Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category

Children Arrive for ‘Gaza Kids to Ireland’ Football Tour – International Middle East Media Center

After they played and charmed their way into the hearts of communities across Ireland last summer, a mostly new group of 19 children from Al Helal Football Academy in Gaza City, Palestine, is due in Ireland tomorrow .

As the trip was such an uplifting, joyous experience, we are doing it all again this year, Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) coordinator Zo Lawlor said.

The Gaza Kids to Ireland project is a way to show solidarity with the people of Gaza and to raise awareness in Ireland about the siege of Gaza and the broader situation in Palestine. Last year, a smaller group of children met President Michael D. Higgins and attracted a large amount of media attention, including from RT television news.

Starting this weekend, the children, aged 10 to 14 years, will visit and play matches in Dublin, Leitrim, Galway, Cork and Limerick. In a hectic schedule of football, fun and travel, theyll make a repeat visit to Kinvara, Co Galway, and make new friends in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim.

Launched by former manager of the Republic of Ireland Brian Kerr and former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan, the project aims to give the kids some relief from the stress of living under blockade and military assault.

The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, living as they do under siege, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment and places to play: indeed their clubhouse was damaged by Israeli bombing in 2014.

Travel is sharply restricted for Palestinians in Gaza: few of the children have ever been able to leave the tiny strip of territory. This visit to Ireland will provide a wonderful chance for them to meet other children, experience a new culture and tell their stories.

The almost 2 million people in Gaza are under an illegal blockade imposed by Israel, and these children have already lived through three wars on the besieged territory.

The 19 players and three adults will be in Ireland until August 6th. Fundraising events are being held all over the country and donations are both welcome and needed!

Archive IMEMC post 12/22/14Documentary: Ireland & Palestine

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Children Arrive for ‘Gaza Kids to Ireland’ Football Tour – International Middle East Media Center

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July 29, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Gaza Kids to Ireland welcomes young footballers for Irish tour – Irish Examiner

A young football team from Gaza City in Palestine arrived for a tour of Ireland today.

The Gaza Kids to Ireland project is an initiative of Gaza Action Ireland to show solidarity with the people of Gaza.

The 18 young players, representing the Al-Helal Football Academy in Gaza, arrived yesterday and will be in Ireland until August 6.

They will visit communities and play football in Dublin, Leitrim, Kinvara, Cork and Limerick.

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Mags O Brien of Gaza Action Ireland said: The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by a lack of facilities and equipment as well as the ongoing conflict.

Al-Helal Football Academy clubhouse was partially damaged in a bombing in 2014 which was a huge setback for the club but despite all this the club is going strong.

The project provides these young children with a much-needed break from the hardships where they live and is a great opportunity for people to support these wonderful young players.

SIPTU Global Solidarity Committee Secretary, Yvonne OCallaghan, said: Gaza is a living space only 6% the size of Co Galway in which nearly two million people are living. The deterioration in the human rights of the population, especially those of children is alarming.

We hope that trade union members across the country will come out in solidarity and support the many activities planned on the Al-Helal Football Academys tour of Ireland.

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Gaza Kids to Ireland welcomes young footballers for Irish tour – Irish Examiner

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July 29, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

The Russian and Ukrainian Women Who Left Their Lives Behind to Raise Families in Gaza – Haaretz

Lydia Salah sends me photos but asks me not to publish them, anywhere. Its a family history. Here she is, with short, blond hair, early-1990s style, light skin, glossy pink lipstick, in a white muslin dress. Hes next to her brown-skinned, black forelock and almond eyes, wearing a floral-patterned vest and a white shirt. She looks focused and a bit upright; hes smiling lightly, proudly. Theyre both young and beautiful.

The pictures tell the story of their love. In this one shes sitting on his lap and hugging him, in another theyre standing and smiling, a spring sun lighting up their faces, against a background of bare trees and a structure that looks like a Russian Orthodox monastery. Here they are in the snow, heres a shot of them hugging their firstborn child, Lydias head covered with a checkered keffiyeh. In this one shes standing with the carriage and the baby next to a typical Soviet housing block, and here she is again, this time with two children, in a different setting palm trees, and afterward on the seashore.

There are many more photos: Lydia with one of her daughters against the backdrop of a Christmas tree, with something written in Arabic in the background, he and she by the side of a pool. They change with time her hair gets longer, his fills with gray, the faces grow round, the bodies are heavier, the children grow up but the eyes are still luminous.

I love him just like 24 years ago, Lydia writes to me. Its personal, and I know that many people who are hostile to us call us those dumb women, or worse, mattresses for Arab men, she adds, which is why she doesnt want the pictures to be published. Ive heard that more than once from your people. Im a simple woman who loves her husband very much. He was never my enemy, and it doesnt frighten me that hes an Arab.

She continues, There are no pure nations, they all intermixed long ago. My name from home is Romanovskaya, my grandmother was German. I am Russian according to my passport, but no one ever asked me about it, and I dont care. Whats important is that Im happy with my husband and my children. The only thing I want is for the occupation to end and the borders to be open, so we will be able to travel where we want.

Since 1997, Lydia, 43, an accountant by profession, and the mother of three children, has lived in the Gaza Strip with her husband, Ihab, a dentist who has his own clinic.

Israel Loves Cats

For me, it all started with the story of Sonia, a mixed-breed cat Angoran-Persian which was sent to Israel from Gaza for lifesaving medical treatment. The cats owner, Tatyana Zaqout, 39, mother of three, who lives in Beit Lahia, says she contacted most of the animal-rights organizations in the world, told her story on the Russian-language Facebook page Israel Loves Cats, and managed, exceptionally, a few weeks ago, to get Sonia through the Erez checkpoint and into the hands of an Israeli organization called Let the Animals Live. The cats condition has improved somewhat since, but the treatment is continuing and she is staying in Israel for the time being. Tatyana is in regular touch with the clinic.

That story was cited in the Hebrew-language media and covered extensively on Russian-language websites in Israel. It also cropped up on social networks in Arabic and outraged many users, who berated the government in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the owner of the cat herself, as Tatyana told me in an interview conducted via Facebook Messenger. Children who are in need of treatment [here] are dying in the hospitals, she wrote. Thats the reason for the negative reactions to the story with Sonia.

Tatyana, who is originally from Poltava, a city in central Ukraine, southeast of the capital, Kiev, is one of several hundred women who have moved to the Gaza Strip in recent decades from countries of the former Soviet Union mainly Ukraine and Russia with their Palestinian husbands. About a decade ago, I heard that some of them occasionally called in to Pervoye Radio, a pirate station that broadcasts in Russian from Rishon Letzion and could be heard, at least in the past, in the Strip.

Those conversations, which in the current Israeli-Palestinian reality are comparable to signals from outer space, piqued my curiosity even then. But I didnt know how to track down the women. The story of Sonia burst an internet dam for me, and I began to find Facebook profiles of Russian-speaking women from Gaza, accompanied by Ramadan greetings, Happy Victory Day messages, recipes, quotations from the Koran in Russian and Arabic, pictures of children and also mourning posts for relatives who perished in the 2014 war in the Strip. Almost half the women I contacted via Facebook agreed to talk to me, and in the end I spoke to five of them.

The very possibility of speaking with these women, who live in a hostile entity an hours drive from Tel Aviv, was immensely gratifying, and I thanked fate for the common language and culture that opened this conflict-bypass channel for us. Still, despite the closeness that developed, I felt that there was much that was not being said explicitly and that remained between the lines and I dont mean only the criticism some of them have of Hamas, which they were only willing to express off the record.

A kidnapping averted

Tatyana came to Gaza in 2005 with her husband, Ayman, after he completed his dentistry studies in Poltava. Many Palestinians, from both Israel and the territories, attended institutions of higher education in the Soviet Union, together with thousands of other students from countries that were in the communist giants sphere of influence. That tradition continued after the collapse of the Soviet empire, in 1991, with many Palestinian men still coming to Russian and Ukrainian cities to attend medical schools and other institutions.

A girlfriend of mine who was then married to a Palestinian from Jenin introduced us, Tatyana relates. He had economic difficulties during his studies. I worked and helped him as best I could. My mother also helped him. Tatyana says she came to Gaza without giving the matter any thought and without knowing anything about the place. During the first two years, she had problems adjusting, she says, but immediately adds that, now, I am completely used to it and have integrated into local life.

Subsequently Tatyana wrote me, There are many difficulties here, but I have learned to shut my eyes. In a foreign country, you will never be one of them. With our concepts of life, its not so easy to accept what is happening here.

For Elena Hamida, who also arrived in Gaza in 2005 from Poltava when she was not yet 25, the first years in her new home were filled with suffering. She met her future husband when he was a medical student and she was studying nursing. The couple married and had a son, and her husbands father wanted to see his grandchild. Ignoring the importuning of friends and relatives, Elena agreed to let her husband take their 2-year-old son to the Gaza Strip. She was then pregnant with a daughter and stayed behind to continue her studies and have the baby, she tells me by phone. She hoped her husband would return soon in order to continue his studies. But a year later he called to ask her to come to Gaza.

Elena: My mother tried to persuade me not to go. She was against it. Where are you going? she asked. You dont know the language, you dont know anything at all. I got organized, took my 8-month-old daughter, and went.

Her ordeal began on the minibus that took her from the airport in Egypt to the Rafah crossing. We stopped in Sinai to eat. They have cafes along the road, she relates, recalling a dramatic incident. I didnt want to get out I wasnt familiar with anything and didnt know the language. The others said, Come with us, at least eat something. The girl is sleeping. Dont touch her. Alright, I thought. I went to the caf, and then I had this bad feeling and I ran to the car, and all the others did the same. I entered the cab quickly and saw black hands taking my daughter out through the window. I started to scream, to shout in short, that person left the child and disappeared in the crowd.

There followed 10 days of waiting at the Rafah crossing which is controlled by Egypt with a baby, with the only source of running water being a hose emerging from the ground. But finally Elena was reunited with her son. He was already 3 years and 8 months old. He looked so thin, tall; I didnt recognize him. He spoke Arabic, and with me not understanding anything I was saying. Gradually he got used to me.

Doing whats needed

Like most of the women who came to the Strip from the former Soviet Union, Elena moved into her husbands home which is to say, the home of his extended family, in Gaza City. I lived together with his parents and my sisters-in-law, she says. I tried to do everything the way they wanted, like youre supposed to. Naturally there were also quarrels, scandals, misunderstandings. And there was a period when I wanted to drop everything and leave. There were also insults. Female relatives not those who lived in the house, but aunts twice and three times removed, and young girls especially really didnt like it that I was there. Because the regular custom is that if someone goes abroad to study, he gets married after he comes back. My arrival spoiled the plans of many families. There were also fights, my children were insulted. Even now, kids in school sometimes call them, Russians, Russians but they dont pay attention anymore.

My phone conversation with Elena went on for a while. She says she loves Gaza. Ive gotten used to it, as far as I am concerned everything here is fine. The only thing I dont like is that its impossible to leave [the Gaza Strip].

