Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category

After 3 years of Gaza quiet, a boom of southern life – The Jerusalem Post

Remnants from a rocket that struck southern Israel, April 10, 2017. (photo credit:POLICE SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)

While the border with the Gaza Strip is Israels most explosive, three years of quiet has led to a surge of growth in Israeli communities bordering the Hamas-run Strip, a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post.

People here feel more secure and they are building in the kibbutzim and neighboring communities, Lt.-Col. Ariyeh Berger said, adding that there has also been an increase in tourism.

In the nearby town of Sderot, which sits just a few kilometers from the border and which has been pounded by thousands of Hamas rockets over the years, construction has increased tremendously with high-rise buildings on the outskirts of the town and a new mall at one of the entrances to the town.

There is a lot of life here. In my eyes, thats the most incredible thing I have seen, Berger, who served on the northern part of the Gazan border stated.

The coordination and cooperation between military forces in the area and the local regional councils is at the highest possible level, with all relevant figures involved on an almost daily basis.

And while the prolonged period of quiet since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 has brought new life to border communities, every once in a while the calm is shattered by a rocket launched by Salafi jihadist groups, reminding the IDF of the ever-present threat on the other side of the fence.

Several rockets have struck southern Israel in recent months and while most of them have been claimed by small jihadist groups, many times as a means for pressuring Hamas by raising tensions between the terrorist organization and Israel, Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire coming from the Strip.

Company Commander Capt. Guy Dahan told the Post that following a rocket launch toward the Eshkol regional council last month we were able to pinpoint the target and he fired on a Hamas position with his tank.

Due to intelligence gathered on the target prior to the retaliation, it was all over quickly, he said.

While the group has rebuilt its missile stockpile with locally produced weapons, the group has also invested in their own intelligence gathering capabilities, building outposts every dozen meters along the border with Israel and patrolling the border. While the outposts may allow Hamas to collect intelligence on the IDF, Dahan told the Post that the outposts have made it easier for him and his fellow soldiers to see their enemy.

According to Berger, Hamas, which quickly arrests those responsible for firing rockets towards Israel, has been deterred and is not looking to get into another conflict with Israel. Nonetheless the IDF continues to build its capabilities and maintains the preparedness of troops.

Berger told the Post that troops under his command have at least two drills per week to make sure that if the situation suddenly changes we know how to properly react and get the situation under control as fast as possible.

In December, hundreds of IDF soldiers participated in a large-scale 11-hour drill in border communities as well as in large southern cities such as Ashkelon, Netivot and Ofakim in preparation for another possible war with Hamas and terrorist attacks emanating from the coastal enclave, including sudden, surprising terrorist infiltrations through terror tunnels into populated Israeli territory in the south of the country.

During the 2014 war, several soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen when they popped out of the numerous tunnels dug into Israel by the terrorist group, surprising the IDF and leaving the residents of border communities concerned of possible tunnels beneath their homes. By the time of the last cease-fire, the IDF said it had destroyed 32 tunnels that crossed under the border.

According to Berger the army has not heard from any civilian reporting hearing any sounds of digging, but nonetheless the army is spending a significant amount of energy and time on increasing our ability to protect our citizens.

The construction of Israels underground barrier, which has become incredibly symbolic to both sides, has led some officials to voice their concern that it may push Hamas to attack Israel.

Construction of the barrier is expected to cost over NIS 3 billion and be completed within two years. Despite the fact that the barrier is being built entirely in Israeli territory, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir recently stated it can potentially lead to a dangerous escalation.

But while above ground it may be quiet, both Hamas and the IDF are preparing for a war which could break out at any moment.

We know Hamas, we have been dealing with them for years, Dahan said.

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After 3 years of Gaza quiet, a boom of southern life – The Jerusalem Post

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

With selfie sticks, excitement and apprehension, Gazan children visit Jerusalem for the first time – Washington Post

JERUSALEM It was a journey of just 50 miles, but for the nearly 100 children who visited Jerusalem on Sunday, it seemed like they had traveled to a distant world.

For the vast majority, it was their first trip outside of Gaza, the largely blockaded enclave they call home. Selfie sticks abounded as they visited the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, to pray.

Many said it was also the first time they had seen an Israeli.

Razan Farrah, 12, enthusiastically taped the winding streets of the Old City, holding her cellphone up to the face of a bemused-looking Western tourist and then a passing ultra-Orthodox Jew.

Her eyes widened. I havent seen them before, she explained, never lowering her camera phone. She zoomed in on the trinkets on sale in front of the tourist-trap stores. I want to keep the memories.

Just a small number of Gazas residents are granted permission to leave the densely populated 140-square-mile strip of land that stretches along the Mediterranean, with both Israel and Egypt imposing restrictions on travel and trade. Israel says it issued 80,000 permits in 2016, for a population of 2 million. They go to the urgently sick and others with exceptional needs for travel.

[The lonely journey of a Palestinian cancer patient]

But this year the number of permits granted has drastically dropped, according to Gisha, an Israeli organization that tracks Palestinian freedom of movement issues, with about half as many issued in July than the same month last year. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has attempted to squeeze Hamas, the Islamist militant movement that rules the strip, by cutting the electricity supply , compounding misery for residents there.

We thank god we are still living, chirped Samah Lubad, an 11-year-old dressed in a white shirt with a Goofy cartoon print. You learn to adapt to your surroundings.

The trip took six months to organize, according to Scott Anderson, the West Bank field director for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Just seven of the 91 children had been outside Gaza before, he said.

The children will travel on to the West Bank, where they will stay until Friday, visiting Palestinian cities including Ramallah and Nablus. Some 38 children from the West Bank visited Gaza as part of the exchange.

With Gaza physically cut off from the West Bank, it will also be the first time most of the children have seen the rest of the Palestinian territories and for some, relatives who live there.

