Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category

Stigma keeps drug addicts quiet in Gaza Strip – New Vision

After Umm Mazen found her husband shivering in his bed and complaining of a migraine, he confessed he was addicted to painkillers and could no longer provide for the family.

In the Gaza Strip, the tiny Palestinian territory sandwiched between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean and ravaged by three wars in a decade, drug abuse is often a hidden problem.

While no reliablestatistics are available, experts and medical support groups estimate there are tens of thousands of drug users in Gaza.

Young men are among those most affected in a territory suffering 45 percent unemployment, rising to more than 60 percent among the youth.

Narcotics such as cannabis are sold illegally in the enclave of some two million people, but many of the most serious addicts are hooked on illicitly bought prescription medicines.

Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, who have ruled the Strip for a decade and take a firm line on drugs, launched a fresh crackdown this year.

Hamas military courts have sentenced four Palestinians to death for drug smuggling, the first such punishments since Hamas seized the Strip in 2007.

Raids have also uncovered record hauls of drugs, particularly Tramadol — a powerful opiate-based painkiller that is widely available.

Umm Mazen, a 32-year-old mother of three who refused to give her full name for fear of consequences in Gaza’s conservative society, said the drug nearly ruined her life.

Fearing a scandal, her husband refused hospital treatment.

“I warned his family and I even threatened to report it to the Hamas police,” she told AFP.

Iyad al-Bozum, spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry, told AFP there was an “organised plan to smuggle large quantities of drugs into Gaza,” saying dealers were targeting young people.

While some drugs are smuggled through the Israeli border, most enter from Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, the ministry said.

The Gaza Strip has been blockaded for more than a decade by Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008.

The Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only entrance to the territory not controlled by Israel, has been almost completely closed since the military ousted Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Gaza has almost no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel.

Interviewed at a Hamas prison where he is serving seven years for drug dealing, a trafficker arrested in 2013 said he had turned to selling narcotics to make ends meet and pay for his own addiction.

“It was easy to sell them — lots of people were using them because of unemployment and the bad situation in Gaza,” he said in an interview monitored by prison guards.

Egyptian forces have since destroyed hundreds of cross-border tunnels and Hamas has launched a crackdown against dealers, but drugs have continued to flow into the territory.

In January Hamas authorities announced they had seized as many drugs in one month as in the whole of 2016, with a street value of around $2 million.

They seized 1,250 packets of cannabis and 400,000 Tramadol pills in January alone, the interior ministry said.

As a result of the crackdown, the price of a 10-pill pack of Tramadol is said to have doubled in two years to $120.

In a territory where more than two-thirds of the population rely on humanitarian aid, it is often the inability to pay that forces people to seek rehabilitation, said Sami Aweida from the Gaza Community Mental Health Program.

Gaza has no centre dedicated to treating drug addicts, making reliable figures on abuse all but impossible to obtain.

Addicts who want to get clean often avoid specialists, Aweida said.

“People prefer to do it discreetly through a liberal doctor.”

Umm Mazen did convince her husband to seek treatment, but mainly for economic reasons.

“He could not afford (Tramadol) because of the high prices,” she said.

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July 2, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

IDF detains man who crossed from Gaza into Israel | The Times of … – The Times of Israel

Israeli soldiers on Saturday arrested a man who infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip. He was taken in for questioning.

The suspect was caught shortly after crossing the security fence, officials said. He was unarmed, and the army believed he had no terror-related intentions.

On Friday afternoon another man was identified crossing the fence from Israel into Gaza along its northern border.

IDF officials said the man was apparently a former resident of the coastal enclave who had entered Israel as part of a family unification process allowed by the government several years ago.

IDF troops were scrambled to the scene, but by the time they arrived the man had already crossed to the other side of the fence.

According to a report on the Haaretz website, soldiers in military observation posts identified a person likely belonging to the Hamas terror group picking up the man. The army assessed that he was now being interrogated by the terror group.

An IDF officer told Haaretz that it did not appear to be a planned encounter and Hamas was likely not expecting the man to cross the border.

The Shin Bet security service is expected to interrogate the mans family to try to understand why he decided to cross back into the Gaza Strip.

The crosser was found out only a minute or two before crossing to the other side. By the time forces arrived on the scene he was already in Gaza territory, a senior IDF official told military reporters. The IDF has no way of preventing someone who has decided to cross into Gaza from going there.

According to the Ynet news website, the man had been living in Israel for the past five years.

Family reunification in Israel typically involves an Israeli citizen requesting citizenship for his or her non-Israeli spouse. Most unification applications are submitted by Israeli Arabs on behalf of a Palestinian spouse living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.

The process of family reunification for Palestinians has been made more stringent in recent years due to concerns it was being abused by terror groups to gain access to Israel.

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IDF detains man who crossed from Gaza into Israel | The Times of … – The Times of Israel

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July 1, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed

Abbas’ Gaza sanctions fit into peace project – Al-Monitor

A Hamas supporter holds a poster depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a protest against Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, April 14, 2017.(photo byREUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Author:Ahmad Melhem Posted June 30, 2017

The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have been engagedin a tug of war for some time now. The dispute entered a new stageApril 12, when President Mahmoud Abbas promised during a speech at a conference of Palestinian ambassadorsin Bahrainto pressure Hamas to end the division.

TranslatorCynthia Milan

During hisvisit to Washington May 4, Abbas vowedto takepainful and unprecedented measures against Hamas, and they have been escalating by the day.Most recently on June 26, nine patients, three of them children, died in the Gaza Strip after being denied travel permits for treatment abroad.

The PA says its goal is to push Hamas to agree to Abbas’conditionsforreconciliation.Dissolving the administrative committee it set up in March to run Gaza will allowthe national consensus government to work in the Gaza Strip and agreeing to hold presidential and legislative elections within six months. However, Hamas believesthe planis consistent with Israel’s plans for Gaza.

The PAs measures began on April 4 with the government deducting 30-50% from the salaries of its employees in the Gaza Strip, followed by suspending social assistance to 630 familiesand preventing hundreds of cancer patientsfrom accessing treatment in Jerusalem or Israeli hospitals. The PAstopped covering electricity paymentsto Israel on April 27. OnApril 28,Abbas approvedthe early retirement law, which will force an estimated 35,000 military personnel in Gaza to retire early. Most recently in June, the government also cut the financial supportfor277 former Hamas prisoners in the Gaza Strip.

The early retirement law,like the other measures, led to an exchange of accusations betweenHamas and the PA.Faraj al-Ghoul, the head of the Legislative Committee at the Palestinian Legislative Councilin Gaza, said on June 14 that the forced early retirement procedures are discriminatory and aim at tightening the noose on the Gaza Strip.The PA denied the accusationin a June 19 press statementby Adnan al-Dumeiri, a spokesman for the security services, claimingthat the decision is intendedto restructure the security services.

Ahmad al-Majdalani, a close associate of Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Pension Authority andmember of thePLO’s Executive Committee, reiterated the claim to Al-Monitor, saying,Early retirement has nothing to do with the PA’s actions against Hamas. Its goal is to restructure the security services.

Majdalani added, The measures to pressure Hamas will continue, because the Hamas government in Gaza has to assume full responsibility for the Gaza Strip and the PA cannot finance the coup and its government.

An official PA sourcetold Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, The measures that will be taken reflect the PAs refusal to finance the government formed by Hamas. Such measures include stopping any purchases that benefitGaza such as fuel, electricity and medicine, in addition to any tax exemptions or school and universityexpenses and so on.

There hasbeen growing discussion in the media about Abbas’ possible intention to declare Gaza a rebel district as a last resort. However, Majdalani said, This is completely untrue. This issue has not been discussed in any of the Palestinian decision-making circles at all.

Meanwhile, Hamas is trying to minimize damage from thecrisisby communicating with the Egyptian authorities and reaching understandings with dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who has close ties with Egypt. Hamas is seekingsolutions for Gazas problems byopening the Rafah crossing and turning to Egypt toeasethe electricity crisis. After the PA informed Israel that it will no longer pay the electricity bill,Egypt sent about 1 million liters of diesel toGazaon June 21, raising the number of hours of electricity provided to Gaza per day from between two and four to six.

