Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category

Children from Gaza visit Jerusalem for first time – CNN

The group of about 100 children were too busy snapping their own pictures around the holy site, scarcely able to believe they were really in Jerusalem.

“When we saw Al-Aqsa mosque, we felt so happy,” said 13-year-old Hind Slameh Abu Hilu, who couldn’t stop smiling following afternoon prayers. “We prayed in Al-Aqsa, which we used to feel was impossible. We felt so happy.”

For most of the children, it was not only their first time in Jerusalem; it was their first time outside of Gaza, and they could barely contain their excitement.

The group came on a trip organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides help to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank.

It was the first UNRWA trip designed specifically to bring children to visit the Jerusalem holy sites, organizers said, including the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The approximately 100 children between the ages of 8-14 will also visit parts of the West Bank.

“When we were on the road, a lot of them said to me, ‘I don’t feel that this is true.’ Finally, it is going to be true,” said Ragh Dahamdouna, one of the teachers accompanying the students. “The children here are so happy, so excited.”

Dahamdouna couldn’t contain her own excitement.

“I think I am a little child here, and I let myself enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the friendship, enjoy everything!”

“Most of these children have never met any of their extended family here,” said Scott Anderson, director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank. “So to have that opportunity (is great), and frankly, the program is fantastic. They’re going to see parts of the West Bank that many people never get to see.”

The group entered Israel through the Erez border crossing early Sunday afternoon. After a short drive, they were eating lunch in the Old City of Jerusalem, ready to explore the sacred city. They made their way through the winding alleys of Jerusalem to the Lion’s Gate entrance in the Muslim Quarter.

As they passed through the stone archway, the realization dawned on them: They had arrived at one of the holiest sites in the world. To Muslims, this is the Noble Sanctuary, home to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. To Jews, this is the the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world.

To these children, it was a dream come true.

“It’s a very holy place for Muslims and for others in the world,” beamed 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Almashayakeh, from the Magazi refugee camp in Gaza. “It’s a very fantastic feeling, and it’s like a new thing you’re doing in your life.”

When it came time to leave Al-Aqsa and walk the short distance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, organizers struggled to round up the children. They were too excited to leave.

“I hope this is not going to be the last time,” said Abu Hilu after leaving the holy site. “It is the first time, and I hope we will repeat this trip many times later on.”

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Children from Gaza visit Jerusalem for first time – CNN

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Gaza’s tailors stitch together uniforms for the new school year – Middle East Monitor

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Childrens bags are made and hung ready to be purchased for the new school year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

School uniforms are made and hung ready to be purchased for the new school year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor]

The new school year is due to start in a few days and Gazas tailors and seamstresses are making about 20 per cent of the school clothes. The rest are imported.

The owners of the factories are complaining. One of them, Khaled Saqer, told MEMO that sales barely cover the cost of the uniforms. Although the prices are the same and havent changed, there are new burdens, such as higher costs of living and higher wages. The main change that the owners are experiencing now is the use of more fuel and thus higher production costs since they rarely have electricity and so have to rely on generators for several days every week.

Eid Al-Adha coincides with the new school year, and the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering due to the new salary cuts enforced by the Palestinian Authority on its staff as well as Gaza government employees, who only receive 50 per cent of their official salaries. Families are forced to sacrifice the purchase of new clothes for the Eid celebration and only buy school supplies and uniforms, as they are more important. They have even had to cut down to one school uniform per child instead of the customary two.

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Gaza’s tailors stitch together uniforms for the new school year – Middle East Monitor

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PA under fire for sending medical aid to Venezuela amid Gaza crisis – Ma’an News Agency (press release)

PA foreign minister Riad al-Maliki talks to reporters in front of medical aid bound for Venezuela

Upon an order from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, three truck-loads of medical supplies were sent to Venezuela, which Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad al-Malki said was an effort to repay what it can for what the Venezuelan government has presented to the Palestinian people, citing the donation of 15 million dollars that was used to construct an eye hospital in the Ramallah-area.

While the health services has collapsed in Gaza (sic), Palestinian President Abbas has decided to send medical assistance from Ashdod to Venezuela, the Twitter account for the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish-flagged ship that took part in the aid flotilla to Gaza in 2010, admonished on Monday.

Ahmed Jarrar, a freelance journalist in Gaza wrote on Facebook: “Venezuela is in our head, and helping them is a duty, but cutting the aid to Gaza and sending it to Venezuela — the same aid that was given to help Palestinians — it’s not logical and completely mad.”

Meanwhile, Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), responsible for enforcing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, quipped on Facebook: We draw the Palestinian Authoritys attention to the fact that traveling from Ramallah to Gaza is only one hour, while the distance between Venezuela and Ramallah is more than 10,000 kilometers.

