Thursday, July 28, 2005

Child Injured in Rafah

Nada Abu Khalil Siam, 4, in hospital after being seriously injured last night during the IOF shelling of Rafah. She was in her home when she was shot in the head.

Mohammed just emailed this:

Again, there has been heavy shelling of civilian neighborhoods in Rafah and a continuing buildup of Israeli army forces despite the Israeli disengagement plan scheduled to start next month. Wednesday night, there was shelling all night long in many areas of Rafah targeting civilian homes, and helicopters circling continuously. The same was true in nearby Khan Yunis.

Nada Khalil Siam 4 years old, was at home, in her own room late last night when she was shot in the head. Eyewitnesses said during the lengthy shelling, her mother was holding her to offer some comfort. She was in her mother's arms when she was shot.

She was rushed to al Najjar Hospital in Rafah where it was determined her injury was severe. She was transferred to the larger, better-equipped European Hospital in Khan Younis where she remains in serious condition.

Another civilian, Hanaa Hijazi, 21, was also wounded last night during the Israeli shelling.

read entire article. . .

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Violence Flares again in Gaza

This off the wires from WAFA (Palestinian News Agency)

GAZA, July 24, 2005, (WAFA)-Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) wounded on Monday [sic--the time-stamp in the web item was 5pm Gaza time] a citizen in the Gaza Strip (GS) city of Rafah, sources said.
Medical sources at Abu-Yossef al-Najjar hospital, said that Mohamed Kshta, 14, was wounded with a bullet in his left hand.

Eyewitnesses told WAFA that Israeli soldiers stationed at Rafah border brutally opened heavy machine gun fire at citizens and houses, wounding a citizen and causing a state of panic among others, mostly children and women.

Another report said Mohammed Keshta, had been wounded in the left shoulder. Whichever is the case, it sounds as if he'll recover--hopefully, with the full use of his hand--or shoulder. Also from WAFA, this report of two deaths in Khan Younis:

GAZA, July 24, 2005, (WAFA)- Medical sources that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed today at pre-down 2 citizens in the Gaza Strip city of Khanyounis.
Medics at al- Shifa Hospital told WAFA that Tareq Suleiman Yassin 20, of Al-Zaytoon area and Yehya Abu Taha 21, of Rafah were shot and killed on the spot.
In the meantime, IOF closed early morning its military "Abu Holi" checkpoint located in central Gaza Strip, security sources said.
The sources told WAFA that this closure would cut the Gaza Strip into two alienated parts, and would bar hundreds of thousands of Gazans from access to their workplaces and hosptals.
Witnesses told WAFA that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are unable to move between the southern and northern areas of the Strip and cannot reach their destinations.
IOF is repeatedly closing Abu Holi military roadblock which links North Gaza with its South.

Here is a much fuller report from the International Press Center (Palestinian):

Palestinian Factions Jointly Attack Israeli Settlements in South Gaza Strip

GAZA,Palestine. July 24, 2005.(IPC+Agencies)--- Israeli military sources reported today morning that an attack was conducted overnight in Salah Al-Din road on the Israeli two illegal settlements Ghosh Qatif and Kosofim.

Few Israeli settlers were killed and wounded in the attack. The sources added

In a joint statement, Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, and Shohada Al-Aqsa brigades, associated with Fatah Movement, and Al-Naser Salah Al-Din brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a press conference held today morning in Khanyounis the three Palestinian factions claiming responsibility affirmed such an operation comes as a normal retaliation to the Israeli recent assassination of Palestinian militants in the West bank and Gaza Strip.

The factions added, they will not stand crossed-handed watching the Israeli daily aggressions and violations of the concluded truce, these include the detention operations, the assassinations, and the murder of children, the confiscation of Palestinian-owned lands, and the siege imposed on them.

They also threatened the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) that if they do any wanton action against the Palestinian militants or civilians, they will ruthlessly and fiercely respond to all the Israeli crimes and violations.