Israel says it was forced to impose a partial trade and travel blockade on Gaza because of the security threat posed by Hamas, which seized control in 2007 after an armed struggle that followed their electoral win. Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Israeli authorities say Gaza residents could smuggle out contraband for Hamas to use in attacks. Human rights groups argue that the restrictions violate the fundamental right of Palestinians to freedom of movement.

The only other land border, to Egypt, has also largely been closed for the past four years, though it opened for exiting residents for the first time in months last week.

The children all attended UNWRAs summer camp program, and were interviewed and picked based on their leadership skills.

I hadnt expected there to be so many entrances, Lubad said of the Dome of the Rock, the site where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended into heaven. We have a picture of it at home, but in reality its so huge.

Her friend said it was smaller than she had expected but was still beautiful. They hurried in as prayers began.

Her family asked her to take photos and to pray at what Muslims call the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, the raised esplanade where it is located, alongside the gold-domed Dome of the Rock. Jews call the area Temple Mount, the site of their first and second temples, and the most holy site in Judaism.

Lubad said she had barely slept the previous evening, because she was so excited but also afraid that Israeli soldiers would stop her from crossing.

In the end, the crossing went relatively smoothly, with the children turning up only an hour and a half late for their lunch in the Old City.

Her friend, Lana Meater, though, said she had been afraid though as her impression was that Israeli soldiers were savages.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the last 10 years, the most recent in 2014, during which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed according to the U.N. Israel says it was forced to launch the assault due to Hamas rocket fire.

Before leaving for Ramallah, the children also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianitys holiest shrine and the highlight of the trip for the one Christian Gazan.

Im so happy, Hamada Atta al-Masri, 14, said. The sightseeing, the streets, al-Aqsa. Maybe well see it again, maybe we wont. But at least weve seen it.

loveday.morris@washpost.com

Sufian Taha contributed to this report.

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With selfie sticks, excitement and apprehension, Gazan children visit Jerusalem for the first time – Washington Post

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

UNRWA Brings Gaza Children to Visit Jerusalem – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency brought 91 children from Gaza, ages 8 to 14, on Sunday to see the wonders of Jerusalem most for the first time in their lives.

UNRWA representative Scott Anderson said the children, 84 of whom had never been out of Gaza before, were over the moon with excitement. They were taken to see the Al Aqsa Mosque at the Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried.

The children then were taken to the Palestinian Authority capital city of Ramallah. They are to remain in the Palestinian Authority for the week, visiting various cities in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria until Friday.

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Palestinian Authority Donates Medicine to Venezuela while Gaza Faces Pharmaceutical Crisis – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Screenshot

The Palestinian Authority on Sunday sent three truckloads of medicine to the Venezuelan people, Maan reported, noting this donation from the Palestinian Authority was based on a decision by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Foreign Minister Dr. Riyad al-Malki told Maan while attending to the traffic of medicine-laden trucks from the warehouses of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Shechem: The decision of President Mahmoud Abbas to donate to Venezuela came in response to an appeal by the Venezuelan government because of the difficult circumstances experienced by the country, and attempts by the extreme right to overthrow the regime Judgment.

Heres the rub, though: the Gaza Strip, that other enclave of local Arabs, has been suffering from a severe shortage of medicine and medical supplies which threatens the health of one-third of patients in Gaza, according to Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health The shortage is at 32% for medicines and 38% for medical supplies, which is equivalent to 154 different types of medicines and 342 types of medical disposables, she told Al Monitor, warning of potential negative repercussions for Gazans health should these shortages persist.

Qudra blamed Israel for the shortage, naturally ( because how could he not), but then also pointed a blaming finger at the PA government which should transfer 40% of its medicine in Ramallahmost of which is provided by international partiesto the Gaza Strip, while 60% should remains in Judea and Samaria. Alas, according to Qudra, only around 5% to 7% actually reaches the strip.

Well, now you know why. Foreign Minister Al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority would like to return a small portion of what Venezuela has provided to the Palestinian people over the years, the latest of which was the donation of $15 million for the establishment of a an eye hospital in Tirmsia, north of Ramallah.

PA Health Minister Jawad Awad said the donations were three trucks of medical supplies used in first aid and emergency situations, especially as Venezuela was experiencing difficult and tense conditions.

Munir al-Bursh, director general for pharmacies at the Ministry of Health, told Al-Monitor that the ministry usually tries to acquire drugs in the form of aid from the United Nations, but, Bursh noted, the political division began to impede the flow of medicine from international parties straight to the strip. They are being transferred to the West Bank instead.

Then to Venezuela

And, of course, like every PA official on the planet, Bursh blamed the Gazan medicine shortage on the Israeli siege, on Egypts closing of the Rafah crossing, and on Hamas. The problem [is] more complicated than it sounds, he lamented. Thats how Al Monitor put it, lamented.

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Palestinian Authority Donates Medicine to Venezuela while Gaza Faces Pharmaceutical Crisis – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

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In Gaza, we get four hours of electricity a day if we’re lucky – Los Angeles Times

Some friends threw me a surprise birthday party last month. They placed a chocolate cake lit with candles before me and told me to make a wish for the year ahead. I immediately blurted out, 24-hour electricity and air conditioning. They laughed and suggested I wish for something more realistic.

Here in the Gaza Strip, 24-hour electricity has been a distant dream for well over a decade. Israels bombings of Gazas only power plant, its closing of the Gaza border and fallout from the split between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have meant chronic power outages. Not long ago, we had adjusted to eight hours of electricity a day. Now even that seems a luxury.

Our power comes from three sources: Israel, Egypt and our single functional power plant, which runs on fuel. Even before the current crisis, only about half of Gazas electricity needs were being met. Then there was a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over payment for the fuel, both refused to pay, and the plant shut down in April, reducing the already inadequate supply by about 25%.