Israeli NGO BTselem has blamed the blockade for putting Gaza in the throes of a humanitarian disaster, adding that Israel was consigning (Gazas) residents to living in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world.

This is not some sort of natural disaster, BTselem added. Had that been the case, Israel would have likely sent in a humanitarian aid mission. Instead, the reality in Gaza is the result of Israels handiwork, achieved by its decade-long implementation of a brutal policy.

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PA under fire for sending medical aid to Venezuela amid Gaza crisis – Ma’an News Agency (press release)

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Fisherman nets message in a bottle in isolated Gaza – Reuters

GAZA (Reuters) – For Palestinian fisherman Jihad al-Soltan, it was a surprise summer catch — a message in a bottle that he netted off a Gaza beach.

It had bobbed its way in the Mediterranean for nearly 800 km (500 miles) from the Greek island of Rhodes, placed in the water by a vacationing British couple in July.

“We are currently on holiday on Rhodes and we would love to know how far this bottle got, even if it’s just the next beach,” said the letter inside, signed “Faithfully, Zac and Beth”.

By replying to the email address they enclosed, Soltan discovered the two were Bethany Wright, a university student, and her boyfriend, Zac Marriner.

“Hello, Thank you for picking up this bottle. As a reward here are some magic flowers,” the couple wrote in their letter.

By the time the bottle reached Gaza’s shores last week, the flowers had wilted.

But Soltan said on Monday he was buoyed by the thought that currents could carry a carefree message into troubled waters under Israeli naval blockade and fishing zone restrictions – measures Israel says are necessary to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza’s hostile Hamas Islamist rulers.

“As a fisherman I felt this letter traveled through borders and international waters without restrictions while we as fishermen are unable to go beyond six miles,” he said. “I hope one day we would become as free as this bottle was.”

Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller

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Fisherman nets message in a bottle in isolated Gaza – Reuters

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Fisherman nets message in a bottle in Gaza – The Jerusalem Post

Palestinian fishermen ride their boats as they return from fishing at the seaport of Gaza City. (photo credit:REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)

GAZA – For Palestinian fisherman Jihad al-Soltan, it was a surprise summer catch — a message in a bottle that he netted off a Gaza beach.

It had bobbed its way in the Mediterranean for nearly 800 km (500 miles) from the Greek island of Rhodes, placed in the water by a vacationing British couple in July.

“We are currently on holiday on Rhodes and we would love to know how far this bottle got, even if it’s just the next beach,” said the letter inside, signed “Faithfully, Zac and Beth.”

By replying to the email address they enclosed, Soltan discovered the two were Bethany Wright, a university student, and her boyfriend, Zac Marriner.

“Hello, Thank you for picking up this bottle. As a reward here are some magic flowers,” the couple wrote in their letter.

By the time the bottle reached Gaza’s shores last week, the flowers had wilted.

But Soltan said on Monday he was buoyed by the thought that currents could carry a carefree message into troubled waters under Israeli naval blockade and fishing zone restrictions measures Israel says are necessary to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza’s hostile Hamas Islamist rulers.

“As a fisherman I felt this letter traveled through borders and international waters without restrictions while we as fishermen are unable to go beyond six miles,” he said. “I hope one day we would become as free as this bottle was.”

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Fisherman nets message in a bottle in Gaza – The Jerusalem Post

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In Gaza, We Get Four Hours of Electricity a Day If We’re Lucky – Human Rights Watch

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 power plants, its closing of the Gaza border in 2007 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.

Palestinians sit outside their housestoescape from the heat during apower cutin the Shati refugee camp,Gaza City.

Our power comes from three sources: Israel, Egypt and our single functional power plant, which runs on fuel. Before the current crisis, these sources provided roughly half of Gazas electricity needs. 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 overall 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 another 30%. 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.

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In Gaza, We Get Four Hours of Electricity a Day If We’re Lucky – Human Rights Watch

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Gunmen attack Hamas posts in Gaza – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

Gunmen attack Hamas posts in Gaza

RAFAH, August 21, 2017 (WAFA) Masked gunmen Monday opened fire at a Hamas post, a police station and a Hamas checkpoint in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, local source said. No casualties were reported.

The series of attacks were apparently a response from Salafist Jihadist groups to Hamas crackdown on its supporters.

Gunmen first attacked a Hamas post, and within an hour an attack was reported against the Rafah police station. Shortly after four people in a car threw five hand grenades at a checkpoint to the west of Rafah.

The attacks, which reflect decline in the security situation in Gaza, came after a member of the Jihadists blew himself up in a group of Hamas operatives in Rafah after he and another member were stopped for inspection when they apparently attempted to sneak into Egypt to carry out a military operation there. One Hamas member was killed in the attack.