The PA sees the rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas as an effortto avoid reconciliation. Majdalani said, This is a desperate attempt by the two parties, because they are in trouble and each party is trying to exploit the other’s issues to improve its own conditions in the Gaza Strip. But our information indicates that the parties supporting Dahlan and Hamas will not allow this relationshipto go forward.

Speaking to Al-Monitor, Hamas leader Yahya Moussa attacked Abbas actions against Gaza, describing them as crimes against humanity committed to benefitIsrael. Moussa defended the understandings between Hamas and Dahlan, saying, When you live in crisis, you should consolidate all the Palestinian parties and unite them, and when President Abbas closes all avenues, the parties must unite to face the crisis together.

The PA’s moves againstthe Gaza Strip coincided with the US administration’s efforts to relaunch the peace process. The timing raised doubtthat the measures are the result of Arab and international pressure on the PA, led by US President Donald Trump, to achieve a regional settlement that would end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Hamas-affiliated author Mustafa al-Sawwaf told Al-Monitor, The PAs actions are not to pressure Hamas, but rather to punish the people of Gaza for supporting the movement. The PA wants to pressure Gaza while it works on the regional peace plan, which aims to eliminatethe resistance in Gaza and separatethe Gaza Strip from the West Bank to settle the Palestinian cause.

Fatah leader Yahya Rabah told Al-Monitor that an Arab alliance is being formed between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and it is classifying the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as terrorist organizations, which is why the movement is required to reconsider its political positions. He said, The PA is suggesting inviting Hamas to join the PLO and become part of the legitimate Palestinian movementto save it from the disaster that will soon strike the region.

Rabah added, The president’s plan for reconciliationruns counter to the external pressures being exerted on himto consider Hamas a terrorist [group], and it paves the way for the movement to become legitimate.”

It seems that in the coming period, the PA can be expected toimpose more measures on Gaza to pressure Hamas, which is not likely to respond to any of them. Such steps will, however, limit the movements options: Hamas could either strengthen its cooperation with Egypt and Dahlan to ease the crisis, as it is currently doing, or engage in a new war with Israel. Some Israeli analysts have warned the government about the risk of war after cutting electricity to the Gaza Strip, saying a confrontation could erupt in light of the deteriorating living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza.

Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/palestine-abbas-measures-pressure-hamas-gaza.html

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Abbas’ Gaza sanctions fit into peace project – Al-Monitor

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MP hopes to return to Gaza to provide more medical help in Autumn – Irvine Times

Irvine and Kilwinning’s MP hopes to return to Palestine this Autumn to provide more medical help in Gaza.

Dr Philippa Whitford who worked as a volunteer in Gaza in the early nineties is planning to return once again to Palestine, providing no one calls any unexpected General Elections.

During the visit she will provide further specialist training and support to medical staff involved in the treatment of Breast Cancer within Gaza and East Jerusalem.

This is to help enable women to have better surgical options with fewer side effects than currently exists.

Speaking to the Irvine Times, Dr Whitford said: “Because I worked in Gaza as a volunteer in the nineties, obviously the issue of Palestine is quite close to my heart. So I tend to be quite active on things like Palestine and human rights in the Middle East.

Describing life in the Gaza Strip, she said: Obviously it was quite hard, we went six months after the first Gulf War, in 1991/1992. It was quite difficult but I loved it. The people were really friendly.

“We worked really hard but it was incredibly rewarding so I really enjoyed it.

“I went back out in 2010 but couldn’t get into Gaza, and we just visited Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“Through becoming an MP I met up with the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians and I got to go out last Easter for two weeks a week in East Jerusalem and a week in Gaza operating, doing clinics, running teaching workshops to try and help to add extra training.

“So hopefully I’m going back out in September for two weeks.

Although Dr Whitford doesn’t see any positive end in sight to the dire living conditions of the people of Gaza.

“Sadly the situation in a lot of ways is worse now”, she said. “Inside Gaza, you don’t have Israeli settlers or soldiers, so there’s less clashes other when you have these invasions like 2009, 2012 or 2014.

“But because they are completely trapped, they’re under blockade, Breast Cancer patients, which is my speciality, can’t easily get to Jerusalem for radiotherapy, so they all have what we would consider very old fashioned operation and have the whole breast removed. They have all of the lymph nodes removed from under their arm so half of them get lymphoedema, which is a big swollen arm and which is quite difficult to manage in a hot place.

“So you have people who are having a really poor cancer treatment and that applies to lots of different conditions, because it’s hard to get drugs in and it’s hard to get patients out, and certainly on research done on 2011 showed survival in Breast Cancer was only half of what it is here.

“Medical Aid for Palestinians are now setting up a three year project to really try and work with surgeons and doctors in Gaza to try and improve training and education and see if we can help improve it as much as we can, but the blockade just makes doing anything impossible and sadly I think they are further from peace.

“The whole situation in the Middle East is just a lot worse. The West talk a good game but we don’t tend to follow through.

“I was there when the Peace Process started a quarter of a century ago. People were really hopeful at the time but it all fizzled away into nothing.

“It’s just tragic.”

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Gaza artist turns waste into art – Al-Monitor

Artist Shareef Sarhan in his studio in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Posted on Feb. 1, 2017.(photo byFacebook/shareef.sarhan)

Author:Hani Abu Rezk Posted June 26, 2017

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Several days a week, Palestinian artist Shareef SarhanvisitsGaza Citys factories and workshops to gather steel, aluminum, wood and other discarded materials. Most of these are found carelessly lying around, often threatening the environment.

TranslatorSahar Ghoussoub

Back in his small art workshop in Gaza City, with its table crowded with sets of colorful paints, the artist uses an aluminum hand drill to turn aluminum objects into brightly-painted Arabic letters that can be hung on the wall. The prices of artworks in his recent exhibition, Letters and the City, which was held in Ramallah last year, ranged between $1,500 and $5,000.

Sarhan, 40, is known as one of the most innovative artists in the Gaza Strip, where artists struggle to find drawing and painting materials. The father of four has been painting, sculpting, designing and taking photographs since1998, and has freelanced as a photographer, mostly for international organizations.

Sarhan is a member of the Palestinian Artists Association and a founding member of the Shababekgroup, known abroad as the “Windows from Gaza for Contemporary Art.”He has participated in several technical training courses inand outside Palestine and exhibited his works in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Amman, Britain, the United States, Spain, Sweden, Sharjah and Cairo.

One of his best known works is Lighthouse of Gaza, where several artists and designers built a lighthouse from wasteand metal objects. Overthe last few years, he hasfocused on creating art from recycled items.

Sarhan defines recycling as restoring the original form of anobject and then reusing it. He recognizes that discarded items can be usedfor his art pieces, either as metal Arabic letters without diacriticsor as canvases.

I use aluminum, steel, wood and old clothes all the things that are of no use to the Palestinians. There arevery fewrecycling plants in Gaza. Therefore, I take waste materials and turn them into attractive designs, Sarhan told Al-Monitor.

He said, I draw on damaged canvas illustrations that reflect the Palestinian cause. I use Arabic letters and characters, which are an essential part of our culture. I believe an artist is an integral part of his homeland.

Tamer al-Naffar, 12, from Gaza City, told Al-Monitor, Recycled art, which turns the wastein the streets into artobjectsis important to usPalestinians. This could reduce environmental pollution produced by metal wasteand remnants.

He added, Sarhans drawings and artworks are wonderful as they reflect the Palestinian reality we live in.

Khaled Nassar, a specialist in fine and plastic arts, who supervises workshops in recycled art in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that art created from recycled materialsallows artists to incorporateunused materials, turning them into valuable objets dart, which also helps preserve the environment.

There are many reasons for artists to resort to using recycled items for art, he said.These may be a desire to try new things, a sense of innovation and creativity. The produced items can be displayed inside homes as decorations, in public places and even in schools, depending on the objects,” he added, as he called on other Gaza artists to use recycled materials.

