Al Jazeera & BBC – 2009-01-10 10:56:45
Global Protests Condemn Gaza War
(January 10, 2009) — More than 50,000 Egyptian have protested in the city of Alexandria against Israel’s assault on Gaza, one of many held across the world as the conflict enters its 14th consecutive day.
Protesters in Egypt, led by parliamentarians allied to the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, chanted slogans condemning the war and the failure of Arab nations to tackle the crisis.
“Down with Israel, and with it every collaborator,” protesters chanted after Friday prayers.
Others shouted: “Gaza excuse us: opening Rafah is not in our hands,” referring to the border crossing between the strip and Egypt which Cairo has refused to open despite the deaths of more than 780 Palestinians.
An AFP news agency reporter said riot police had tried to prevent the protest going ahead but gave up because of the number of demonstrators.
Also in the Egyptian coastal town of al-Arish, demonstrators pelted police with stones when they tried dispersing the crowd.
In the Jordanian capital Amman, security forces stopped protesters carrying Palestinian and Jordanian flags from marching to the Israeli embassy.
The protesters chanted “no Israel embassy on Arab territory” and “Arab rulers are cowards”. No clashes were reported although objects were thrown at riot police.
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab nations with diplomatic relations with Israel.
Both Sunni and Shia Muslim worshippers in Baghdad staged rallies condemning the offensive following Friday prayer services.
The Israeli ambassador to Venezuela was expelled after Hugo Chavez, the president of the Latin American nation, set a deadline for Shlomo Cohen and some embassy personnel to leave.
West Bank Clashes
Angry Palestinian protesters have clashed with Israeli police in Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
Fist fights also broke out between Hamas supporters and members of the rival Fatah party of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Ramallah. The Israeli security forces used teargas and batons to disperse the demonstrators.
Israel had placed the West Bank on a 48-hour lockdown, prohibiting movement into and out of the Palestinian territory until Saturday except in emergency cases.
In Kenya, police used water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse hundreds of people who had gathered outside Nairobi’s Jamea mosque to express their soldarity with the Palestinians of Gaza.
“No to shedding innocent blood,” “End the massacre in Gaza,” and “Israel, stop killing innocent people,” read some of the placards.
The protestors tried to march towards the Israeli embassy in the centre of the Kenyan capital, but were stopped by a heavy security deployment.
Six people were injured and 31 were arrested when 1,000 pro-Palestinian protesters attacked a pro-Israeli demonstration in Oslo, police said on Friday.
During the clashes, considered to be the worst in more than two decades in the Norwegian capital, anti-Israel protesters threw Molotov cocktails, rocks and eggs and burned Israeli flags, Johan Fredriksen of the Oslo police said.
Police were also on high alert in Greece, where protests against the Israeli offensive have been planned.
In Malaysia and Italy, critics of Israel’s Gaza assault have called for a boycott of Israeli and US goods.
“We cannot remain silent about what is happening in Gaza. We had thought of drawing up a list of businessmen who have links with Tel Aviv because people do not know who they are,” Giancarlo Desiderati, a member of a small group of Italian traders who called for the boycott on its website, said.
At least 5,000 people protested outside the US embassy in Malaysia on Friday, and around 300 held a noisy protest outside the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur to urge Arab countries to cut off oil supplies to the US and boycott goods from Coca-Cola, Colgate and Starbucks.
Addressing the crowd, Mahathir Mohamed, a former prime minister, told Malaysians that they “will not die if they do not use the US goods” and urged those working for US companies such as fast-food giant McDonalds to quit their jobs. “I hope Starbucks and McDonald’s employees will stop working there,” he said.
Coca-Cola officials said any boycott would only hurt the local economy and its citizens.
UN Probes Raid on Sheltering Gazans
(January 10, 2009) —The United Nations says it has received reports that the Israeli military shelled a house it had moved Palestinians into, killing about 30 people. The incident allegedly took place on Monday in the Zeitun neighbourhood of Gaza City, a UN report said on Friday.
About 110 civilians had allegedly been moved into the home by Israeli foot soldiers on January 4, and told to stay indoors, only for the building to be repeatedly shelled 24 hours later, the report said.
