Israel Cuts off Access to Gaza -- After Destroying 18,000 Civilian Homes. Declares New Sentence: '20 Years for Throwing Stones'
November 5, 2014
RT News & Super News Planet
Israel is shutting the only two operating Gaza border crossings indefinitely. This comes a day after a projectile hit Israel, but caused no damage. Border closures threaten to isolate already devastated Gaza completely. The damage caused by the Israeli military operation in Gaza makes it impossible for thousands to return home, despite the ceasefire, due to lack of services, water and electricity. As anger grows, Israel has voted to increase penalties ten-fold on people convicted of throwing stones at vehicles -- from two to 20 years.
Gaza Cut Off: Israel Closes Border Crossings Indefinitely
(November 2, 2014) -- Israel has said it's shutting the only two operating Gaza border crossings indefinitely. This comes a day after a projectile hit Israel from the strip, but caused no damage. Border closures threaten to isolate already devastated Gaza completely.
The move will affect both the Kerem Shalom and Erez border crossings, Haartez reported, quoting Israel's defense establishment. The authorities have notified the Palestinians of the decision.
Meanwhile, the three other crossings into Gaza are still not operational and the passage from the area into Egypt -- the Rafah crossing -- remains closed.
From now on and until further notice, only critical humanitarian aid going into Gaza will be allowed via the Erez crossing.
The news comes after the Iron Dome defense system detected a projectile fired from Gaza overnight on Friday. There was no damage reported and no one has claimed responsibility for the incident.
"Overnight a rocket or mortar launched from Gaza struck southern Israel. No damage or injuries reported," Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said on Twitter.
It was not immediately clear if Israel's move on Sunday was connected to the incident.
Meanwhile, Egypt has stepped up its plans to create a buffer zone on the Gaza border, in Cairo's ongoing campaign against underground tunnels dug from the restive Sinai Peninsula, Ynet News reported. In Rafah, buildings are being demolished, while some of the local residents are leaving, fearing a new escalation of violence in the region.
Border closures threaten to cut off Gaza from much-needed humanitarian aid, which could make a dire situation in the area even worse. The Gaza Strip requires substantial rebuilding after Israel's 50-day Operation Protective Edge this summer left much of its infrastructure in ruins.
'18,000 Homes Destroyed in Gaza,
Tens of Thousands Lack Facilities
To Go Back Home' -- UN
(September 6, 2014) -- The damage caused by the Israeli military operation in Gaza makes it impossible for thousands of people to return home, despite the ceasefire, due to lack of services, water and electricity, Ramesh Rajasingham of the UN humanitarian agency OCHA told RT.
The UN has released a new report stating that the number of people displaced in Gaza is still rising, despite a truce put in place after a full-scale operation by Israel against Hamas that claimed the lives of 2,210 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and over 70 Israelis.
The UN report notes that there was a significant drop in the number of displaced Palestinians at the end of August, down to 53,000, but the situation changed at the beginning of this month, with more Palestinian refugees flooding into UN shelters, sending the figure up to 58,217.
RT spoke with the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in Palestinian Territories, Ramesh Rajasingham, for an analysis of the situation.
RT: The latest figures show an increase of displaced Palestinians despite the existing ceasefire. Why is that?
Ramesh Rajasingham: We have about 110,000 Palestinians displaced now. They are either in schools run by the UN organization UNRWA or they are staying with other families, who actually have their homes. There are many reasons for this. We have about 18,000 homes, which are either fully destroyed, or irreparably destroyed. So 18,000 homes means 18,000 families without a home today.
But these figures have also been added to by those who've gone back to their homes and they've seen that they have no services, no electricity, no water -- primarily due to destruction during the conflict. They have also not been able to access services. They don't have adequate supplies, etc. In many ways, what they can get in the shelters is better than what they can get at home. They can perhaps have access to water in the shelters.
The humanitarian organizations have been helping these families in these shelters as well as the families that are hosting them with emergency water, hygiene kits, and food. Almost the entire population of Gaza is receiving food assistance through the main organizations UNRWA and the World Food Programme.
So the level of destruction and devastation in the Gaza Strip has made it impossible for some of these families to return home. Even though they possibly do have a roof over their head, they can't actually live there with any decent amount of services.
RT: This military operation has seen an unprecedented level of destruction for Gaza and a huge number of civilian losses from both sides. Is there any way for Israel to justify that?
RR: We are looking primarily at the humanitarian impact of the conflict. In fact, now that you have a ceasefire and those who can return home have returned home is absolutely an imperative, a must, and is a very positive development. Even before the conflict Gaza was suffering tremendously from the blockade. It was very difficult to get building materials in, difficult to get equipment in, and spare parts -- in what we called a de-development situation.
So on top of that the conflict just further aggravated the situation and brought a terrible humanitarian crisis for almost the entire population. We've had 118 schools damaged, of them 22 have been entirely destroyed. Now this comes on top of the situation where Gaza required 200 schools. So in many cases children will be worse off in terms of education. We had 50 healthcare centers damaged, 17 hospital damaged.
The water infrastructure has been damaged. We have almost half a million people today who have no access to water because there isn't enough pressure or the system is damaged. Electricity -- we have 18-hour power cuts for most of the population in Gaza because either the infrastructure is damaged, or in the case of the power plant, it stopped functioning because it was directly hit by the bombardment.