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Turning up the volume in Gaza – The Electronic Intifada

Osama Najjar The Electronic Intifada 28 June 2017

Sol Bands Majd Antar on drums

From the outside, the occupied Gaza Strip appears a place of misery. Three all-out Israeli military assaults since December 2008 have caused untold destruction, left thousands dead, more than 15,000 wounded, more than 75,000 homeless and half a million displaced.

A decade-old Israeli siege, meanwhile, has left Palestinians in the coastal strip on the brink of disaster with an infrastructure in tatters.

But Gaza is also a place of unyielding spirit, of occasional joy and of music and performance. In spite of the odds, young people have formed bands to convey some of the reality of Gaza. Here is a look at a few of the better-known ones.

It was the eight-day offensive on Gaza in November 2012 that motivated this group to form. The groups aim was raise the spirits of Gazas people following that attack.

Majd Antar, 22, is the bands coordinator.

When we first created the band, turnout was pretty low, Antar said. We were young and we were not that good. But we worked hard and played plenty of venues free to get to where we are.

Sol Band, so-called after the fifth note of a sung musical scale, focuses on modern and traditional Arabic music and now plays functions, cafes and halls across the Gaza Strip, according to Antar, if they can get the necessary permits from Gazas authorities, not always a given.

Permits to perform in Gaza are issued depending on security and social considerations, where the latter seek to avoid offense to conservative society and could include a stipulation that a performance does not encourage mixing of the sexes.

The group has kept performing despite such obstacles.

Gaza is full of war and destruction, said Antar. We want to sing for life and give some hope to people here.

The band comprises six members and includes Reem Anbar, 26, the bands oud player, oldest member and only woman.

A musician from childhood, she only came to the oud in later years. She sometimes faces criticism from conservative society where the idea of a woman performing in public, not least with a group of men, is sometimes frowned upon.

I joined the band with my little brother Faris. He is a very good musician and we play the concerts together. Our family supports us, she said. They stand with me and they support me to face the criticism I sometimes get because I am the only girl in the band.

Such criticism is less often heard now, she said.

At first, I got a lot of criticism. But people got used to seeing me in the band. They liked my courage and the way I play amongst a group of boys.

She now hopes eventually to form an all-female band from Gaza, she told The Electronic Intifada, in order to challenge stereotypes, inside and outside Palestine.

Ultimately, she hopes music, whoever it is played by, can reach out across borders.

Our message is a message of peace to all Arabs and other countries, she said. We have the right to live, and music is our language.

One night back in 2012, two friends, Mohammed Zohud and Alaa El Hamalawi, were sitting on the roof of El Hamalawis house, playing guitar and singing.

Suddenly a neighbor, Umm Mohammed, opened her window and yelled at them to stop: We want to sleep! Turn it down.

Disappointed, the two friends stopped.

The houses are too close to each other in Gaza. Families cannot have privacy, said Zohud, now 25, and lead singer and guitarist in the Typo Band, the fruit of his and El Hamalawis passion for music.

That night played a role though in their future.

We decided to write our own song, he told The Electronic Intifada, in honor of that night. We called it Umm Muhammad.

The two men had always dreamed of forming a rock band but it took the addition of a drummer, Islam Shanghan, 22, in 2012 for their dream to come true.

Typo Band

A new rock trio the classic combo of drums, guitar and bass was born. The name came quickly.

We decided to call it Typo, because, just like our band, thats how everything happens in Gaza, El Hamalawi explained. By accident.

The Typo Band now with four core members, after Samir al-Borno joined on keyboards released their first video entitled Holm al-Fajer (Dream of Dawn) after the 2014 Israeli military offensive on Gaza.

We decided to sing for hope and life despite the thousands of martyrs and destruction caused by Israels bombardment, said El Hamalawi.

When they started, Shanghan said, it took time to find an audience.

Rock music is a bit peculiar to the Palestinians in Gaza, so we were cautious in all the concerts we performed, he said.

Shanghan started to mix rock with eastern rhythms to make the songs feel more familiar to a local audience. At the same time, the band tried to write songs that reflected the reality of life in Gaza.

I pray and pray, goes one song:

Five children asleep in my lap/and the house is not enough/our food is not enough/I say enough/I am satisfied but not optimistic/and I am biting my hand.

But merely to procure decent instruments was a struggle. The siege on Gaza has left many consumer goods nearly impossible to get. Finding new instruments locally proved impossible and the band were forced to order from the occupied West Bank, a process that not only took months but cost them more than double in freight.

Moreover, with frequent electricity outages, and only a few hours of power a day, rehearsal time remains severely limited.

Nevertheless, the band recorded their first album in the fall of 2015. The album, released in early 2016, was simply called Awal Khataa (First Typo). On it, the band remains determined to stay positive.

We want to sing for life, peace, hope, we want to reflect our reality through music. Music is the food of the soul, its our message to the world, Zohud added.

Ibrahim Ghunaim has adored rap since he was 13.

When I was young I started to imitate the rappers I listened to, the 25-year-old told The Electronic Intifada. As the years went by, and I realized that sometimes words can be stronger than weapons, I began to write too.

It has not been easy for Ghunaim.

At first, I had nothing. I borrowed some money from my family to keep me going. I created a few tracks for some institutions in Gaza so I could do a video clip for one of my songs.

Until recently, the reputation of rap in Gaza was such that anyone dabbling in such music was looked at with disapproval.

Some groups in Gaza were looking at me as if I were an infidel and other people considered my art meaningless, he said.

This perception has changed as rap has become more popular. Appreciation for music in general has become more common as Gazans have come to the conclusion that the art can convey a besieged societys suffering and stories to the outside world.

I write what I see, what I do not see, what I want to see, Ghunaim said.

MC Gaza

I sing about the Palestinian division, the right of return, the refugees, the national cause, the martyrs, the prisoners in the prisons of the occupation and the siege. I sing about everything.

Ghunaim has written about 80 tracks, he said, but in spite of a number of well-produced videos, his means are still limited.

Im still using simple and modest methods. I do some tracks as video clips with a little support from some institutions in Gaza.

The closure imposed on Gaza has prevented Palestinian artists there including Ghunaim from traveling and bringing their music to a wider audience, or indeed simply forming links with musicians outside.

Ghunaim said he had received six invitations in 2017 alone to travel to the West Bank or further afield to perform. In each instance, he was denied a travel permit by the Israeli authorities.

The border gave me 10 percent and deprived me of 90 percent, Ghunaim said. It has given me the honor of living in Gaza, but took from me the honor of representing my home abroad.

Osama Najjar is a freelance writer and translator from Gaza.

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UN: Increasing shortage of medicines, fuel for essential services in Gaza – Middle East Monitor

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned of the increasing shortage of essential medicine in Gaza, adding that it also expects a depletion of the reserves of emergency fuel needed to support health, water and sanitation services in the Strip.

In May 2017 the Palestinian Authority cut payments for the electricity that Israel provides to Gaza, causing Israel to cut its supply to the Strip by 40 per cent, OCHA said in a factsheet published on their website last week.

Due to delays in shipments from the West Bank and longstanding funding gaps, 34 per cent of essential drugs at the Central Drug Store in Gaza are out of stock, said a statement on its website.

Read:Medicines in such short supply in Gaza, treatments will stop

OCHA expects emergency fuel reserves to run out in October, which could affect the operation of 186 critical facilities that provide health, water and sanitation and solid waste collection services.

Most families in Gaza receive piped water once every four days, for a period of six to eight hours only, according to OCHA.

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Israeli minister proposes building an artificial island off the coast of Gaza – Telegraph.co.uk

Seven years ago almost everyone was against it but since then weve had two rounds of war with Hamas. Many people who said, in politics and in the security establishment, started understanding this might be a good solution.

Mr Katz is a senior figure in Mr Netanyahus Likud party and says he plans to run for the leadership of the party when the prime minister leaves office.

Mr Lieberman, the defence minister, remains a sceptic of the island idea and argues that the project would be a reward for Hamas Hamas will say that thanks to its struggle it has received investments worth billions and a new port in Gaza.

Hamas have in the past opposed the idea, saying it was a way of making the Israeli blockade permanent. Some sort of agreement with Hamas would almost certainly be needed for the island idea to go ahead.