What about the electricity?

You can live without electricity. It used to be hard, now its alright. But I dont want to return to Ukraine. Theres a war there, too, and I have children, I worry. There are those gangs there I am afraid that my boy would become a junkie, or start drinking. There, I simply would not be able to keep an eye on them. If its one child its possible, but not three. One of them for sure would find himself in bad company.

And in Gaza that cant happen?

Here its possible to keep an eye on them. There, I would not be able to do that. I simply would not.

When I mention to her that the war in Ukraine is distant from Poltava, Elena adds that economically, too, she would not be able to manage there with three children.

Our beautiful Gaza

Some time after our conversation, Elena got in touch to say that she wanted to clear up a few things. She tells me her story more directly, noting her early naivete and her desire to curry favor with her husband Hazams family. She adds that the Russian and Ukrainian legations evacuated her and her children, along with many other women at the beginning of 2009, during Israels Operation Cast Lead. At that time she lived for a few months in her hometown, and didnt want to return to Gaza. But after much soul-searching and under pressure from the children, she decided to go back after all, but now, she says, as a different woman tougher, blunter, able to stand up for her rights.

I love my husband, the children need a father, Elena continues, explaining her decision to return. Especially when I have a wonderful husband who in 16 years of married life has never raised a hand against me. Other husbands are not like that. There are normal ones, but there are also those who beat their wives girls from our circle. They come to the hospital with broken arms, hemorrhages, deep wounds. I didnt want to say that next to my husband; he is ashamed of men like that. My husband looks grim-faced, but he is good-hearted, crazy about the children. We do not teach them with blows, we explain their mistakes to them in words. I appreciate him, he does not insult me. We quarrel day-to-day, like everyone, but there is no violence, even though I am often naughty and do things to spite him. Another man would punch me in the face, but mine says, How could I do that after all, you have no one here.

Elena later writes to say that eventually, too, the confrontations with her new relatives abated.

I am the oldest woman among them, my husband is the firstborn son, we are both in the medical profession, she says, explaining the status she acquired in the course of time. Its true that I dont work in the profession, but everyone comes to my house for injections, or I go to set up an infusion. I swim, I work out, I prepare dishes [for the family] from home which, by the way, has captivated them. I also have a diploma as a pastry chef and I bake cakes all the Arabs love Napoleons.

In our phone call, Elena told me about the power outages and about how, during Operation Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014, she made fires on the roof in order to cook noodles or rice, and was afraid that the drones hovering above would mistake what she was doing, and think that she was about to fire a rocket. In a message she sends me she underscores other aspects of life in the Strip: Our Gaza is beautiful. We have parks, pools, community centers with activities for children. Of course, theyre not perfect, like those in Russia and Ukraine, but even so… If we hadnt been bombed and there wasnt a war… Other than that, everything is fine, the children are healthy, smart, my husband is excellent, what more can I ask for? I dont need more. With a family like this I can get along anywhere in the world, she sums up.

C-section in Gaza

The family support structure, the possibility of buying on credit in the grocery store and a traditional society that observes the laws of Islam strictly are sources of security for these women, who left their home countries at different stages of the cruel processes that took place after the fall of the Soviet empire. Indeed, for a time in the 1990s the standard of living in Gaza was higher than in remote Russian cities. For example, Lydia Salah, who met her husband in Volgograd and moved with him to the Strip in 1997, relates that it was economics that prompted their decision to leave Russia, even though her husband received Russian citizenship and they would have liked very much to stay there.

Life in Gaza Strip was easier, she says. Everything was very cheap the food, the clothes and there was work. Israel was open to workers from Gaza, and above all there was quiet.

Furthermore, even though a large proportion of Palestinian physicians had had their medical education in the former Soviet Union, the quality of medical care was and remains far higher in Gaza than it is in Russia, according to Tanya Kalub, a dentist of 45 who is married to a Palestinian heart surgeon. She says this not only as a physician but also as a mother and as a patient. Tanya became ill with cancer and completed her chemotherapy in Gaza a year ago.

I had a referral for radiation treatments in Israel, she relates. It had to be done within a short time half a year. The [Russian] embassy tried to help, but I didnt have proper papers. Negotiations [with Israeli authorities] went on for four months, but when nothing was resolved, I went to Egypt. We rented an apartment and I had the radiation treatments there. The funny thing is that in Russia they refused to give me radiation treatment. They have other kinds of therapy protocols. Its a good thing I was here with my problem. It was scary the children are young.

Tanya and her husband, Mohammed, lived for many years in the city of Krasnodar, in southern Russia, where they both worked in a hospital and ran their own pharmaceutical-marketing business. Their two older daughters were born there. They came to Gaza in 2011, and their youngest daughter was born there three years later, during the 2014 war.

My husband worked, we didnt see him for 40 days and nights, he was in the hospital and we were at home, Tanya says. During a three-day cease-fire, we went to the hospital and I had a C-section. I would have had a C-section anyway it was planned. It was frightening. The operation was in the morning, and by the evening they had already sent me home. But everything went well the doctors are wonderful. And the attitude [toward them] is different, too. In general, its good to be a doctor here.

Toward the end of Tanyas last pregnancy, her husbands younger sister was killed when an Israeli shell struck her house. In contrast to 2009, when Russia and Ukraine flew their citizens out of the Gaza Strip, in the summer of 2014, their assistance took the form of transporting families that wished to be evacuated to the Rafah crossing, where they were on their own. The majority of the women chose to remain in Gaza. Most of the families were directly affected by the war; two of the women I spoke with lost relatives.

We have no connection with any political group, Tanya says. Everyone is a doctor or a teacher, no one is a party member. The attacks usually came at night, but this one was in the morning, at nine oclock. It was the second day of Id al-Fitr [the holiday that concludes Ramadan]. Her husbands sisters family lived on the fourth floor of the neighboring building. A shell hurtled into their home.

It was already after the bombing, after the planes. They were eating breakfast. The shell went through four walls. [My husbands] sister was standing in its path. It sliced through her and slashed her two legs in the hip region. A 4-year-old who was with her was sliced in two. For two weeks they tried to treat her, my husband himself amputated both her legs. I still miss her. She was the only one who had a European education. She had a masters degree, she had a good job in the field of economics, she had a career. She had another son, too. She was 28.

Tanya adds, People who belong to political parties and their house was destroyed thats clear, they have their war. But like that, people of peace? May it never happen again.

Rafah is hell

Tanya speaks jocularly about the absence of electricity. We have electricity four hours a day. Its like an all-inclusive holiday: Do the laundry, do the ironing I try to do everything in those four hours, she says, adding that when the power problems first began, in 2011, they lived by candlelight, but eventually they installed solar panels. Its never dark in the house. Theres always internet, lights, television. We even turn on the refrigerator sometimes … People get along with generators or something else.

The quality of life here is very different from Russia, she notes. At first it was hard for me. The food is different, its a whole different world. Not better, not worse, just different. But we got used to it, we got along. Even when I traveled [to Russia for a visit], I just wanted to come back.

All her comforts depend on her husband, notes Tanya: The whole family treats me well, he treats me well. I am not a racist, Im not a terrorist, I dont understand anything about politics. Its good for me with him wherever we are. It was good for me with him in Russia, and here too, and if we were to go to Mars, as they say, it would probably be good there also. Everything is dependent on him.

Some of the women make it sound as though the electricity problem is, all in all, something that can be overcome that its just a matter of habit and skill. Its impossible to keep perishable food in the house, and air conditioning is out of the question, but what troubles the women far more are the closed borders and the impossibility of visiting their relatives overseas. The option of leaving via Israel is almost nonexistent, and to get a permit to travel through Egypt can take months if not years. The womens Russian citizenship doesnt always help.

The last time Tatyana Zaqout left Gaza was in 2009, via the Rafah terminal an ordeal she never wants to go through again. Rafah is hell, she says. A few thousand people are made to wait in front of the closed gates under the broiling sun. Youre treated like a herd of animals. People are let in through a door on the side of the gate a few at a time, and the bags and suitcases are thrown over the top of the gate in return for payment. The bags fly, everything in them gets broken. Theres no water, no toilets. And if youre lucky and get through in under 24 hours, you face another trip in Sinai, where your car gets stopped every kilometer, your suitcases are turned inside out and Egyptian bandits take what they want.

Something for the children

The situation is even more difficult for Irina Rumiantseva (who asked that her Arabic married name not be used), a painter of 52 and the mother of four children. Shes been waiting for an opportunity to exit for several years, without real hope.

Last week we called the Russian legation no one can help, she says. They [i.e., Hamas] compile lists in Rafah. The last time, our number was 2,354. But they only open the roads for two-three days and then theyre closed for three months. People who need urgent operations cant leave. There have been cases of people dying in Rafah before their turn came.

Irina, whose husband was director general of the Ministry of Construction and Architecture on behalf of Fatah, is the only woman I spoke with who speaks forthrightly of her desire to leave the Gaza Strip. She was born in Sevastopol, the major port city on the Crimean Black Sea. In the mid-1980s, she attended the academy of arts in Leningrad. There she met her husband, Maher, who was also a student in the institution, in architecture, and went on to do doctoral studies in the field.

Afterward, the city they lived in reverted to its original name, St. Petersburg, and if at first it was only Maher who was a foreign student, Irina also received that status in Russia when the Soviet Union broke up. (Two-and-a-half decades later, Russias annexation of Crimea again changed Irinas legal status: From being a Ukrainian citizen she became a Russian citizen, and all without leaving the Strip.) The couples first child, a daughter, was born in Leningrad. But in the early 1990s, they had no choice but to move to Gaza. Neither of them could stay in Russia, and Irinas hometown was off-limits to outsiders for security reasons.

Irina recalls wistfully the years when Fatah was in control in Gaza. She was then teaching painting in various frameworks. Those were better times for me, she says. Hamas of course builds mosques, hospitals. But I would like something for children parks, zoos, for the authorities to clean the seashore, to organize beach activities.

And none of that exists?

There is something, but not at the level it could be at. There was a project that my husband tried to promote: for the facades of the buildings to be in one uniform style There were different projects, but they were postponed. Things were easier for me then, when there was electricity all the time. But the main thing is the closed borders, which drives everyone crazy. My parents dont understand how it can be, how its possible not to be able to visit.

Irinas father celebrated his 80th birthday this month, back in Sevastopol. Shed promised him to visit immediately after Ramadan, at the end of June, but it didnt work out. The siege of Gaza is also seriously undermining her and her husbands careers as artists, a career they launched after he was fired from the ministry.

I was invited to exhibit in the Russian cultural center in Bethlehem the director contacted me through the Russian embassy in Ramallah. We wrote letters, we obtained all the papers nothing came of it, she relates. Afterward we were invited to Lebanon and to the United States for exhibitions. We are artists, after all, and we need to show our work somehow. But even sending paintings is very difficult.