In June, Israel acceded to a Palestinian Authority request to cut the electricity it provided to Gaza in order to dry up funds to Hamas. This reduced supply by an additional 30% or so. That same month, Egypt began providing the fuel needed for the power plant, and the plant reopened. Even so, we are living with a new norm of four hours of electricity a day or less.

Those four hours structure our days. When we dont have power, life is on hold. We struggle with candles, flashlights and, if we can afford them, unreliable generators. We wait for the sound of an electric water pump to tell us were on the clock. I turn on all the light switches before I go to sleep to ensure that I dont miss the electricity. When I hear the water pump and see the lights go on, I jump out of bed. Life becomes a race as we use every last minute to do laundry, finish urgent work tasks, enjoy cold drinking water. Then the lights go out again.

No electricity means trying to sleep in 95-degree weather without fans or air conditioning, but with the constant humming of generators. It means showering with only a trickle of water, scrambling to keep phones and laptops charged and never buying more than a days worth of meat or milk. It means always taking the stairs to avoid the risk of getting stuck in an elevator. It means planning your outings around blackouts and checking the electricity schedule for a friends neighborhood before visiting.

I have it better than most. Some children must do their homework by candlelight because their families cannot afford generators. Small business owners, already struggling, have had to dramatically reduce operations and use expensive generators to keep the lights on. For many families, swimming in the sea offers the only real relief from the grim day-to-day in Gaza, and they now must contend with spikes in sewage effluent as blackouts cripple treatment plants.

Kidney patients in need of dialysis, which requires an uninterrupted electrical supply, are at particular risk. Having no electricity makes life a struggle for everyone in Gaza; for the vulnerable, it can mean life or death.

To Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Gazans are pawns in a shameful quest for political domination. As the occupying power, Israel bears responsibility under international law to facilitate normal life for the people of Gaza. Hamas exercises internal control and is responsible for protecting our rights. The Palestinian Authority oversees millions in donor funds and should also protect our rights, including paying for vital services.

Its a sign of just how much our horizons have shifted in Gaza that we dream less of the occupation ending, or the border reopening so that we might leave this 365-square-kilometer strip. These days we dream mostly about electricity. And our situation is certain to get worse. The United Nations coordinator for humanitarian activities, Robert Piper, has warned that the latest cuts are likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services.

The crisis we face is not the result of a natural disaster or some other act of God. Its entirely man-made. Just as they put us in the dark, they could give us light with the flip of a switch.

Abier Almasri is a research assistant at Human Rights Watch.

Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion or Facebook

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In Gaza, we get four hours of electricity a day if we’re lucky – Los Angeles Times

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Gaza fisherman catches message in a bottle from Greece – The Times of Israel

Hello! Thank you for picking up this bottle! We are currently on holiday in Rhodes and would love to know how far this bottle got even if its just the next beach!

This was the note pulled from inside a glass jar that floated 500 miles from the Greek island into the fishing net of an angler in Gaza last week, NPR reported Saturday.

Knowing his girlfriend Bethany Wright, 22, had always wanted to send a message in a bottle, Zac Marriner, 25, surprised her with the jar on the last day of their Greek island vacation, the report said.

The two wrote a letter on parchment paper, rolled it up and stuffed it inside along with a few flowers.

That was July 4.

Exactly six weeks later, Jihad al-Soltan spotted the jar floating toward the seaside enclave of Gaza and pulled it into his boat.

The 54-year-old father of seven broke the jar open and brought the letter to his son-in-law Wael al-Soltan, an English teacher who could read what was inside.

Jihad had Wael compose a short response to the email address that the British couple had left on the letter, NPR said.

The young English teacher then showed the water-damaged parchment to his friend, Mahmoud, who excitedly wrote a more detailed response to Marriner and Wright.

Hi from palestine gaza hi for you zak and beth my friend find ur botlle the best thing in this life love and feel happy when find people love each other like Zak and Beth wish you all the best, he wrote.

Wael had attempted such a correspondence himself three years ago. Then, he jotted down in Arabic a single phrase end the siege on a piece of paper, which he put out to sea, referring to the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the Hamas-controlled strip.

Established after the terror group took over Gaza in 2007, Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms from reaching Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction.

It was certainly incredible that our bottle was found at all, let alone on a beach in Gaza, Wright wrote in an email to NPR. So tragic the situation there means people are so cut off, but the bottle reaching there illustrates greatly how we are just all one world, all connected by one ocean and loved by one God.

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Gaza fisherman catches message in a bottle from Greece – The Times of Israel

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From Greece, A Message In A Bottle Reaches Isolated Gaza – KUCB

A message in a bottle washed ashore this week in Gaza.

“Hello! Thank you for picking up this bottle!” began the letter in neat black handwriting. “We are currently on holiday in Rhodes and would love to know how far this bottle got even if it’s just the next beach!”

The bottle floated much farther than the next beach. It traveled nearly 500 miles across the Mediterranean Sea, from the Greek island of Rhodes, past Turkey and Cyprus to the Palestinian seaside enclave of Gaza and into the fishing net of Jihad al-Soltan, a 54-year-old Palestinian fisherman and father of seven.

He said it was the first piece of personal mail he had ever received.

Gaza is an isolated place. For the past decade, ever since the Palestinian militant group Hamas took control of this strip of land, its neighbors Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory.

Few people can go in, and few can go out. Mail sent to Gaza must first pass through Israeli security at the border.

The message Soltan found included an email address, and the letter was signed, “Faithfully, Zac and Beth.”

Word of the note reached NPR, and an email to that address led to the back story.

Beth is Bethany Wright, a 22-year-old university student from Lichfield, England. She said she had always dreamed of casting a message in a bottle into the ocean to see whether anyone would write back.

On the last day of their Greek island vacation, her boyfriend Zac Marriner, 25 and a newly qualified medical doctor, surprised her with a bottle he had brought from England. (He knew about her message-in-a-bottle dream). They composed their note on a piece of parchment.

They stuffed the rolled-up note and some small flowers inside, sealed it with a cork and watched it float away. That was July 4.