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The Trump Effect in Gaza – LobeLog

by Mitchell Plitnick

The effects of Donald Trumps trip last month to the Middle East continue to multiply. The focus, quite correctly has been on the breach between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. But the effects of the Saudis wooing of Trump are felt throughout the region.

Flattering the president of the United States is a sensible thing for most world leaders to do, but this president, basking in all-encompassing flattery, becomes immediately susceptible to the views of his supplicants. Trump came away from his Middle East trip having bought whole cloth into the Saudi narrative of regional politics, and his criticism of Qatar clearly spurred on what has transpired since. But it was not only the Saudi royal family that captured Trumps attention.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was much less ostentatious in his adulation of Trump, but he was partnering with and praising Trump before Barack Obama had even left the White House. Despite Trumps words about securing the ultimate deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the presidents selection of settlement funder David Friedman as ambassador and his use of Jason Greenblatt and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, both prominent pro-Israel figures as his envoys, demonstrated early on that the Trump approach was going to be rooted in the Israeli view to a much greater extent than prior administrations.

In this light, it behooves observers to consider the meaning behind the decision by the Palestinian Authority to step up its action against the Hamas government in Gaza. In recent days, the PA requested that Israel cut the power supply to Gaza, a request that Israel quickly honored. Shortly thereafter, it surfaced that the PA had stopped paying the regular stipends that have become so controversial to Palestinian prisoners (including a limited number of Hamas prisoners).

It would be a mistake to think this was part of some unified strategy between the PA and its regional allies, taking advantage of Trumps view of the region and his apparent inability to grasp the regional complexities. Al-Monitor quoted Issa Qaraqe, the chairman of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs, saying that This decision was taken by the PA amid the ongoing dispute with Hamas. The decision is part of the [PAs] pressure on the movement and has nothing to do with the United States and Israel calling on the PA to stop paying the Palestinian prisoners [currently in Israeli jails].

Indeed, the cutoff of payments affected only 277 Hamas-affiliated prisoners, hardly a number that would mollify the United States and Israel on this matter.

But it would also be a mistake to believe that Trumps visit and subsequent statements have nothing to do with the decisions being made in Ramallah, as well as in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Although Qarage is very likely correct that the PA decision is about the Fatah-Hamas dispute, the stepped-up activity coming at the same time as the Qatar-Saudi Arabia escalation is no coincidence. Indeed, it is connected by several factors.

Unlikely Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

At this point, Jared Kushners report to his father-in-law seems unlikely to include a recommendation for a robust effort at an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. All the past obstaclesthe imbalance of power, the shifting demands, the Palestinian split, the lack of incentives for Israelare still there. New ones have also appeared, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson putting Mahmoud Abbas on the spot politically by claiming, incorrectly, that the Palestinian president had agreed to stop payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners. Theres also the Trump administrations rumored displeasure with Abbas for refusing to receive US Ambassador David Friedman (an odd objection since US ambassadors are sent to Israel, not the PA, who usually meet with US special envoys).

But Trump has already accepted the Israeli view on numerous matters. He has stated that settlements are not blocking the peace process. He has clearly prioritized the payments to Palestinian prisoners. He does not seem to understand why Abbas would refuse to meet an ambassador who has enthusiastically funded some of the most radical settlement projects. And, perhaps most of all, he has been slippery at best regarding a two-state solution.

Abbas, therefore, must find a way to show Trump that the Palestinians can contribute something significant to his regional efforts. The one thing he can do that no other Arab agent can is to take on Hamas. Despite Hamas having distanced itself in recent years from its Muslim Brotherhood roots, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt still see it as part of that broad and diffuse movement.

Theyre not wrong in that. The chief threat that the Saudi and Egyptian government see in the Muslim Brotherhood is its potential to rally popular support and win politically. The coup engineered by Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi is not an ideal cure to what happened in Egypt. Reversing votes with military coups tends to increase popular dissent. Whether Hamas has any real connection to the Brotherhood or not, it represents the same sort of problem in the eyes of the regional dictators.

But Hamas is a Palestinian nationalist movement as well as an Islamist one, and as such, other Arab leaders must tread very carefully in opposing it. The PA has its own difficulties in confronting Hamas, but an internal Palestinian dispute is a very different matter from an Arab government fighting against a Palestinian nationalist group, especially one that was the victor in the last full Palestinian election.

Hamas Vulnerability

Abbas surely chose this moment in great measure because the Saudi-UAE blockade and sanctions on Qatar dramatically increase Hamas already considerable vulnerability. Qatar has been Hamas main benefactor for several years. Egypt, which still mistrusts Hamas, has been working with the Islamist Gaza government to try to stem the flow of weapons to more radical groups in the Sinai Peninsula that disdain the governments on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border.

Egypt, for its part, does not want to find itself in any way responsible for Gaza on a permanent basis. Nothing would please the Sisi government more than to see the Palestinian Authority back in control of the overcrowded and poverty-stricken Strip. Although Hamas has found some success in improving relations with Egypt, based on common enemies, this has not stopped Egypt from continuing its cooperation with Israel in blockading Gaza.

Pressing Hamas by cutting the already insufficient supply of electricity to Gaza while withholding salaries to key Hamas personnel in Israeli prisons are tactics aimed at causing more instability and difficulty for the Hamas government.

Ironically, Israel is probably hoping that the PAs strategy works well enough to avoid or at least postpone another round of fighting with Hamas. Netanyahus scandals have faded to some degree, and his political position is relatively stable right now. Although the Trump administration will loudly applaud Israeli action in Gaza, Europe would not be so positive, and the strain in that relationship has been worsening of late. In short, a burst of nationalism through an attack on Gaza is not needed right now. If the PA can destabilize Hamas without drawing hundreds of rockets over the Gaza border into Israel, that is likely just fine with Netanyahu, at least for the moment.

Collective Punishment

The Saudi blockade of Qatar, like all such actions, affects the population with shortages of goods and services. For Qatar, an import economy where Qatari nationals make up only about 12% of the population, the impact is magnified. As a wealthy country, however, Qatar is much better equipped to deal with a crisis than Gaza.

The people of Gaza have endured the worst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever since 1948. Isolated by Egypt until 1967, then bearing the brunt of the Israeli occupation and, finally, physically isolated since 2007, the people of this densely populated strip have suffered with each action of the parties involved in the conflict there.

The current round of collective punishment may result in Hamas deciding that its only recourse is to launch rockets at Israel, which will surely bring an Israeli response that will only cause more devastation. Or, it may try to wait out the PA and see how much suffering Abbas is willing to inflict on the people of Gaza. Either way, the people lose.

Israel and Egypt are no closer to ending the siege on the strip, although Egypt has helped Gaza with some fuel to ease the electricity crisis. Few in the international community are acting, despite some wailing and lamenting over the awful conditions in Gaza.

All of this is happening in the context of ongoing environmental deterioration in the strip, which will make Gaza unlivable in as little as three years from now.

The Trump Effect

Trumps effect on Saudi strategy has rippled throughout the region. Of course, he did not create the tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, much less the rift between the PA and Hamas. But by adopting the Saudi and Israeli narratives, he has created a strategic environment that encourages more aggressive steps by the stronger parties in those conflicts.

Trump surely has no idea he did any of this, which is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of all. But he has also, unwittingly, begun an experiment of policy.

Until now, the Saudis were reluctant to push too hard on Qatar. Now, they are blockading the country and have presented the Qataris with a maximalist set of demands. The aim of all this is to isolate Iran regionally and deliver a sharp blow to populist Islamist movements like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hezbollah (as distinct from the more sectarian and self-interested groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda). It also quashes the opening of Arab discourse that al-Jazeera, for all its many flaws, represents.

Will the Saudi offensive work? If it does, it will re-entrench the Arab dictatorship model that thrived for so long in the region. That may or not be the model that someone like Mahmoud Abbas prefers, but it is now the only wagon to which he can hitch his hopes.