After Maher was fired in the wake of a brief civil war between Fatah and Hamas, which resulted in the latter assuming exclusive control within Gaza the couple changed course and began to make a living from selling their artworks, which Irina describes as traditional Palestinian art. There is no demand at all in Gaza, but according to Irina there are quite a few affluent Palestinians abroad who are happy to purchase paintings of pastoral Palestinian landscapes and images of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Like many Fatah officials who remained loyal to the party and did not join Hamas, Maher continued to receive a salary from Ramallah even after he stopped working in the ministry. Recently, his salary was cut from $1,500 to $1,000 a month, and the income from painting became the couples primary source of income, with which they pay for the studies of their middle son and his sister, in Berlin. Their firstborn daughter emigrated not long ago and now lives alone with her 3-year-old daughter and an infant in Brussels. Irina says that their youngest child, a daughter of 13, also wants to leave Gaza. The problem is that theres no way out.

What Arabs understand

Unlike Irina, most of the women I spoke to say that they have become used to Gaza to a degree that would make it difficult for them to reintegrate into the life of their former homeland. Still, Lydia Salah says that if things dont get better, she will not object if her children want to leave.

Nevertheless, I hope everything will work out because all people want to live in peace, she writes me on Messenger, and adds, When I speak with my sister, I laugh all the time: Wait for me until I retire, well sit as grandmothers on the bench and remember our youth. Finally, she says that if it were up to her husband, they would have left long ago: She is the one whos keeping him in Gaza.

Tanya Kalub says she is nostalgic not for the Russia she left but for the Soviet Union of her childhood. What do they have there now? she asks. Shopping centers. When I went to visit, I felt that I missed my relatives that, yes. But to live there? I dont know. Maybe thats just the kind of person I am. Its good for me where my family is.

Tatyana Zaqouts long-term plans are to raise her grandchildren, and in the nearer future to help her cat Sonia get well. Shes the only woman among the interviewees who speaks openly of her fondness for Hamas, defending the organization when I ask her about executions of suspected collaborators with Israel. Only the guilty are executed; Hamas has never hurt the civilian population, she insists (contrary to the views of other women, who spoke on the subject only off the record). She adds, I think that Hamas is the government thats needed here. Theyre the only ones who succeeded in making order.

She continues, In the Fatah period, every family here had a Kalach[nikov rifle]. Pistols were a game for kids. People walked around with assault rifles slung over their shoulders. One time I was walking on the street and a truck passed by in which teenagers were shooting pistols into the air. I was scared that if the truck were to hit a bump and the hand of one of the boys would shake, someone would be killed by mistake. When Hamas took power, they banned weapons and confiscated them all. The police also created order; people started to respect them. During the Fatah period, there were often exchanges of fire next to the police station, when all kinds of retards came to get friends out of detention, Tatyana says, and sums up, The Arabs understand only force. They need strong rule.

During the 2014 war, she barely managed to save herself and her family. After repeated requests, the Red Crescent evacuated her and the children, on the basis of their foreign citizenship. Ayman, her husband remained behind, in the hope that he would find a cab driver who would be willing to drive him to the nearest border crossing. In the end, a crazy taxi driver was found, and he arrived at the Zaqout home just minutes before it was destroyed in a bombing raid. When I remind Tatyana of this episode, and expressed my doubts whether Hamas really deserved her admiration, she replies, That was during the war. In regular life its calmer here and you feel more protected [than in Poltava]. Now weve moved to the interior [farther from the border]. Theres less chance of that happening here. It was right next to Erez, you know. I will never set foot there again. But you can liken it to the existence of residents of Ashkelon and Sderot: Theyre shot at, too, but they dont leave their cities.

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The Russian and Ukrainian Women Who Left Their Lives Behind to Raise Families in Gaza – Haaretz

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July 29, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

One killed in violent clashes in Gaza amid Temple Mount tensions – The Jerusalem Post

The Dome of the Rock is seen in the background as a man waves a Palestinian flag upon entering the Temple Mount, after Israel removed all security measures it had installed at the compound, in Jerusalem’s Old City July 27, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

One Palestinian was killed Friday and dozens more wounded in clashes with IDF troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 16-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abu al-Maysa was killed east of al-Bureij camp in the Gaza Strip during clashes with Israeli troops on the fence.

According to a statement released by the IDF, dozens of Palestinians took part in violent riots in several locations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel over the course of the day on Friday where they burnt tires and threw stones at the fence and at IDF forces.

Troops were deployed to the areas where the riots were taking place and “are working to prevent damage to the perimeter fence,” read the statement adding that troops fired at a number of key instigators.

According to Palestinian Maan News, four rioters were wounded by live ammunition east of the Jabaliya refugee camp and another was injured east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip.

The IDF is investigating reports of al-Maysa’s death.

Meanwhile in the West Bank hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in various locations, including in Hebron, Rachel’s Tomb, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Qalandiya. According to the Red Crescent, some 25 Palestinians were treated by their staff for injuries sustained in clashes with troops.

According to reports in Palestinian media several rioters were injured by rubber bullets fired by soldiers near Rachels Tomb in Bethlehem.

A statement released by the IDF Spokespersons Unit said that during the demonstrations, molotov cocktails and stones were thrown, two improvised explosive devices were placed, and tires were torched.

Four demonstrators were arrested and a soldier was lightly injured after being hit by a stone.

Also on Friday soldiers thwarted a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank after a Palestinian ran up to a group of soldiers with a knife. The attacker, identified as 24-year-old Abdullah Ali Mahmoud Taqatqa was shot and killed by troops.

According to the army some 1,000 Palestinians participated in disturbances throughout the week.

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One killed in violent clashes in Gaza amid Temple Mount tensions – The Jerusalem Post

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July 28, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

The Gaza Kids to Ireland are coming back to Galway – Galway Bay FM

The kids from Al Helal Football Academy, Gaza City, Palestine are returning to Kinvara this Monday 31stJuly, and will be playing friendly international matches with Kinvara United at their home pitch, on Monday from 3.00pm.

The Gaza Kids to Ireland project is an initiative of Gaza Action Ireland as a way to show solidarity with the people of Gaza, and to allow the group of young children to be able to focus on the sport they love by touring ireland with a sole purpose, the enjoyment of soccer. Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) brought a group of children from the Al Helal Football Academy to Ireland last summer, when they played wonderful football and charmed everyone who met them, including President Michael D. Higgins at Galway United V Dundalk, Eamonn Deacy Park. In the middle of their busy tour around Ireland, there was a brilliant series of matches against Kinvara United, enjoyed by many people.

As the trip was such an uplifting, joyous experience, we are doing it all again this year, GAI coordinator Zo Lawlor said. Starting in late July, the children from Al Helal Football Academy, in Gaza City, will visit communities and play football in Dublin, Leitrim, Kinvara, Cork and Limerick.

Launched by former manager of the Republic of Ireland, Brian Kerr, former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan and Gaza Action Ireland, the project aims to give the kids some relief from the stress of living under blockade and military assault. It will also be a rewarding and enriching exchange for all as they play childrens teams from Dublin, Kinvara, Manorhamilton, Limerick and Cork.

There are almost 2 million people in the Gaza strip, living in a space that is only 6% the size of County Galway. Without access to any of the luxuries that are available to children in other countrys, Soccer is a widely played sport and it shows in the quality of the young players involved in the project. This project will provide them with a much-needed break from hardships where they live and is a great opportunity for people to support these wonderful young players.

The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment, to name but a few. Al Helal Football Academyclubhouse was partially damaged in a bombing in 2014 which was a huge setback for the club but despite all this the club is still going strong.

Al Helal chairman, Ayed Abu Ramadan, expands on the importance of the Gaza Kids to Ireland project:

Last year everyone in Ireland was so generous with the team, and so friendly. This visit will again provide a wonderful chance for them to meet other children, experience a new culture and to tell their stories.

The 20 young players and 5 adults will be in Ireland from 28th July to 6th August. Among the many events organised for the children are friendly matches at Killina pitch, Kinvara on Monday 31st July, from 3.00 pm.

Recollecting the 2016 Gaza visit, Coach Ger Ryan recalls:

Last year we were delighted to host the Al Helal team delighted for Kinvara, for Galway, and for Ireland. We said then that if the opportunity arose again wed welcome them with open arms, and we welcome everyone to join us on the 31st July to come out and support the teams.

Fundraising events are being held all over the country and the organisers of the tour stress that all donations are both welcome and needed. Information about upcoming fundraising events and the teams itinerary can be found at the links below:

To donate to the project please do so here

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Alon Ben-Meir: Gaza A disaster in the making – WatertownDailyTimes.com

By ALON BEN-MEIR

NEW YORK It has been 10 years since Hamas defeated the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and assumed control over the territory.

Today, the socio-economic conditions in Gaza are so horrendous that if nothing is done immediately, the whole area is bound to explode in the face of Hamas, Israel and the international community. When that happens, you can count on Israels and Hamass leaders to blame the other for allowing the situation to deteriorate to this perilous point.

Both sides are equally guilty of an egregious betrayal of their own people. No matter how much longer their conflict persists, they will remain trapped in a reality that neither side can alter short of a catastrophe.

The question is, when will they come to their senses and find a way to peacefully coexist, knowing that the alternative is only continuing violent hostilities? Meanwhile, thousands will be killed between the two sides, havoc and distraction will reign, and the Palestinians in Gaza in particular will pay the heaviest price. As German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do and more in the light of what they suffer.

Gazans live in dire conditions, suffering from shortages of food, medicine, drinking water and electricity. Infrastructure is crumbling, and hundreds of thousands are living in squalor as housing shortages continue to climb from 71,000 in 2012 to 120,000 today. More than 1.2 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance; tens of thousands are living in abject poverty exposed to disease and malnutrition; 75,000 are internally displaced; and the unemployment rate is 42 percent (as high as 60 percent among the youth) with little or no relief in sight.

The problem here is that both Israel and Hamas are living in self-denial, as if they can wish the other away. Both are guilty of playing politics with the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, refusing to assume their share of responsibility.

They find comfort in pointing the finger at each others outrageous conduct and have become enslaved to their own old and tired acrimonious narratives, leaving little room for reconciliation.

Hamas has convinced itself that Israel is the main culprit behind their decades-old plight, pointing to the inhumanity of the blockade, the severe restrictions on goods going in and out of Gaza and the stifling Israeli security apparatus that sealed off the strip from the air, sea and land, which prevents access to outside markets. They are demanding the unconditional lifting of the blockade without offering anything in return but more acrimony, while posing a continuing security threat.

Hamas leadership conveniently forgets that much of their misery is self-inflicted. Instead of focusing on building schools, hospitals, and housing, and repairing much of the crumbling infrastructure (especially following the last war with Israel in 2014), they maintain a bellicose posture toward Israel, threatening its very existence. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on building new tunnels through which to attack Israel, and buying and manufacturing new weapons while focusing on stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets poised to be fired at Israel.