K.T./M.K.

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Gunmen attack Hamas posts in Gaza – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

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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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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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Children from Gaza visit Jerusalem for first time – CNN

The group of about 100 children were too busy snapping their own pictures around the holy site, scarcely able to believe they were really in Jerusalem. “When we saw Al-Aqsa mosque, we felt so happy,” said 13-year-old Hind Slameh Abu Hilu, who couldn’t stop smiling following afternoon prayers. “We prayed in Al-Aqsa, which we used to feel was impossible. We felt so happy.” For most of the children, it was not only their first time in Jerusalem; it was their first time outside of Gaza, and they could barely contain their excitement. The group came on a trip organized by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides help to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and the West Bank. It was the first UNRWA trip designed specifically to bring children to visit the Jerusalem holy sites, organizers said, including the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The approximately 100 children between the ages of 8-14 will also visit parts of the West Bank. “When we were on the road, a lot of them said to me, ‘I don’t feel that this is true.’ Finally, it is going to be true,” said Ragh Dahamdouna, one of the teachers accompanying the students. “The children here are so happy, so excited.” Dahamdouna couldn’t contain her own excitement. “I think I am a little child here, and I let myself enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the friendship, enjoy everything!” “Most of these children have never met any of their extended family here,” said Scott Anderson, director of UNRWA operations in the West Bank. “So to have that opportunity (is great), and frankly, the program is fantastic. They’re going to see parts of the West Bank that many people never get to see.” The group entered Israel through the Erez border crossing early Sunday afternoon. After a short drive, they were eating lunch in the Old City of Jerusalem, ready to explore the sacred city. They made their way through the winding alleys of Jerusalem to the Lion’s Gate entrance in the Muslim Quarter. As they passed through the stone archway, the realization dawned on them: They had arrived at one of the holiest sites in the world. To Muslims, this is the Noble Sanctuary, home to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. To Jews, this is the the Temple Mount, the holiest place in the world. To these children, it was a dream come true. “It’s a very holy place for Muslims and for others in the world,” beamed 13-year-old Ahmad Abu Almashayakeh, from the Magazi refugee camp in Gaza. “It’s a very fantastic feeling, and it’s like a new thing you’re doing in your life.” When it came time to leave Al-Aqsa and walk the short distance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, organizers struggled to round up the children. They were too excited to leave. “I hope this is not going to be the last time,” said Abu Hilu after leaving the holy site. “It is the first time, and I hope we will repeat this trip many times later on.”

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Gaza’s tailors stitch together uniforms for the new school year – Middle East Monitor

Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Childrens bags are made and hung ready to be purchased for the new school year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] School uniforms are made and hung ready to be purchased for the new school year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] Gazas tailors are working hard towards making school uniforms for the new academic year. [Image: Mohammad Asad / Middle East Monitor] The new school year is due to start in a few days and Gazas tailors and seamstresses are making about 20 per cent of the school clothes. The rest are imported. The owners of the factories are complaining. One of them, Khaled Saqer, told MEMO that sales barely cover the cost of the uniforms. Although the prices are the same and havent changed, there are new burdens, such as higher costs of living and higher wages. The main change that the owners are experiencing now is the use of more fuel and thus higher production costs since they rarely have electricity and so have to rely on generators for several days every week. Eid Al-Adha coincides with the new school year, and the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering due to the new salary cuts enforced by the Palestinian Authority on its staff as well as Gaza government employees, who only receive 50 per cent of their official salaries. Families are forced to sacrifice the purchase of new clothes for the Eid celebration and only buy school supplies and uniforms, as they are more important. They have even had to cut down to one school uniform per child instead of the customary two.

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PA under fire for sending medical aid to Venezuela amid Gaza crisis – Ma’an News Agency (press release)

PA foreign minister Riad al-Maliki talks to reporters in front of medical aid bound for Venezuela Upon an order from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, three truck-loads of medical supplies were sent to Venezuela, which Minister of Foreign Affairs Riad al-Malki said was an effort to repay what it can for what the Venezuelan government has presented to the Palestinian people, citing the donation of 15 million dollars that was used to construct an eye hospital in the Ramallah-area. While the health services has collapsed in Gaza (sic), Palestinian President Abbas has decided to send medical assistance from Ashdod to Venezuela, the Twitter account for the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish-flagged ship that took part in the aid flotilla to Gaza in 2010, admonished on Monday. Ahmed Jarrar, a freelance journalist in Gaza wrote on Facebook: “Venezuela is in our head, and helping them is a duty, but cutting the aid to Gaza and sending it to Venezuela — the same aid that was given to help Palestinians — it’s not logical and completely mad.” Meanwhile, Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), responsible for enforcing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory, quipped on Facebook: We draw the Palestinian Authoritys attention to the fact that traveling from Ramallah to Gaza is only one hour, while the distance between Venezuela and Ramallah is more than 10,000 kilometers. Israeli NGO BTselem has blamed the blockade for putting Gaza in the throes of a humanitarian disaster, adding that Israel was consigning (Gazas) residents to living in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world. This is not some sort of natural disaster, BTselem added. Had that been the case, Israel would have likely sent in a humanitarian aid mission. Instead, the reality in Gaza is the result of Israels handiwork, achieved by its decade-long implementation of a brutal policy.