On Aug. 15, Soltan was fishing when he noticed a bottle bobbing in the sea with a note inside. He captured the bottle with his fishing net and took it home.

He broke the bottle open and had his son-in-law, Wael al-Soltan, an English teacher, translate what was written on the somewhat water-damaged parchment inside.

The bottle had reached a kindred spirit: Three years ago, Soltan himself had done the very same thing. He scribbled the words “End the siege” the blockade on Gaza in Arabic on a piece of paper, stuffed it inside a bottle and threw it into the sea, he said.

He never got a response. But he asked his son-in-law to email his reply to the British couple.

“I want them to know that Gazans are nice people and wish to have a nice life like theirs. We wish to be able to travel and do such romantic things,” Soltan said.

His son-in-law, Wael, emailed a short reply that the bottle had been found in Gaza. Wael showed the message in the bottle to his friend Mahmoud, who was inspired to email the British couple a note of his own:

Hi from palestine gaza hi for you zak and beth my friend find ur botlle the best thing in this life love and feel happy when find people love each other like Zak and Beth wish you all the best

“It was certainly incredible that our bottle was found at all, let alone on a beach in Gaza,” Wright said in an email to NPR. “So tragic the situation there means people are so cut off, but the bottle reaching there illustrates greatly how we are just all one world, all connected by one ocean and loved by one God.”

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From Greece, A Message In A Bottle Reaches Isolated Gaza – KUCB

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August 19, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

From Greece, A Message In A Bottle Reaches Isolated Gaza – NPR – NPR

An English couple on vacation in Greece composed this note, rolled it up in a bottle and, on July 4, tossed it into the Mediterranean Sea. A Palestinian fisherman caught it in his net this week. He says it’s the first piece of personal mail he has ever received. Photo Courtesy of Wael Al Soltan hide caption

An English couple on vacation in Greece composed this note, rolled it up in a bottle and, on July 4, tossed it into the Mediterranean Sea. A Palestinian fisherman caught it in his net this week. He says it’s the first piece of personal mail he has ever received.

A message in a bottle washed ashore this week in Gaza.

“Hello! Thank you for picking up this bottle!” began the letter in neat black handwriting. “We are currently on holiday in Rhodes and would love to know how far this bottle got even if it’s just the next beach!”

The bottle floated much farther than the next beach. It traveled nearly 500 miles across the Mediterranean Sea, from the Greek island of Rhodes, past Turkey and Cyprus to the Palestinian seaside enclave of Gaza and into the fishing net of Jihad al-Soltan, a 54-year-old Palestinian fisherman and father of seven.

He said it was the first piece of personal mail he had ever received.

Gaza is an isolated place. For the past decade, ever since the Palestinian militant group Hamas took control of this strip of land, its neighbors Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory.

Few people can go in, and few can go out. Mail sent to Gaza must first pass through Israeli security at the border.

The message Soltan found included an email address, and the letter was signed, “Faithfully, Zac and Beth.”

A photo of the bottle before Zac Marriner and Bethany Wright cast it from the Greek island of Rhodes into the Mediterranean Sea. Photo courtesy of Bethany Wright hide caption

A photo of the bottle before Zac Marriner and Bethany Wright cast it from the Greek island of Rhodes into the Mediterranean Sea.

Word of the note reached NPR, and an email to that address led to the back story.

Beth is Bethany Wright, a 22-year-old university student from Lichfield, England. She said she had always dreamed of casting a message in a bottle into the ocean to see whether anyone would write back.

On the last day of their Greek island vacation, her boyfriend Zac Marriner, 25 and a newly qualified medical doctor, surprised her with a bottle he had brought from England. (He knew about her message-in-a-bottle dream). They composed their note on a piece of parchment.

They stuffed the rolled-up note and some small flowers inside, sealed it with a cork and watched it float away. That was July 4.

On Aug. 15, Soltan was fishing when he noticed a bottle bobbing in the sea with a note inside. He captured the bottle with his fishing net and took it home.

He broke the bottle open and had his son-in-law, Wael al-Soltan, an English teacher, translate what was written on the somewhat water-damaged parchment inside.

The bottle had reached a kindred spirit: Three years ago, Soltan himself had done the very same thing. He scribbled the words “End the siege” the blockade on Gaza in Arabic on a piece of paper, stuffed it inside a bottle and threw it into the sea, he said.

He never got a response. But he asked his son-in-law to email his reply to the British couple.

“I want them to know that Gazans are nice people and wish to have a nice life like theirs. We wish to be able to travel and do such romantic things,” Soltan said.

His son-in-law, Wael, emailed a short reply that the bottle had been found in Gaza. Wael showed the message in the bottle to his friend Mahmoud, who was inspired to email the British couple a note of his own:

Hi from palestine gaza hi for you zak and beth my friend find ur botlle the best thing in this life love and feel happy when find people love each other like Zak and Beth wish you all the best

“It was certainly incredible that our bottle was found at all, let alone on a beach in Gaza,” Wright said in an email to NPR. “So tragic the situation there means people are so cut off, but the bottle reaching there illustrates greatly how we are just all one world, all connected by one ocean and loved by one God.”

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From Greece, A Message In A Bottle Reaches Isolated Gaza – NPR – NPR

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August 19, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

The talent of Gaza is being cynically sacrificed – Washington Post

August 18 at 9:04 PM

As indicated in the Aug. 7 front-page article Trapped, jobless and bored: Gazas wasted generation, Gaza has some of the regions highest literacy rates juxtaposed against the highest unemployment. I can attest firsthand to the ambition of many Gazan youths looking for a way up or out. Gazans are not only violent or victims. The Post should feature Gazans who won U.S. college scholarships against all odds and achieved beyond all expectations. Readers may be amazed to learn of one family whose three Gazan-educated sons won scholarships to MIT, Harvard University and Stanford University, or of a Gazan refugee woman who recently gave the senior class commencement speech at Gettysburg College. Gazas got talent. It is being cynically sacrificed.