Trump has created the opportunity to see if that tactic will work. If it does, hopes for democracy will have suffered a serious defeat. If it fails, the recent revival of Iranian regime change in US policy circles shows we are not learning from defeats and mistakes.

Photo:Issa Qaraqe

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The Trump Effect in Gaza – LobeLog

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Stigma keeps drug addicts quiet in Gaza Strip – New Vision

After Umm Mazen found her husband shivering in his bed and complaining of a migraine, he confessed he was addicted to painkillers and could no longer provide for the family. In the Gaza Strip, the tiny Palestinian territory sandwiched between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean and ravaged by three wars in a decade, drug abuse is often a hidden problem. While no reliablestatistics are available, experts and medical support groups estimate there are tens of thousands of drug users in Gaza. Young men are among those most affected in a territory suffering 45 percent unemployment, rising to more than 60 percent among the youth. Narcotics such as cannabis are sold illegally in the enclave of some two million people, but many of the most serious addicts are hooked on illicitly bought prescription medicines. Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, who have ruled the Strip for a decade and take a firm line on drugs, launched a fresh crackdown this year. Hamas military courts have sentenced four Palestinians to death for drug smuggling, the first such punishments since Hamas seized the Strip in 2007. Raids have also uncovered record hauls of drugs, particularly Tramadol — a powerful opiate-based painkiller that is widely available. Umm Mazen, a 32-year-old mother of three who refused to give her full name for fear of consequences in Gaza’s conservative society, said the drug nearly ruined her life. Fearing a scandal, her husband refused hospital treatment. “I warned his family and I even threatened to report it to the Hamas police,” she told AFP. Iyad al-Bozum, spokesman for the Hamas-run interior ministry, told AFP there was an “organised plan to smuggle large quantities of drugs into Gaza,” saying dealers were targeting young people. While some drugs are smuggled through the Israeli border, most enter from Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, the ministry said. The Gaza Strip has been blockaded for more than a decade by Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008. The Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only entrance to the territory not controlled by Israel, has been almost completely closed since the military ousted Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. Gaza has almost no industry and suffers from a chronic lack of water and fuel. Interviewed at a Hamas prison where he is serving seven years for drug dealing, a trafficker arrested in 2013 said he had turned to selling narcotics to make ends meet and pay for his own addiction. “It was easy to sell them — lots of people were using them because of unemployment and the bad situation in Gaza,” he said in an interview monitored by prison guards. Egyptian forces have since destroyed hundreds of cross-border tunnels and Hamas has launched a crackdown against dealers, but drugs have continued to flow into the territory. In January Hamas authorities announced they had seized as many drugs in one month as in the whole of 2016, with a street value of around $2 million. They seized 1,250 packets of cannabis and 400,000 Tramadol pills in January alone, the interior ministry said. As a result of the crackdown, the price of a 10-pill pack of Tramadol is said to have doubled in two years to $120. In a territory where more than two-thirds of the population rely on humanitarian aid, it is often the inability to pay that forces people to seek rehabilitation, said Sami Aweida from the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Gaza has no centre dedicated to treating drug addicts, making reliable figures on abuse all but impossible to obtain. Addicts who want to get clean often avoid specialists, Aweida said. “People prefer to do it discreetly through a liberal doctor.” Umm Mazen did convince her husband to seek treatment, but mainly for economic reasons. “He could not afford (Tramadol) because of the high prices,” she said.

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IDF detains man who crossed from Gaza into Israel | The Times of … – The Times of Israel

Israeli soldiers on Saturday arrested a man who infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip. He was taken in for questioning. The suspect was caught shortly after crossing the security fence, officials said. He was unarmed, and the army believed he had no terror-related intentions. On Friday afternoon another man was identified crossing the fence from Israel into Gaza along its northern border. IDF officials said the man was apparently a former resident of the coastal enclave who had entered Israel as part of a family unification process allowed by the government several years ago. IDF troops were scrambled to the scene, but by the time they arrived the man had already crossed to the other side of the fence. According to a report on the Haaretz website, soldiers in military observation posts identified a person likely belonging to the Hamas terror group picking up the man. The army assessed that he was now being interrogated by the terror group. An IDF officer told Haaretz that it did not appear to be a planned encounter and Hamas was likely not expecting the man to cross the border. The Shin Bet security service is expected to interrogate the mans family to try to understand why he decided to cross back into the Gaza Strip. The crosser was found out only a minute or two before crossing to the other side. By the time forces arrived on the scene he was already in Gaza territory, a senior IDF official told military reporters. The IDF has no way of preventing someone who has decided to cross into Gaza from going there. According to the Ynet news website, the man had been living in Israel for the past five years. Family reunification in Israel typically involves an Israeli citizen requesting citizenship for his or her non-Israeli spouse. Most unification applications are submitted by Israeli Arabs on behalf of a Palestinian spouse living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. The process of family reunification for Palestinians has been made more stringent in recent years due to concerns it was being abused by terror groups to gain access to Israel.

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Abbas’ Gaza sanctions fit into peace project – Al-Monitor

A Hamas supporter holds a poster depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a protest against Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, April 14, 2017.(photo byREUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa) Author:Ahmad Melhem Posted June 30, 2017 The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas have been engagedin a tug of war for some time now. The dispute entered a new stageApril 12, when President Mahmoud Abbas promised during a speech at a conference of Palestinian ambassadorsin Bahrainto pressure Hamas to end the division. TranslatorCynthia Milan During hisvisit to Washington May 4, Abbas vowedto takepainful and unprecedented measures against Hamas, and they have been escalating by the day.Most recently on June 26, nine patients, three of them children, died in the Gaza Strip after being denied travel permits for treatment abroad. The PA says its goal is to push Hamas to agree to Abbas’conditionsforreconciliation.Dissolving the administrative committee it set up in March to run Gaza will allowthe national consensus government to work in the Gaza Strip and agreeing to hold presidential and legislative elections within six months. However, Hamas believesthe planis consistent with Israel’s plans for Gaza. The PAs measures began on April 4 with the government deducting 30-50% from the salaries of its employees in the Gaza Strip, followed by suspending social assistance to 630 familiesand preventing hundreds of cancer patientsfrom accessing treatment in Jerusalem or Israeli hospitals. The PAstopped covering electricity paymentsto Israel on April 27. OnApril 28,Abbas approvedthe early retirement law, which will force an estimated 35,000 military personnel in Gaza to retire early. Most recently in June, the government also cut the financial supportfor277 former Hamas prisoners in the Gaza Strip. The early retirement law,like the other measures, led to an exchange of accusations betweenHamas and the PA.Faraj al-Ghoul, the head of the Legislative Committee at the Palestinian Legislative Councilin Gaza, said on June 14 that the forced early retirement procedures are discriminatory and aim at tightening the noose on the Gaza Strip.The PA denied the accusationin a June 19 press statementby Adnan al-Dumeiri, a spokesman for the security services, claimingthat the decision is intendedto restructure the security services. Ahmad al-Majdalani, a close associate of Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Pension Authority andmember of thePLO’s Executive Committee, reiterated the claim to Al-Monitor, saying,Early retirement has nothing to do with the PA’s actions against Hamas. Its goal is to restructure the security services. Majdalani added, The measures to pressure Hamas will continue, because the Hamas government in Gaza has to assume full responsibility for the Gaza Strip and the PA cannot finance the coup and its government. An official PA sourcetold Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, The measures that will be taken reflect the PAs refusal to finance the government formed by Hamas. Such measures include stopping any purchases that benefitGaza such as fuel, electricity and medicine, in addition to any tax exemptions or school and universityexpenses and so on. There hasbeen growing discussion in the media about Abbas’ possible intention to declare Gaza a rebel district as a last resort. However, Majdalani said, This is completely untrue. This issue has not been discussed in any of the Palestinian decision-making circles at all. Meanwhile, Hamas is trying to minimize damage from thecrisisby communicating with the Egyptian authorities and reaching understandings with dismissed Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, who has close ties with Egypt. Hamas is seekingsolutions for Gazas problems byopening the Rafah crossing and turning to Egypt toeasethe electricity crisis. After the PA informed Israel that it will no longer pay the electricity bill,Egypt sent about 1 million liters of diesel toGazaon June 21, raising the number of hours of electricity provided to Gaza per day from between two and four to six. The PA sees the rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas as an effortto avoid reconciliation. Majdalani said, This is a desperate attempt by the two parties, because they are in trouble and each party is trying to exploit the other’s issues to improve its own conditions in the Gaza Strip. But our information indicates that the parties supporting Dahlan and Hamas will not allow this relationshipto go forward. Speaking to Al-Monitor, Hamas leader Yahya Moussa attacked Abbas actions against Gaza, describing them as crimes against humanity committed to benefitIsrael. Moussa defended the understandings between Hamas and Dahlan, saying, When you live in crisis, you should consolidate all the Palestinian parties and unite them, and when President Abbas closes all avenues, the parties must unite to face the crisis together. The PA’s moves againstthe Gaza Strip coincided with the US administration’s efforts to relaunch the peace process. The timing raised doubtthat the measures are the result of Arab and international pressure on the PA, led by US President Donald Trump, to achieve a regional settlement that would end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Hamas-affiliated author Mustafa al-Sawwaf told Al-Monitor, The PAs actions are not to pressure Hamas, but rather to punish the people of Gaza for supporting the movement. The PA wants to pressure Gaza while it works on the regional peace plan, which aims to eliminatethe resistance in Gaza and separatethe Gaza Strip from the West Bank to settle the Palestinian cause. Fatah leader Yahya Rabah told Al-Monitor that an Arab alliance is being formed between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, and it is classifying the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as terrorist organizations, which is why the movement is required to reconsider its political positions. He said, The PA is suggesting inviting Hamas to join the PLO and become part of the legitimate Palestinian movementto save it from the disaster that will soon strike the region. Rabah added, The president’s plan for reconciliationruns counter to the external pressures being exerted on himto consider Hamas a terrorist [group], and it paves the way for the movement to become legitimate.” It seems that in the coming period, the PA can be expected toimpose more measures on Gaza to pressure Hamas, which is not likely to respond to any of them. Such steps will, however, limit the movements options: Hamas could either strengthen its cooperation with Egypt and Dahlan to ease the crisis, as it is currently doing, or engage in a new war with Israel. Some Israeli analysts have warned the government about the risk of war after cutting electricity to the Gaza Strip, saying a confrontation could erupt in light of the deteriorating living conditions of Palestinians in Gaza. Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/palestine-abbas-measures-pressure-hamas-gaza.html