The situation in Gaza at this point, even though we do have a ceasefire, is a humanitarian crisis. What we would obviously ask is not just to provide humanitarian assistance -- which is what most of the organizations are doing today -- but, to help Gaza recover, to help rebuild Gaza, so they can regain some degree of normalcy and not go back to where they were.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
International Effort Raises $5.4 Billion for Gaza
(October 12, 2014) -- The combined efforts of the US, EU, Turkey, Qatar, Germany and Kuwait have raised some $5.4 billion worth of assistance to Palestinians in relief efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip following a 50-day military conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The donor conference gathered some $5.4 billion for Gaza, according to an announcement made by the Norway's Foreign Minister at a conference in Cairo late on Sunday, and smashing through the target of $4 billion which the Palestinian Authority has said it needs to rebuild Gaza.
Qatar had previously announced a pledge of a billion dollars. "The state of Qatar announces its participation with an amount of $1 billion for the reconstruction of Gaza," Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled-al-Attiya said at the conference.
US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized the importance of getting funds to the people of Gaza as soon as possible: "The people of Gaza do need our help desperately, not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now" he said as the US pledged $212 million.
Alongside the US and Qatar, Germany and Kuwait have also stepped forward to help Gaza. Germany has pledged 50 million euros ($64 million) to the reconstruction efforts, while Kuwait, UAE and Turkey have donated $200 million.
The European Union pledged 450 million euros ($568 million)
Kerry, however, stressed that money itself would not resolve the decades-long Middle East crisis, which has been the bugbear of US politicians since the Six-day War of 1967, when Israeli forces conquered large parts of Palestinian territory, which remains in Israeli hands today.
"Out of this conference must come not just money but a renewed commitment from everybody to work for peace that meets the aspirations of all, for Israelis, for Palestinians for all people of this region," Kerry said. "I promise you the full commitment of President Obama, myself and the United States to try to do that."
"Everything else will be a band aid fix, not a long-term solution... Everything else will be the prisoner of impatience and that has brought us to this unacceptable and unstable status quo," he said.
Aside from strictly financial objectives, other objectives of the forum is to get Israel to lift restrictions on the importation of goods into the Palestinian enclave, which remains hampered by economic strife.
Hani al-Bassous from the Islamic University of Gaza expressed skepticism over the financial pledges nontheless. "This is not the first time that money was pledged to the Gaza Strip," he told RT.
Bassous stated that while the money may be coming next year, "no one can give guarantee that the Israeli government and the Israeli army will not invade, will not destroy the same homes and the same infrastructure again."
On July 8, 2014, Israel launched a seven-week military campaign, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of some 2,200 people and widespread physical destruction, with much of the slither of land wedged between Egypt and Israel resembling an earthquake zone.
Palestinians Seek $3.8 Billion in Aid for Gaza
Super News Planet
NEW YORK (September 24, 2014) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has said he has asked for $3.8 billion in urgent aid to help rebuild Gaza following its devastating 50-day war with Israel this summer.
Hamdallah told The Associated Press that Saudi Arabia has pledged $500 million and other nations have indicated they would join in. He spoke at the end of a donor meeting lead by Norway on the sidelines of a gathering of world leaders at the UN. The aid request comes as Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas Abbas is preparing to submit a resolution to the UN Security Council seeking a three-year timetable for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank.
Palestinian officials said the resolution will be handed in immediately after Abbas speaks at the UN general assembly on Friday. The recent Gaza war has weakened Abbas domestically, with Hamas enjoying a surge of popularity among Palestinians for fighting Israel. He is under pressure at home to come up with a new political strategy after his repeated but failed attempts to establish a Palestinian state through US-mediated negotiations with Israel.
Abbas was meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry later yesterday and express little optimism the resolution would survive a Security Council vote. The United States will almost certainly veto such a measure, having said the only resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations between the two sides.
A day earlier, Abbas said a UN rejection of the resolution would prompt him to seek membership in international institutions and agencies .Aides said that would include the International Criminal Court, opening the door to war crimes charges against Israel for its military actions in Gaza and Jewish settlement construction on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.
Israeli Ministers Pass Bill Jailing Stone Throwers for 20 Years
(November 2, 2014) -- Government ministers in Israel have voted to increase penalties ten-fold on people convicted of throwing stones at vehicles from two to 20 years, in a move designed to deal with a wave of violence that has hit some of Jerusalem's Arab districts.
If Israeli courts can prove that someone threw a stone with the intent of causing serious bodily harm, they may be able to impose a jail sentence of 20 years.
The law would also allow the conviction of people who hurl rocks at police cars or police officers with the aim of hindering them from carrying out their duty.
If intent to cause harm can't be proven, then the amendments still allow for a hefty 10-year sentence if the safety of a person or a vehicle is endangered. At the moment, such crimes have a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
Although the changes have been given the green light by the Israeli cabinet, they must still be approved by the Knesset and the ministerial Committee for Legislation.
The proposed legislation change stems from the recommendation of a committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, which was tasked with dealing with the deteriorating security situation in East Jerusalem.
There has been a sharp increase in violence in many Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem in recent weeks. On Sunday, there were two incidents in East Jerusalem involving rock throwing. In one incident, in Talpiot, two juveniles were arrested. A bus was targeted in a separate incident on Suleiman Street.
A small improvised bomb was hurled at police officers in the Shuafat area of East Jerusalem on Saturday. In the Old City and Wadi Joz, fireworks were launched at policemen and a 13-year-old Palestinian was arrested after attacking a Jewish man near Damascus Gate.
"Israel is operating aggressively against terrorists, against stone throwers, against hurlers of firebombs and firecrackers. We will legislate more aggressive legislation to this regard, in order to return quiet and security to every part of Jerusalem," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted by Haaretz.
A new policy that has been in place since July and applies to minors as well as adults means that Palestinians are being held in custody from the time they are arrested until the end of proceedings.
There were also minor clashes in the West Bank after Friday's prayers. However, the West Bank would not be subject to the new legislation, as it is effectively ruled by the Israeli military.
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