Theodore H. Kattouf, Gaithersburg

The writer is president and chief executive ofAMIDEAST.

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August 19, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

After 3 years of Gaza quiet, a boom of southern life – The Jerusalem Post

Remnants from a rocket that struck southern Israel, April 10, 2017. (photo credit:POLICE SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT) While the border with the Gaza Strip is Israels most explosive, three years of quiet has led to a surge of growth in Israeli communities bordering the Hamas-run Strip, a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post. People here feel more secure and they are building in the kibbutzim and neighboring communities, Lt.-Col. Ariyeh Berger said, adding that there has also been an increase in tourism. In the nearby town of Sderot, which sits just a few kilometers from the border and which has been pounded by thousands of Hamas rockets over the years, construction has increased tremendously with high-rise buildings on the outskirts of the town and a new mall at one of the entrances to the town. There is a lot of life here. In my eyes, thats the most incredible thing I have seen, Berger, who served on the northern part of the Gazan border stated. The coordination and cooperation between military forces in the area and the local regional councils is at the highest possible level, with all relevant figures involved on an almost daily basis. And while the prolonged period of quiet since Operation Protective Edge in 2014 has brought new life to border communities, every once in a while the calm is shattered by a rocket launched by Salafi jihadist groups, reminding the IDF of the ever-present threat on the other side of the fence. Several rockets have struck southern Israel in recent months and while most of them have been claimed by small jihadist groups, many times as a means for pressuring Hamas by raising tensions between the terrorist organization and Israel, Israel holds Hamas responsible for all fire coming from the Strip. Company Commander Capt. Guy Dahan told the Post that following a rocket launch toward the Eshkol regional council last month we were able to pinpoint the target and he fired on a Hamas position with his tank. Due to intelligence gathered on the target prior to the retaliation, it was all over quickly, he said. While the group has rebuilt its missile stockpile with locally produced weapons, the group has also invested in their own intelligence gathering capabilities, building outposts every dozen meters along the border with Israel and patrolling the border. While the outposts may allow Hamas to collect intelligence on the IDF, Dahan told the Post that the outposts have made it easier for him and his fellow soldiers to see their enemy. According to Berger, Hamas, which quickly arrests those responsible for firing rockets towards Israel, has been deterred and is not looking to get into another conflict with Israel. Nonetheless the IDF continues to build its capabilities and maintains the preparedness of troops. Berger told the Post that troops under his command have at least two drills per week to make sure that if the situation suddenly changes we know how to properly react and get the situation under control as fast as possible. In December, hundreds of IDF soldiers participated in a large-scale 11-hour drill in border communities as well as in large southern cities such as Ashkelon, Netivot and Ofakim in preparation for another possible war with Hamas and terrorist attacks emanating from the coastal enclave, including sudden, surprising terrorist infiltrations through terror tunnels into populated Israeli territory in the south of the country. During the 2014 war, several soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen when they popped out of the numerous tunnels dug into Israel by the terrorist group, surprising the IDF and leaving the residents of border communities concerned of possible tunnels beneath their homes. By the time of the last cease-fire, the IDF said it had destroyed 32 tunnels that crossed under the border. According to Berger the army has not heard from any civilian reporting hearing any sounds of digging, but nonetheless the army is spending a significant amount of energy and time on increasing our ability to protect our citizens. The construction of Israels underground barrier, which has become incredibly symbolic to both sides, has led some officials to voice their concern that it may push Hamas to attack Israel. Construction of the barrier is expected to cost over NIS 3 billion and be completed within two years. Despite the fact that the barrier is being built entirely in Israeli territory, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir recently stated it can potentially lead to a dangerous escalation. But while above ground it may be quiet, both Hamas and the IDF are preparing for a war which could break out at any moment. We know Hamas, we have been dealing with them for years, Dahan said. Share on facebook

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

With selfie sticks, excitement and apprehension, Gazan children visit Jerusalem for the first time – Washington Post