In their newly revised charter, although they talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, they proclaim that The real state is the fruit of liberation, and there is no alternative to the creation of the Palestinian state, with its sovereignty on the entire Palestinian land with Jerusalem as its capital (emphasis added).

Has it ever occurred to Hamas that they cannot now or at any time in the future overwhelm Israel militarily to achieve their elusive goal? And that if they ever pose a real existential threat to Israel, they will be the ones who will be decimated first? Logic dictates that if they want the blockade to be lifted, they must renounce violence, recognize Israels unmitigated reality and stop claiming the Palestinians right to the entire mandated Palestine.

Not even the most moderate among Hamass members should assume that Israel would simply lift the blockade unless its security is absolutely and permanently assured. Hamas must sooner than later swallow its pride and concede that the strategy of using or threatening violence against Israel has failed and only further hardens the Israeli position.

However, anyone who places the blame solely on Hamas is dreadfully wrong. Israel continues to play its part in the ongoing tragic saga unfolding in Gaza. There is a pervasive misconception in Israel promulgated by the government that Hamas is simply irredeemable. They justify the blockade by insisting that Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza made the territory a launching pad from which Hamas has and continues to launch rockets against Israel.

The late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a fundamental mistake by withdrawing from Gaza without any security coordination with the Palestinian Authority. He and his cabinet knew full well that Hamas was stronger, better organized, and better militarily equipped than the PA, and their capability to take over Gaza by force was visible for all to see.

Moreover, while imposing the blockade was necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons and explosives, Netanyahu in particular made no effort to change the hostile nature of Israels relationship with Hamas. Instead, he deliberately chose to manage the conflict by maintaining a tense atmosphere to serve his political base and stay in power.

Furthermore, the Netanyahu government uses Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the security hazard it poses to justify the continuing occupation and consolidate its hold on the West Bank (presumably for security reasons) through the settlement enterprise, while playing the PA and Hamas against one another.

Hypocritically, while Netanyahu condemns Hamas for striving to establish a Palestinian state over the entire land, he claims the Jews right to the entire biblical land of Israel that includes the West Bank, of which several of his ministers openly seek annexation.

When will Netanyahu accept the fact that Hamas is not going anywhere and that the status quo is simply untenable? Yes, Israel can go into Gaza again and even decimate Hamass leaders while inflicting massive destruction, as it has three times in the past.

But what then? New, even more extremist leaders will rise in short order. Nothing will fundamentally change other than maintaining the vicious cycle of violence from which neither can come out unscathed.

Both sides must come to terms with their reality. Yes, this is the logical and practical thing to accept. But sadly, logic and realism often give way to misplaced emotions, misguided ideology, and blind belief. But look where these lofty precepts have led them to hell is lurking in the darkness of their own creation.

The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace. There is no need for another Israeli or Palestinian child to die because of the ill-advised leaders who made a career of defying time and circumstances to the detriment of their people when the solution is there for them to grasp.

Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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As Temperatures Soar, Gaza Desperately Tries to Beat the Heat – The Wire

External Affairs Gaza gets less than four hours of electricity a day because the Palestinian President refuses to foot its electricity bill in a bid to flush out Hamas.

A disabled Palestinian woman lies on a mattress, as her relative holds a torch to show her to the photographer during a power cut in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

Gaza:As Middle East summer temperatures soar above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), Gazans are struggling to stay cool amid a power crisis, with less than four hours of electricity a day and little chance to run fans and air-conditioners.

The power crisis is affecting health and sanitation because sewage treatment plants cant run, raw sewage is pouring into the Mediterranean and now the elderly and sick are desperately trying to handle the heat.

Plastic trays and scraps of cardboard are doubling as hand-held fans. Precious piped water is hosed over children and work animals. Those trying to sleep have abandoned clammy mattresses, preferring the relative cool of bare tiled floors.

A Palestinian woman bathes her son with water from a tank, filled by a charity, inside their dwelling in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files

Hoping to pressure the Islamist Hamas group to relinquish control of Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reduced his administrations payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza. That has left the 2 million Palestinians there with only a few hours of power a day.

Hospitals and other emergency facilities have made do with back-up generators. Few ordinary Palestinians have that option.

A Palestinian woman undergoes kidney dialysis at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, June 12, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files

A family excursion to the beach that might elsewhere have been a delight was, for Sabah Joudah, a forced decision, especially when having to put up with the sewage problems.

We came here to entertain the children, even though the sea is polluted, she told Reuters as the dirty surf lapped close by. It is summer and there is no electricity; no water and no fans are working in our homes. It is very tough, very tough.

Palestinians swim in the Mediterranean Sea in Beit Lahiya town, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files

Environment officials say disruptions at sewage treatment facilities have meant more than 100,000 litres of untreated wastewater is discharged along the coast daily. Around 75% of the seawater is polluted.

Swimming there frequently leaves children with skin inflammations and abdominal complaints, parents say.

Palestinian children look out of the window of their family house during a power cut in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files

In the southern town of Khan Younis, a woman bathed her children in a bucket in the street, while a man doused his horse with water.

One Khan Younis couple, the Abu Mehsens, both suffer from high blood pressure and said they were so beleaguered by the heat that simply fanning themselves could be too much effort.

A Palestinian woman washes dishes in her kitchen as she uses a candle light during a power cut in Beit Lahiya town, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 13, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files

When we get tired we rest for a bit before we start fanning again, Jihan Abu Mehsen said. We do so all day long.

The situation has hurt Gazas meagre retail sector, with vendors saying that sales of electrical appliances have tanked. One exception has been cheap rechargeable fans, which can be stored, with full batteries, in anticipation of the power cuts.

A Palestinian vendor sells snacks on a beach during a power cut as he uses battery-powered lights in Gaza City, July 12, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files

People have turned to alternative power, using batteries, said appliance salesman Mahmoud Abu Hamda. Sometimes they use trays and sometimes even the covers of kettles instead of electric fans. This has impacted us very much.

(Reuters)

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Gaza’s beaches unseasonably empty – Al-Monitor

A Palestinian couple walks along a beach in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, June 7, 2017.(photo byMOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Author:Rasha Abou Jalal Posted July 27, 2017

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip The owners of beach resorts on the coast of the Gaza Strip are complaining that the municipalities have increased the rental prices for land along the coast. Temporary vacation lodges are built there each summer, offering a rare escape for citizens from the summer heat and power outages that have reached 20 hours per day.

At the start of this summer season, the largest municipality in the Strip, the Municipality of Gaza, set rent for resort owners at $35,000 for the summer season, which starts in early May and ends at the end of October. The amount is very high compared to what the municipalities charged under the Palestinian Authority before 2007, according to Hatem al-Sheikh Khalil, the director of the Public Relations Department in the Municipality of Gaza. The fees at the time did not exceed $2,000 for the entire summer.

The beach resorts are temporary wooden structures built directly on the shores, their palm-thatched roofs covering the bare ground in units of 30 by 60 meters (100 by 200 feet). The lodges offer tents made of fabric and palm branches as well as tables and umbrellas for rent.

Khalil told Al-Monitor there is only one lodge this year on this municipality’s beach. There were four last year and 18 before Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007.

The only remaining lodge is called the Ghoroub, Houssam, Alaa and Marina Resort. The name combines those of four distinct resorts that had operated separately in previous years. Their owners decided to merge them this year to afford the expenses imposed by the municipality.

Shareholder Ramadan Malaka told Al-Monitor, The increase in the rental prices of a coastal piece of land has wrecked the summer season and led to soaring prices of services offered to vacationers like umbrellas, food and drinks. He sees the increase of rental prices as part of Hamas efforts to collect more money from citizens during the financial crisis plaguing Gaza.

Malaka said that in 2014, renting a piece of land to build a lodge cost $15,000, and in 2015, the price rose to $20,000. It reached $25,000 in 2016 and $35,000 in 2017. He added, The price of a beverage increased from 3 shekels to 7 shekels [$0.84-$2], while the rental price of a tent for one day rose from 30 shekels to 100 shekels [$8.50-$28]. Customers could not afford to pay this much, and many of them would leave after discovering the prices.

Mohammad Naim took his family for a summer vacation on the beach, but chose to brave the summer heat rather than rent a tent on the beach due to its high price.

Naim told Al-Monitor, During the summers in previous years, I would camp with my family for several days in these lodges. But this year, the vacation season is at its worst. I only went to the resort once due to the high prices. I prefer to spend my vacation on the open beach, without renting a tent or an umbrella to protect us from the sun.

The beach vacation industry once offered Gaza’s unemployed youth dozens of job opportunities. But after the municipalities increased the rental prices, the jobs fell off, as did the wages.

Malaka said, The four resorts that operated during the last summer season employed around 200 workers, but after they were merged into one lodge in 2017, barely 40 workers were kept. He noted that the most a worker can now earn is 700 shekels ($197) per month, compared to 1,000-1,200 shekels ($281-$338) in previous years.

Khalil said that the municipality raised rents so it can pay its 80 employees in charge of cleaning the beaches after the vacationers leave. Each of those employees receive a monthly salary of 1,400 shekels ($394).

Khalil does not believe the prices are the only factor the resorts are dwindling and fewer Gazans are vacationing there. He pointed out that another important issue is the sea pollution, with sewage contaminating 73% of Gaza’s beaches, in addition to the power outages, both of which have discouraged vacationers.

Alaa al-Kurd, another partner in the only resort on the beach, said that the municipality provides no services to the lodges or vacationers. He told Al-Monitor, Our workers, not the municipalitys, clean the shore. The municipality does not offer any services or public facilities to vacationers on the beach like lighting or restrooms and showers. Resorts offer these services at their own expense.

He added, The municipality only pumps sewage onto the beach and ruins peoples good time. It has wrecked the summer season for resort owners.

He noted that the fee that resorts pay to municipalities does not include expenses like water and electricity in Gaza, where the power outages are constant. Kurd said that he pays an extra 500 shekels ($140) a day to supply water and buy the fuel needed to run generators.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/gaza-municipality-rental-prices-beach-resorts.html

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Israel builds pipeline to absorb sewage from Gaza – Ynetnews

After the sewage treatment facility in Gaza was shut down due to the electricity crisis, and waste water started polluting Israeli groundwater, Israel decided to once again have a pipeline connect it with Gazaafter 12 years of disengagementand help alleviate its wastewater problem.

Photo: Roee Idan

The pipeline is supposed to transport the sewage from the Gaza Strip to the sewage treatment plant in Sderot and the settlements of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, located in the area of Kibbutz Erez.

As a result of the flow of wastewater, the stream was flooded, creating a large environmental hazard, which began to pollute groundwater from the coastal aquifer, from which Mekorot, a national water company, pumps drinking water.

Photo: Roee Idan

In the last few days, the Palestinians have increased the flow of the sewage, forcing Israel to construct a dam in Nahal Hanoun, east of Nativ HaAsara near the Gaza border. Initially, the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council had attempted to pump the sewage into trucks, but the amount of accumulated sewage rendered this option unfeasible.