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MP hopes to return to Gaza to provide more medical help in Autumn – Irvine Times

Irvine and Kilwinning’s MP hopes to return to Palestine this Autumn to provide more medical help in Gaza. Dr Philippa Whitford who worked as a volunteer in Gaza in the early nineties is planning to return once again to Palestine, providing no one calls any unexpected General Elections. During the visit she will provide further specialist training and support to medical staff involved in the treatment of Breast Cancer within Gaza and East Jerusalem. This is to help enable women to have better surgical options with fewer side effects than currently exists. Speaking to the Irvine Times, Dr Whitford said: “Because I worked in Gaza as a volunteer in the nineties, obviously the issue of Palestine is quite close to my heart. So I tend to be quite active on things like Palestine and human rights in the Middle East. Describing life in the Gaza Strip, she said: Obviously it was quite hard, we went six months after the first Gulf War, in 1991/1992. It was quite difficult but I loved it. The people were really friendly. “We worked really hard but it was incredibly rewarding so I really enjoyed it. “I went back out in 2010 but couldn’t get into Gaza, and we just visited Jerusalem and the West Bank. “Through becoming an MP I met up with the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians and I got to go out last Easter for two weeks a week in East Jerusalem and a week in Gaza operating, doing clinics, running teaching workshops to try and help to add extra training. “So hopefully I’m going back out in September for two weeks. Although Dr Whitford doesn’t see any positive end in sight to the dire living conditions of the people of Gaza. “Sadly the situation in a lot of ways is worse now”, she said. “Inside Gaza, you don’t have Israeli settlers or soldiers, so there’s less clashes other when you have these invasions like 2009, 2012 or 2014. “But because they are completely trapped, they’re under blockade, Breast Cancer patients, which is my speciality, can’t easily get to Jerusalem for radiotherapy, so they all have what we would consider very old fashioned operation and have the whole breast removed. They have all of the lymph nodes removed from under their arm so half of them get lymphoedema, which is a big swollen arm and which is quite difficult to manage in a hot place. “So you have people who are having a really poor cancer treatment and that applies to lots of different conditions, because it’s hard to get drugs in and it’s hard to get patients out, and certainly on research done on 2011 showed survival in Breast Cancer was only half of what it is here. “Medical Aid for Palestinians are now setting up a three year project to really try and work with surgeons and doctors in Gaza to try and improve training and education and see if we can help improve it as much as we can, but the blockade just makes doing anything impossible and sadly I think they are further from peace. “The whole situation in the Middle East is just a lot worse. The West talk a good game but we don’t tend to follow through. “I was there when the Peace Process started a quarter of a century ago. People were really hopeful at the time but it all fizzled away into nothing. “It’s just tragic.”

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Gaza artist turns waste into art – Al-Monitor

Artist Shareef Sarhan in his studio in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. Posted on Feb. 1, 2017.(photo byFacebook/shareef.sarhan) Author:Hani Abu Rezk Posted June 26, 2017 GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Several days a week, Palestinian artist Shareef SarhanvisitsGaza Citys factories and workshops to gather steel, aluminum, wood and other discarded materials. Most of these are found carelessly lying around, often threatening the environment. TranslatorSahar Ghoussoub Back in his small art workshop in Gaza City, with its table crowded with sets of colorful paints, the artist uses an aluminum hand drill to turn aluminum objects into brightly-painted Arabic letters that can be hung on the wall. The prices of artworks in his recent exhibition, Letters and the City, which was held in Ramallah last year, ranged between $1,500 and $5,000. Sarhan, 40, is known as one of the most innovative artists in the Gaza Strip, where artists struggle to find drawing and painting materials. The father of four has been painting, sculpting, designing and taking photographs since1998, and has freelanced as a photographer, mostly for international organizations. Sarhan is a member of the Palestinian Artists Association and a founding member of the Shababekgroup, known abroad as the “Windows from Gaza for Contemporary Art.”He has participated in several technical training courses inand outside Palestine and exhibited his works in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Amman, Britain, the United States, Spain, Sweden, Sharjah and Cairo. One of his best known works is Lighthouse of Gaza, where several artists and designers built a lighthouse from wasteand metal objects. Overthe last few years, he hasfocused on creating art from recycled items. Sarhan defines recycling as restoring the original form of anobject and then reusing it. He recognizes that discarded items can be usedfor his art pieces, either as metal Arabic letters without diacriticsor as canvases. I use aluminum, steel, wood and old clothes all the things that are of no use to the Palestinians. There arevery fewrecycling plants in Gaza. Therefore, I take waste materials and turn them into attractive designs, Sarhan told Al-Monitor. He said, I draw on damaged canvas illustrations that reflect the Palestinian cause. I use Arabic letters and characters, which are an essential part of our culture. I believe an artist is an integral part of his homeland. Tamer al-Naffar, 12, from Gaza City, told Al-Monitor, Recycled art, which turns the wastein the streets into artobjectsis important to usPalestinians. This could reduce environmental pollution produced by metal wasteand remnants. He added, Sarhans drawings and artworks are wonderful as they reflect the Palestinian reality we live in. Khaled Nassar, a specialist in fine and plastic arts, who supervises workshops in recycled art in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that art created from recycled materialsallows artists to incorporateunused materials, turning them into valuable objets dart, which also helps preserve the environment. There are many reasons for artists to resort to using recycled items for art, he said.These may be a desire to try new things, a sense of innovation and creativity. The produced items can be displayed inside homes as decorations, in public places and even in schools, depending on the objects,” he added, as he called on other Gaza artists to use recycled materials. Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/06/gaza-artist-turns-waste-to-art.html

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Turning up the volume in Gaza – The Electronic Intifada