JERUSALEM It was a journey of just 50 miles, but for the nearly 100 children who visited Jerusalem on Sunday, it seemed like they had traveled to a distant world. For the vast majority, it was their first trip outside of Gaza, the largely blockaded enclave they call home. Selfie sticks abounded as they visited the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam, to pray. Many said it was also the first time they had seen an Israeli. Razan Farrah, 12, enthusiastically taped the winding streets of the Old City, holding her cellphone up to the face of a bemused-looking Western tourist and then a passing ultra-Orthodox Jew. Her eyes widened. I havent seen them before, she explained, never lowering her camera phone. She zoomed in on the trinkets on sale in front of the tourist-trap stores. I want to keep the memories. Just a small number of Gazas residents are granted permission to leave the densely populated 140-square-mile strip of land that stretches along the Mediterranean, with both Israel and Egypt imposing restrictions on travel and trade. Israel says it issued 80,000 permits in 2016, for a population of 2 million. They go to the urgently sick and others with exceptional needs for travel. [The lonely journey of a Palestinian cancer patient] But this year the number of permits granted has drastically dropped, according to Gisha, an Israeli organization that tracks Palestinian freedom of movement issues, with about half as many issued in July than the same month last year. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has attempted to squeeze Hamas, the Islamist militant movement that rules the strip, by cutting the electricity supply , compounding misery for residents there. We thank god we are still living, chirped Samah Lubad, an 11-year-old dressed in a white shirt with a Goofy cartoon print. You learn to adapt to your surroundings. The trip took six months to organize, according to Scott Anderson, the West Bank field director for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. Just seven of the 91 children had been outside Gaza before, he said. The children will travel on to the West Bank, where they will stay until Friday, visiting Palestinian cities including Ramallah and Nablus. Some 38 children from the West Bank visited Gaza as part of the exchange. With Gaza physically cut off from the West Bank, it will also be the first time most of the children have seen the rest of the Palestinian territories and for some, relatives who live there. Israel says it was forced to impose a partial trade and travel blockade on Gaza because of the security threat posed by Hamas, which seized control in 2007 after an armed struggle that followed their electoral win. Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Israeli authorities say Gaza residents could smuggle out contraband for Hamas to use in attacks. Human rights groups argue that the restrictions violate the fundamental right of Palestinians to freedom of movement. The only other land border, to Egypt, has also largely been closed for the past four years, though it opened for exiting residents for the first time in months last week. The children all attended UNWRAs summer camp program, and were interviewed and picked based on their leadership skills. I hadnt expected there to be so many entrances, Lubad said of the Dome of the Rock, the site where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended into heaven. We have a picture of it at home, but in reality its so huge. Her friend said it was smaller than she had expected but was still beautiful. They hurried in as prayers began. Her family asked her to take photos and to pray at what Muslims call the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, the raised esplanade where it is located, alongside the gold-domed Dome of the Rock. Jews call the area Temple Mount, the site of their first and second temples, and the most holy site in Judaism. Lubad said she had barely slept the previous evening, because she was so excited but also afraid that Israeli soldiers would stop her from crossing. In the end, the crossing went relatively smoothly, with the children turning up only an hour and a half late for their lunch in the Old City. Her friend, Lana Meater, though, said she had been afraid though as her impression was that Israeli soldiers were savages. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the last 10 years, the most recent in 2014, during which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed according to the U.N. Israel says it was forced to launch the assault due to Hamas rocket fire. Before leaving for Ramallah, the children also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Christianitys holiest shrine and the highlight of the trip for the one Christian Gazan. Im so happy, Hamada Atta al-Masri, 14, said. The sightseeing, the streets, al-Aqsa. Maybe well see it again, maybe we wont. But at least weve seen it. loveday.morris@washpost.com Sufian Taha contributed to this report. Read more: Hamas is known for its suicide attacks. Now its been hit by one for the first time. Murals on West Bank walls troll Trump over his Mexico border wall plans Todays coverage from Post correspondents around the world Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

UNRWA Brings Gaza Children to Visit Jerusalem – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 The United Nations Relief and Works Agency brought 91 children from Gaza, ages 8 to 14, on Sunday to see the wonders of Jerusalem most for the first time in their lives. UNRWA representative Scott Anderson said the children, 84 of whom had never been out of Gaza before, were over the moon with excitement. They were taken to see the Al Aqsa Mosque at the Temple Mount, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified and buried. The children then were taken to the Palestinian Authority capital city of Ramallah. They are to remain in the Palestinian Authority for the week, visiting various cities in PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria until Friday.

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Palestinian Authority Donates Medicine to Venezuela while Gaza Faces Pharmaceutical Crisis – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Screenshot The Palestinian Authority on Sunday sent three truckloads of medicine to the Venezuelan people, Maan reported, noting this donation from the Palestinian Authority was based on a decision by President Mahmoud Abbas. Foreign Minister Dr. Riyad al-Malki told Maan while attending to the traffic of medicine-laden trucks from the warehouses of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Shechem: The decision of President Mahmoud Abbas to donate to Venezuela came in response to an appeal by the Venezuelan government because of the difficult circumstances experienced by the country, and attempts by the extreme right to overthrow the regime Judgment. Heres the rub, though: the Gaza Strip, that other enclave of local Arabs, has been suffering from a severe shortage of medicine and medical supplies which threatens the health of one-third of patients in Gaza, according to Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health The shortage is at 32% for medicines and 38% for medical supplies, which is equivalent to 154 different types of medicines and 342 types of medical disposables, she told Al Monitor, warning of potential negative repercussions for Gazans health should these shortages persist. Qudra blamed Israel for the shortage, naturally ( because how could he not), but then also pointed a blaming finger at the PA government which should transfer 40% of its medicine in Ramallahmost of which is provided by international partiesto the Gaza Strip, while 60% should remains in Judea and Samaria. Alas, according to Qudra, only around 5% to 7% actually reaches the strip. Well, now you know why. Foreign Minister Al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority would like to return a small portion of what Venezuela has provided to the Palestinian people over the years, the latest of which was the donation of $15 million for the establishment of a an eye hospital in Tirmsia, north of Ramallah. PA Health Minister Jawad Awad said the donations were three trucks of medical supplies used in first aid and emergency situations, especially as Venezuela was experiencing difficult and tense conditions. Munir al-Bursh, director general for pharmacies at the Ministry of Health, told Al-Monitor that the ministry usually tries to acquire drugs in the form of aid from the United Nations, but, Bursh noted, the political division began to impede the flow of medicine from international parties straight to the strip. They are being transferred to the West Bank instead. Then to Venezuela And, of course, like every PA official on the planet, Bursh blamed the Gazan medicine shortage on the Israeli siege, on Egypts closing of the Rafah crossing, and on Hamas. The problem [is] more complicated than it sounds, he lamented. Thats how Al Monitor put it, lamented.