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Fisherman nets message in a bottle in isolated Gaza – Reuters

GAZA (Reuters) – For Palestinian fisherman Jihad al-Soltan, it was a surprise summer catch — a message in a bottle that he netted off a Gaza beach. It had bobbed its way in the Mediterranean for nearly 800 km (500 miles) from the Greek island of Rhodes, placed in the water by a vacationing British couple in July. “We are currently on holiday on Rhodes and we would love to know how far this bottle got, even if it’s just the next beach,” said the letter inside, signed “Faithfully, Zac and Beth”. By replying to the email address they enclosed, Soltan discovered the two were Bethany Wright, a university student, and her boyfriend, Zac Marriner. “Hello, Thank you for picking up this bottle. As a reward here are some magic flowers,” the couple wrote in their letter. By the time the bottle reached Gaza’s shores last week, the flowers had wilted. But Soltan said on Monday he was buoyed by the thought that currents could carry a carefree message into troubled waters under Israeli naval blockade and fishing zone restrictions – measures Israel says are necessary to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza’s hostile Hamas Islamist rulers. “As a fisherman I felt this letter traveled through borders and international waters without restrictions while we as fishermen are unable to go beyond six miles,” he said. “I hope one day we would become as free as this bottle was.” Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Jeffrey Heller

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Fisherman nets message in a bottle in Gaza – The Jerusalem Post

Palestinian fishermen ride their boats as they return from fishing at the seaport of Gaza City. (photo credit:REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM) GAZA – For Palestinian fisherman Jihad al-Soltan, it was a surprise summer catch — a message in a bottle that he netted off a Gaza beach. It had bobbed its way in the Mediterranean for nearly 800 km (500 miles) from the Greek island of Rhodes, placed in the water by a vacationing British couple in July. “We are currently on holiday on Rhodes and we would love to know how far this bottle got, even if it’s just the next beach,” said the letter inside, signed “Faithfully, Zac and Beth.” By replying to the email address they enclosed, Soltan discovered the two were Bethany Wright, a university student, and her boyfriend, Zac Marriner. “Hello, Thank you for picking up this bottle. As a reward here are some magic flowers,” the couple wrote in their letter. By the time the bottle reached Gaza’s shores last week, the flowers had wilted. But Soltan said on Monday he was buoyed by the thought that currents could carry a carefree message into troubled waters under Israeli naval blockade and fishing zone restrictions measures Israel says are necessary to prevent arms smuggling by Gaza’s hostile Hamas Islamist rulers. “As a fisherman I felt this letter traveled through borders and international waters without restrictions while we as fishermen are unable to go beyond six miles,” he said. “I hope one day we would become as free as this bottle was.” Share on facebook

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

In Gaza, We Get Four Hours of Electricity a Day If We’re Lucky – Human Rights Watch

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 power plants, its closing of the Gaza border in 2007 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. Palestinians sit outside their housestoescape from the heat during apower cutin the Shati refugee camp,Gaza City. Our power comes from three sources: Israel, Egypt and our single functional power plant, which runs on fuel. Before the current crisis, these sources provided roughly half of Gazas electricity needs. 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 overall 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 another 30%. 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.

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Gunmen attack Hamas posts in Gaza – WAFA – Palestine News Agency

Gunmen attack Hamas posts in Gaza RAFAH, August 21, 2017 (WAFA) Masked gunmen Monday opened fire at a Hamas post, a police station and a Hamas checkpoint in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, local source said. No casualties were reported. The series of attacks were apparently a response from Salafist Jihadist groups to Hamas crackdown on its supporters. Gunmen first attacked a Hamas post, and within an hour an attack was reported against the Rafah police station. Shortly after four people in a car threw five hand grenades at a checkpoint to the west of Rafah. The attacks, which reflect decline in the security situation in Gaza, came after a member of the Jihadists blew himself up in a group of Hamas operatives in Rafah after he and another member were stopped for inspection when they apparently attempted to sneak into Egypt to carry out a military operation there. One Hamas member was killed in the attack. K.T./M.K.

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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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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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