Al-Quds brigades and Shohada Al-Aqsa brigades identified the two Palestinian militants who conducted the joint attack yesterday at night; Yehya Abu Taha, 21, from Rafah city and Tareq Yasin, 22 from Gaza city.

The Israeli sources have not yet reported the exact number of the killed and wounded in the attack.

Following the attack, the IOF blocked Salah Al-Din road that connects north Gaza Strip with its south denying thousands of Palestinian citizens access to their workplaces, Palestinian security sources reported.

The IOF also heavily and randomly shelled the Palestinian homes in western Khanyounis causing gross damages. No injuries were reported.

A recently issued report on the Israeli violations of the ceasefire agreed upon by the Israeli and the Palestinian sides in Sharm Al-Sheikh summit 8/2/2005 detected about 310 Israeli violations of cease fire understanding. The violations include shelling of densely populated residential areas, frequent incursions into the Palestinian cities and villages, closure of roads, confiscations of Palestinian-own lands and assassination of Palestinian militants.

Finally, this from the Jerusalem Post:

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the killing of an Israeli couple in Gush Katif on Saturday night, saying such attacks provided Israel with an excuse to launch retaliatory attacks on Palestinians, including targeted killings.

"This operation is in violation of the hudna [temporary truce] and period of calm agreed upon in Cairo between all the Palestinian factions earlier this year," Abbas told reporters.

He said the timing of the attack – on the eve of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip – did not serve the interests of the Palestinians. "These attacks threaten our national security and undermine our credibility in the international arena," he added. "The Palestinian Authority will do its utmost to prevent such damaging attacks."

Despite Abbas's condemnation, the PA-controlled media hailed the two attackers as "martyrs," pointing out that were "resistance fighters" involved in a military operation.

The two are Jihad Abu Taha, 21, of Rafah, and Tarek Salim Yassin, 22, of the Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City. Both Islamic Jihad and Fatah claimed responsibility for the deadly attack.

Khaled al Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad leader in the Gaza Strip, explained that the attack was in the framework of efforts to "correct the path of the Palestinian resistance by directing our weapons only toward the Zionist enemy." He was referring to last week's armed clashes between Hamas gunmen and PA security forces in various parts of the Gaza Strip.

Batsh said the attack also came in response to the killing of Fatah and Hamas members by the IDF over the past few weeks and the stabbing to death of a 13-year-old Palestinian boy near Nablus.

The boy, Yazan Musa, was murdered by his cousin in what was described as an inter-clan feud in the village of Karyut.

His family initially claimed that he had been murdered by Jewish settlers, but later admitted that the boy was murdered by his own cousin.

Batsh dismissed Abbas's argument that Saturday night's attack was in violation of the truce. "This operation cannot be regarded as a breach of the truce," he said. "The resistance will respond to Israeli violations whenever the opportunity arouses."

He added: "The tahdiya [calm] is not sacred. The Tel Aviv government is not abiding by the Cairo agreement and is continuing to kill and demolish and build the racist separation wall. We cannot sit on the side and watch them shed Palestinian blood."


The Orwellian double-speak is predictable but discouraging. Truce violations by either side are always "responses"--while the hard fact remains that the violence, no matter what anyone chooses to call it, helps no one.

read entire article. . .

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Nights of Fire: New Violence Sweeps Gaza

photo: Mohammed Omer
Hamas and Fateh leaders at a recent press conference

This just in from Mohammed who returned to Rafah from a working trip in Norway to be "welcomed" by a missile attack on his neighborhood. He and his family got through the night without injury, but the day before, at the Abu Holi checkpoint, 14-year-old Raghed el-Masri, was killed by an IOF sniper.

Nights of Fire, Uneasy Days

The whine of bullets, the unearthly shrieks of missiles streaking through the air, the sky painted red with garish fire unknown in nature, the sharp odor of cordite, dust, heat—every sense was assaulted at once and the gears of a mind jolted from jet-lagged sleep locked, froze, refused to comprehend. The media routinely call these events "clashes" but the word doesn't begin to do justice to the din, the confusion, the strange feeling of alert numbness.