The closing of ground water pumping stations is an extreme step and serves to highlight the extreme humanitarian crisis currently underway in the Gaza Strip and its direct impact on Israel.

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Israel builds pipeline to absorb sewage from Gaza – Ynetnews

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Children Arrive for ‘Gaza Kids to Ireland’ Football Tour – International Middle East Media Center

After they played and charmed their way into the hearts of communities across Ireland last summer, a mostly new group of 19 children from Al Helal Football Academy in Gaza City, Palestine, is due in Ireland tomorrow . As the trip was such an uplifting, joyous experience, we are doing it all again this year, Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) coordinator Zo Lawlor said. The Gaza Kids to Ireland project is a way to show solidarity with the people of Gaza and to raise awareness in Ireland about the siege of Gaza and the broader situation in Palestine. Last year, a smaller group of children met President Michael D. Higgins and attracted a large amount of media attention, including from RT television news. Starting this weekend, the children, aged 10 to 14 years, will visit and play matches in Dublin, Leitrim, Galway, Cork and Limerick. In a hectic schedule of football, fun and travel, theyll make a repeat visit to Kinvara, Co Galway, and make new friends in Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim. Launched by former manager of the Republic of Ireland Brian Kerr and former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan, the project aims to give the kids some relief from the stress of living under blockade and military assault. The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, living as they do under siege, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment and places to play: indeed their clubhouse was damaged by Israeli bombing in 2014. Travel is sharply restricted for Palestinians in Gaza: few of the children have ever been able to leave the tiny strip of territory. This visit to Ireland will provide a wonderful chance for them to meet other children, experience a new culture and tell their stories. The almost 2 million people in Gaza are under an illegal blockade imposed by Israel, and these children have already lived through three wars on the besieged territory. The 19 players and three adults will be in Ireland until August 6th. Fundraising events are being held all over the country and donations are both welcome and needed! Archive IMEMC post 12/22/14Documentary: Ireland & Palestine

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Gaza Kids to Ireland welcomes young footballers for Irish tour – Irish Examiner

A young football team from Gaza City in Palestine arrived for a tour of Ireland today. The Gaza Kids to Ireland project is an initiative of Gaza Action Ireland to show solidarity with the people of Gaza. The 18 young players, representing the Al-Helal Football Academy in Gaza, arrived yesterday and will be in Ireland until August 6. They will visit communities and play football in Dublin, Leitrim, Kinvara, Cork and Limerick. To see this post on Facebook, click here. Mags O Brien of Gaza Action Ireland said: The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by a lack of facilities and equipment as well as the ongoing conflict. Al-Helal Football Academy clubhouse was partially damaged in a bombing in 2014 which was a huge setback for the club but despite all this the club is going strong. The project provides these young children with a much-needed break from the hardships where they live and is a great opportunity for people to support these wonderful young players. SIPTU Global Solidarity Committee Secretary, Yvonne OCallaghan, said: Gaza is a living space only 6% the size of Co Galway in which nearly two million people are living. The deterioration in the human rights of the population, especially those of children is alarming. We hope that trade union members across the country will come out in solidarity and support the many activities planned on the Al-Helal Football Academys tour of Ireland.

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The Russian and Ukrainian Women Who Left Their Lives Behind to Raise Families in Gaza – Haaretz