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

In Gaza, we get four hours of electricity a day if we’re lucky – Los Angeles Times

Some friends threw me a surprise birthday party last month. They placed a chocolate cake lit with candles before me and told me to make a wish for the year ahead. I immediately blurted out, 24-hour electricity and air conditioning. They laughed and suggested I wish for something more realistic. Here in the Gaza Strip, 24-hour electricity has been a distant dream for well over a decade. Israels bombings of Gazas only power plant, its closing of the Gaza border and fallout from the split between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which governs Gaza, have meant chronic power outages. Not long ago, we had adjusted to eight hours of electricity a day. Now even that seems a luxury. Our power comes from three sources: Israel, Egypt and our single functional power plant, which runs on fuel. Even before the current crisis, only about half of Gazas electricity needs were being met. Then there was a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over payment for the fuel, both refused to pay, and the plant shut down in April, reducing the already inadequate supply by about 25%. In June, Israel acceded to a Palestinian Authority request to cut the electricity it provided to Gaza in order to dry up funds to Hamas. This reduced supply by an additional 30% or so. That same month, Egypt began providing the fuel needed for the power plant, and the plant reopened. Even so, we are living with a new norm of four hours of electricity a day or less. Those four hours structure our days. When we dont have power, life is on hold. We struggle with candles, flashlights and, if we can afford them, unreliable generators. We wait for the sound of an electric water pump to tell us were on the clock. I turn on all the light switches before I go to sleep to ensure that I dont miss the electricity. When I hear the water pump and see the lights go on, I jump out of bed. Life becomes a race as we use every last minute to do laundry, finish urgent work tasks, enjoy cold drinking water. Then the lights go out again. No electricity means trying to sleep in 95-degree weather without fans or air conditioning, but with the constant humming of generators. It means showering with only a trickle of water, scrambling to keep phones and laptops charged and never buying more than a days worth of meat or milk. It means always taking the stairs to avoid the risk of getting stuck in an elevator. It means planning your outings around blackouts and checking the electricity schedule for a friends neighborhood before visiting. I have it better than most. Some children must do their homework by candlelight because their families cannot afford generators. Small business owners, already struggling, have had to dramatically reduce operations and use expensive generators to keep the lights on. For many families, swimming in the sea offers the only real relief from the grim day-to-day in Gaza, and they now must contend with spikes in sewage effluent as blackouts cripple treatment plants. Kidney patients in need of dialysis, which requires an uninterrupted electrical supply, are at particular risk. Having no electricity makes life a struggle for everyone in Gaza; for the vulnerable, it can mean life or death. To Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Gazans are pawns in a shameful quest for political domination. As the occupying power, Israel bears responsibility under international law to facilitate normal life for the people of Gaza. Hamas exercises internal control and is responsible for protecting our rights. The Palestinian Authority oversees millions in donor funds and should also protect our rights, including paying for vital services. Its a sign of just how much our horizons have shifted in Gaza that we dream less of the occupation ending, or the border reopening so that we might leave this 365-square-kilometer strip. These days we dream mostly about electricity. And our situation is certain to get worse. The United Nations coordinator for humanitarian activities, Robert Piper, has warned that the latest cuts are likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services. The crisis we face is not the result of a natural disaster or some other act of God. Its entirely man-made. Just as they put us in the dark, they could give us light with the flip of a switch. Abier Almasri is a research assistant at Human Rights Watch. Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion or Facebook

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Gaza fisherman catches message in a bottle from Greece – The Times of Israel

Hello! Thank you for picking up this bottle! We are currently on holiday in Rhodes and would love to know how far this bottle got even if its just the next beach! This was the note pulled from inside a glass jar that floated 500 miles from the Greek island into the fishing net of an angler in Gaza last week, NPR reported Saturday. Knowing his girlfriend Bethany Wright, 22, had always wanted to send a message in a bottle, Zac Marriner, 25, surprised her with the jar on the last day of their Greek island vacation, the report said. The two wrote a letter on parchment paper, rolled it up and stuffed it inside along with a few flowers. That was July 4. Exactly six weeks later, Jihad al-Soltan spotted the jar floating toward the seaside enclave of Gaza and pulled it into his boat. The 54-year-old father of seven broke the jar open and brought the letter to his son-in-law Wael al-Soltan, an English teacher who could read what was inside. Jihad had Wael compose a short response to the email address that the British couple had left on the letter, NPR said. The young English teacher then showed the water-damaged parchment to his friend, Mahmoud, who excitedly wrote a more detailed response to Marriner and Wright. Hi from palestine gaza hi for you zak and beth my friend find ur botlle the best thing in this life love and feel happy when find people love each other like Zak and Beth wish you all the best, he wrote. Wael had attempted such a correspondence himself three years ago. Then, he jotted down in Arabic a single phrase end the siege on a piece of paper, which he put out to sea, referring to the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the Hamas-controlled strip. Established after the terror group took over Gaza in 2007, Israel says the blockade is needed to prevent arms from reaching Hamas, which is sworn to its destruction. It was certainly incredible that our bottle was found at all, let alone on a beach in Gaza, Wright wrote in an email to NPR. So tragic the situation there means people are so cut off, but the bottle reaching there illustrates greatly how we are just all one world, all connected by one ocean and loved by one God.

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August 20, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

From Greece, A Message In A Bottle Reaches Isolated Gaza – KUCB

A message in a bottle washed ashore this week in Gaza. “Hello! Thank you for picking up this bottle!” began the letter in neat black handwriting. “We are currently on holiday in Rhodes and would love to know how far this bottle got even if it’s just the next beach!” The bottle floated much farther than the next beach. It traveled nearly 500 miles across the Mediterranean Sea, from the Greek island of Rhodes, past Turkey and Cyprus to the Palestinian seaside enclave of Gaza and into the fishing net of Jihad al-Soltan, a 54-year-old Palestinian fisherman and father of seven. He said it was the first piece of personal mail he had ever received. Gaza is an isolated place. For the past decade, ever since the Palestinian militant group Hamas took control of this strip of land, its neighbors Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory. Few people can go in, and few can go out. Mail sent to Gaza must first pass through Israeli security at the border. The message Soltan found included an email address, and the letter was signed, “Faithfully, Zac and Beth.” Word of the note reached NPR, and an email to that address led to the back story. Beth is Bethany Wright, a 22-year-old university student from Lichfield, England. She said she had always dreamed of casting a message in a bottle into the ocean to see whether anyone would write back. On the last day of their Greek island vacation, her boyfriend Zac Marriner, 25 and a newly qualified medical doctor, surprised her with a bottle he had brought from England. (He knew about her message-in-a-bottle dream). They composed their note on a piece of parchment. They stuffed the rolled-up note and some small flowers inside, sealed it with a cork and watched it float away. That was July 4. On Aug. 15, Soltan was fishing when he noticed a bottle bobbing in the sea with a note inside. He captured the bottle with his fishing net and took it home. He broke the bottle open and had his son-in-law, Wael al-Soltan, an English teacher, translate what was written on the somewhat water-damaged parchment inside. The bottle had reached a kindred spirit: Three years ago, Soltan himself had done the very same thing. He scribbled the words “End the siege” the blockade on Gaza in Arabic on a piece of paper, stuffed it inside a bottle and threw it into the sea, he said. He never got a response. But he asked his son-in-law to email his reply to the British couple. “I want them to know that Gazans are nice people and wish to have a nice life like theirs. We wish to be able to travel and do such romantic things,” Soltan said. His son-in-law, Wael, emailed a short reply that the bottle had been found in Gaza. Wael showed the message in the bottle to his friend Mahmoud, who was inspired to email the British couple a note of his own: Hi from palestine gaza hi for you zak and beth my friend find ur botlle the best thing in this life love and feel happy when find people love each other like Zak and Beth wish you all the best “It was certainly incredible that our bottle was found at all, let alone on a beach in Gaza,” Wright said in an email to NPR. “So tragic the situation there means people are so cut off, but the bottle reaching there illustrates greatly how we are just all one world, all connected by one ocean and loved by one God.”