Tuesday night's firefight in our neighborhood was typical of the new violence sweeping through Gaza. It was a double conflict of sorts. For over a week, various militant factions had been firing Qassam rockets at Gaza's illegal Israeli settlements in retaliation for Israel's resumption of targeted assassinations of militants from Hamas and other factions.

Since the Bader camp, a new neighborhood of UNRWA-built houses, is just across a fortified road from the Rafeh Yam settlement, it was inevitable that as the fragile truce unraveled over the last two weeks, sooner or later, Palestinian militants would decide to use the neighborhood as a launch site. So when the Hamas fighters arrived, residents shouted, begged, pleaded till they moved off to the nearby sand dunes, but their two mortars still drew an inferno of missiles from Rafeh Yam onto the neighborhood.

But then, even the smallest children in Rafah know that the Israeli war machine doesn't need logical reasons to destroy a house, a street, an entire neighborhood. If pressed, they may cite tunnels, or militant activity, or the ever useful "security reasons," but basically, the IOF destroys whatever it wants, whenever it wants. Over the last ten days, horror and chaos has swamped Palestine again.

Teenager Killed at Checkpoint

Yesterday a Palestinian teenager, Raghed el-Abed el-Masri, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in the sniper tower guarding the Abu Holi checkpoint. Initially, the Israeli Army said they had fired "warning shots in the air," but not at the cars, when Palestinian traffic attempted to cross without permission. However, Dr. Ibrahim Masadar, director of the Shuhada al-Aqsa Hospital, said Raghed had been shot in the back, the live bullet exiting through his heart and chest. The Occupation forces spokesman conceded that Palestinian Civilian Authorities had complained that the 14-year-old had been killed, as well as several others injured in the same incident, and said they were "still investigating."

The Israeli authorities have also reinstated a travel ban on Palestinian men and boys between the ages of 16 and 35 from leaving Gaza through the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only route to the outside world. In north Gaza, the Erez Crossing into Israel has been sealed as well, preventing some 7000 Palestinian workers who have permits to travel to their jobs in the industrial zone, from getting to work. All of these restrictions are considered "collective punishment" and are forbidden by international law.

Tuesday, in and around Jebalia, there were further clashes between Palestinian security forces and militants, with 13 wounded. Predictably, perhaps, each side blamed the other, while in nearby Gaza City, Abbas and the militants seemed to be reaching agreement. In any case, both sides withdrew their armed fighters from the street, realizing, many hoped, that a Palestinian civil war would help no one but the Israeli hard-liners. And while the powerful discuss, debate, talk with the press, and jockey for power, the men, women, and children of Gaza brace themselves for a long and frightening summer.

read entire article. . .

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Threats of Ground Assault

It is already July 18th out in Australia where the Monday morning papers are carrying wire service reports from AFP. On Sunday, Israel launched fresh air strikes and shot down two Hamas militants, one as he left his home in khan Younis (just up the road from Rafah.) Abbas is promising to stop the Qassam rocket attacks "at all cost," while Sharon is threatening a ground assault "within hours." Interestingly, according to this news story the head of Shin Beth is urging Abbas be given 24 hours to calm the situation.

full story archived.

TWO militants were shot dead by Israeli troops today, as Israel carried out a fresh air strike and threatened a major ground offensive in the Gaza Strip unless Palestinians halted rocket attacks.

Escalating unrest, which has killed 12 Palestinians and six Israelis in five days, has flung a spluttering truce into crisis and is to bring US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region at the end of the week to press for calm.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel's defence establishment had been given a free hand to stop all rocket attacks.

"I met defence officials and I repeated to them that there was no restriction on operations to stop attacks on (Israeli) towns," he said.