Lydia Salah sends me photos but asks me not to publish them, anywhere. Its a family history. Here she is, with short, blond hair, early-1990s style, light skin, glossy pink lipstick, in a white muslin dress. Hes next to her brown-skinned, black forelock and almond eyes, wearing a floral-patterned vest and a white shirt. She looks focused and a bit upright; hes smiling lightly, proudly. Theyre both young and beautiful. The pictures tell the story of their love. In this one shes sitting on his lap and hugging him, in another theyre standing and smiling, a spring sun lighting up their faces, against a background of bare trees and a structure that looks like a Russian Orthodox monastery. Here they are in the snow, heres a shot of them hugging their firstborn child, Lydias head covered with a checkered keffiyeh. In this one shes standing with the carriage and the baby next to a typical Soviet housing block, and here she is again, this time with two children, in a different setting palm trees, and afterward on the seashore. There are many more photos: Lydia with one of her daughters against the backdrop of a Christmas tree, with something written in Arabic in the background, he and she by the side of a pool. They change with time her hair gets longer, his fills with gray, the faces grow round, the bodies are heavier, the children grow up but the eyes are still luminous. I love him just like 24 years ago, Lydia writes to me. Its personal, and I know that many people who are hostile to us call us those dumb women, or worse, mattresses for Arab men, she adds, which is why she doesnt want the pictures to be published. Ive heard that more than once from your people. Im a simple woman who loves her husband very much. He was never my enemy, and it doesnt frighten me that hes an Arab. She continues, There are no pure nations, they all intermixed long ago. My name from home is Romanovskaya, my grandmother was German. I am Russian according to my passport, but no one ever asked me about it, and I dont care. Whats important is that Im happy with my husband and my children. The only thing I want is for the occupation to end and the borders to be open, so we will be able to travel where we want. Since 1997, Lydia, 43, an accountant by profession, and the mother of three children, has lived in the Gaza Strip with her husband, Ihab, a dentist who has his own clinic. Israel Loves Cats For me, it all started with the story of Sonia, a mixed-breed cat Angoran-Persian which was sent to Israel from Gaza for lifesaving medical treatment. The cats owner, Tatyana Zaqout, 39, mother of three, who lives in Beit Lahia, says she contacted most of the animal-rights organizations in the world, told her story on the Russian-language Facebook page Israel Loves Cats, and managed, exceptionally, a few weeks ago, to get Sonia through the Erez checkpoint and into the hands of an Israeli organization called Let the Animals Live. The cats condition has improved somewhat since, but the treatment is continuing and she is staying in Israel for the time being. Tatyana is in regular touch with the clinic. That story was cited in the Hebrew-language media and covered extensively on Russian-language websites in Israel. It also cropped up on social networks in Arabic and outraged many users, who berated the government in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the owner of the cat herself, as Tatyana told me in an interview conducted via Facebook Messenger. Children who are in need of treatment [here] are dying in the hospitals, she wrote. Thats the reason for the negative reactions to the story with Sonia. Tatyana, who is originally from Poltava, a city in central Ukraine, southeast of the capital, Kiev, is one of several hundred women who have moved to the Gaza Strip in recent decades from countries of the former Soviet Union mainly Ukraine and Russia with their Palestinian husbands. About a decade ago, I heard that some of them occasionally called in to Pervoye Radio, a pirate station that broadcasts in Russian from Rishon Letzion and could be heard, at least in the past, in the Strip. Those conversations, which in the current Israeli-Palestinian reality are comparable to signals from outer space, piqued my curiosity even then. But I didnt know how to track down the women. The story of Sonia burst an internet dam for me, and I began to find Facebook profiles of Russian-speaking women from Gaza, accompanied by Ramadan greetings, Happy Victory Day messages, recipes, quotations from the Koran in Russian and Arabic, pictures of children and also mourning posts for relatives who perished in the 2014 war in the Strip. Almost half the women I contacted via Facebook agreed to talk to me, and in the end I spoke to five of them. The very possibility of speaking with these women, who live in a hostile entity an hours drive from Tel Aviv, was immensely gratifying, and I thanked fate for the common language and culture that opened this conflict-bypass channel for us. Still, despite the closeness that developed, I felt that there was much that was not being said explicitly and that remained between the lines and I dont mean only the criticism some of them have of Hamas, which they were only willing to express off the record. A kidnapping averted Tatyana came to Gaza in 2005 with her husband, Ayman, after he completed his dentistry studies in Poltava. Many Palestinians, from both Israel and the territories, attended institutions of higher education in the Soviet Union, together with thousands of other students from countries that were in the communist giants sphere of influence. That tradition continued after the collapse of the Soviet empire, in 1991, with many Palestinian men still coming to Russian and Ukrainian cities to attend medical schools and other institutions. A girlfriend of mine who was then married to a Palestinian from Jenin introduced us, Tatyana relates. He had economic difficulties during his studies. I worked and helped him as best I could. My mother also helped him. Tatyana says she came to Gaza without giving the matter any thought and without knowing anything about the place. During the first two years, she had problems adjusting, she says, but immediately adds that, now, I am completely used to it and have integrated into local life. Subsequently Tatyana wrote me, There are many difficulties here, but I have learned to shut my eyes. In a foreign country, you will never be one of them. With our concepts of life, its not so easy to accept what is happening here. For Elena Hamida, who also arrived in Gaza in 2005 from Poltava when she was not yet 25, the first years in her new home were filled with suffering. She met her future husband when he was a medical student and she was studying nursing. The couple married and had a son, and her husbands father wanted to see his grandchild. Ignoring the importuning of friends and relatives, Elena agreed to let her husband take their 2-year-old son to the Gaza Strip. She was then pregnant with a daughter and stayed behind to continue her studies and have the baby, she tells me by phone. She hoped her husband would return soon in order to continue his studies. But a year later he called to ask her to come to Gaza. Elena: My mother tried to persuade me not to go. She was against it. Where are you going? she asked. You dont know the language, you dont know anything at all. I got organized, took my 8-month-old daughter, and went. Her ordeal began on the minibus that took her from the airport in Egypt to the Rafah crossing. We stopped in Sinai to eat. They have cafes along the road, she relates, recalling a dramatic incident. I didnt want to get out I wasnt familiar with anything and didnt know the language. The others said, Come with us, at least eat something. The girl is sleeping. Dont touch her. Alright, I thought. I went to the caf, and then I had this bad feeling and I ran to the car, and all the others did the same. I entered the cab quickly and saw black hands taking my daughter out through the window. I started to scream, to shout in short, that person left the child and disappeared in the crowd. There followed 10 days of waiting at the Rafah crossing which is controlled by Egypt with a baby, with the only source of running water being a hose emerging from the ground. But finally Elena was reunited with her son. He was already 3 years and 8 months old. He looked so thin, tall; I didnt recognize him. He spoke Arabic, and with me not understanding anything I was saying. Gradually he got used to me. Doing whats needed Like most of the women who came to the Strip from the former Soviet Union, Elena moved into her husbands home which is to say, the home of his extended family, in Gaza City. I lived together with his parents and my sisters-in-law, she says. I tried to do everything the way they wanted, like youre supposed to. Naturally there were also quarrels, scandals, misunderstandings. And there was a period when I wanted to drop everything and leave. There were also insults. Female relatives not those who lived in the house, but aunts twice and three times removed, and young girls especially really didnt like it that I was there. Because the regular custom is that if someone goes abroad to study, he gets married after he comes back. My arrival spoiled the plans of many families. There were also fights, my children were insulted. Even now, kids in school sometimes call them, Russians, Russians but they dont pay attention anymore. My phone conversation with Elena went on for a while. She says she loves Gaza. Ive gotten used to it, as far as I am concerned everything here is fine. The only thing I dont like is that its impossible to leave [the Gaza Strip]. What about the electricity? You can live without electricity. It used to be hard, now its alright. But I dont want to return to Ukraine. Theres a war there, too, and I have children, I worry. There are those gangs there I am afraid that my boy would become a junkie, or start drinking. There, I simply would not be able to keep an eye on them. If its one child its possible, but not three. One of them for sure would find himself in bad company. And in Gaza that cant happen? Here its possible to keep an eye on them. There, I would not be able to do that. I simply would not. When I mention to her that the war in Ukraine is distant from Poltava, Elena adds that economically, too, she would not be able to manage there with three children. Our beautiful Gaza Some time after our conversation, Elena got in touch to say that she wanted to clear up a few things. She tells me her story more directly, noting her early naivete and her desire to curry favor with her husband Hazams family. She adds that the Russian and Ukrainian legations evacuated her and her children, along with many other women at the beginning of 2009, during Israels Operation Cast Lead. At that time she lived for a few months in her hometown, and didnt want to return to Gaza. But after much soul-searching and under pressure from the children, she decided to go back after all, but now, she says, as a different woman tougher, blunter, able to stand up for her rights. I love my husband, the children need a father, Elena continues, explaining her decision to return. Especially when I have a wonderful husband who in 16 years of married life has never raised a hand against me. Other husbands are not like that. There are normal ones, but there are also those who beat their wives girls from our circle. They come to the hospital with broken arms, hemorrhages, deep wounds. I didnt want to say that next to my husband; he is ashamed of men like that. My husband looks grim-faced, but he is good-hearted, crazy about the children. We do not teach them with blows, we explain their mistakes to them in words. I appreciate him, he does not insult me. We quarrel day-to-day, like everyone, but there is no violence, even though I am often naughty and do things to spite him. Another man would punch me in the face, but mine says, How could I do that after all, you have no one here. Elena later writes to say that eventually, too, the confrontations with her new relatives abated. I am the oldest woman among them, my husband is the firstborn son, we are both in the medical profession, she says, explaining the status she acquired in the course of time. Its true that I dont work in the profession, but everyone comes to my house for injections, or I go to set up an infusion. I swim, I work out, I prepare dishes [for the family] from home which, by the way, has captivated them. I also have a diploma as a pastry chef and I bake cakes all the Arabs love Napoleons. In our phone call, Elena told me about the power outages and about how, during Operation Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014, she made fires on the roof in order to cook noodles or rice, and was afraid that the drones hovering above would mistake what she was doing, and think that she was about to fire a rocket. In a message she sends me she underscores other aspects of life in the Strip: Our Gaza is beautiful. We have parks, pools, community centers with activities for children. Of course, theyre not perfect, like those in Russia and Ukraine, but even so… If we hadnt been bombed and there wasnt a war… Other than that, everything is fine, the children are healthy, smart, my husband is excellent, what more can I ask for? I dont need more. With a family like this I can get along anywhere in the world, she sums up. C-section in Gaza The family support structure, the possibility of buying on credit in the grocery store and a traditional society that observes the laws of Islam strictly are sources of security for these women, who left their home countries at different stages of the cruel processes that took place after the fall of the Soviet empire. Indeed, for a time in the 1990s the standard of living in Gaza was higher than in remote Russian cities. For example, Lydia Salah, who met her husband in Volgograd and moved with him to the Strip in 1997, relates that it was economics that prompted their decision to leave Russia, even though her husband received Russian citizenship and they would have liked very much to stay there. Life in Gaza Strip was easier, she says. Everything was very cheap the food, the clothes and there was work. Israel was open to workers from Gaza, and above all there was quiet. Furthermore, even though a large proportion of Palestinian physicians had had their medical education in the former Soviet Union, the quality of medical care was and remains far higher in Gaza than it is in Russia, according to Tanya Kalub, a dentist of 45 who is married to a Palestinian heart surgeon. She says this not only as a physician but also as a mother and as a patient. Tanya became ill with cancer and completed her chemotherapy in Gaza a year ago. I had a referral for radiation treatments in Israel, she relates. It had to be done within a short time half a year. The [Russian] embassy tried to help, but I didnt have proper papers. Negotiations [with Israeli authorities] went on for four months, but when nothing was resolved, I went to Egypt. We rented an apartment and I had the radiation treatments there. The funny thing is that in Russia they refused to give me radiation treatment. They have other kinds of therapy protocols. Its a good thing I was here with my problem. It was scary the children are young. Tanya and her husband, Mohammed, lived for many years in the city of Krasnodar, in southern Russia, where they both worked in a hospital and ran their own pharmaceutical-marketing business. Their two older daughters were born there. They came to Gaza in 2011, and their youngest daughter was born there three years later, during the 2014 war. My husband worked, we didnt see him for 40 days and nights, he was in the hospital and we were at home, Tanya says. During a three-day cease-fire, we went to the hospital and I had a C-section. I would have had a C-section anyway it was planned. It was frightening. The operation was in the morning, and by the evening they had already sent me home. But everything went well the doctors are wonderful. And the attitude [toward them] is different, too. In general, its good to be a doctor here. Toward the end of Tanyas last pregnancy, her husbands younger sister was killed when an Israeli shell struck her house. In contrast to 2009, when Russia and Ukraine flew their citizens out of the Gaza Strip, in the summer of 2014, their assistance took the form of transporting families that wished to be evacuated to the Rafah crossing, where they were on their own. The majority of the women chose to remain in Gaza. Most of the families were directly affected by the war; two of the women I spoke with lost relatives. We have no connection with any political group, Tanya says. Everyone is a doctor or a teacher, no one is a party member. The attacks usually came at night, but this one was in the morning, at nine oclock. It was the second day of Id al-Fitr [the holiday that concludes Ramadan]. Her husbands sisters family lived on the fourth floor of the neighboring building. A shell hurtled into their home. It was already after the bombing, after the planes. They were eating breakfast. The shell went through four walls. [My husbands] sister was standing in its path. It sliced through her and slashed her two legs in the hip region. A 4-year-old who was with her was sliced in two. For two weeks they tried to treat her, my husband himself amputated both her legs. I still miss her. She was the only one who had a European education. She had a masters degree, she had a good job in the field of economics, she had a career. She had another son, too. She was 28. Tanya adds, People who belong to political parties and their house was destroyed thats clear, they have their war. But like that, people of peace? May it never happen again. Rafah is hell Tanya speaks jocularly about the absence of electricity. We have electricity four hours a day. Its like an all-inclusive holiday: Do the laundry, do the ironing I try to do everything in those four hours, she says, adding that when the power problems first began, in 2011, they lived by candlelight, but eventually they installed solar panels. Its never dark in the house. Theres always internet, lights, television. We even turn on the refrigerator sometimes … People get along with generators or something else. The quality of life here is very different from Russia, she notes. At first it was hard for me. The food is different, its a whole different world. Not better, not worse, just different. But we got used to it, we got along. Even when I traveled [to Russia for a visit], I just wanted to come back. All her comforts depend on her husband, notes Tanya: The whole family treats me well, he treats me well. I am not a racist, Im not a terrorist, I dont understand anything about politics. Its good for me with him wherever we are. It was good for me with him in Russia, and here too, and if we were to go to Mars, as they say, it would probably be good there also. Everything is dependent on him. Some of the women make it sound as though the electricity problem is, all in all, something that can be overcome that its just a matter of habit and skill. Its impossible to keep perishable food in the house, and air conditioning is out of the question, but what troubles the women far more are the closed borders and the impossibility of visiting their relatives overseas. The option of leaving via Israel is almost nonexistent, and to get a permit to travel through Egypt can take months if not years. The womens Russian citizenship doesnt always help. The last time Tatyana Zaqout left Gaza was in 2009, via the Rafah terminal an ordeal she never wants to go through again. Rafah is hell, she says. A few thousand people are made to wait in front of the closed gates under the broiling sun. Youre treated like a herd of animals. People are let in through a door on the side of the gate a few at a time, and the bags and suitcases are thrown over the top of the gate in return for payment. The bags fly, everything in them gets broken. Theres no water, no toilets. And if youre lucky and get through in under 24 hours, you face another trip in Sinai, where your car gets stopped every kilometer, your suitcases are turned inside out and Egyptian bandits take what they want. Something for the children The situation is even more difficult for Irina Rumiantseva (who asked that her Arabic married name not be used), a painter of 52 and the mother of four children. Shes been waiting for an opportunity to exit for several years, without real hope. Last week we called the Russian legation no one can help, she says. They [i.e., Hamas] compile lists in Rafah. The last time, our number was 2,354. But they only open the roads for two-three days and then theyre closed for three months. People who need urgent operations cant leave. There have been cases of people dying in Rafah before their turn came. Irina, whose husband was director general of the Ministry of Construction and Architecture on behalf of Fatah, is the only woman I spoke with who speaks forthrightly of her desire to leave the Gaza Strip. She was born in Sevastopol, the major port city on the Crimean Black Sea. In the mid-1980s, she attended the academy of arts in Leningrad. There she met her husband, Maher, who was also a student in the institution, in architecture, and went on to do doctoral studies in the field. Afterward, the city they lived in reverted to its original name, St. Petersburg, and if at first it was only Maher who was a foreign student, Irina also received that status in Russia when the Soviet Union broke up. (Two-and-a-half decades later, Russias annexation of Crimea again changed Irinas legal status: From being a Ukrainian citizen she became a Russian citizen, and all without leaving the Strip.) The couples first child, a daughter, was born in Leningrad. But in the early 1990s, they had no choice but to move to Gaza. Neither of them could stay in Russia, and Irinas hometown was off-limits to outsiders for security reasons. Irina recalls wistfully the years when Fatah was in control in Gaza. She was then teaching painting in various frameworks. Those were better times for me, she says. Hamas of course builds mosques, hospitals. But I would like something for children parks, zoos, for the authorities to clean the seashore, to organize beach activities. And none of that exists? There is something, but not at the level it could be at. There was a project that my husband tried to promote: for the facades of the buildings to be in one uniform style There were different projects, but they were postponed. Things were easier for me then, when there was electricity all the time. But the main thing is the closed borders, which drives everyone crazy. My parents dont understand how it can be, how its possible not to be able to visit. Irinas father celebrated his 80th birthday this month, back in Sevastopol. Shed promised him to visit immediately after Ramadan, at the end of June, but it didnt work out. The siege of Gaza is also seriously undermining her and her husbands careers as artists, a career they launched after he was fired from the ministry. I was invited to exhibit in the Russian cultural center in Bethlehem the director contacted me through the Russian embassy in Ramallah. We wrote letters, we obtained all the papers nothing came of it, she relates. Afterward we were invited to Lebanon and to the United States for exhibitions. We are artists, after all, and we need to show our work somehow. But even sending paintings is very difficult. After Maher was fired in the wake of a brief civil war between Fatah and Hamas, which resulted in the latter assuming exclusive control within Gaza the couple changed course and began to make a living from selling their artworks, which Irina describes as traditional Palestinian art. There is no demand at all in Gaza, but according to Irina there are quite a few affluent Palestinians abroad who are happy to purchase paintings of pastoral Palestinian landscapes and images of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Like many Fatah officials who remained loyal to the party and did not join Hamas, Maher continued to receive a salary from Ramallah even after he stopped working in the ministry. Recently, his salary was cut from $1,500 to $1,000 a month, and the income from painting became the couples primary source of income, with which they pay for the studies of their middle son and his sister, in Berlin. Their firstborn daughter emigrated not long ago and now lives alone with her 3-year-old daughter and an infant in Brussels. Irina says that their youngest child, a daughter of 13, also wants to leave Gaza. The problem is that theres no way out. What Arabs understand Unlike Irina, most of the women I spoke to say that they have become used to Gaza to a degree that would make it difficult for them to reintegrate into the life of their former homeland. Still, Lydia Salah says that if things dont get better, she will not object if her children want to leave. Nevertheless, I hope everything will work out because all people want to live in peace, she writes me on Messenger, and adds, When I speak with my sister, I laugh all the time: Wait for me until I retire, well sit as grandmothers on the bench and remember our youth. Finally, she says that if it were up to her husband, they would have left long ago: She is the one whos keeping him in Gaza. Tanya Kalub says she is nostalgic not for the Russia she left but for the Soviet Union of her childhood. What do they have there now? she asks. Shopping centers. When I went to visit, I felt that I missed my relatives that, yes. But to live there? I dont know. Maybe thats just the kind of person I am. Its good for me where my family is. Tatyana Zaqouts long-term plans are to raise her grandchildren, and in the nearer future to help her cat Sonia get well. Shes the only woman among the interviewees who speaks openly of her fondness for Hamas, defending the organization when I ask her about executions of suspected collaborators with Israel. Only the guilty are executed; Hamas has never hurt the civilian population, she insists (contrary to the views of other women, who spoke on the subject only off the record). She adds, I think that Hamas is the government thats needed here. Theyre the only ones who succeeded in making order. She continues, In the Fatah period, every family here had a Kalach[nikov rifle]. Pistols were a game for kids. People walked around with assault rifles slung over their shoulders. One time I was walking on the street and a truck passed by in which teenagers were shooting pistols into the air. I was scared that if the truck were to hit a bump and the hand of one of the boys would shake, someone would be killed by mistake. When Hamas took power, they banned weapons and confiscated them all. The police also created order; people started to respect them. During the Fatah period, there were often exchanges of fire next to the police station, when all kinds of retards came to get friends out of detention, Tatyana says, and sums up, The Arabs understand only force. They need strong rule. During the 2014 war, she barely managed to save herself and her family. After repeated requests, the Red Crescent evacuated her and the children, on the basis of their foreign citizenship. Ayman, her husband remained behind, in the hope that he would find a cab driver who would be willing to drive him to the nearest border crossing. In the end, a crazy taxi driver was found, and he arrived at the Zaqout home just minutes before it was destroyed in a bombing raid. When I remind Tatyana of this episode, and expressed my doubts whether Hamas really deserved her admiration, she replies, That was during the war. In regular life its calmer here and you feel more protected [than in Poltava]. Now weve moved to the interior [farther from the border]. Theres less chance of that happening here. It was right next to Erez, you know. I will never set foot there again. But you can liken it to the existence of residents of Ashkelon and Sderot: Theyre shot at, too, but they dont leave their cities.