The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called it “one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations” by Israeli forces in Gaza on December 27.
“Those who survived and were able walked two kilometres to Salah Ed Din road before being transported to hospital in civilian vehicles,” OCHA said. “Three children, the youngest of whom was five months’ old, died upon arrival at the hospital.”
The Israeli military said on Friday that it had no knowledge of the incident.
Wael Samouni, a civilian who said four of his immediate family members died in the attack, told Al Jazeera at the time: “[The Israeli soldiers] gathered all of us … in my house. We were 120 people in the house. They then fired many shells and missiles directly at our home. No one can now directly reach the house. Even the Red Cross.”
The Israeli B’Tselem human rights group quoted Meysa Fawzi al Samouni, a 19-year-old resident, as saying that soldiers forced her and dozens of others to move into the warehouse-like home of another resident before the attack.
“As far as I know, the dead and wounded who were under the ruins are still there,” B’Tselem quoted her as saying. “There was no water, no bread, nothing to eat”
Ibrahim Samouni, a 13-year-old boy who was wounded in the leg and chest, told the Reuters news agency that he kept his three younger brothers alive and tried to help the injured adults lying among the dead after his mother was killed in the incident.
“There was no water, no bread, nothing to eat,” he said.
“Abu Salah died, his wife died. Abu Tawfiq died, his son died, his wife also died. Mohammed Ibrahim died, and his mother died. Ishaq died and Nasar died. The wife of Nael Samouni died. Many people died.”
Emergency workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent said they were not able to reach the wounded for four days because Israel would not allow them safe passage.
They said the children were starving when rescuers finally reached them after the “unacceptable” delay.
“They were too weak to stand up on their own. One man was also found alive, too weak to stand up. In all, there were at least 12 corpses lying on mattresses,” the ICRC said.
Pierre Wettach, the ICRC chief for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, said: “The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded. Neither did they make it possible for us or the Palestinian Red Crescent to assist the wounded.”
Israel has repeatedly insisted it has tried to avert civilian casualties during its two-week aerial and ground assault on the territory. “From initial checking, we don’t have knowledge of this incident. We started an inquiry but we still don’t know about it,” Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said about the reported shelling incident.
More than 800 people, including at least 257 children and 56 women, have been killed during Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground offensive, the UN has said.
Thirteen Israelis have been killed during the same period, three by continued Palestinian rocket fire into Israel.
Israelis ‘Bombs Civilian Shelter’ Kills 30 People
(January 09, 2009) — Israeli forces shelled a house in the Gaza Strip which they had moved around 110 Palestinians into 24 hours earlier, the UN quotes witnesses as saying. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called it “one of the gravest incidents” since the beginning of the offensive. The shelling at Zeitoun, a south-east suburb of Gaza City, on 5 January killed some 30 people, the report said. Israel said the allegations were being investigated.
“According to several testimonies, on 4 January Israeli foot soldiers evacuated approximately 110 Palestinians into a single-residence house in Zeitoun (half of whom were children) warning them to stay indoors,” the OCHA report said. “Twenty-four hours later, Israeli forces shelled the home repeatedly, killing approximately 30.
The UN said those who survived and were able walked 2km to the main north-south road to be transported to hospital in civilian vehicles. “Three children, the youngest of whom was five months old, died upon arrival at the hospital,” the report said.
‘No safe haven’
Allegra Pacheco, of OCHA in Jerusalem, said they were not accusing the Israelis of a deliberate act, but said the incident needed to be investigated. She also said they were concerned at claims by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that ambulances were only allowed access to the neighbourhood on Thursday – four days after the alleged incident.
The ICRC on Thursday accused Israel of failing to fulfil its duty to help wounded civilians in Gaza.
“In Gaza, there is a severe protection of civilians crisis. There is no safe haven, no safe space, for all the civilians, particularly children,” Ms Pacheco told the BBC.
“Since the ground operation, the number of children killed has risen by 250%.”
An estimated 770 Palestinians and 14 Israelis have died in nearly two weeks of Israel’s air and ground offensive against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.
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