"We will absolutely not tolerate the continuation of attacks against our towns, be they inside the Gaza Strip or on the border."

Sharon reiterated that Palestinian attacks will not hinder the pullout from the Gaza Strip set to begin next month.

Said Saeam, 32, a wanted local leader in Hamas's armed wing that claimed continuous anti-Israeli rocket attacks today, was shot dead as he left home in the Gaza town of Khan Yunis, the Israeli army and Palestinian sources said.

Another Palestinian gunman was killed by Israeli troops as he tried to infiltrate the isolated Jewish settlement of Netzarim, the army said.

Three Hamas militants fled with their lives after an Israeli drone slammed a rocket into a car in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, a Hamas bastion and frequent launchpad for rocket attacks, witnesses and security sources said.

"If the Palestinian Authority does not stop the attacks, we will have to take action in its place," Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz was quoted as saying.

The military has assassinated at least eight Hamas militants since Friday - the first targeted killings in seven months.

Israel's army has deployed thousands of extra soldiers and armoured vehicles on top of those massed across the border with the Gaza Strip.

Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim threatened a major land offensive in Gaza "within the next few hours" unless militants stopped rocket attacks.

"We are heading towards a big-scale operation. The troops are ready and the operational plans drawn up," Boim told public radio.

But the head of Israel's domestic security agency recommended Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas be given a day's grace to restore calm before troops rolled across the border, public radio reported.

"Mahmoud Abbas should be given a chance. We should wait 24 hours before taking a decision," Yuval Diskin, the head of Shin Beth, was quoted as saying by public radio.

Six Israeli settlers were wounded, two seriously, in a mortar attack on Neve Dekalim, an army spokesman said. Hamas claimed the attack. A follow-up rocket attack later wounded another two settlers.

Abbas, who has condemned the rocket assaults, held talks with Egypt's deputy intelligence chief, Mustafa al-Buheiri, who rushed to Gaza on a mission to help rescue the teetering truce.

The Egyptians later began follow-up talks with representatives of Hamas.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat "strongly condemned" Israel's resumption of targeted killings and warned that continued killings would "completely destroy the truce".

He warned that any ground offensive would be "a big disaster" and "will destroy all chances to make the withdrawal peaceful and organised".

A Hamas spokesman said Israel's return to targeted killings would unleash hell and warned the truce would collapse if the bloodshed continued.

"We say to the Zionist enemy, he has opened the gates of hell," Mushir al-Masri said.

"If the enemy continues his aggression and killings against our people, the truce is headed towards collapse."

read entire article. . .

Last Night in Gaza City

This from Laila El-Haddad's excellent blog (see permanent link to Raising Yousuf in the list at right)--the view from her kitchen window in Gaza City last night:

Lawlessness at Midnight

A quick post on the situation before I head to bed: Its a bit crazy here, Fateh people, from what I can tell shabab with nothing better to do, are out on the main city streets in a show of force banging their rifles every which way.

I'm crawling into bed and suddenly I hear the all-too-familiar darts of bullets spraying into the air. I look out the kitchen window (note to self: never look out glass window when Fateh men are firing haphazourdly) and see several hundred Fateh men marching down the street, chanting "kata'ib", in reference to the Fateh-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Ok, now the rundown: No idea why: 1) they chose midnight to do this; 2) why they are endangering innocent bystanders lives with their emotions run wild (though perhaps hey may argue that is why they chose midnight...) 3) why the police, under the auspices of the Ministery of the Interior, is not doing anything abou this, but all-too-anxious to shoot at Hamas folks.

Just today, a spokesperson for the Ministry assured me that "no one is above the law", which they would enforce equally, without discrimination or hesitation. My take on it is that there are simply WAY too many unlicensed weapons on Gaza's streets. I mean, anyone whose no necessarily anyone can get a hold of a gun, which are often used to settle personal vendettas. There's something rather unsettling about a lot of fed-up, stressed out people, locked in a 350sq mile open-air prison with a bunch of guns in their hands. Let's not even talk about road rage. And by the way, all of these real psycho-social implications of the occupation, according to a Gaza psychiatrist I interviewed last year.

read entire article. . .