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August 19, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

From Greece, A Message In A Bottle Reaches Isolated Gaza – NPR – NPR

An English couple on vacation in Greece composed this note, rolled it up in a bottle and, on July 4, tossed it into the Mediterranean Sea. A Palestinian fisherman caught it in his net this week. He says it’s the first piece of personal mail he has ever received. Photo Courtesy of Wael Al Soltan hide caption An English couple on vacation in Greece composed this note, rolled it up in a bottle and, on July 4, tossed it into the Mediterranean Sea. A Palestinian fisherman caught it in his net this week. He says it’s the first piece of personal mail he has ever received. A message in a bottle washed ashore this week in Gaza. “Hello! Thank you for picking up this bottle!” began the letter in neat black handwriting. “We are currently on holiday in Rhodes and would love to know how far this bottle got even if it’s just the next beach!” The bottle floated much farther than the next beach. It traveled nearly 500 miles across the Mediterranean Sea, from the Greek island of Rhodes, past Turkey and Cyprus to the Palestinian seaside enclave of Gaza and into the fishing net of Jihad al-Soltan, a 54-year-old Palestinian fisherman and father of seven. He said it was the first piece of personal mail he had ever received. Gaza is an isolated place. For the past decade, ever since the Palestinian militant group Hamas took control of this strip of land, its neighbors Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory. Few people can go in, and few can go out. Mail sent to Gaza must first pass through Israeli security at the border. The message Soltan found included an email address, and the letter was signed, “Faithfully, Zac and Beth.” A photo of the bottle before Zac Marriner and Bethany Wright cast it from the Greek island of Rhodes into the Mediterranean Sea. Photo courtesy of Bethany Wright hide caption A photo of the bottle before Zac Marriner and Bethany Wright cast it from the Greek island of Rhodes into the Mediterranean Sea. Word of the note reached NPR, and an email to that address led to the back story. Beth is Bethany Wright, a 22-year-old university student from Lichfield, England. She said she had always dreamed of casting a message in a bottle into the ocean to see whether anyone would write back. On the last day of their Greek island vacation, her boyfriend Zac Marriner, 25 and a newly qualified medical doctor, surprised her with a bottle he had brought from England. (He knew about her message-in-a-bottle dream). They composed their note on a piece of parchment. They stuffed the rolled-up note and some small flowers inside, sealed it with a cork and watched it float away. That was July 4. On Aug. 15, Soltan was fishing when he noticed a bottle bobbing in the sea with a note inside. He captured the bottle with his fishing net and took it home. He broke the bottle open and had his son-in-law, Wael al-Soltan, an English teacher, translate what was written on the somewhat water-damaged parchment inside. The bottle had reached a kindred spirit: Three years ago, Soltan himself had done the very same thing. He scribbled the words “End the siege” the blockade on Gaza in Arabic on a piece of paper, stuffed it inside a bottle and threw it into the sea, he said. He never got a response. But he asked his son-in-law to email his reply to the British couple. “I want them to know that Gazans are nice people and wish to have a nice life like theirs. We wish to be able to travel and do such romantic things,” Soltan said. His son-in-law, Wael, emailed a short reply that the bottle had been found in Gaza. Wael showed the message in the bottle to his friend Mahmoud, who was inspired to email the British couple a note of his own: Hi from palestine gaza hi for you zak and beth my friend find ur botlle the best thing in this life love and feel happy when find people love each other like Zak and Beth wish you all the best “It was certainly incredible that our bottle was found at all, let alone on a beach in Gaza,” Wright said in an email to NPR. “So tragic the situation there means people are so cut off, but the bottle reaching there illustrates greatly how we are just all one world, all connected by one ocean and loved by one God.”

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August 19, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

The talent of Gaza is being cynically sacrificed – Washington Post

August 18 at 9:04 PM As indicated in the Aug. 7 front-page article Trapped, jobless and bored: Gazas wasted generation, Gaza has some of the regions highest literacy rates juxtaposed against the highest unemployment. I can attest firsthand to the ambition of many Gazan youths looking for a way up or out. Gazans are not only violent or victims. The Post should feature Gazans who won U.S. college scholarships against all odds and achieved beyond all expectations. Readers may be amazed to learn of one family whose three Gazan-educated sons won scholarships to MIT, Harvard University and Stanford University, or of a Gazan refugee woman who recently gave the senior class commencement speech at Gettysburg College. Gazas got talent. It is being cynically sacrificed. Theodore H. Kattouf, Gaithersburg The writer is president and chief executive ofAMIDEAST.

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August 19, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed


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