering Egyptian and Israeli fences, and ringed by some of the poorest refugee camps anywhere, Rafah has never ceased being a news topic in years. The town’s gallantry of the First Palestinian Uprising (Intifada) in 1987 was the stuff of legends among other resisting towns, villages and refugee camps in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. The Israeli army used Rafah as a testing ground for a lesson to be taught to the rest of Palestinians. Thus, its list of ‘martyrs’ is one of the longest, and it is unlikely to stop growing anytime soon. Many of Rafah’s finest perished digging tunnels into Egypt to break the Israeli economic blockade that followed Palestine’s democratic elections in 2006. Buried under heaps of mud, drowning in Egyptian sewage water, or pulverized by Israeli missiles, some of Rafah’s men are yet to be located for proper burial.

Rafah agonized for many years, not least because it was partially encircled by a cluster of illegal Jewish settlements – Slav, Atzmona, Pe’at Sadeh, Gan Or and others. The residents of Rafah were deprived of security, freedom, and even for extended periods of time, access to the adjacent sea, so that the illegal colonies could enjoy security, freedom and private beaches. Even when the settlements were dismantled in 2005, Rafah became largely entrapped between the Israeli military border, incursions, Egyptian restrictions and an unforgiving siege. True to form, Rafah continues to resist.

Rachel and her International Solidarity Movement (ISM) friends must have appreciated the challenge at hand and the brutality by which the Israeli army conducted its business. Reporting for the British Independent newspaper from Rafah, Justin Huggler wrote on Dec. 23, 2003: “Stories of civilians being killed pour out of Rafah, turning up on the news wires in Jerusalem almost every week. The latest, an 11-year-old girl shot as she walked home from school on Saturday.” His article was entitled: “In Rafah, the children have grown so used to the sound of gunfire they can’t sleep without it.” He too “fell asleep to the sound of the guns.”

Rafah was affiliated with other ominous realities, one being house demolitions. In its report, Razing Rafah, published Oct 18, 2004, Human Rights Watch mentioned some very disturbing numbers. Of the 2,500 houses demolished by Israel in Gaza between 2000-04, “nearly two-thirds of these homes were in Rafah… Sixteen thousand people, more than ten percent of Rafah’s population, have lost their homes, most of them refugees, many of whom were dispossessed for a second or third time.” Much of the destruction occurred so that alleyways could be widened to secure Israeli army operations. Israel’s weapon of choice was the Caterpillar D9 bulldozer, which often arrived late at night.

Rachel Corrie was also crushed by the same type of US manufactured and supplied bulldozer that terrorized Rafah for years. It is no wonder that Rachel’s photos and various graffiti paintings adorn many walls of Rafah streets. Commemorating Rachel’s death anniversary for the tenth time, activists in Rafah gathered on March 16. They spoke passionately of the American girl who challenged an Israeli bulldozer so that a Rafah home could remain standing. A 12-year-old girl thanked Rachel for her courage and asked the US government to stop supplying Israel with weapons that are often used against civilians.

While Rafah carried much of the occupation brunt and the vengeance of the Israeli army, its story and that of Rachel’s was merely symbolic of the greater tragedy which has been unfolding in Palestine for many years. Here is a quick summary of the house demolition practice of recent years, according to the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, also published in Al Jazeera August 2012:

The Israeli government destroyed 22 homes in East Jerusalem and 222 homes in West Bank in 2011, leaving nearly 1,200 people homeless. During the war on Gaza (Dec 2008 – Jan 2009), it destroyed 4,455 homes, leaving 20,000 Palestinians displaced and unable to rebuild due to the restrictions imposed by the siege. (Other reports give much higher estimates.) Since 1967, the Israeli government destroyed 25,000 homes in the occupied territories, rendered 160,000 Palestinians homeless. Numbers can be even grimmer if one is to take into account those who were killed and wounded during clashes linked to the destruction of these homes.

So, when Rachel Corrie stood with a megaphone and an orange high-visibility jacket trying to dissuade an Israeli bulldozer driver from demolishing yet another Palestinian home, the stakes were already high. And despite the inhumane caricaturing of her act by pro-Israeli US and other western media, and the expected Israeli court ruling last August, Rachel’s brave act and her subsequent murder stand at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It highlighted the ruthlessness of the Israeli army, put to shame Tel Aviv’s judicial system, confronted the international community with its utter failure to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and raised the bar even higher for the international solidarity movement.

The Israel court verdict last August was particularly sobering and should bring to an end any wishful thinking that Israel’s self-tailored judicial system is capable of achieving justice, neither for a Palestinian, nor an American. “I reached the conclusion that there was no negligence on the part of the bulldozer driver,” Judge Oded Gershon said as he read out his verdict in a Haifa District Court in northern Israel. Rachel’s parents had filed a law suit, requesting a symbolic $1 in damages and legal expenses. Gershon rejected the suit, delineated that Rachel was not a ‘reasonable person’ and, once more blamed the victim, as has been the case with thousands of Palestinians for many years. “Her death is the result of an accident she brought upon herself,” he said. It all sounded as though demolishing homes as a form of collective punishment was just another ‘reasonable’ act, deserving of legal protection. In fact, per Israeli occupation rules, it is.

Rachel’s legacy will survive even Gershon’s charade court proceeding and much more. Her sacrifice is now etched into a much larger landscape of Palestinian heroism and pain.

“I think freedom for Palestine could be an incredible source of hope to people struggling all over the world,” she wrote to her mother nearly two weeks before her death. “I think it could also be an incredible inspiration to Arab people in the Middle East, who are struggling under undemocratic regimes which the US supports.”

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press).

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Of Hope and Pain: Rachel Corrie’s Rafah Legacy