Friday, July 15, 2005

Horror Again in Gaza

Gaza City civilians gather around the wreckage left after the Israeli Army resumed "extrajudicial assassinations" this afternoon. The charred mass in the foreground is all that was left of a Volkswagen carrying four Hamas members that was destroyed by at least two rockets fired by Israeli Army Apache gunships. Six pedestrians were also injured in the attack.

Mohammed just sent this update:

Horror Again in Gaza

After a few months of cautious hope, blood, fire, and fear has become the norm again in Gaza. Back to counting the dead, counting the injured, phoning the medics to try to learn the names of the casualties. For the Palestinian civilians, it is back to sleepless nights trying to judge how close the shooting and bombing is, or trying to sleep at closed Israeli checkpoints.

Where did it start this time? Should we go back to the suicide bombing this week in Netanya? The Israeli Army has been routinely arresting members of militant factions and staging incursions into areas under Palestinian control despite the supposed cease-fire. The young militant who carried out the Netanya bombing said he was "responding" to the Israeli crimes in the West Bank. Of course, IOF activity only increased after the Netanya attack on the 12th, while in Gaza, the militant factions increased their Qassam launches in—yes, that word again—"response."

Thursday night, an Israeli woman, Dana Glakowitz, 22 who lived in a town near the Gaza border, was killed by a Qassam strike as she sat on the porch of her home. The Palestinian Interior Minister declared a state of emergency and ordered the PA police to stop the militants from firing on Israeli settlements and towns hear the border. The IOF immediately closed the checkpoints, dividing Gaza into three sealed sections and shortly after midnight launched four rocket strikes on Gaza within an hour. Three were in northern Gaza, one on a cemetery in Khan Younis that the Israeli military claims is being used as a launch site by the militants. In Gaza City the headquarters of an Islamic charity was destroyed—the IOF claimed it was "pro-Hamas."

There were heavy clashes all night between PA police and masked militants, with cars carrying Hamas members attacked and, in retaliation, militant attacks on police stations and police cars. Tragically, in the Zeytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, two bystanders, a teenager and a child, were killed during a firefight between militants and the PA police.

With the dawn, the police-militant conflict largely ceased, but civilians were burning tires in an effort to blind the Israeli unmanned surveillance drones. In mid-afternoon, the Israeli helicopters resumed extrajudicial assassinations by rocket attacks an hour apart on two cars carrying Hamas members—one near Nablus, and one in Gaza City. In the Gaza City airstrike around 4pm, four Hamas members were killed, their white Volkswagen reduced to barely-recognizable rubble, and six pedestrians were also injured. Eyewitnesses said body parts and shredded flesh of the four passengers were scattered over a wide area.

Witnesses report Israeli troops and tanks are massing at the sealed borders.

read entire article. . .

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

News from Rafah, Tragic and Joyful Both

photo: Mohammed Omer
Emotions run high among Rafah's scondary school graduates as they await the Tawjihi exam results.

Another long report from Mohammed focusing on a single, highly eventful day. Roadside bombs, a suicide attack in Netanya—but in spite of the horror, some good news—no, actually, some wonderful news in the Tawjihi results.

12 July
Early this morning, two Israeli soldiers were wounded, one critically, when a roadside bomb exploded and hit an Israeli military jeep near the Matahen checkpoint, south of Deir El Balah. The jeep was patrolling near the Netzer Hazani settlement in south Gaza. No militant faction or group has claimed responsibility.

The Israeli occupation forces immediately closed the Salahedin Road, the main north-south artery through Gaza, and closed the Abu Holi and Matahen checkpoints, causing huge traffic jams. Eyewitnesses also report one citizen arrested in Khan Younis.

