Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christians stream out of Gaza for Christmas

EREZ BORDER CROSSING, Gaza Strip (AFP) — Hundreds of Christians in Gaza flocked to the heavily armed crossing with Israel on Monday after securing permission to leave the Hamas-run territory for Christmas.

Married couples laden with suitcases and young children, teenagers with parents, and grandparents wrapped up against the chill struggled to walk unaided on the long muddy path from the main road to the Erez checkpoint.

Most were hoping to pray on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, the small town in the West Bank where the Bible says Jesus was born. Others were hoping to visit relatives in the occupied West Bank, Israel or Jerusalem.

"We only got the permission last night. It took a month to come through, so then we had to immediately prepare everything and pack," said Rania Sabieh, guarding the luggage and her two children as her husband went to register.

"We're going to Bethlehem to pray. For one week. We have friends there, but then we'll come back to Gaza. My husband doesn't have a job but the children need to go back to school here," said Rania.

Israel has imposed a total closure on Gaza since Hamas -- a radical Islamist movement officially sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state -- seized armed control of the territory six months ago, routing Palestinian moderates.

Declaring the territory a "hostile entity", Israel has imposed cuts on fuel deliveries and allows in only essential humanitarian supplies.

The United Nations has warned that Israeli restrictions on Gaza are pushing the local economy to the brink of collapse.

Israel has granted permits to 520 of about 3,500 Christians living in Gaza to leave in order to celebrate Christmas and the New Year in Israel and the West Bank until January 2.

"Today we are coordinating for more than 500 Christians in Gaza to go to Israel and the West Bank for the Christmas celebrations," Israeli Colonel Meir Press told AFP by telephone.

"The Christians will be leaving today. It's a special privilege," said Shadi Yassin, spokesman for the Israeli military administration.

"They will be receiving a special permit that allows them to travel between the West Bank and Israel freely and that way they can celebrate and participate in Christmas and New Year as they choose," he said.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Exchanging Donkeys for Cars

Donald McIntyre for the Independent,

For, while working donkeys have been bought and sold in Gaza since before Samson pulled down the Philistines' temple, it is a long time since they have been as valuable as they are now. Prices have risen, according to the traders, by up to 60 per cent since Israel closed off the enclave after Hamas's enforced takeover of the Strip almost six months ago.

Yet despite that – and, he says, that the donkey feed has also gone up from five to 15 shekels (£1.95) a day since June – Mr Sabour has decided it makes sense to sell his car and buy the creature instead. The unemployed Mr Dabour has sold his car and now intends to use a donkey and cart to sell cucumbers, onions and other vegetables door to door. "There are no jobs here, so I am going to create my own work," he said.

read on

Friday, December 7, 2007

Hamas Advisor's letter to Condoleezza Rice

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cutting the Power in Tel Aviv

Notice that appeared on doors of homes in Tel Aviv Today:

"Cutting power is a step taken when no other alternatives remain, and one we are forced to take given the presence, in your city, of neighborhoods full of headquarters of an army that carries out war crimes and harms civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Out of humanitarian concerns, the power cuts will not be total, and we will leave it to your discretion whether to divert the remaining electricity to hospitals, the sewage system, or private homes."

read on

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Israel's Chemical Weapons

I recall walking down the isles of the Shifa hospital in Gaza City hearing Dr Attallah speak of the horrendous injuries and deaths he had witnessed during his recent years working there. Little was ever proven, little was ever written about it, but he had seen with his own eyes what could only be the used of some unknown chemical weapon. Others have espoused that Israel uses Gaza as testing ground for newly developed weapons. Just over a year ago Haaretz ran a piece on an Italian investigative team who had issued a report after identifying irregular injuries in the Shifa hospital in Gaza. James Brooks from Aljazeera added this in depth report shortly thereafter.

This letter in the Guardian yesterday speaks of such things.

Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor (Response, November 30) denies Israel used chemical weapons in Gaza. Claims and counterclaims about the use of such weapons have a long history and are often hard to verify. Mr Prosor's denial must be judged against the reports by health workers in Gaza of injured Palestinians suffering from "severe convulsions, muscle spasms, vomiting, amnesia or partial memory loss" after exposure to Israeli gas attacks (multiple references available). Last year the IDF fired powerful gases at a peaceful joint Palestinian and Israeli demonstration against the wall being driven through B'lin, a village in the occupied West Bank. My colleagues and I were able to obtain a sample of the munition. It contained a powerful irritant derived from capsaicin (the analysis was published in the international peer-reviewed journal Medicine, Conflict and Survival in October last year).

Claims that the IDF used white phosphorus in the Lebanon war last year were initially denied. They were finally admitted by the Israeli minister Jacob Edery in October 2006. White phosphorus causes intense burns and generates choking fumes. I suspect the Israeli government is basing its denials on a technical quibble about whether the chemicals concerned are explicitly banned in international law - to which, anyhow, it is not a signatory.
Professor Steven Rose