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July 29, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

One killed in violent clashes in Gaza amid Temple Mount tensions – The Jerusalem Post

The Dome of the Rock is seen in the background as a man waves a Palestinian flag upon entering the Temple Mount, after Israel removed all security measures it had installed at the compound, in Jerusalem’s Old City July 27, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS) One Palestinian was killed Friday and dozens more wounded in clashes with IDF troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 16-year-old Abed al-Rahman Abu al-Maysa was killed east of al-Bureij camp in the Gaza Strip during clashes with Israeli troops on the fence. According to a statement released by the IDF, dozens of Palestinians took part in violent riots in several locations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel over the course of the day on Friday where they burnt tires and threw stones at the fence and at IDF forces. Troops were deployed to the areas where the riots were taking place and “are working to prevent damage to the perimeter fence,” read the statement adding that troops fired at a number of key instigators. According to Palestinian Maan News, four rioters were wounded by live ammunition east of the Jabaliya refugee camp and another was injured east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. The IDF is investigating reports of al-Maysa’s death. Meanwhile in the West Bank hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in various locations, including in Hebron, Rachel’s Tomb, Nablus, Tulkarem, and Qalandiya. According to the Red Crescent, some 25 Palestinians were treated by their staff for injuries sustained in clashes with troops. According to reports in Palestinian media several rioters were injured by rubber bullets fired by soldiers near Rachels Tomb in Bethlehem. A statement released by the IDF Spokespersons Unit said that during the demonstrations, molotov cocktails and stones were thrown, two improvised explosive devices were placed, and tires were torched. Four demonstrators were arrested and a soldier was lightly injured after being hit by a stone. Also on Friday soldiers thwarted a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank after a Palestinian ran up to a group of soldiers with a knife. The attacker, identified as 24-year-old Abdullah Ali Mahmoud Taqatqa was shot and killed by troops. According to the army some 1,000 Palestinians participated in disturbances throughout the week. Share on facebook

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July 28, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

The Gaza Kids to Ireland are coming back to Galway – Galway Bay FM

The kids from Al Helal Football Academy, Gaza City, Palestine are returning to Kinvara this Monday 31stJuly, and will be playing friendly international matches with Kinvara United at their home pitch, on Monday from 3.00pm. The Gaza Kids to Ireland project is an initiative of Gaza Action Ireland as a way to show solidarity with the people of Gaza, and to allow the group of young children to be able to focus on the sport they love by touring ireland with a sole purpose, the enjoyment of soccer. Gaza Action Ireland (GAI) brought a group of children from the Al Helal Football Academy to Ireland last summer, when they played wonderful football and charmed everyone who met them, including President Michael D. Higgins at Galway United V Dundalk, Eamonn Deacy Park. In the middle of their busy tour around Ireland, there was a brilliant series of matches against Kinvara United, enjoyed by many people. As the trip was such an uplifting, joyous experience, we are doing it all again this year, GAI coordinator Zo Lawlor said. Starting in late July, the children from Al Helal Football Academy, in Gaza City, will visit communities and play football in Dublin, Leitrim, Kinvara, Cork and Limerick. Launched by former manager of the Republic of Ireland, Brian Kerr, former Irish rugby international Trevor Hogan and Gaza Action Ireland, the project aims to give the kids some relief from the stress of living under blockade and military assault. It will also be a rewarding and enriching exchange for all as they play childrens teams from Dublin, Kinvara, Manorhamilton, Limerick and Cork. There are almost 2 million people in the Gaza strip, living in a space that is only 6% the size of County Galway. Without access to any of the luxuries that are available to children in other countrys, Soccer is a widely played sport and it shows in the quality of the young players involved in the project. This project will provide them with a much-needed break from hardships where they live and is a great opportunity for people to support these wonderful young players. The situation for Palestinians in Gaza trying to play sports, is extremely difficult. The children are hampered by lack of facilities, equipment, to name but a few. Al Helal Football Academyclubhouse was partially damaged in a bombing in 2014 which was a huge setback for the club but despite all this the club is still going strong. Al Helal chairman, Ayed Abu Ramadan, expands on the importance of the Gaza Kids to Ireland project: Last year everyone in Ireland was so generous with the team, and so friendly. This visit will again provide a wonderful chance for them to meet other children, experience a new culture and to tell their stories. The 20 young players and 5 adults will be in Ireland from 28th July to 6th August. Among the many events organised for the children are friendly matches at Killina pitch, Kinvara on Monday 31st July, from 3.00 pm. Recollecting the 2016 Gaza visit, Coach Ger Ryan recalls: Last year we were delighted to host the Al Helal team delighted for Kinvara, for Galway, and for Ireland. We said then that if the opportunity arose again wed welcome them with open arms, and we welcome everyone to join us on the 31st July to come out and support the teams. Fundraising events are being held all over the country and the organisers of the tour stress that all donations are both welcome and needed. Information about upcoming fundraising events and the teams itinerary can be found at the links below: To donate to the project please do so here

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July 28, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Alon Ben-Meir: Gaza A disaster in the making – WatertownDailyTimes.com