Osama Najjar The Electronic Intifada 28 June 2017 Sol Bands Majd Antar on drums From the outside, the occupied Gaza Strip appears a place of misery. Three all-out Israeli military assaults since December 2008 have caused untold destruction, left thousands dead, more than 15,000 wounded, more than 75,000 homeless and half a million displaced. A decade-old Israeli siege, meanwhile, has left Palestinians in the coastal strip on the brink of disaster with an infrastructure in tatters. But Gaza is also a place of unyielding spirit, of occasional joy and of music and performance. In spite of the odds, young people have formed bands to convey some of the reality of Gaza. Here is a look at a few of the better-known ones. It was the eight-day offensive on Gaza in November 2012 that motivated this group to form. The groups aim was raise the spirits of Gazas people following that attack. Majd Antar, 22, is the bands coordinator. When we first created the band, turnout was pretty low, Antar said. We were young and we were not that good. But we worked hard and played plenty of venues free to get to where we are. Sol Band, so-called after the fifth note of a sung musical scale, focuses on modern and traditional Arabic music and now plays functions, cafes and halls across the Gaza Strip, according to Antar, if they can get the necessary permits from Gazas authorities, not always a given. Permits to perform in Gaza are issued depending on security and social considerations, where the latter seek to avoid offense to conservative society and could include a stipulation that a performance does not encourage mixing of the sexes. The group has kept performing despite such obstacles. Gaza is full of war and destruction, said Antar. We want to sing for life and give some hope to people here. The band comprises six members and includes Reem Anbar, 26, the bands oud player, oldest member and only woman. A musician from childhood, she only came to the oud in later years. She sometimes faces criticism from conservative society where the idea of a woman performing in public, not least with a group of men, is sometimes frowned upon. I joined the band with my little brother Faris. He is a very good musician and we play the concerts together. Our family supports us, she said. They stand with me and they support me to face the criticism I sometimes get because I am the only girl in the band. Such criticism is less often heard now, she said. At first, I got a lot of criticism. But people got used to seeing me in the band. They liked my courage and the way I play amongst a group of boys. She now hopes eventually to form an all-female band from Gaza, she told The Electronic Intifada, in order to challenge stereotypes, inside and outside Palestine. Ultimately, she hopes music, whoever it is played by, can reach out across borders. Our message is a message of peace to all Arabs and other countries, she said. We have the right to live, and music is our language. One night back in 2012, two friends, Mohammed Zohud and Alaa El Hamalawi, were sitting on the roof of El Hamalawis house, playing guitar and singing. Suddenly a neighbor, Umm Mohammed, opened her window and yelled at them to stop: We want to sleep! Turn it down. Disappointed, the two friends stopped. The houses are too close to each other in Gaza. Families cannot have privacy, said Zohud, now 25, and lead singer and guitarist in the Typo Band, the fruit of his and El Hamalawis passion for music. That night played a role though in their future. We decided to write our own song, he told The Electronic Intifada, in honor of that night. We called it Umm Muhammad. The two men had always dreamed of forming a rock band but it took the addition of a drummer, Islam Shanghan, 22, in 2012 for their dream to come true. Typo Band A new rock trio the classic combo of drums, guitar and bass was born. The name came quickly. We decided to call it Typo, because, just like our band, thats how everything happens in Gaza, El Hamalawi explained. By accident. The Typo Band now with four core members, after Samir al-Borno joined on keyboards released their first video entitled Holm al-Fajer (Dream of Dawn) after the 2014 Israeli military offensive on Gaza. We decided to sing for hope and life despite the thousands of martyrs and destruction caused by Israels bombardment, said El Hamalawi. When they started, Shanghan said, it took time to find an audience. Rock music is a bit peculiar to the Palestinians in Gaza, so we were cautious in all the concerts we performed, he said. Shanghan started to mix rock with eastern rhythms to make the songs feel more familiar to a local audience. At the same time, the band tried to write songs that reflected the reality of life in Gaza. I pray and pray, goes one song: Five children asleep in my lap/and the house is not enough/our food is not enough/I say enough/I am satisfied but not optimistic/and I am biting my hand. But merely to procure decent instruments was a struggle. The siege on Gaza has left many consumer goods nearly impossible to get. Finding new instruments locally proved impossible and the band were forced to order from the occupied West Bank, a process that not only took months but cost them more than double in freight. Moreover, with frequent electricity outages, and only a few hours of power a day, rehearsal time remains severely limited. Nevertheless, the band recorded their first album in the fall of 2015. The album, released in early 2016, was simply called Awal Khataa (First Typo). On it, the band remains determined to stay positive. We want to sing for life, peace, hope, we want to reflect our reality through music. Music is the food of the soul, its our message to the world, Zohud added. Ibrahim Ghunaim has adored rap since he was 13. When I was young I started to imitate the rappers I listened to, the 25-year-old told The Electronic Intifada. As the years went by, and I realized that sometimes words can be stronger than weapons, I began to write too. It has not been easy for Ghunaim. At first, I had nothing. I borrowed some money from my family to keep me going. I created a few tracks for some institutions in Gaza so I could do a video clip for one of my songs. Until recently, the reputation of rap in Gaza was such that anyone dabbling in such music was looked at with disapproval. Some groups in Gaza were looking at me as if I were an infidel and other people considered my art meaningless, he said. This perception has changed as rap has become more popular. Appreciation for music in general has become more common as Gazans have come to the conclusion that the art can convey a besieged societys suffering and stories to the outside world. I write what I see, what I do not see, what I want to see, Ghunaim said. MC Gaza I sing about the Palestinian division, the right of return, the refugees, the national cause, the martyrs, the prisoners in the prisons of the occupation and the siege. I sing about everything. Ghunaim has written about 80 tracks, he said, but in spite of a number of well-produced videos, his means are still limited. Im still using simple and modest methods. I do some tracks as video clips with a little support from some institutions in Gaza. The closure imposed on Gaza has prevented Palestinian artists there including Ghunaim from traveling and bringing their music to a wider audience, or indeed simply forming links with musicians outside. Ghunaim said he had received six invitations in 2017 alone to travel to the West Bank or further afield to perform. In each instance, he was denied a travel permit by the Israeli authorities. The border gave me 10 percent and deprived me of 90 percent, Ghunaim said. It has given me the honor of living in Gaza, but took from me the honor of representing my home abroad. Osama Najjar is a freelance writer and translator from Gaza.

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UN: Increasing shortage of medicines, fuel for essential services in Gaza – Middle East Monitor

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned of the increasing shortage of essential medicine in Gaza, adding that it also expects a depletion of the reserves of emergency fuel needed to support health, water and sanitation services in the Strip. In May 2017 the Palestinian Authority cut payments for the electricity that Israel provides to Gaza, causing Israel to cut its supply to the Strip by 40 per cent, OCHA said in a factsheet published on their website last week. Due to delays in shipments from the West Bank and longstanding funding gaps, 34 per cent of essential drugs at the Central Drug Store in Gaza are out of stock, said a statement on its website. Read:Medicines in such short supply in Gaza, treatments will stop OCHA expects emergency fuel reserves to run out in October, which could affect the operation of 186 critical facilities that provide health, water and sanitation and solid waste collection services. Most families in Gaza receive piped water once every four days, for a period of six to eight hours only, according to OCHA.

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Israeli minister proposes building an artificial island off the coast of Gaza – Telegraph.co.uk

Seven years ago almost everyone was against it but since then weve had two rounds of war with Hamas. Many people who said, in politics and in the security establishment, started understanding this might be a good solution. Mr Katz is a senior figure in Mr Netanyahus Likud party and says he plans to run for the leadership of the party when the prime minister leaves office. Mr Lieberman, the defence minister, remains a sceptic of the island idea and argues that the project would be a reward for Hamas Hamas will say that thanks to its struggle it has received investments worth billions and a new port in Gaza. Hamas have in the past opposed the idea, saying it was a way of making the Israeli blockade permanent. Some sort of agreement with Hamas would almost certainly be needed for the island idea to go ahead.