In a separate incident north of Khan Younis, four militants and two civilians were wounded near the Al Amal neighborhood while trying to fire homemade rockets at the Israeli Gani Tal settlement. This makeshift ordnance contains organic material and chemical fertilizer and becomes unstable in very hot weather, making premature detonation more likely. The Palestinian Interior Ministry once more urged all the militant groups to respect the truce.

A final act of violence—which may have profound effects on all of Gaza--took place in the Israeli seaside resort town of Netanya where an 18-year-old suicide bomber from the West Bank detonated his explosives on a busy street corner outside a shopping mall, killing two young women along with himself and wounding as many as 50 people. Some media reports say the Islamic Jihad faction is claiming responsibility; others say nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack. Palestinian President Abbas was quick to condemn the suicide attack. Reuters reported the bomber was Ahmed Abu Khalil, 18, from Tulkarm in the West Bank, and said in his video statement: "We reiterate our commitment to calm, but we have to retaliate for Israeli violations." Of course, if the Israeli army answers with overwhelming force, almost certainly they will say they "have to" retaliate. Throughout Gaza, people are bracing for the almost inevitable border closures and the resulting hardships.

Rafah leads Tawjihi exam results.

There were shouts of joy as mothers passed out sweets, car horns honked, tears of happiness were shed throughout Rafah as the Tawjihi exam results brought the amazing news that besieged Rafah had the highest exam scores in all of Gaza. The Tawjihi exams—an ordeal, milestone, and rite of passage-- are taken by all graduating secondary school students and a passing grade is necessary to go on to university. Despite the incursions and frequent shelling, Rafah students had the highest scores in both the Art and Science sections, taking the top nine places. Many of the high-scoring students come from the devastated neighborhoods on the Gaza/Egypt border. Ghada Shabana, from the Shafa Amar School for Girls, had the highest mark in the Art Stream, 98.2, while Safa Alghoul of the Al Aqdasia School for Girls scored highest in Science with 99.5.

Preparing for the Tawjihi exams often involves the whole family, as radios and TVs are silenced for weeks on end and all the family members do their utmost to give the studying seniors the peace and quiet they need. Even when there is an attack nearby, most students refuse to let it disrupt their work. If the power is cut, they continue by candlelight. If the shelling is too close for it to be safe to show a light, they shutter the windows and, if necessary, learn to ignore stifling heat. For so many parents, students, and teachers in Rafah, preserving normalcy, refusing to let the Occupation invade even our minds and studies, is our own rejection of oppression, our own victory over injustice.

more pictures, plus archive at

read entire article. . .

Saturday, July 09, 2005

What Does She Dream?

photo by Mohammed Omer

Exhausted beyond tears, six-year-old Olfat al Qadi makes her bed on the rubble of her home in Rafah's Hay al Salam neighborhood. Her pillow and a flower were all she could find in the ruins.

When the Israeli incursion roared through the Hay al Salam neighborhood back in December 2003, this little girl refused to leave her home. Somehow, she made it out of the rubble alive while the rest of the family ran from the tanks. With no idea where her parents might be, she found her pillow and a flower and fell asleep. Hay al Salam literally means "neighborhood of peace" but happens to be close to the Gaza/Egypt border. Sometimes by tens and scores, sometimes by just a house or two, the Occupation Forces have reduced most of Hay al Salam to a destroyed no-man's-land, the infamous Philadelphi Corridor. First the tanks and bulldozers, often backed by Apache gunships, destroy the houses. When the families come back to try to salvage belongings, often the patrolling tanks fire on them. Eventually, the bulldozers return and bury the rubble, hiding any sign that there had once been a thriving neighborhood there. Homes, businesses, gardens, trees, everything gone as the occupying army creates its "security zone" out of ruined lives.

read entire article. . .