By ALON BEN-MEIR NEW YORK It has been 10 years since Hamas defeated the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and assumed control over the territory. Today, the socio-economic conditions in Gaza are so horrendous that if nothing is done immediately, the whole area is bound to explode in the face of Hamas, Israel and the international community. When that happens, you can count on Israels and Hamass leaders to blame the other for allowing the situation to deteriorate to this perilous point. Both sides are equally guilty of an egregious betrayal of their own people. No matter how much longer their conflict persists, they will remain trapped in a reality that neither side can alter short of a catastrophe. The question is, when will they come to their senses and find a way to peacefully coexist, knowing that the alternative is only continuing violent hostilities? Meanwhile, thousands will be killed between the two sides, havoc and distraction will reign, and the Palestinians in Gaza in particular will pay the heaviest price. As German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, We must learn to regard people less in light of what they do or omit to do and more in the light of what they suffer. Gazans live in dire conditions, suffering from shortages of food, medicine, drinking water and electricity. Infrastructure is crumbling, and hundreds of thousands are living in squalor as housing shortages continue to climb from 71,000 in 2012 to 120,000 today. More than 1.2 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance; tens of thousands are living in abject poverty exposed to disease and malnutrition; 75,000 are internally displaced; and the unemployment rate is 42 percent (as high as 60 percent among the youth) with little or no relief in sight. The problem here is that both Israel and Hamas are living in self-denial, as if they can wish the other away. Both are guilty of playing politics with the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, refusing to assume their share of responsibility. They find comfort in pointing the finger at each others outrageous conduct and have become enslaved to their own old and tired acrimonious narratives, leaving little room for reconciliation. Hamas has convinced itself that Israel is the main culprit behind their decades-old plight, pointing to the inhumanity of the blockade, the severe restrictions on goods going in and out of Gaza and the stifling Israeli security apparatus that sealed off the strip from the air, sea and land, which prevents access to outside markets. They are demanding the unconditional lifting of the blockade without offering anything in return but more acrimony, while posing a continuing security threat. Hamas leadership conveniently forgets that much of their misery is self-inflicted. Instead of focusing on building schools, hospitals, and housing, and repairing much of the crumbling infrastructure (especially following the last war with Israel in 2014), they maintain a bellicose posture toward Israel, threatening its very existence. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on building new tunnels through which to attack Israel, and buying and manufacturing new weapons while focusing on stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets poised to be fired at Israel. In their newly revised charter, although they talk about the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, they proclaim that The real state is the fruit of liberation, and there is no alternative to the creation of the Palestinian state, with its sovereignty on the entire Palestinian land with Jerusalem as its capital (emphasis added). Has it ever occurred to Hamas that they cannot now or at any time in the future overwhelm Israel militarily to achieve their elusive goal? And that if they ever pose a real existential threat to Israel, they will be the ones who will be decimated first? Logic dictates that if they want the blockade to be lifted, they must renounce violence, recognize Israels unmitigated reality and stop claiming the Palestinians right to the entire mandated Palestine. Not even the most moderate among Hamass members should assume that Israel would simply lift the blockade unless its security is absolutely and permanently assured. Hamas must sooner than later swallow its pride and concede that the strategy of using or threatening violence against Israel has failed and only further hardens the Israeli position. However, anyone who places the blame solely on Hamas is dreadfully wrong. Israel continues to play its part in the ongoing tragic saga unfolding in Gaza. There is a pervasive misconception in Israel promulgated by the government that Hamas is simply irredeemable. They justify the blockade by insisting that Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza made the territory a launching pad from which Hamas has and continues to launch rockets against Israel. The late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a fundamental mistake by withdrawing from Gaza without any security coordination with the Palestinian Authority. He and his cabinet knew full well that Hamas was stronger, better organized, and better militarily equipped than the PA, and their capability to take over Gaza by force was visible for all to see. Moreover, while imposing the blockade was necessary to prevent the smuggling of weapons and explosives, Netanyahu in particular made no effort to change the hostile nature of Israels relationship with Hamas. Instead, he deliberately chose to manage the conflict by maintaining a tense atmosphere to serve his political base and stay in power. Furthermore, the Netanyahu government uses Israels unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the security hazard it poses to justify the continuing occupation and consolidate its hold on the West Bank (presumably for security reasons) through the settlement enterprise, while playing the PA and Hamas against one another. Hypocritically, while Netanyahu condemns Hamas for striving to establish a Palestinian state over the entire land, he claims the Jews right to the entire biblical land of Israel that includes the West Bank, of which several of his ministers openly seek annexation. When will Netanyahu accept the fact that Hamas is not going anywhere and that the status quo is simply untenable? Yes, Israel can go into Gaza again and even decimate Hamass leaders while inflicting massive destruction, as it has three times in the past. But what then? New, even more extremist leaders will rise in short order. Nothing will fundamentally change other than maintaining the vicious cycle of violence from which neither can come out unscathed. Both sides must come to terms with their reality. Yes, this is the logical and practical thing to accept. But sadly, logic and realism often give way to misplaced emotions, misguided ideology, and blind belief. But look where these lofty precepts have led them to hell is lurking in the darkness of their own creation. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians want to live in peace. There is no need for another Israeli or Palestinian child to die because of the ill-advised leaders who made a career of defying time and circumstances to the detriment of their people when the solution is there for them to grasp. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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July 28, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

As Temperatures Soar, Gaza Desperately Tries to Beat the Heat – The Wire

External Affairs Gaza gets less than four hours of electricity a day because the Palestinian President refuses to foot its electricity bill in a bid to flush out Hamas. A disabled Palestinian woman lies on a mattress, as her relative holds a torch to show her to the photographer during a power cut in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem Gaza:As Middle East summer temperatures soar above 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), Gazans are struggling to stay cool amid a power crisis, with less than four hours of electricity a day and little chance to run fans and air-conditioners. The power crisis is affecting health and sanitation because sewage treatment plants cant run, raw sewage is pouring into the Mediterranean and now the elderly and sick are desperately trying to handle the heat. Plastic trays and scraps of cardboard are doubling as hand-held fans. Precious piped water is hosed over children and work animals. Those trying to sleep have abandoned clammy mattresses, preferring the relative cool of bare tiled floors. A Palestinian woman bathes her son with water from a tank, filled by a charity, inside their dwelling in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files Hoping to pressure the Islamist Hamas group to relinquish control of Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reduced his administrations payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza. That has left the 2 million Palestinians there with only a few hours of power a day. Hospitals and other emergency facilities have made do with back-up generators. Few ordinary Palestinians have that option. A Palestinian woman undergoes kidney dialysis at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, June 12, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files A family excursion to the beach that might elsewhere have been a delight was, for Sabah Joudah, a forced decision, especially when having to put up with the sewage problems. We came here to entertain the children, even though the sea is polluted, she told Reuters as the dirty surf lapped close by. It is summer and there is no electricity; no water and no fans are working in our homes. It is very tough, very tough. Palestinians swim in the Mediterranean Sea in Beit Lahiya town, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files Environment officials say disruptions at sewage treatment facilities have meant more than 100,000 litres of untreated wastewater is discharged along the coast daily. Around 75% of the seawater is polluted. Swimming there frequently leaves children with skin inflammations and abdominal complaints, parents say. Palestinian children look out of the window of their family house during a power cut in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 3, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files In the southern town of Khan Younis, a woman bathed her children in a bucket in the street, while a man doused his horse with water. One Khan Younis couple, the Abu Mehsens, both suffer from high blood pressure and said they were so beleaguered by the heat that simply fanning themselves could be too much effort. A Palestinian woman washes dishes in her kitchen as she uses a candle light during a power cut in Beit Lahiya town, in the northern Gaza Strip, July 13, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files When we get tired we rest for a bit before we start fanning again, Jihan Abu Mehsen said. We do so all day long. The situation has hurt Gazas meagre retail sector, with vendors saying that sales of electrical appliances have tanked. One exception has been cheap rechargeable fans, which can be stored, with full batteries, in anticipation of the power cuts. A Palestinian vendor sells snacks on a beach during a power cut as he uses battery-powered lights in Gaza City, July 12, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem/Files People have turned to alternative power, using batteries, said appliance salesman Mahmoud Abu Hamda. Sometimes they use trays and sometimes even the covers of kettles instead of electric fans. This has impacted us very much. (Reuters)

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July 28, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Gaza’s beaches unseasonably empty – Al-Monitor

A Palestinian couple walks along a beach in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, June 7, 2017.(photo byMOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images) Author:Rasha Abou Jalal Posted July 27, 2017 GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip The owners of beach resorts on the coast of the Gaza Strip are complaining that the municipalities have increased the rental prices for land along the coast. Temporary vacation lodges are built there each summer, offering a rare escape for citizens from the summer heat and power outages that have reached 20 hours per day. At the start of this summer season, the largest municipality in the Strip, the Municipality of Gaza, set rent for resort owners at $35,000 for the summer season, which starts in early May and ends at the end of October. The amount is very high compared to what the municipalities charged under the Palestinian Authority before 2007, according to Hatem al-Sheikh Khalil, the director of the Public Relations Department in the Municipality of Gaza. The fees at the time did not exceed $2,000 for the entire summer. The beach resorts are temporary wooden structures built directly on the shores, their palm-thatched roofs covering the bare ground in units of 30 by 60 meters (100 by 200 feet). The lodges offer tents made of fabric and palm branches as well as tables and umbrellas for rent. Khalil told Al-Monitor there is only one lodge this year on this municipality’s beach. There were four last year and 18 before Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007. The only remaining lodge is called the Ghoroub, Houssam, Alaa and Marina Resort. The name combines those of four distinct resorts that had operated separately in previous years. Their owners decided to merge them this year to afford the expenses imposed by the municipality. Shareholder Ramadan Malaka told Al-Monitor, The increase in the rental prices of a coastal piece of land has wrecked the summer season and led to soaring prices of services offered to vacationers like umbrellas, food and drinks. He sees the increase of rental prices as part of Hamas efforts to collect more money from citizens during the financial crisis plaguing Gaza. Malaka said that in 2014, renting a piece of land to build a lodge cost $15,000, and in 2015, the price rose to $20,000. It reached $25,000 in 2016 and $35,000 in 2017. He added, The price of a beverage increased from 3 shekels to 7 shekels [$0.84-$2], while the rental price of a tent for one day rose from 30 shekels to 100 shekels [$8.50-$28]. Customers could not afford to pay this much, and many of them would leave after discovering the prices. Mohammad Naim took his family for a summer vacation on the beach, but chose to brave the summer heat rather than rent a tent on the beach due to its high price. Naim told Al-Monitor, During the summers in previous years, I would camp with my family for several days in these lodges. But this year, the vacation season is at its worst. I only went to the resort once due to the high prices. I prefer to spend my vacation on the open beach, without renting a tent or an umbrella to protect us from the sun. The beach vacation industry once offered Gaza’s unemployed youth dozens of job opportunities. But after the municipalities increased the rental prices, the jobs fell off, as did the wages. Malaka said, The four resorts that operated during the last summer season employed around 200 workers, but after they were merged into one lodge in 2017, barely 40 workers were kept. He noted that the most a worker can now earn is 700 shekels ($197) per month, compared to 1,000-1,200 shekels ($281-$338) in previous years. Khalil said that the municipality raised rents so it can pay its 80 employees in charge of cleaning the beaches after the vacationers leave. Each of those employees receive a monthly salary of 1,400 shekels ($394). Khalil does not believe the prices are the only factor the resorts are dwindling and fewer Gazans are vacationing there. He pointed out that another important issue is the sea pollution, with sewage contaminating 73% of Gaza’s beaches, in addition to the power outages, both of which have discouraged vacationers. Alaa al-Kurd, another partner in the only resort on the beach, said that the municipality provides no services to the lodges or vacationers. He told Al-Monitor, Our workers, not the municipalitys, clean the shore. The municipality does not offer any services or public facilities to vacationers on the beach like lighting or restrooms and showers. Resorts offer these services at their own expense. He added, The municipality only pumps sewage onto the beach and ruins peoples good time. It has wrecked the summer season for resort owners. He noted that the fee that resorts pay to municipalities does not include expenses like water and electricity in Gaza, where the power outages are constant. Kurd said that he pays an extra 500 shekels ($140) a day to supply water and buy the fuel needed to run generators. Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/gaza-municipality-rental-prices-beach-resorts.html

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Israel builds pipeline to absorb sewage from Gaza – Ynetnews

After the sewage treatment facility in Gaza was shut down due to the electricity crisis, and waste water started polluting Israeli groundwater, Israel decided to once again have a pipeline connect it with Gazaafter 12 years of disengagementand help alleviate its wastewater problem. Photo: Roee Idan The pipeline is supposed to transport the sewage from the Gaza Strip to the sewage treatment plant in Sderot and the settlements of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council, located in the area of Kibbutz Erez. As a result of the flow of wastewater, the stream was flooded, creating a large environmental hazard, which began to pollute groundwater from the coastal aquifer, from which Mekorot, a national water company, pumps drinking water. Photo: Roee Idan In the last few days, the Palestinians have increased the flow of the sewage, forcing Israel to construct a dam in Nahal Hanoun, east of Nativ HaAsara near the Gaza border. Initially, the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council had attempted to pump the sewage into trucks, but the amount of accumulated sewage rendered this option unfeasible. The closing of ground water pumping stations is an extreme step and serves to highlight the extreme humanitarian crisis currently underway in the Gaza Strip and its direct impact on Israel.

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July 27, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed


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