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The Trump Effect in Gaza – LobeLog

by Mitchell Plitnick The effects of Donald Trumps trip last month to the Middle East continue to multiply. The focus, quite correctly has been on the breach between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. But the effects of the Saudis wooing of Trump are felt throughout the region. Flattering the president of the United States is a sensible thing for most world leaders to do, but this president, basking in all-encompassing flattery, becomes immediately susceptible to the views of his supplicants. Trump came away from his Middle East trip having bought whole cloth into the Saudi narrative of regional politics, and his criticism of Qatar clearly spurred on what has transpired since. But it was not only the Saudi royal family that captured Trumps attention. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was much less ostentatious in his adulation of Trump, but he was partnering with and praising Trump before Barack Obama had even left the White House. Despite Trumps words about securing the ultimate deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the presidents selection of settlement funder David Friedman as ambassador and his use of Jason Greenblatt and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, both prominent pro-Israel figures as his envoys, demonstrated early on that the Trump approach was going to be rooted in the Israeli view to a much greater extent than prior administrations. In this light, it behooves observers to consider the meaning behind the decision by the Palestinian Authority to step up its action against the Hamas government in Gaza. In recent days, the PA requested that Israel cut the power supply to Gaza, a request that Israel quickly honored. Shortly thereafter, it surfaced that the PA had stopped paying the regular stipends that have become so controversial to Palestinian prisoners (including a limited number of Hamas prisoners). It would be a mistake to think this was part of some unified strategy between the PA and its regional allies, taking advantage of Trumps view of the region and his apparent inability to grasp the regional complexities. Al-Monitor quoted Issa Qaraqe, the chairman of the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners Affairs, saying that This decision was taken by the PA amid the ongoing dispute with Hamas. The decision is part of the [PAs] pressure on the movement and has nothing to do with the United States and Israel calling on the PA to stop paying the Palestinian prisoners [currently in Israeli jails]. Indeed, the cutoff of payments affected only 277 Hamas-affiliated prisoners, hardly a number that would mollify the United States and Israel on this matter. But it would also be a mistake to believe that Trumps visit and subsequent statements have nothing to do with the decisions being made in Ramallah, as well as in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Although Qarage is very likely correct that the PA decision is about the Fatah-Hamas dispute, the stepped-up activity coming at the same time as the Qatar-Saudi Arabia escalation is no coincidence. Indeed, it is connected by several factors. Unlikely Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian Peace At this point, Jared Kushners report to his father-in-law seems unlikely to include a recommendation for a robust effort at an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. All the past obstaclesthe imbalance of power, the shifting demands, the Palestinian split, the lack of incentives for Israelare still there. New ones have also appeared, including US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson putting Mahmoud Abbas on the spot politically by claiming, incorrectly, that the Palestinian president had agreed to stop payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners. Theres also the Trump administrations rumored displeasure with Abbas for refusing to receive US Ambassador David Friedman (an odd objection since US ambassadors are sent to Israel, not the PA, who usually meet with US special envoys). But Trump has already accepted the Israeli view on numerous matters. He has stated that settlements are not blocking the peace process. He has clearly prioritized the payments to Palestinian prisoners. He does not seem to understand why Abbas would refuse to meet an ambassador who has enthusiastically funded some of the most radical settlement projects. And, perhaps most of all, he has been slippery at best regarding a two-state solution. Abbas, therefore, must find a way to show Trump that the Palestinians can contribute something significant to his regional efforts. The one thing he can do that no other Arab agent can is to take on Hamas. Despite Hamas having distanced itself in recent years from its Muslim Brotherhood roots, both Saudi Arabia and Egypt still see it as part of that broad and diffuse movement. Theyre not wrong in that. The chief threat that the Saudi and Egyptian government see in the Muslim Brotherhood is its potential to rally popular support and win politically. The coup engineered by Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi is not an ideal cure to what happened in Egypt. Reversing votes with military coups tends to increase popular dissent. Whether Hamas has any real connection to the Brotherhood or not, it represents the same sort of problem in the eyes of the regional dictators. But Hamas is a Palestinian nationalist movement as well as an Islamist one, and as such, other Arab leaders must tread very carefully in opposing it. The PA has its own difficulties in confronting Hamas, but an internal Palestinian dispute is a very different matter from an Arab government fighting against a Palestinian nationalist group, especially one that was the victor in the last full Palestinian election. Hamas Vulnerability Abbas surely chose this moment in great measure because the Saudi-UAE blockade and sanctions on Qatar dramatically increase Hamas already considerable vulnerability. Qatar has been Hamas main benefactor for several years. Egypt, which still mistrusts Hamas, has been working with the Islamist Gaza government to try to stem the flow of weapons to more radical groups in the Sinai Peninsula that disdain the governments on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt, for its part, does not want to find itself in any way responsible for Gaza on a permanent basis. Nothing would please the Sisi government more than to see the Palestinian Authority back in control of the overcrowded and poverty-stricken Strip. Although Hamas has found some success in improving relations with Egypt, based on common enemies, this has not stopped Egypt from continuing its cooperation with Israel in blockading Gaza. Pressing Hamas by cutting the already insufficient supply of electricity to Gaza while withholding salaries to key Hamas personnel in Israeli prisons are tactics aimed at causing more instability and difficulty for the Hamas government. Ironically, Israel is probably hoping that the PAs strategy works well enough to avoid or at least postpone another round of fighting with Hamas. Netanyahus scandals have faded to some degree, and his political position is relatively stable right now. Although the Trump administration will loudly applaud Israeli action in Gaza, Europe would not be so positive, and the strain in that relationship has been worsening of late. In short, a burst of nationalism through an attack on Gaza is not needed right now. If the PA can destabilize Hamas without drawing hundreds of rockets over the Gaza border into Israel, that is likely just fine with Netanyahu, at least for the moment. Collective Punishment The Saudi blockade of Qatar, like all such actions, affects the population with shortages of goods and services. For Qatar, an import economy where Qatari nationals make up only about 12% of the population, the impact is magnified. As a wealthy country, however, Qatar is much better equipped to deal with a crisis than Gaza. The people of Gaza have endured the worst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ever since 1948. Isolated by Egypt until 1967, then bearing the brunt of the Israeli occupation and, finally, physically isolated since 2007, the people of this densely populated strip have suffered with each action of the parties involved in the conflict there. The current round of collective punishment may result in Hamas deciding that its only recourse is to launch rockets at Israel, which will surely bring an Israeli response that will only cause more devastation. Or, it may try to wait out the PA and see how much suffering Abbas is willing to inflict on the people of Gaza. Either way, the people lose. Israel and Egypt are no closer to ending the siege on the strip, although Egypt has helped Gaza with some fuel to ease the electricity crisis. Few in the international community are acting, despite some wailing and lamenting over the awful conditions in Gaza. All of this is happening in the context of ongoing environmental deterioration in the strip, which will make Gaza unlivable in as little as three years from now. The Trump Effect Trumps effect on Saudi strategy has rippled throughout the region. Of course, he did not create the tensions between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, much less the rift between the PA and Hamas. But by adopting the Saudi and Israeli narratives, he has created a strategic environment that encourages more aggressive steps by the stronger parties in those conflicts. Trump surely has no idea he did any of this, which is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of all. But he has also, unwittingly, begun an experiment of policy. Until now, the Saudis were reluctant to push too hard on Qatar. Now, they are blockading the country and have presented the Qataris with a maximalist set of demands. The aim of all this is to isolate Iran regionally and deliver a sharp blow to populist Islamist movements like Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hezbollah (as distinct from the more sectarian and self-interested groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda). It also quashes the opening of Arab discourse that al-Jazeera, for all its many flaws, represents. Will the Saudi offensive work? If it does, it will re-entrench the Arab dictatorship model that thrived for so long in the region. That may or not be the model that someone like Mahmoud Abbas prefers, but it is now the only wagon to which he can hitch his hopes. Trump has created the opportunity to see if that tactic will work. If it does, hopes for democracy will have suffered a serious defeat. If it fails, the recent revival of Iranian regime change in US policy circles shows we are not learning from defeats and mistakes. Photo:Issa Qaraqe

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June 28, 2017   Posted in: Gaza  Comments Closed


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