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Rafah's Pre-Disengagement Problems

A long catch-up report from Mohammed covering a number of topics, including the verdict in the Tom Hurndall case. Throughout Southern Gaza, residents are prepared for problems during the evacuation of the Israeli settlements.

On 3 July, a number of Israeli bulldozers and tanks invaded the western part of Rafah Refugee Camp, and left only after heavy shooting. Essam Al Abed, 21, was taken to Abu Yousuf Al Najjar hospital where doctors reported he had two bullet wounds in his left leg.

In the Tal Al Sultan neighborhood, also in western Rafah, twenty well-equipped Israeli soldiers, backed by armored vehicles, came from the nearby Israeli settlements and tried to enter the neighborhood. Gunfire was exchanged with militants.

In the Al Mawasi camp, which is cut off from the sea and from the rest of Gaza by Israeli settlements, settlers, backed up by anti-disengagement supporters from Israeli and overseas, tried to occupy houses in Al Mawasi and burn the Palestinians' fishing boats. The Israeli army separated the scuffling groups, but according to witnesses and the press, beat the Palestinians while dealing fairly gently with the settlers.

That same weekend, some forty militants from the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the armed wing of the ruling Fatah party, took over the Palestine Legislative Council office building in Rafah. Although they were masked and carried rifles, their four-hour "occupation" was non-violent. The action was a protest against the authorities' foot-dragging on fulfilling its promise to find jobs for the militants.

Late in June, a Bedouin soldier serving in the Israeli Army was convicted of manslaughter in the death of photographer and peace activist Tom Hurndall in Rafah two years ago, and received a 20-year prison sentence.. Hurndall's father, a British attorney, conducted his own investigation of events in Rafah and had the backing of the British government in pushing for a serious investigation. After the verdict, he told reporters that the case had underlined a culture of impunity for Israeli soldiers operating in Gaza. "We are concerned that there is a policy which seems to be prevalent in Gaza among the Israeli soldiers and army that they feel able to shoot civilians really without any accountability whatsoever. So there are two issues here: one, the apparent tacit policy that seems to be in place that the Palestinian civilians are fair game; and that there is no accountability."

The Israeli human rights group Btselem said that innocent Palestinian victims were much less likely to receive justice, saying that Israeli forces had killed at least 1,722 Palestinians not involved in hostilities but in only two cases were soldiers convicted of causing the death of a Palestinian.

Rafah residents, particularly those in areas near the Israeli settlements, are braced for difficulties during the coming evacuation, as at least some of the settlers seem bent on offering violent resistance. Shooting from the settlements toward Palestinian civilians is a common occurrence. No one is sure if the Israeli army will seal off Gaza to prevent the settlers from gathering reinforcements, but border closures always mean shortages and hardship for everyone in Gaza.

read entire article. . .

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Protest at Pal. Legislative Council Bldg

Xinhua, the Chinese news agency, is often first to get a story on the wire. That seems to be the case with the item below. Sounds like the protest was (is?) non-violent, although it sounds as if nothing has been resolved yet. And they're seeking not mayhem but jobs Updates as we can find them. Mohammed is out of Rafah right now, but his take from the local residents will probably arrive in due course.

GAZA, July 2 (Xinhuanet) -- Members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades seized the building of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on Saturday, Palestinian witnesses said.

About 40 gunmen wearing black and holding rifles suddenly showed up and entered the building which houses office of PLC Speaker Rawhi Fattouh and other Rafah legislatures, said the witnesses.

The gunmen of the ruling Fatah movement's armed wing seized the building in protest against the ignoring of their demands for rights.

One of the gunmen told reporters that the action was aimed at sending a clear message to all the PLC members that they should work on finding job opportunities for those who have sacrificed for their own people and cause.

He said his group would never stop actions of protests against the PLC and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) until "our legal demands become true and until we get all our legitimate rights to live a good life in the future."

The gunmen urged the PLC and the Palestinian security apparatuses to offer them jobs and merge them into the PNA security and civil institutions.

read entire article. . .